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US 2012: The Tea Party fixes a strong brew, but will the voters drink it?



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Lee puts Japan-Korea ties on the rocks

The timing of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's visit on Friday to islets disputed with Japan - days before the South marks its 1945 independence from Japanese occupation - suggests he plans to inflame nationalist sentiment to distract from claims his government has run out of steam. For Tokyo, it now faces another territorial challenge alongside Russian and Chinese claims, as neighbors capitalize on its weakening regional clout. - Kosuke Takahashi (Aug 10, '12)

Reform dance in Myanmar
President Thein Sein is preparing a government shake-up that will shed new light on the tensions between reformists and hardliners as he tries to balance bringing the country into the modern world while protecting military interests. Finding the right successor to former vice president Tin Aung Myint Oo will be central - and is proving particularly difficult. - Larry Jagan (Aug 10, '12)

Planning intensifies for Syria after Assad
As Syrian insurgents are losing ground in Aleppo, their gains elsewhere are expanding daily, along with the ranks of well-armed foreign jihadists. Even the Russians are realizing that Bashar al-Assad's position as president is untenable. Attention is turning to the scenario of Assad's withdrawal to friendly Alawite coastal areas, and what awaits as his grip on power loosens. - Victor Kotsev (Aug 10, '12)

Washington puts its money on proxy war

Outsourcing is an issue in this US election year, but there is one aspect of the phenomenon that no one is talking about - the outsourcing of war. Proxy war is certainly not new, and its attraction is obvious: Why send American troops to unstable countries if you can get someone else to fight and die instead? But the scope of these programs now is huge, and the very high likelihood of disastrous blowback is never discussed in Washington.
- Nick Turse (Aug 10, '12)

Tibet's political future lies in 'Middle Way'
On the first anniversary of the Dalai Lama handing political reins to an elected leader, Tibetans must reflect on a year marked by anguish over self-immolations by protesters against China's policies towards the region. That such acts continue despite the Dalai Lama's emphasis on life's sanctity underlines the desperation in monasteries undergoing "patriotic re-education".
- Lobsang Sangay, Tibetan leader in exile (Aug 10, '12)

Prayers in Pattani

Thai Muslim villagers pray during Ramadan at a mosque in Pattani province on Friday. Muslims fasting in the month of Ramadan must abstain from food, drink and sex from dawn until sunset, when they break their fast.

Iran nuclear diplomacy:
An insider's take

National Security and
Nuclear Diplomacy
by Hassan Rowhani
Hassan Rowhani, Iran's nuclear negotiator for 22 months during Mohammad Khatami's presidency, continues to influence the debate on how Tehran deals with the West. His book, detailing disagreements within the establishment, is recommended reading for anyone interested in understanding Iran's post-revolutionary politics and how a changing power structure has transformed decision-making from one-man rule to a collective enterprise.
- Farideh Farhi (Aug 10, '12)

Speaking Freely is a Front Page feature for guest writers to have a say.

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Costs stir Korean unification dreamers
Politicians in both Korean states will invoke possible glories of unification to mark independence day on August 15, but ambivalence is running high among people in the South towards that prospect. Visions of an East Asian superpower have faded as the estimated costs of grafting a Third World dictatorship onto a modern economy, ranging from $200 billion to some $5 trillion, have come sharper into focus.
- Andrei Lankov (Aug 10, '12)

Indian rebels on the move in Myanmar
New Delhi has called on Naypyidaw to take decisive action against separatists operating from camps on Myanmar's northwestern fringes. Yet as the border with the restive Indian region of Manipur opens up, promises of security sweeps have come to nothing and the rebel fighters are being allowed to move into deeper cover. Inaction speaks to Myanmar's desire to maintain a buffer with its giant neighbor. - Subir Bhaumik (Aug 9, '12)

American (jihadi) Idol
Syria is now the ultimate Sex Pistol-inspired Holiday in the Sun (the jihadi remix); a magnet to Libyans, Jordanians, Saudis, Algerians, Chechens, Af-Pakis, plus some enthusiastic young Brits. If anyone doubts this, the US establishment's Council of Foreign Relations is prepared to put them right.
- Pepe Escobar (Aug 9, '12)

Syrian forces launch
ground assault in Aleppo

Some of the fiercest clashes in the Syrian uprising are being reported as the Syrian army, using Russian tanks to sweep through the northern city of Aleppo, attempts to push opposition fighters from a key stronghold. As shells rain down and the killing mounts, the ground assault that has been months in the making is in full force. (Aug 9, '12)

Taiwan pours cement on maritime dispute
His hands tied by Taiwan's international isolation, President Ma Ying-jeou has been looking for a way to fend off criticism that his stance on the regional South China Sea tussle is too wimpy. The answer, reportedly, is to extend a runway on Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands. While Taiwan has no actual illusions about starting a military confrontation, this could be a smart political move benefiting both Taipei and Beijing.
- Jens Kastner (Aug 9, '12)

Israel hampers nuclear diplomacy
Israel, concerned that an Iranian "breakout" capability would end the regional nuclear monopoly that's given Israel four decades of strategic impunity, has blocked diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis through demonizing Tehran and through threats of unilateral intervention. As Jerusalem sleepwalks Washington into a Persian Gulf conflagration, President Barack Obama's room for maneuver is practically nil.
- Richard Javad Heydarian (Aug 9, '12)

Iran's new summit diplomacy
Iran is eyeing significant diplomatic dividends from conferences in Saudi Arabia and Tehran this month, with plans to repair ties with Riyadh as the Syrian crisis enters a crucial phase. As the fall of rebel forces in Aleppo delivers a rude awakening to Western countries funneling arms to the rebellion, Iran plans to position itself as the region's best hope for a mediated solution.
- Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Aug 9, '12)

US, India face Sri Lanka challenge
The Sri Lankan government's reluctance to secure reconciliation with the Tamil population and an increasing military role in the economy challenge the United States and India, whose economic leverage is countered by geopolitical concerns. - Anuradha Sharma and Vishal Arora (Aug 9, '12)

Taiwan jumps into South China Sea fray
Those hoping Taipei would join the regional conflict against Beijing on sovereignty of the South China Sea could be in for a bitter blow. While the mainland Communists and Taiwan's ruling KMT certainly disagree on who should run "one China", they are on the same page when it comes to China's hegemony over the sea, its islands, and its potentially rich resources. Formal cooperation on the dispute may be in the works.
- Brendan O'Reilly (Aug 8, '12)

The hunger wars
in our future

As climate change wreaks agricultural havoc and the "Great Drought of 2012" in the United States, the social unrest and conflict to follow will bring the world closer to the dystopian, resource-scarce future envisioned in The Hunger Games. While that novel depicts gladiatorial designs to suppress a rebellion by the starving - in the real world they will number too many to defeat. - Michael T Klare (Aug 8, '12)

Bomb Iran fever
Well-informed Israelis know striking Iran's nuclear program will only delay it by six months, while no solution exists to Israel's lack of fly-over rights, bunker-busters and intel. As the United States is also well aware of the risks, the only reasons behind the "bomb Iran" mantra seem to be Jerusalem's regional ambitions and Washington's desire to revive a Persian satrapy. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 7, '12)

Death of
the dollar

The recent travails of over-aggressive regulators in the US and elsewhere not only create significant business risks for global banks, but may also hasten the end of dollar's reign as the global reserve currency of choice. The lack of alternatives is never a good reason for the status quo to remain.

Congress hits anti-China drum
As it becomes more popularly accepted in the United States that China is to blame for America's economic problems, politicians will come to see the value of adding to these anxieties. They should instead focus on how their own economy requires changing. - Benjamin A Shobert


Apples or oranges
Apple is extending its patents battle with Samsung by claiming the Korean firm copied the designs of its icons, although a graphic designer who formerly worked for the US computer giant felt that judging the difference in looks between rival handsets was beyond her area of expertise.
Martin J Young surveys the week's developments in computing, science, gaming and gizmos.

Wacky and wackier
The euro crisis can still produce wacky moments, such as European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi warning against shorting the currency or the Bank of Estonia claiming its vote matches that of the Bundesbank. At least the German bank knows better.
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

TONY ALLISON (1953-2012)
Asia Times Online's Editor-in-Chief Anthony Allison died on June 20 after a short illness. We extend our sympathy to Tony's family for their tragic and premature loss.



Chinese warships in
the Mediterranean

With the Syrian situation hotting up, Beijing couldn’t have chosen a curiouser moment to show the flag in the Eastern Mediterranean...
- M K Bhadrakumar

[Re Costs stir Korean unification dreamers, Aug 8, '12] Like the Jewish prayer calling for "Next Year in Jerusalem", Korean reunification is an aspiration that remains an ideal without an expiry date.
Nakamura Junzo
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. American (jihadi) Idol

2. US, India face Sri Lanka challenge

3. Syrian forces launch ground assault in Aleppo

4. Iran's new summit diplomacy

5. Taiwan pours cement on maritime dispute

6. Israel hampers diplomacy on Iran

7. Taiwan jumps into South China Sea fray

8. Indian rebels on the move in Myanmar

9. The hunger wars in our future

10. Bomb Iran fever

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Aug 9, 2012)

Myanmar Forum


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