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Republicans in a blind alley on IS

The course of the upcoming Republican presidential debates, insofar as they will touch on foreign policy, is already clear: they will be marked by a barely concealed Islamophobia and inept prescriptions for defeating Islamic State. Absent a willingness to address the issue of good governance in the Islamic world, there is no reason to believe that the US and its allies will succeed in destroying ISIS.
- Ehsan Ahrari (Feb 27, '15)

US pushes India on defense pacts
The United States is renewing pressure on India to sign three military "foundational" pacts it has been pushing for over a decade, saying they are a "vehicle" for closer strategic ties. Before Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last year, India had made it clear it did not want to sign the pacts, one of which entails the militaries of both countries to provide refueling and berthing facilities to each other's warships and aircraft. (Feb 27, '15)

Fukishima leak unreported
The operator of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant has been strongly criticized for neglecting to report a radioactive leak for 10 months, after it admitted to doing so because of an ongoing investigation. Operator TEPCO this week then revealed another more recent leak from a drainage ditch. (Feb 27, '15)

The great Holy
Land oil game

The presence of large quantities of natural gas below the eastern Mediterranean - including off the coast of Gaza - combined with Israel's desperate need for energy supplies independent of hostile neighbors, means that the present Middle East crisis is nothing but prelude. - Michael Schwartz (Feb 27, '15)

The conceit of Western liberalism
Liberals might be loosing the moral high ground in what seems a watershed in Western public discourse, as "political correctness" increasingly leads to self-censorship (and claims of "microaggresion") among individuals, in academia, and in the media. The jewels Westerners have always been proud of, honest reporting and free speech, seem no longer compatible with pluralism and liberal multiculturalism. - Friedrich Hansen (Feb 27, '15)

China's ambition
not quite a 'plan'

The Hundred-Year Marathon
by Michael Pillsbury

Will China succeed in overtaking the US as the top superpower by peaceful means? Michael Pillsbury, in his book subtitled "China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower", warns that there is such a plan, but is it not, rather, a vague ambition such as is harbored by all states and people alike to one day become great? Still, Pillsbury might have the wrong answers, but perhaps he asks some of the right questions. - Francesco Sisci (Feb 27, '15)

Aung San and Dworkin: Well-lived lives
Most countries have their national or political "heroes". One such is Myanmar's General Aung San, born 100 years ago this month. Less celebrated publicly is Ronald Dworkin, who passed away just two years ago, also on February 13. But the latter's view of life can help us better understand that of the former and of other once-living emblems of nationhood. - Myint Zan (Feb 27, '15)

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Civilians 'massacred' in Myanmar
Amid accusations by Kokang rebel forces in northern Myanmar that the government is "massacring" unarmed civilians, aid workers in the region near the border with China have cremated large numbers of bodies of civilians in recent days, with photos showing some of the dead with their hands bound and others with missing limbs. - Qiao Long and Kyaw Kyaw Aung (Feb 26, '15)

Report warns of human rights decline
Human rights in Myanmar backtracked in key areas in 2014 despite ongoing reforms in the Southeast Asian nation, according to an Amnesty International report, which cited restrictions on freedom of expression and a failure to address incitement to violence based on national, racial and religious hatred. (Feb 26, '15)

The rise of fascism is again the issue
Fascism is preserved as flickering footage of goose-stepping blackshirts, their criminality - Auschwitz and elsewhere - terrible and clear. Yet in the same liberal, Western societies whose war-making elites urge us never to forget, the accelerating danger of a modern kind of fascism - Ukraine and elsewhere - is suppressed; for it is their fascism.
- John Pilger (Feb 26, '15)

The bidding war for Iran
The world now anticipates that the US will reach a strategic agreement with Iran. Russia and China are responding by offering their own deals to Tehran. A possible game-changer is Russia's offer of the Antey-2500 air defense system to Iran. Such an intervention might make Iran effectively impregnable from attack by Israel. (Feb 26, '15)

Russia's quest for Balkan bases
Russia has long harbored an expansionist drive to the Balkans and the Eastern Mediterranean. The prelude or precondition for Moscow to be able to make real progress toward securing its influence in these areas has been its domination of Ukraine and the Black Sea. - Stephen Blank (Feb 26, '15)

The great SIM card heist
American and British spies hacked into the internal computer network of the world's largest manufacturer of SIM cards, stealing encryption keys used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the globe, according to top-secret documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. (Feb 26, '15)

Israeli Arabs must use poll opportunity
If the Israeli Arabs want equal distribution of resources to improve their socio-economic conditions, fully integrate into Israeli society, and contribute constructively to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, they must now fully exercise their right to vote in the March 17 elections and not squander this historic opportunity.
- Alon Ben-Meir (Feb 25, '15)

China's double standard on corruption
The Xi Jinping government considers corruption to be a "social pollutant", even an existential threat to the Chinese Communist Party. Yet China turns a blind eye to the corrosive effects of the substantial flows of its aid, assistance, and investment funds on recipient nations, all in the name of "noninterference". - Virginia Marantidou and Brad Glosserman (Feb 25, '15)

Devastation of Syria’s 'barrel bombs'
Barrel bombs are unguided high explosive weapons that are cheaply and locally made from large oil drums, gas cylinders, and water tanks, filled with high explosives and scrap metal to enhance fragmentation, and then dropped from helicopters. Their widespread use in Syria is causing human devastation.
- Thalif Deen (Feb 25, '15)

Nazarbaev opponent dies in cell
Rakhat Aliev, a former son-in-law of Nursultan Nazarbaev who became an opponent of the long-ruling Kazakh president, has been found dead in a Vienna jail in what Austrian officials said was a suicide. Aliev's lawyer voiced doubt that he killed himself and called for a "very thorough" investigation. (Feb 25, '15)

The real American exceptionalism
The United States, more than any other power, created the modern international community of laws and treaties, yet it now reserves the right to defy those same laws with impunity. Its endless War on Terror seems the sum of its exceptions to international law: endless incarceration, extrajudicial killing, pervasive surveillance, drone strikes, torture on demand - and immunity for all of the above on the grounds of state secrecy.
- Alfred W McCoy (Feb 25, '15)

'Terror' trial's tale of woe
In February 2014, former Guantanamo inmate Moazzam Begg was arrested in Birmingham, England, for "terrorism". Denied bail, he had his assets frozen and was classified as a Category A high-risk prisoner. After huge effort by the police and prosecutors, and a cost to taxpayers of more than 1 million pounds, the case collapsed, apparently because of a meeting Begg had had with MI5. (Feb 25, '15)

High death toll in Myanmar
Clashes between ethnic Kokang rebels and Myanmar's military near the country's northeastern border with China left around 50 government troops dead over the weekend, according to the rebels, a figure denied by the government, which is involved in peace talks with as many as 16 armed groups. (Feb 24, '15)

Turkey goes a step too far?
Turkey indulging its pretensions as protector of the world’s Turkish-speaking peoples by harboring a few hundred impoverished refugees might be acceptable to China; setting up a pipeline to encourage Uyghur emigration and, possibly, recruiting Uyghurs to join the Syrian uprising against Bashar al-Assad certainly is not. - Peter Lee (Feb 24, '15)

US resets the Afghan chessboard
Two things to emerge out of the visit to Kabul by the newly appointed US Defense Secretary Ashley Carter are, first, the strong indication that the US military presence in Afghanistan will be open-ended, and, second, that the Afghan peace process involving the reconciliation with the Taliban is, finally, taking off. No doubt, the two templates are inter-related but all the same each is a stand-alone development.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 24, '15)

Malaysia fund evades crisis
By meeting a repayment deadline for the first time in months, Malaysia’s troubled sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, seems to have staved off a debt crisis that threatened the country’s entire banking system (Feb 24, '15)

Cybercrime a threat to nation states
Some US$400 billion-plus was stolen last year by cyber criminals infiltrating the infrastructure of financial institutions and other enterprises in the US, Russia, Europe, Japan and elsewhere. It would be tragic if the international community permits criminals and rogue states to hijack the cyber domain. Rather, it needs to come together at the highest level to address cyber crime and cyber terrorism. - Joseph R DeTrani (Feb 23, '15)

Year of the Sheep,
Century of the Dragon?

Seen from the Chinese capital as the Year of the Sheep starts, the malaise affecting the West seems like a mirage in a galaxy far, far away. On the other hand, the China that surrounds you looks all too solid and nothing like the embattled nation you hear about in the Western media, with its falling industrial figures, its real estate bubble, and its looming environmental disasters.
- Pepe Escobar (Feb 23, '15)

Obama's admission not enough
US President Barack Obama's recent call to address the root causes of violence, including that of the "Islamic State" and al-Qaeda, was a step in the right direction, but he was still miles away from taking the least responsibility for the mayhem that has afflicted the Middle East since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
- Ramzy Baroud (Feb 23, '15)

Syria lambasts Turkish incursion
The Syrian government has lashed out at a cross-border incursion by Turkish forces, including ground troops, tanks and air cover, that retrieved the remains of Suleyman Shah, grandfather of Ottoman Empire founder Osman I, and relieved troops guarding his tomb. Damascus said the move was an act of "flagrant aggression". (Feb 23, '15)

Hadi seeks to resume power
Yemen's former president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is seeking to resume his duties as head of state, holding his first public engagement with state officials since he fled to the sanctuary of Aden from house arrest in Sanaa by the Houthi group that dominates the northern half of the country. (Feb 23, '15)

Petty criminals, favorite spies
Islamist criminal and terrorist networks overlap for a simple reason: both involve the same sort of individuals doing the same sort of things. Turning petty criminals into political informants is the oldest police procedure in the world, and such criminals are the eyes and ears of European counter-terror agencies. (Feb 23, '15)


China's investment
law reformed
- but still grey

China's new Draft Foreign Investment Law has been hailed as a major overhaul of the existing foreign-investment regime, but it is clear there still is a huge amount of grey for overseas investors to contend with. - Jean-Marc F Blanchard

Building railways beats wars
Wang Mengshu, long a leading Chinese railroad and tunneling engineer, has a dream, shared by international colleagues, for a China-Russia-Alaska-Canada-US rail link. "We have the technology" and it would benefit generations to come, he says. The only thing standing in its way is not money but politics. - John Driscoll

Japan 'recovery' not so
For all the talk of "continued moderate recovery" in Japan, joblessness is increasing, retail sales are tumbling along with household spending - but Japanese stocks are at 15-year highs. Two years of Abenomics have utterly failed. - ZeroHedge

Rules confusion as Kyrgyzstan
lines up for economic union

With Kyrgyzstan soon to join the Kremlin's Eurasian Economic Union, confusion over its rules is keeping small-scale Kyrgyzstani entrepreneurs guessing. The uncertainty, added to rampant corruption and Russia's stalling economy, could make for a bumpy economic transition.
- David Trilling

China slows growth
in demand for oil

After years of driving world energy markets, the growth of China's oil demand is slowing to a crawl. It is now estimated to rise at an average annual pace of 2.6% through 2020 - about half the rate during China's expansion of the previous decade.
- Michael Lelyveld

Russia barges into the EU tent
The significance of the agreement signed in Moscow on Wednesday to let Russian navy ships to stop at ports in Cyprus may lend itself to exaggerated notions of a military pact between the two countries.. On the other hand, the profound meaning of the agreement in political terms cannot be lost on Washington and the European capitals.
- M K Bhadrakumar

Defying the toothless protests of Damascus and the threat of IS confronting Turkish troops, Ankara has scored a political point by "evacuating" the tomb of Suleiman Shah to a spot close to the Turkish border.
Abraham Bin Yiju
Messina, Italy
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. Year of the Sheep, Century of the Dragon?

2. Petty criminals, favorite spies

3. IS and the morning after war

4. Obama's admission not enough

5. Cybercrime a threat to nation states

6. The answer to the Needham Question

7. Energy and hybrid war in the Ukraine crisis

8. Venezuela's struggle against the 'common enemy'

9. Too many 'most wanted'

10. Too-thrifty Germany

(Feb 23-24, 2015)


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