Monday, February 28, 2011

Criticized for Approach to Libyan Crisis, Obama Calls for Gaddafi to Step Down

Following criticism over its response to the Libyan crisis last week – and after sidestepping the question as recently as Friday – the Obama administration on Saturday for the first time called unambiguously for Muammar Gaddafi to step down. Read

Unusual Level of International Unity Seen in Response to Libyan Turmoil

Muammar Gaddafi appears to have achieved what many political leaders before him have been incapable of – uniting the notoriously divided international community around a common position on a crisis. Read

Friday, February 25, 2011

Move to Suspend Libya Seen As Critical Test for U.N. Human Rights Council

On the eve of an emergency U.N. Human Rights Council meeting on the crisis in Libya, the European Union has significantly toughened a draft resolution, raising for the first time the prospect of challenging Libya’s membership on the council. Read

Plight of Christian Converts Highlights Absence of Religious Freedom in Afghanistan

An Afghan convert to Christianity facing the death penalty for apostasy has been freed, but others remain in prison, and advocacy groups say the underlying problem – the glaring absence of religious freedom in a country where American and other soldiers are fighting and dying – must be addressed. Read

Thursday, February 24, 2011

No Threat Seen to Libya’s Seat on Top U.N. Human Rights Body

Libya’s seat on the U.N.’s top human rights body looks secure for now, as a Western-led initiative to condemn it for its violent response to anti-government protests stops short of calling for its expulsion. Read

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

African Union, Recipient of Gaddafi Funds, Silent on Libya Bloodshed

The African Union has been conspicuously absent from the growing chorus of international condemnation of Libya's violent suppression of anti-government protests. That silence reflects the assertive role Muammar Gaddafi has played in the bloc of African nations. Read

UN Security Council Uses Weakest Option at its Disposal to Respond to Libyan Violence

The U.N. Security Council Tuesday issued a press statement condemning the Libyan regime’s violence against civilians – the weakest option available to it, short of saying nothing. Read

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

U.S. Lawmakers Missed Deadly New Zealand Quake by Hours

The biggest U.S. congressional delegation ever to visit New Zealand left the South Island City of Christchurch just hours before it was rocked by a large earthquake Tuesday. The quake left scores of people dead and caused what will likely amount to billions of dollars in damage. Read

As the Gaddafi Regime Kills Its Own Citizens, No Word From U.N. Human Rights Council

The violent crushing of anti-government protests in Libya has prompted Western condemnation, but almost a week after it began, no country has requested that the U.N. Human Rights Council convene an emergency “special session” on the crisis. Read

Monday, February 21, 2011

Primacy of Islam and Shari’a Law Expected to Remain in Egypt’s Constitution

An article in Egypt’s constitution that affirms Islam as the state religion likely will remain untouched despite hopes among the country’s Christian minority that the recent uprising would usher in an era of greater tolerance for non-Muslims. Read

Gaddafi Envoys Abandon Libyan Regime, Urge Others to Follow

At least three Libyan ambassadors reportedly have resigned to protest the deadliest crackdown of Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year rule, and one of them called on the rest of the country’s diplomats to follow suit. Read

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sensitive UN Security Council Mideast Vote Looms

Tense moments are expected Friday at the United Nations Security Council, where the U.N.-friendly Obama administration looks set reluctantly to exercise its first ever veto to kill an Arab-sponsored resolution critical of Israel. Read

Stung by Envoy’s Criticism, Minister Claims Turkey Has Greater Press Freedom Than the US

A Turkish government minister’s claim Thursday that his country enjoys greater press freedom than the United States flies in the face of a recent European Union assessment and Turkey’s steady decline in the annual rankings of a leading media watchdog. Read

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Of the 15 Biggest Recipients of US Aid, 14 Voted With the US Position at the United Nations Less Than Half of the Time

U.S. aid should not go to countries that oppose American positions at the United Nations more often than not, according to one of the hundreds of proposed budget-cutting amendments currently being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. Read

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pakistan Reportedly Close to Freeing Detained American

Pakistani media early Wednesday cited official sources as saying the government had decided late Tuesday night to hand over a detained American official who was on trial for murder, after President Obama added his voice to the administration’s calls for Pakistan to free him. Read

Administration Supports Iranian Opposition But Cautious on Bahrain Protests

The Obama administration has vocally supported the right of Iranian opposition supporters to protest against the regime, and it has criticized the regime’s harsh response. But it has been much more cautious in its reaction to protests in Bahrain, a tiny Gulf ally that is home to an important U.S. Navy base. Read

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Amid Dispute Over Arrested American, State Department Requests $3.1 Billion in 2012 Aid for Pakistan

The Obama administration is asking Congress to approve $1.9 billion in military and economic aid to Pakistan in fiscal year 2012 and an additional $1.2 billion to boost its counterinsurgency capabilities along the border with Afghanistan. Read

Turkey, a ‘Model’ Muslim Democracy, Refrains from Criticizing Iran Over Nuclear, Human Rights Issues

On a visit to Iran that will heighten concerns in the U.S. about his nation’s policy shift, Turkish President Abdullah Gul is strengthening political and economic ties with Iran, winning praise from his Iranian counterpart for defending Iran’s rights “in all international forums.” Read

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yemen’s Leader Calls Off U.S. Trip Amid Anti-Regime Protests

The president of Yemen has called off an official trip to Washington, amid signs that his recent attempt to defuse popular demands for political change have not had the intended effect in the strategically located Arab nation. Read

Iranian Regime Outlaws Planned Protest in Tehran, As Both Sides Invoke the Egyptian Uprising

Iran’s political and religious leaders continue to hail the popular uprising that brought down Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, but the regime also outlawed a planned demonstration in Tehran on Monday, anticipating that alongside solidarity with the Egyptians, protesters will call for similar changes at home. Read

Friday, February 11, 2011

Spell Out Your Transition Plans, A Scrambling Obama Tells Egypt

Egypt braced for huge demonstrations on Friday, following a day when heightened speculation that President Hosni Mubarak was about to resign was quickly replaced by disappointment, dismay and anger on Cairo’s streets. Read

NATO Member Turkey Solidifies Its Ties with Iran and Syria

Turkish President Abdullah Gul’s visit to Iran this weekend comes just days after reports said that Turkey has agreed to train the Syrian army. Turkey’s recent moves raise more questions about the direction being taken by the NATO member’s Islamist-leaning government. Read

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Situation Tense After Mubarak Quashes Expectations of an Immediate Departure

owing to ignore “diktats from abroad,” Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on national television Thursday night he would stay in office until September’s presidential election, while delegating “some” powers to the newly-appointed vice-president. Read

U.S. Move to Take Sudan off Terror Blacklist Comes Against Backdrop of Unresolved Lawsuits

The Obama administration’s intention to rescind Sudan’s designation as a state sponsor of terrorism may be a complicated and controversial process, if it follows the pattern of other countries’ removal from the list in recent years. Read

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

House Republicans Want U.N. to Send Back Millions in Overpaid U.S. Contributions

The new Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives kicks off its campaign to seek accountability in the United Nations on Wednesday. Lawmakers plan to vote on a bill aimed at securing the return of $179 million that was overpaid into a U.N. tax fund. Read

Pakistani Government Walks Tightrope Between Radicals, U.S.

Amid a worsening dispute over the arrest of a American citizen accused of killing two armed men in Lahore last month, Pakistan’s leaders appear to be leaning towards placating Islamist and nationalist sentiment at home rather than nurturing ties with its biggest funder. Read

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Obama Administration Links Sudan’s Removal From Terror-Sponsor List to Non-Terror-Related Issue

The Obama administration has started the process of removing Sudan from the shrinking list of countries designated as state-sponsors of terrorism, linking the move directly to Khartoum’s full implementation of a peace agreement that ended the long civil war between the north and south. Read

Monday, February 07, 2011

Obama Administration Hazy on Timing of Mubarak’s Exit

The Obama administration appears to be backing further away from calls by some Egyptian opposition figures and protestors for President Hosni Mubarak’s immediate resignation. Read

Cancellation of Bush Trip to Switzerland Deprives Anti-Torture Activists of a Chance to Arrest Him

Advocacy groups that want to see former President George W. Bush go to trial for allegedly endorsing the torture of terror suspects saw an opportunity slip away, after a Jewish organization canceled an invitation for Bush to visit Geneva this week. Read

Friday, February 04, 2011

In a Climate of Fear, Pakistani Lawmaker Withdraws Bid to Amend Blasphemy Laws

A lawmaker who braved death threats to challenge Pakistan’s notorious blasphemy laws has dropped her campaign, another sign that radical Islamists are gaining the upper hand over moderates in the country, which is a major recipient of U.S. aid. Read

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Palestinian Leaders Mull Elections Amid Regional Tumult

As autocratic governments in the Middle East face growing pressure from restive citizens, the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) unexpectedly has announced plans for local elections. It also is considering holding long-overdue presidential and parliamentary elections. Read

Opinion Divided on Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: Enemy or Pragmatists?

The political turmoil in Egypt has sparked a vigorous debate over the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s most organized opposition movement and one that appears likely to play an important future role. Read

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Iran Seeks to Put Islamic Stamp on Egyptian ‘Revolution’

Iranian leaders, clerics and politicians are engaged in an apparently orchestrated campaign to describe the political upheaval in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world in Islamic terms and link it to Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. Read

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Protests Planned in Syria, As Assad Expresses Confidence in His Country’s ‘Stability’

Online appeals for large-scale demonstrations in Syria this weekend are prompting speculation that President Bashir Assad’s regime could be next target of anti-regime sentiment sweeping the region. Read

China Keeps a Wary Eye on Events in Egypt

As Egypt braced itself for what could be the largest day of protests since they began a week ago, two planes carrying almost 500 Chinese nationals flew out of Cairo early Tuesday. Read

Egyptian Protestors Want Mubarak Out Now, Not in Nine Months’ Time

“Leave, leave!” protestors in Cairo’s Tahrir square chanted on Tuesday night, moments after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced on state television that he would not stand for re-election when his current term expires in the fall. Read