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Netanyahu adds injury to insult

Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has legitimate cause to sound the alarm about the threat Iran poses. His US Congress speech, however, will do little to improve the substance of any agreement. More injurious is his insinuation that President Obama will accede to a “bad deal" to Israel's detriment. That is simplistic and suggests little understanding of the reality in the context of how a deal can be struck.
- Alon Ben-Meir (Mar 6, '15)

China slows military spending growth
China is to increase military spending by 10% - less than last year's 12% rise - amid economic growth that is at its slowest in 20 years. The announcement came as Premier Li Keqiang vowed to continue to oppose any move towards Taiwanese independence and support the embattled leader of Hong Kong.
- Xi Wang and Lin Jing (Mar 6, '15)

Is drone warfare fraying at the edges?
In theory, drone pilots have a cushy life - no muddy foxholes or sandstorm-swept barracks under threat of enemy attack - playing what others might consider a glorified video game. Only a few are deputized to fly kill missions over Pakistan, Somalia, or Yemen. Ideally, there should be 1,700 trained pilots. Instead, an accelerating dropout rate has driven this figure below 1,000. - Pratap Chatterjee (Mar 6, '15)

N Korea hails attack on US envoy
The United States and South Korea have deplored the knife attack on the US envoy to Seoul by a nationalist that led to Ambassador Mark Lippert requiring 80 stitches to seal a deep gash on right cheek. North Korea praised the attack as "righteous punishment". (Mar 6, '15)

China challenge
for Pope Francis

In less than 20 years, Protestants of all denominations in China went from being less than 1% of the population to about 10% while the number of Roman Catholics has fallen to less than 1% of the population. As Pope Francis seeks to revolutionize Church affairs against the opposition of many in the Curia, China may become part of an existential issue for the Church. - Francesco Sisci (Mar 6, '15)

IS threatens Afghanistan peace hopes
The catastrophic consequences of failing to establish peace in Afghanistan loom larger now than at any time before, but a reformulated US strategy and signs of improving links with Pakistan raise some hope. However, trans-regional cooperation is needed urgently to combat the Islamic State's growing role in the area before IS wrecks those fragile buds of progress. - Jan Agha Iqbal (Mar 5, '15)

World bows to Iran's hegemony
The problem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to the US Congress was not the risk of offending Washington but Washington's receding relevance. World powers, including China, have elected to legitimize Iran's dominant position, hoping to delay but not deter its eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons. But war cannot be avoided; it is inevitable. (Mar 4, '15)

China's 'artificial islands' in South China Sea
China's construction of artificial islands on a series of disputed reefs in the South China Sea has raised concerns of a fresh "China threat" in the Asia Pacific, causing a new kind of security dilemma. It is hard to dismiss the likelihood of a military collision in the area in the near future. - Amrita Jash (Mar 5, '15)

Armenia recalls the Zurich Protocols
Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan's recall from parliament of the 2009 US-sponsored Zurich Protocols between his country and Turkey undoes the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two and the re-opening of their mutual border the protocols made possible - just as Turkey prepares to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Gallipoli and Armenia the centenary of its own people's genocide. - Erik Davtyan (Mar 5, '15)

A crisis of trust in Iraq
We will never know what painful thoughts went through the mind of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he testified before US senators on Tuesday, but it certainly wouldn’t have been easy for him to compliment Iran’s "most overt conduct … in the form of artillery and other things" in the military operation to retake Tikrit from the control of the Islamic State. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 5, '15)

Why can't we be more like Mr Spock?
A tenet of "Vulcan philosophy" is that it cannot be disregarded for personal gain. That view, albeit fictional, sheds light on the merits of world government - preferably created by consensus, not coercion. Even falling short of that, we should recognize that appropriate organizations give us a clearer view of reality and so help us to avoid calamity.
- C Ikehara (Mar 5, '15)

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Tackling Tehran: Netanyahu vs Obama
As negotiations over Iran's nuclear program continued in Europe, Israeli Premier Netanyahu told US Congress he feared the White House was close to striking a "very bad" deal. The absence of dozens of Democrats and the cheers that greeted his warnings of a "nuclear tinderbox" demonstrated the divisive nature of the issue in Washington. - James Reinl (Mar 4, '15)

Obama's nuclear squeeze
Netanyahu's address to the US Congress will have no effect on the future modalities of US-Iran nuclear negotiations. But if he can nudge Congress not to relax sanctions on Iran, even after a nuclear deal, then Tehran might retaliate by reversing some agreed upon issues of those intricate negotiations. - Ehsan Ahrari (Mar 4, '15)

Iran squashes IS, US seeks cover
An operation by Iraqi government forces to recapture Tikrit, north of Baghdad, from Islamic State militants, has resulted in fierce fighting around the town, seen as the spiritual heartland of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime. This hugely important development has three dimensions. - M K Bhadrakumar (Mar 4, '15)

A Chechen role in Nemtsov murder?
For many in Russia and the West, the Kremlin is inevitably the prime suspect in the assassination of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. But the possibility of a Chechen connection should not be dismissed out of hand, given Nemtsov's repeated criticism of Chechen Republic head Ramzan Kadyrov. (Mar 4, '15)

Obama, Shell, and the Arctic Ocean's fate
Despite the glut of new American oil on the market (and falling oil prices), not to mention a recent bow to preservation of the Arctic, the Obama administration stands at the edge of once again green-lighting a foray by oil giant Shell into Arctic waters. - Subhankar Banerjee (Mar 4, '15)

An unlikely marriage in Kashmir
The formation in Jammu and Kashmir of a government involving the local Peoples Democratic Party and India's ruling BJP is an unlikely marriage. The BJP's resounding defeat in Delhi elections, so soon after the ouster of the corrupt Congress national government, doubtless helped nudge it to the altar. If that sense of political reality holds, the region's future prospects are bright. - Gajendra Singh (Mar 2, '15)

Generals probed in Xi's graft purge
The Chinese Communist Party is investigating 14 generals for corruption as a nationwide anti-graft campaign instigated by President Xi Jinping widens to encompass the People's Liberation Army. Among those under investigation is Rear Admiral Guo Zhenggang, son of a former vice-chairman of the party's Central Military Commission, which commands the armed forces. - Yang Fan and Ho Shan (Mar 3, '15)

Rakhmon notches another poll win
The party of Tajikistan's President Emomali Rakhmon has swept aside all opposition to increase his hold on parliament, winning 57 out of 63 seats in a general election that international observers say fell far short of democratic standards. Rakhmon has led the country since 1992. - Edward Lemon (Mar 3, '15)

Germany's future lies East
Germany, sooner or later, must answer a categorical imperative - how to keep running massive trade surpluses while dumping its euro trade partners. The only possible answer is more trade with Russia, China and East Asia. It will take quite a while, but a Berlin-Moscow-Beijing commercial axis is all but inevitable. - Pepe Escobar (Mar 3, '15)

A prayer for AIPAC's demise
As the powerful pro-Israeli government lobby the American Israel Public Affairs Committee holds its annual policy meeting in Washington, I'm praying that this year marks the beginning of the end of its grip on US foreign policy as the right-wing organization slowly loses its bipartisan appeal. Here's why that's a good thing. - Medea Benjamin (Mar 3, '15)

The Arab intellectual is resting, not dead
This is a strange period in the history of Arab culture and politics. It is strange because popular revolutions are propelled by the articulation and insight of intellectuals, yet there seems to be no equivalent of yesteryear's intellectual in today's Arab landscape - the closest would be propagators of "moderate Islam". But this is temporary. It has to be. - Ramzy Baroud (Mar 3, '15)

BJP joins Kashmir government
India's ruling BJP party is joining the state government of Jammu and Kashmir for the first time, with senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh being sworn in as deputy chief minister under Mufti Mohammad Sayeed of the Peoples Democratic Party, which advocates for self-rule in the disputed territory. (Mar 2, '15)

Thousands mourn slain Nemtsov
Thousands of people - figures range from 16,000 to 1000,000 - marched through Moscow in memory of former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov - a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin - after he was gunned down in the Russian capital on Friday. (Mar 2, '15)

HK maids' torturer gets 6 years
The former Hong Kong employer of two Indonesian domestic workers has been given a six-year prison term after being found guilty of 18 counts of torture and assault. The finding attracted demands for reform of laws on domestic labor and criticism that the trial should have been heard at a more senior court, so permitting a more severe sentence.
- Lam Lok-tung (Mar 2, '15)

Israeli ex-generals condemn Netanyahu
In an unprecedented move, 200 veterans of the Israeli security services have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of being a “danger” to Israel, their protest coming on the even of his visit to address a joint meeting of the US Congress against the wishes of the White House. - Jonathan Cook (Mar 2, '15)

The Middle East and perpetual war
There is a popular idea in Washington, DC, that the United States ought to be doing more to quash the Islamic State: if we don't, they will send terrorists to plague our lives. Previously, the canard was that we had to intervene in the Middle East to protect the flow of oil to the West. So why in fact are we there? The only answer is: "Israel". - Leon Anderson (Mar 2, '15)

My war on terror
One way or another, Washington has been complicit in the creation or strengthening of most every extreme terror outfit across the Middle East. And while Americans condemn "extremist barbarity", we are blind to our own. We react to "their" existence in an atmosphere of ever-increasing fear - while offering no significant complaint to the 30,000 deaths by vehicle each year at home. - Tom Engelhardt (Mar 2, '15)

EU raises profile in Caucasus
The European Union is making a push to raise its profile in two trouble spots in the South Caucasus, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Brussels insists its forays in the region are nothing more than routine diplomacy. But some observers believe the EU is hoping to push back against Russia's troublemaking in Ukraine. (Mar 2, '15)


Manila halts gas, oil
work in disputed area
of South China Sea

The Philippines has suspended indefinitely all offshore oil and natural gas drilling activities at the Reed Bank off Palawan island in the South China Sea, according to a company involved, because the area falls within the area of the South China Sea disputed with China.

Germany secures
new economic order

Approval, particularly by Germany, of the Greek government's reform commitments gains time while avoiding facing the underlying problems. Crucially, it secures for Germany its basic goal: the enshrining of austerity as the fundamental dogma of the new European economic order.
- Guillermo Medina

Russian oil, grain give
boost for N Korea

North Korea's economy looks set to improve this year, supported by deliveries of Russian oil and grain under the terms of favorable loans. These are leading to reduced fuel prices and a stabilizing of food costs. Light industry in particular will benefit. - Sung-hui Moon

Jakarta deadline for Newmont
deal on Freeport smelter

Indonesia, which wants foreign miners to develop processing facilities so the country can export refined products rather than raw ore, says Newmont Mining's Indonesian copper export permit will not be renewed beyond March 19 unless it strikes a deal to invest in a smelter planned by Freeport-McMoRan.

US-Iran talks
near Ides of March

The US-Iran negotiations have successfully crossed the boulder that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu threw in the way via his outreach to American lawmakers. The conclusion can be safely drawn after Netanyahu's speech that US lawmakers do not feel emboldened to enact new legislation intended to complicate the US-Iran talks nor is President Barack Obama feeling browbeaten to backtrack on his policy toward Iran. - 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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