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Showing posts from October 29, 2013

Has U.S. stopped all spying on allies? Top official says no

A senior U.S. official late Monday disputed Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s assertion that the United States has stopped all spying on allies.

Amid a global uproar over American surveillance activities, Feinstein (D.-Calif.) had announced earlier that “the White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support.”

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, in a statement emailed to reporters, said the White House worked closely with Feinstein but would not confirm the senator’s assertion. “I’m not going to go into the details of those private discussions, nor am I going to comment on assertions made in the Senator’s statement today about U.S. foreign intelligence activities,” Hayden said.

A senior administration official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, later told Yahoo News that Feinstein’s claim was “not accurate.” The official said there had been “some individual changes” to the policy, “we have not made …

35 bodies 'in army uniform' at Nigeria morgue after Islamist raid

Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - Thirty-five bodies in military uniform have been brought to a morgue in Nigeria's restive northeast after a coordinated assault by Boko Haram targeting the security forces, a hospital source told AFP Monday. Related Stories The attack late Thursday in the Yobe state capital of Damaturu was the first raid in a major urban centre in several weeks by the insurgent group waging a four-year Islamist uprising.
Police and residents said large numbers of Boko Haram fighters, some in vehicles and some on foot, stormed Damaturu after dark.
Armed with guns and explosives, they attacked and torched four police buildings, sparking a fierce, hours-long gun battle with the security forces.
"We have received lots of bodies in the last three days from the attacks. I counted 35 bodies in military uniform," said a senior official at the Damaturu Specialist Hospital, who requested anonymity.
An army officer based in the central city of Jos said 20 soldiers had bee…

Playing Hard to Get in the Middle East

By Stephen M. Walt

October 28, 2013 - Some of America's Middle Eastern allies are reportedly not very happy with the United States these days. I refer, of course, to Saudi Arabia and Israel, who are troubled by U.S. discussions with Iran and upset by Obama's reluctance to plunge head-first into the Syrian quagmire. But those of us with a more strategic view of U.S. interests in the Middle East may welcome these developments, as they contain the kernel of a more flexible and effective approach that may be emerging.

Let's start with U.S. interests. The United States has at most three strategic interests in the Middle East. First, we want Persian Gulf oil and gas to continue to flow to world markets. Hydraulic fracturing notwithstanding, a major disruption in energy supplies from the Gulf would drive up world prices and hurt a still-fragile global economy. Second, we want to discourage countries in the Middle East from developing WMD, and especially nuclear weapons. (It would…

Upcoming Japanese Military Exercises

On Oct. 24, the Japanese government announced a major exercise intended to increase its ability to protect its remote southwestern islands. Some 34,000 troops from air, land and naval units are scheduled to take part in Japan's live-fire exercise, which will be held Nov. 1-18. It appears the exercises will include amphibious landings on the remote island of Okidaito-jima, 400 kilometers (250 miles) southeast of the main Okinawa Island. Similar amphibious landings scheduled during another large-scale exercise last year were reportedly canceled at the last moment in response to Chinese complaints.

Meanwhile, China is also staging its own large-scale exercises across the region. Over the past few years the Chinese have sought to improve their combat effectiveness and training to match their increasingly modern military equipment. They have focused on exercises to improve coordination between their different military commands and services. China is also increasing its military capabili…

What's Actually Interesting About the Latest Snowden Leak

The U.S. ambassador in Madrid was summoned to the Spanish Foreign Ministry on Monday in a public display of Spain's outrage over information released by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The latest information purported that his former employer had collected millions of Spanish telephone calls. The summons follows similar demonstrations over alleged NSA collection operations targeting the communications of the leaders of Germany, France, Brazil and other countries. But the fact that the NSA is targeting foreign citizens, governments and leaders with these kinds of operations is perhaps the least interesting element of the Snowden case.

We can debate the propriety and the legality of such operations, but no matter what opinions we hold regarding these things, we should not be surprised to learn that they are being conducted. Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson famously proclaimed in 1929 that "gentlemen do not read each other's mail.&quo…

A Suspicious and Deadly Incident Near Tiananmen Square

Summary


It is still unclear exactly what transpired Oct. 28 near Beijing's Tiananmen Square, but the incident appears to have been a deliberate attack and occurs in the lead-up to the Communist Party Central Committee's third plenary session, a symbolic event in which the Party is poised to launch major economic reforms. According to Chinese media and Reuters, which provided only scant details, a car drove onto the sidewalk and caught fire in front of the Tiananmen Rostrum at 12:05 p.m. local time. Pictures circulating on the social media site Weibo show a light-colored SUV with a roof rack and the back half in flames sitting near the bridge to the Forbidden City.

Analysis


An eyewitness claimed to have heard an explosion, but the pictures show the vehicle and surrounding structures intact. The fire itself may have been caused by a ruptured fuel tank from the crash or confrontation with police, or, in this case it appears likely, from incendiary materials. This tourist site is a…