Friday, June 29, 2012

China, Iran’s Biggest Oil Customer, Gets Last-Minute Sanctions Exemption From Obama Administration

In an announcement largely overshadowed by the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday the administration was exempting China from imminent sanctions relating to Iran’s oil trade -- on the grounds, she said, that it had significantly reduced imports of Iranian oil. Read

Tempers Flare at U.N. Human Rights Council As Speaker Criticizes Cuba and Aspiring Member Venezuela

Authoritarian members of the U.N. Human Rights Council bristled Thursday when a speaker questioned their right to be members of the United Nation’s top human rights body, interrupting to demand that the presiding officer take the critic to task. Read

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Committee Lawmakers Join Ranks to Pass ‘Carefully Crafted’ State Dept. Authorization Bill

Putting pragmatism above principle, Republican and Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee joined ranks Wednesday to mark up a State Department authorization bill omitting the usual raft of country-specific and other provisions that have proven contentious in past years. Read

Following Anti-Jewish Tirade, U.N. Slammed for Co-Hosting Event With Iran

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday repudiated Iran’s vice president for using a U.N.-sponsored event to accuse “Zionists” of driving global drug trafficking. And a senior Republican lawmaker criticized the United Nations for co-hosting events with Iran in the first place. Read

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

U.S. Opposes Palestinians’ Urgent Bid to Have Church of the Nativity Listed As ‘World Heritage’ Site

The United States opposes any attempt to use the “World Heritage” process for political ends, a State Department official said Tuesday, as a U.N. committee mulls a Palestinian Authority bid to have the traditional birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem recognized as an endangered World Heritage site. Read

German Court Makes Circumcision for Religious Reasons a Crime

A German court has ruled that circumcising male infants for religious reasons, as Jews in particular have done for thousands of years, constitutes grievous bodily harm and is a crime, regardless of parental consent. Read

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Clinton Disappointed That Rio Text Includes Family Planning but Omits ‘Reproductive Rights’

“Reproductive rights” advocates, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, are unhappy that the term did not make it into the final document coming out of last week’s United Nations sustainability conference in Rio de Janeiro. The text did call for “universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning.” Read

Canceled: D.C. Event Featuring Syrian Mufti Who Threatened Suicide Attacks on West

A Washington-based think tank late Monday cancelled an event scheduled for Thursday after sparking protests for inviting Syria’s grand mufti, a state-appointed ally of President Bashar Assad, who has been quoted as supporting suicide bombing. Read

Monday, June 25, 2012

Obama Phones to Congratulate Muslim B'hood on Victory in Egypt’s ‘Milestone’ Election

President Obama phoned the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi on Sunday evening to congratulate him on becoming Egypt’s new president, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said in a Twitter message around 7 PM eastern time. Read

Human Rights Groups Warn of Eugenics As European Court Mulls Down Syndrome Case

“Eugenics is not a human right,” activists will declare at a meeting in Strasbourg, France this week, as Europe’s highest court considers a woman’s complaint that she was not given prenatal screening that would have alerted her to her daughter’s Down syndrome, thus giving her the choice of deciding whether or not to have an abortion. Read

Friday, June 22, 2012

Clinton Hints China May Be Exempt From Iran Sanctions – One Day Before Data Show China Buying More Iranian Oil

One day after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hinted that China may be exempted from looming sanctions related to the Iranian oil trade, new customs data released Thursday showed that China’s imports of Iranian crude rose by more than one-third between April and May this year. Read

State Dept. Takes Steps Against Nigerian Islamists, But GOP Lawmakers Not Satisfied

The Obama administration has designated as terrorists three senior figures in Boko Haram, the Islamist group responsible for deadly attacks targeting Christians in Nigeria, but two senior Republican lawmakers Thursday repeated earlier calls for the group to be listed as a foreign terrorist organization. Read

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Study Offers a New Take on Why Some Muslims Hate America

Why do they hate us? Confronting a question that many Americans have asked about Muslims since 9/11, two political scientists have come up with a theory they believe may hold part of the answer. Read

Ahmadinejad’s Visit to Rio Conference Sparks Calls for Justice in 1994 Terror Attack

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s latest Latin American visit, and the emerging election campaign at home to succeed him as president next year, are both drawing fresh attention to an 18-year-long campaign for justice to be done in a deadly terror attack in Argentina. Read

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Russia Denies Reports of Warships to Syria and Joint Exercises With Syria, Iran and China

Amid a flurry of sometimes conflicting reports on Russian military cooperation with the Assad regime, Moscow has denied dispatching Navy warships to Syria and says talk of upcoming joint Russia-Syria-Iran-China war-games is nonsense. Read

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

U.N. Global Environmental Program Gets a Boost at ‘Rio+20’ Conference

A push to strengthen the powers of the U.N. Environment Program may be a key accomplishment of the United Nations sustainability conference underway in Rio de Janeiro this week. Read

High-Stakes Iran Nuclear Talks Don’t Look Promising

Less than two weeks before stringent new U.S. and European Union sanctions targeting Tehran are due to go into effect, Iran’s negotiators on Monday tied any concession on its part to “sanctions relief.” That reinforces the already low expectations that multilateral talks in Moscow may achieve a breakthrough in the decade-long standoff. Read

Monday, June 18, 2012

Another Elderly Hardliner Named as Heir to Saudi Throne

The death of Saudi Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud removes from the line of succession a hardliner opposed to the tentative domestic reforms introduced by his half-brother, King Abdullah, including the extension of limited voting rights for women. Read

Human Rights Abuses Law, Missile Defense Top Agenda for Obama-Putin Meeting

President Obama is due to meet with Vladimir Putin for the first time in the Russian leader’s capacity as president on Monday, one day before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee marks up human rights legislation that has angered the Kremlin. Read

Friday, June 15, 2012

Palestinian Attempt to Secure Emergency ‘World Heritage’ Status for Bethlehem Church May Fail

A bid by the Palestinian Authority to use its new membership of the U.N. Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization to secure its first endangered “World Heritage” site – the traditional birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem – appears to be in trouble. Read

Shocking Forced Abortion in China Blamed on Overzealous Local Officials, But They Were Enforcing National Policy

Chinese officials say they will investigate the abortion forced on a woman who was seven months pregnant, which has caused an uproar on Chinese social media websites. Even so, there are no signs that the birth-limitation policy behind the killing will be abandoned any time soon. Read

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hillary Clinton Rates Higher at Home Than Abroad in Global Opinion Survey

She’s one of the most well-traveled American secretaries of state in history, but Hillary Clinton does not inspire confidence everywhere, including in some countries she has visited multiple times since taking up the post in February 2009. Read

Despite ‘Engagement’, the World Views U.S. Less Favorably on Obama’s Watch

Favorable views of the United States have fallen in a number of countries around the world since 2009, despite the Obama administration’s repeated assertions that its international engagement – including paying United Nations contributions on time and in full – has “restored confidence” in American global leadership. Read

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tunisian Riots Follow Zawahiri’s Exhortation to Muslims to ‘Rise Up’

Riots in Tunisia on Monday and Tuesday were attributed to “un-Islamic” art exhibits, but also came just a day after al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahari sent a message urging Tunisian Muslims to “rise up” in defense of Islamic law (shari’a). Read

Cuba Blasts U.S. for Imposing Record Fine Against Sanctions-Dodging Bank

Cuba’s state-run news agency lashed out at the United States on Tuesday, after the Treasury Department announced a $619-million settlement agreement with a Dutch company for violating U.S. sanctions banning transactions with Cuba and Iran. Read

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top Religious Freedom Advocate Refutes Claims of Anti-Muslim Bias

A prominent religious freedom advocate, accused of anti-Muslim bias while serving on the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), hit back Monday with an open letter outlining her work “with and on behalf of Muslims in the area of religious freedom.” Read

Monday, June 11, 2012

U.S. Concerned About Looming Internet Restrictions in Vietnam

As Vietnam’s communist government prepares to impose strict new Internet controls, the U.S. government is warning that the move will threaten freedom of expression and have an adverse commercial impact. Read

In Egypt, Muslims Pledge to Guarantee the Rights of Coptic Christians

With just days to go before Egypt’s post-revolutionary president is elected, the Muslim Brotherhood is trying to allay concerns of Coptic Christians about the implications of an Islamist victory, pledging to guarantee their rights. Read

Friday, June 08, 2012

Hamas-Supporting Turkey Calls for No ‘Complacency’ in Fight Against Terror

Turkey’s foreign minister told an international forum Thursday that the fight against terrorism does not permit “complacency” about any particular terrorist organization, and he warned that terrorists will quickly seize upon and exploit any gap in international efforts. Read

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sen. Kerry Blames U.S. for Dispute Over E.U. Airline Carbon Tax: ‘We Dragged Our Feet’

As Senate Republicans and Democrats Wednesday slammed a European Union directive charging all airlines that enter European airspace for carbon emissions, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) blamed the dispute over the cap-and-trade system on America’s failure to support global climate change initiatives. Read

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Kremlin Loyalists Push Through Bill Designed to Limit Anti-Putin Protests

Russia’s State Duma, dominated by the party loyal to President Vladimir Putin, passed a controversial bill late Tuesday providing for harsh fines for unsanctioned political protests, following an unusual mini-filibuster by opposition members of the traditionally compliant lower house of parliament. Read

State Dept. ‘Pretty Sure’ U.S. Reporting on Beijing Air Quality Doesn’t Violate Diplomatic Conventions

The State Department disputes China’s assertion that the monitoring and reporting of air quality by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing violates international treaties governing diplomatic and consular relations between countries. Read

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Eurasian Security Bloc Led by Russia and China Growing in Influence, Ambition

A planned meeting in Beijing between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart is drawing fresh attention to the event that will bring both men to the Chinese capital – a gathering of a security bloc sometimes described as a Eurasian counterweight to the U.S. and NATO. Read

Monday, June 04, 2012

Panetta, in Historic Vietnam Visit, Sees ‘Tremendous Potential Here’ for U.S. Naval Forces

A day after announcing that that U.S. eventually will have a larger proportion of its Navy vessels in the Asia-Pacific region than in the Atlantic, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta took that message Sunday to Vietnam, a former enemy the U.S. hopes will play a role in a new strategy centered on leaner and more agile deployments. Read

U.N. Chief Silent on Longstanding Failure to Define Terrorism

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressed the advisory board of a newly-established U.N. Counter-Terrorism Center in Saudi Arabia on Sunday but was silent on the world body’s enduring failure to come up with a universal definition of terrorism. Read

Friday, June 01, 2012

PLO Joins Chorus of Opposition to Senate Amendment on Palestinian Refugees

he Palestine Liberation Organization Thursday slammed an amendment to a U.S. Senate appropriations bill requiring the State Department to establish how many Palestinians receiving assistance through a U.S.-funded U.N. refugee agency are in fact refugees. Read

Senate Targets Foreign Aid to Pakistan Amid Confusion Over Fate of Doctor Who Helped Get Bin Laden

Confusion surrounds the conviction and imprisonment of the Pakistani doctor at the center of diplomatic wrangling over the help he gave the U.S. in tracking down Osama bin Laden. Read