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Showing posts from December, 2013

An Assassination in Lebanon

Security forces and firefighters at the scene of a car bomb in Beirut that killed former finance minister Mohamed Chatah and at least four others, Dec. 27. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)


Moderate Lebanese Sunni politician Mohamad Chatah, a highly outspoken critic of Syria and Hezbollah, was killed in a car bombing Dec. 27 in Beirut's upscale central business district. The bombing was similar to the attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in 2005; in fact, it occurred just a few blocks from where Chatah's own motorcade was struck. The prevailing assumption is that Hezbollah conducted the attack as a show of force against Lebanon's Saudi-backed Future Movement, which is led by the al-Hariri family. Indeed, the sophistication of the attack does suggest the involvement of a professional organization such as Hezbollah. Either way, the Dec. 27 attack may create more problems at home for Hezbollah as the group tries to hold its ground in Syria.



Hungary's Motivation in an Energy Dispute

A worker checks the refinery plant at the Druzhba oil pipeline receiving station south of Budapest in 2007. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images)


The long-running dispute between Hungarian oil and natural gas group MOL and Croatian energy firm INA is more than a simple battle of attrition. Full control of INA is a key component in Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's plan to give his country greater latitude in the delicate balancing act it must maintain with Russia and to develop Budapest's role as an emergent leader in Central Europe.


In the cataclysm of World War I, Hungary lost a significant portion of its territory in the Pannonian Plain. Perhaps more strategically damaging, it lost direct access to the Adriatic when it was stripped of the territories that roughly correspond to modern Slovenia and Croatia.

The importance of Hungary's sea access cannot be overstated. By 1914, Hungary had invested the equivalent of nearly $4 billion to develop the coast…

Russia, Iran and U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense Plans

The primary goal of the European Phased Adaptive Approach project, or EPAA, is to defend the United States and Europe against ballistic missiles from Iran. Given that, Russia's opposition does not seem to make sense. The trajectory of Russian ballistic missiles aimed at the United States is farther to the north, an arc closer to Iceland than Scotland and completely out of range of current European-based systems. Russia can also fire enough missiles to overwhelm the anticipated capacity of the European defensive shield, thereby rendering it ineffective.

Indeed, Russia was initially willing to cooperate with Europe and the United States in developing the missile defense shield, but such a liaison was unpalatable to the United States and much of NATO. The only other alternative to partnership, for Russia, is the cancellation of the program entirely. Iran's predicted detente with the West provides further fuel for Moscow's argument to do away with European ballistic missile def…

A Troubled Greece to Assume the EU Presidency

Greek and European union flags flutters in front of the Acropolis in Athens on Nov. 5. Greece will assume the presidency of the EU in 2014. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images)


Greece will take on the rotating presidency of the European Union during the first half of 2014, the fifth time Athens has held this position since it joined the continental bloc in 1981. Athens will focus its agenda on several political and economic issues, most notably the EU plans for a banking union and the immigration crisis in Mediterranean Europe.

Because of Greece's domestic, economic and political situation, Athens' semester at the front of the European Union will have a very limited impact on the bloc. Political fragmentation in Europe coupled with the declining influence of the EU rotating presidency will also ensure that the most important decisions are still made in Berlin, Paris and Brussels.


The rotating presidency was born in the late 1950s, created by the founding members…

Sochi Olympics To Be Shadowed by Latest Suicide Bombing in Russia

Russian firefighters and security officials at the Volgograd train station after a suicide bombing Dec. 29. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)


A suicide bomber, reportedly female, blew herself up in the entrance hall of a train station in Russia's southern city of Volgograd on Dec. 29, killing between 13 and 18 people according to early estimates. With just 42 days until the Winter Olympics start in Sochi -- a mere 430 miles (692 kilometers) from Volgograd -- this attack further compromises Russia’s ability to show it can keep the country safe before the international event.

The blast occurred near the metal detectors at the Volgograd-1 train station’s front entrance at 12:45 p.m. local time, according to Russian officials. Surveillance footage of the blast shows an explosion in the train station’s central hall. It is common for an attacker in Russia to hit passenger lines before the metal detectors at the front of a train station or airport since this is where large crowds tend…

The Legacy of 2013

SAN SALVADOR, Bahamas , Dec 27 2013 (Columnist Service) - At this time of hope for what the new year may bring, it would be useful to look at the legacy we carry with us from the year we leave behind. It was a year full of events – wars, rising social inequality, unchecked finance, the decline of political institutions, and the erosion of global governance.

Perhaps this is nothing new, since these trends have been with us for a long time. But some events have a deeper, longer-lasting impact. And here we will present them briefly, as a list to remember and to watch. They are not offered in order of magnitude, which is always a subjective decision.

1. Collapse of the Arab Spring. The situations in Egypt and Syria have discouraged other Arab countries from following in their footsteps. The internal struggles in the large and variegated world of Islam will take a long time to settle. The real challenge is how modernism can be used as an element making Islam viable.

The coup in Egypt has giv…

OP-ED: Declaring Muslim Brotherhood “Terrorists” Has Far-Reaching Implications

WASHINGTON, Dec 27 2013 (IPS) - For the first time in its 85-year history, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Wednesday was declared a terrorist organisation. The provisional government’s decision, presumably with the military junta’s approval, came after two deadly bombings in Mansura and Cairo.

The government offered no proof of the MB’s involvement in the bombings; in fact, a radical group by the name of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Defenders of the Holy Mosque) claimed responsibility for the attacks. The MB denounced all violent acts, especially against security officers.
The MB is not just a political organisation, as these hardliners maintain. It’s the most visible and credible face of civic Islam in the country.

The government’s action against the MB will have far-reaching implications, both short-term and long-term, for Egypt and ultimately for the U.S. Declaring the MB a terrorist organisation is a short-term victory for the hard-liners within the junta and the provisional civilian gover…

Keynote Address From Glenn Greenwald At 30C3 Hacker Conference

US Prepares Strikes Against "Islamists" in Iraq

By Bill Van Auken

December 27, 2013  - Two years after President Barack Obama declared that his administration had ended the catastrophic US war in Iraq “responsibly… leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant” government, the US has rushed emergency shipments of Hellfire missiles to Baghdad and appears to be preparing for a possible renewal of direct military intervention in the form of drone missile attacks.

These measures are a response to an appeal from the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the New York Times reported Thursday, and come in the face of a rise in violence to a level not seen since the US military “surge” of 2008, with over 8,000 Iraqis having lost their lives over the last year.

A shipment of 75 Hellfire missiles arrived in Iraq last week, according to the Times report. The Pentagon is also set to deliver dozens of reconnaissance drones to the Baghdad regime in the coming year, along with F-16 fighters and Apache helicopter gunships. US inte…

US Marines to evacuate Americans from S’Sudan

About 150 US Marines are poised to enter turbulent South Sudan to help evacuate Americans and provide security for the US Embassy, if ordered to do so, two US military officials said Monday.

The troops are moving from Moron, Spain, to the Navy’s Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

An estimated 100 US citizens are believed to be in South Sudan, where steady violence is stoking fears of an all-out civil war in the world’s newest country.

“By positioning these forces forward, we are able to more quickly respond to crisis in the region, if required,” read a statement from US Africa Command.

It cited the example of Benghazi, where an attack last year killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

“One of the lessons learned from the tragic events in Benghazi was that we needed to be better postured, in order to respond to developing or crisis situations, if needed. These precautionary movements will allow us to do just that,” the statement read.

According to a senior administration …

UN seeks 5,500 more troops and police for South Sudan

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging the U.N. Security Council to add 5,500 troops and police to the 7,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in conflict-wracked South Sudan.

Ban proposed in a letter to the council obtained Monday by The Associated Press that the troops be transferred from U.N. missions in Congo, Darfur, Abyei, Ivory Coast and Liberia along with three attack helicopters, three utility helicopters and a C-130 military transport plane.

France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud, the current council president, said he expects the council to vote Tuesday on a resolution authorizing the transfers.

The secretary-general urged member states to urgently provide transport to get the troops, police and equipment to South Sudan.

Ban said the U.N. mission's capacity to investigate human rights abuses is also being urgently strengthened.

This Is What Winning Looks Like

Video Documentary

"This Is What Winning Looks Like" is a disturbing new documentary about the ineptitude, drug abuse, sexual misconduct, and corruption of the Afghan security forces as well as the reduced role of US Marines due to the troop withdrawal.


By Ben Anderson

US Specialist Christopher Saenz looks out over the landscape during a patrol outside the village of Musa Qala, Helmand province. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Ididn’t plan on spending six years covering the war in Afghanistan. I went there in 2007 to make a film about the vicious fighting between undermanned, underequipped British forces and the Taliban in Helmand, Afghanistan’s most violent province. But I became obsessed with what I witnessed there—how different it was from the conflict’s portrayal in the media and in official government statements.

All I had to do was trek out to one of the many tiny, isolated patrol bases that dot the barren, sunbaked landscape …

South Sudan: The State that Fell Apart in a Week

The first western journalist into South Sudan reports from Juba on the brutal and sudden descent into civil war

By Daniel Howden in Juba

A young cattle herder from the Dinka tribe carries his AK 47 rifle near Rumbek, capital of the Lakes State in central South Sudan. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

December 23, 2013 - "The Guardian" - A week ago, Simon K, a 20-year-old student living in the capital of South Sudan, was arrested by men in military uniforms. He was asked a question that has taken on deadly importance in the world's newest country in the past seven days: incholdi – "What is your name?" in Dinka, the language of the country's president and its largest ethnic group.

Those who, like Simon, were unable to answer, risked being identified as Nuer, the ethnic group of the former vice-president now leading the armed opposition and facing the brunt of what insiders are describing as the world's newest civil war.

Simon K was taken to a police station…