Saturday, July 25, 2009



Fox News reports that “President Obama has put securing Afghanistan near the top of his foreign policy agenda, but ‘victory’ in the war-torn country isn't necessarily the United States' goal, he said Thursday in a TV interview. ‘I 'm always worried about using the word 'victory,' because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur,’ Obama told ABC News. The enemy facing U.S. and Afghan forces isn't so clearly defined, he explained. ‘We 're not dealing with nation states at this point. We're concerned with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, Al Qaeda's allies,’ he said. ‘So when you have a non-state actor, a shadowy operation like Al Qaeda, our goal is to make sure they can't attack the United States.’”

The Los Angeles Times reports that “U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have halted the practice of releasing the number of militants killed in fighting with American-led forces as part of an overall strategy shift that emphasizes concern for the local civilian population's well-being rather than hunting insurgent groups. The decision has triggered a quiet but fierce debate among military officers comparing the current situation with the U.S. experience in Vietnam, when military officials exaggerated body counts and used them as a measure of success. Under the order, issued last month by Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith, the military will not release specifics on how many insurgents are killed in fighting, and instead will give general estimates. The change is part of the focus on making the Afghan population feel safer and comes as U.S. commanders are taking new steps to avoid civilian casualties.”

The New York Times reports that “A son of Osama bin Laden was apparently killed in the past few months in a missile strike in Pakistan, American officials said Thursday. The son, Saad bin Laden, 27, was a member of Al Qaeda and had been part of a small group of Qaeda operatives that was involved in managing the terrorist organization from Iran. He had spent years under Iranian house arrest, but left under murky circumstances late last year or early this year and had been operating inside Pakistan, American intelligence officials said.”

The New York Times reports that “President Hamid Karzai backed out of a live televised debate with two of his leading opponents on Thursday, saying that he had not been given enough time to prepare and questioning the neutrality of the television channel organizing it. Mr. Karzai’s opponents accused him of backing out because he could not defend his performance of the last seven years in office. But the president’s campaign office said he would take part in a debate nearer to the election, scheduled for Aug. 20, preferably on state-run television… The two-hour debate, based on Western-style political debates, was polite and rarely confrontational, with a moderator asking the candidates questions. Much of the discussion was about what was wrong with the country and, by reflection, with Mr. Karzai’s leadership.”

North Korea

The New York Times reports that “The United States and North Korea fell into an acrimonious exchange on Thursday, with the North Korean government ridiculing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a ‘schoolgirl’ and a ‘pensioner,’ two days after she compared its leaders to unruly children. At a meeting of Southeast Asian nations here, the war of words competed for attention with Mrs. Clinton’s campaign to marshal worldwide pressure on the North Koreans to dismantle their nuclear weapons program. On Thursday, the Foreign Ministry in North Korea issued a statement criticizing remarks Mrs. Clinton made this week to ABC News, in which she said the best response to North Korea’s behavior would be to ignore it, as one would a child clamoring for attention.”

ABC News reports that “North Korea publicly executed a Christian woman last month for distributing the Bible, which is banned in the communist nation, South Korean activists said Friday.”


The Washington Times reports that “Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said for the first time Thursday that Iraq may ask U.S. troops to stay in his country beyond a previously agreed 2011 deadline for withdrawal. While Iraqi and American military figures have spoken privately about a longer-term presence in part to maintain U.S. military equipment ordered by Iraq, the Iraqi prime minister has not previously acknowledged this publicly. When U.S. combat troops exited Iraqi cities last month under the terms of a Status of Forces Agreement, Mr. al-Maliki declared a national holiday to celebrate the milestone toward full Iraqi sovereignty. On Thursday, however, in response to a question posed at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Mr. al-Maliki said that ‘if Iraqi forces required further training and further support, we shall examine this at that time based on the needs of Iraq.’”

The Washington Post reports that “U.S. officials engaged in negotiations with Iraqi insurgent groups in two meetings this spring that culminated in an agreement to organize talks intended to bring the groups into Iraqi political life, an insurgent leader and Turkish and American officials said Thursday. The negotiations involved at least three insurgent leaders and at least three State Department officials, who met in Turkey in March and May, said Sheik Ali al-Jubouri, an insurgent representative. A third meeting was supposed to take place in June, but it never happened, Jubouri said in an interview by telephone from Qatar. U.S. officials declined to provide details of the meetings, which they said took place in March and April. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday that military and diplomatic officials ‘meet with a wide range of Iraqi contacts with the purpose of promoting reconciliation and fostering national unity’ and that ‘the meetings in question occurred some months ago and with the knowledge of officials within the Iraqi government.’”

The Washington Post reports that “Water has begun flowing again through southern Iraq's fabled marshes, a vast reservoir in this arid region that had all but vanished by the time the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 gave it a lifeline. But six years later, the revival of the marshes, which some believe to be the site of the original Garden of Eden, remains uncertain.”


The BBC reports that “The political turmoil inside Iran has left Washington grappling for a way forward in its attempts to engage its long-time foe. In a BBC interview, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tehran did not have the ‘capacity’ to make decisions about its relations with the outside world at the moment. ‘The internal debates going on inside Iran have made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to pursue any diplomatic engagement, not just with us but anyone, like the P5+1 (permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany), there is so much that is on hold.’ She added that Washington was looking to engage Iran as an entity, and as a country that was on the path to acquiring nuclear weapons.”

The New York Times reports that “The wife of the Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi spoke out forcefully on Thursday against the recent publication of accusations against her imprisoned brother, saying the accusations were false and amounted to a new effort by Iran’s hard-line leadership to discredit the opposition movement. Mr. Moussavi’s wife, Zahra Rahnavard, is a well-known figure in Iran who played an important role in his campaign before the disputed June 12 election. She made her statement on Thursday after a hard-line lawmaker accused her brother in print of helping orchestrate the post-election rallies and riots. The brother, Shahpour Kazemi, was arrested a month ago, and the Iranian authorities are reportedto be preparing to broadcast videotaped confessions by some people detained in the unrest.”


The Wall Street Journal reports that “Vice President Joe Biden told the Georgian Parliament that it won't regain territories lost to Russia last year by fighting another war, and a senior U.S. official said the Obama administration isn't currently prepared to supply Tbilisi with new defensive weaponry. Although Mr. Biden made a passionate call for Russia to withdraw its troops from northern Georgia in his speech before Parliament, the twin messages reflect the delicate dance the Obama administration must perform to support a pro-Western ally while not risking its nascent outreach to Moscow.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that “Vice President Joe Biden stood before the Georgian parliament, vowing support for a small, struggling, pro-Western country in its clashes with Moscow. Russian officials rejoined with threats and veiled accusations of American tampering. On the surface, it looked very much like the status quo: Washington and Russia jousting for influence in the former Soviet space. But beneath the sweeping pledges of solidarity uttered by Biden in Georgia and Ukraine this week, there lurked anxiety that the Obama administration was pulling back from the unstinting support the two governments received from President Bush. Biden brought none of the blunt, anti-Kremlin rhetoric famously used by his predecessor, Dick Cheney, to stir Eastern European sentiments. And he abandoned the tone of shared grievance against Moscow that, until recently, inflected U.S. dealings with Georgia and Ukraine.”

The Washington Post reports that “Breaking with the cautious tone the Obama administration has adopted toward the Kremlin, Vice President Biden told a room of Georgian children Thursday that Russia "used a pretext to invade your country" in the hope of wrecking its economy and persuading its people that ‘democracy doesn't work.’ At the end of a trip aimed at assuring Ukraine and Georgia of continued U.S. support as Washington seeks to ‘reset’ relations with Russia, Biden also warned Georgia's leaders that they had "no military option" for recovering territories lost during last year's war with Russia. And he urged President Mikheil Saakashvili to deepen democratic reforms.”

Climate Change

The BBC reports that “UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said there can be no global climate change deal without China's support. Speaking in Beijing, he also praised China's efforts so far to promote sustainable economic growth and develop renewable energy sources. Experts say China has already committed itself to reducing carbon dioxide emissions - a driver of global warming. World leaders hope to produce a new agreement to tackle climate change at a meeting in Copenhagen in December. Mr Ban was speaking at a UN-backed event in Beijing to promote the use of energy-saving lamps across China.”

The Financial Times reports that “A split between rich and poor nations in the run-up to climate-change talks widened on Thursday. India rejected key scientific findings on global warming, while the European Union called for more action by developing states on greenhouse gas emissions.”


Reforming the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and detainee policy
House Armed Services Committee
July 24

U.S.-ROK Strategic Dialogue
Center of Strategic and International Studies
July 26-28

Hugo Chávez and the Collapse of the Venezuelan Economy
American Enterprise Institute
July 27

Venezuela's Assault on Freedom of the Press and Other Liberties
July 30

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