Thursday, February 28, 2013

As Kerry Heads for Ankara, Row Erupts Over Turk's Comment Equating Zionism With Fascism

On the eve of Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Turkey Friday a row has erupted over Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s description of Zionism – Jewish self-determination – as a “crime against humanity” and likening it to fascism. Read

House Bill Would Designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard As Terrorist Group

A bill introduced in the House of Representatives with bipartisan sponsorship Wednesday requires the secretary of state to determine whether Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) should be designated a “foreign terrorist organization” – a move that has been opposed in the past by President Obama and key members of his administration. Read

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kerry: Obama Remains Willing to Hold Bilateral Talks With Iran’s ‘Elected’ Government

Describing Iran as a country with an “elected” government and a “remarkable history,” Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday reiterated President Obama’s willingness to hold bilateral talks with the regime. Read

Iranian Media Downplay Hopes of Breakthrough in Nuclear Talks

The U.S. and other world powers negotiating with Iran over its nuclear activities were awaiting Tehran’s response Wednesday to an “updated” offer – reportedly involving an easing of sanctions in return for the shutdown of one uranium-enrichment facility – but regime-friendly media were unenthusiastic. Read

In Europe, Kerry Says U.S. ‘Pivot’ to Asia Won't Come at Europe's Expense

On the second day of his European tour Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry played down the administration’s declared focus on Asia, sounding almost dismissive of a policy his predecessor championed. Read

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hagel Confirmed as Defense Secretary, 58-41; Obama Calls It ‘Bipartisan’

With four Republicans siding with Democrats, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Chuck Hagel as President Obama’s secretary of defense, a nomination that drew strong opposition within the Republican former senator’s own party, with some troubled by past statements on Israel and Iran. Read

Take Two: Kerry Gets His Central Asian Nations Right

Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday correctly named Kazakhstan as the venue for multinational talks this week on the Iranian nuclear standoff, five days after a fumble in his first speech as America’s top diplomat appeared to conflate the Central Asian country and its neighbor, Kyrgyzstan. Read

Kerry Defends Karzai’s 'Legitimate Evaluations' of ISAF After Karzai Kicks Out U.S. Special Forces

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has carried out “many legitimate evaluations” of the actions of coalition forces in Afghanistan and of “how sometimes some things have gone wrong or might be changed and be done better,” Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday. Read

Monday, February 25, 2013

BBC Scandal: Transcripts Show Mark Thompson ‘Never Heard’ Rumors About Molester

Newly released transcripts from an inquiry into the BBC’s handling of the Jimmy Savile child sex scandal reveal more about the role played by the public service broadcaster’s then director-general, New York Times Co. CEO Mark Thompson. Read

Uncertainty and Danger Escalate in Nigeria Amid Terrorist Kidnappings

Claims that the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has called a ceasefire are prompting skepticism, amid signs that ideological divisions within the organization may have unleashed an even more radical element, with a global jihadist inclination. Read

Friday, February 22, 2013

White House Dismisses Battle Over Hagel Nomination As ‘Posturing’

Urging President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Chuck Hagel to be defense secretary, a group of 15 Republican senators pointed out that their former colleague from Nebraska is drawing more Senate opposition than any nominee to that post in history. Read

More Evidence Emerges of Worldwide Iranian-Backed Terror Plotting

Two incidents almost 3,000 miles apart this week have shed fresh light on allegations that a Iranian-backed network is plotting against Western targets, primarily Israeli but also American. Read

Thursday, February 21, 2013

China Says U.S. Is Making Hacking Claims to Lobby for More Money, Legislation

Amid a deepening row over reported massive hacking attacks by its military, Chinese state media are suggesting that the allegations are part of a lobbying strategy aimed at prodding Congress to boost defense spending and pass cyber security legislation. Read

State Dept. Still Downplaying Religious Element in Terrorist Threat Advisory

A State Department “worldwide caution” updating U.S. citizens about potential terror threats has little to say about the fact that most of the terrorist groups targeting Americans profess themselves to be inspired by Islam. Read

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Controversy Surrounds New Mohammed Movie, Being Produced by Iranian Muslim

An Iranian filmmaker’s plan to produce a movie on the life of Mohammed is stoking anger among some Muslims, but it also shows that not all Muslims agree that all portrayals of the Muslim prophet are “blasphemous.” Read

Kerry Focusing on Mideast and Europe, Not Asia, on First Trip As Secretary of State

Announcing Secretary of State John Kerry’s first trip abroad in his new role, a ten-day visit to the Middle East and Europe, the State Department on Tuesday played down concerns that the administration’s much-touted “pivot” to Asia is now on the back-burner. Read

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No End in Sight for the Long Struggle to Define Terrorism

Participants at a Saudi-hosted, U.N.-backed counter-terrorism conference this past weekend reiterated the need to combat “all kinds of terrorism,” but agreement on what constitutes terrorism continues to elude the international community. Read

Proliferation of Foreign Fighters and Extremist Groups’ Has Changed the Syrian Conflict, UN Says

Syria’s civil war has become “increasingly sectarian,” with some attacks motivated not by strategic gain but rather by a wanton disregard for human life, a situation that is likely to worsen tensions among ethnic groups, a United Nations-commissioned report said Monday. Read

Monday, February 18, 2013

Commander Says ISAF Will Comply With Karzai’s Air Support Ban

The commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said Sunday coalition forces will comply with President Hamid Karzai’s directive banning national forces from calling in coalition airstrikes, an order that has left some Afghans troubled. Read

Kerry Warns About Cost of Sequestration to State Dep’t, Mum on $2.4 Billion For Pakistan

Secretary of State John Kerry says looming sequestration cuts that will reduce the State Department’s fiscal year 2013 budget by $2.6 billion could affect sensitive areas like diplomatic security and aid to Israel – but is silent on Pakistan, a country that alone accounts for $2.4 billion in the existing FY2013 request. Read

Friday, February 15, 2013

Poll Finds Highest-Ever Pakistani Disapproval of U.S.

The State Department this week highlighted John Kerry’s “longstanding relationship with many Pakistani leaders,” but the results of a new poll suggest the new secretary of state faces an uphill battle dealing with one of Washington’s most testy partnerships. Read

Obama’s SOTU TV Audience Numbers Continue to Drop, Now Lower Than Bush’s Lowest

The number of Americans tuning in to President Obama’s State of the Union has dropped every year since he first took office, and this year was no exception. Read

Thursday, February 14, 2013

As U.N. Mulls Response to Nuclear Defiance, Expelling N. Korea Not on the Agenda

The U.N. Security Council is considering how to deal with North Korea’s new nuclear test, but a response not being discussed is one clearly provided for under the U.N. Charter – the expulsion of Pyongyang from the world body. Read

Kerry Sees ‘Possibilities’ on Mideast Peace, Never Mentioned in Obama’s SOTU

Jordan’s foreign minister on Wednesday played down the fact President Obama did not mention the Israeli-Palestinian issue in his State of the Union address, saying he accepts Secretary of State John Kerry’s word when he says the administration wants to pursue Mideast peace. Read

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

‘Treat North Korea as Criminal Enterprise,’ Scholar Argues

North Korea is essentially a criminal enterprise, and the world’s largest prison and slave labor camp and should be treated as such, a Korean scholar is arguing, as the international community mulls a response to Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test. Read

Obama’s Speech Offers Little Substance on Foreign Affairs

President Obama’s State of the Union Tuesday contained little of substance on foreign affairs, although he did throw his weight behind calls for a trade agreement between the United States and Europe. Read

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Former National Security Officials Tell Congress, ‘Stop Sequestration Now’

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and former CIA Director James Woolsey joined other former national security officials, ambassadors and scholars this week in signing a letter urging Congressional leaders to prevent looming sequestration cuts that would, they said, be “a self-inflicted wound to American strength and leadership in the world.” Read

African Cardinal Eyed As One of Several Papal Possibilities

There is no obvious frontrunner to succeed Pope Benedict XVI when the College of Cardinals meets next month, but his shock resignation announcement Monday unleashed speculation that someone not from Europe may be elected to the post for the first time in more than 1,000 years. Read

Monday, February 11, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood Nominee Looks Set to become Egypt’s Next Grand Mufti

The anticipated naming Monday of a Muslim Brotherhood nominee to the position of grand mufti of Egypt coincides with escalating protests against a ruling party already accused of dominating the nation. Read

Iran, Marking 1979 Revolution, Predicts ‘Islamic Awakening’ Will Spread

Iran on Sunday marked the 34th anniversary of its Islamic revolution with a show of defiance towards the United States, predictions of Israel’s eradication, and fresh attempts to take credit for the so-called “Arab spring.” Read

Friday, February 08, 2013

Brennan: Al-Qaeda and Associates the Only Terrorists Currently in ‘Armed Conflict’ With U.S.

President Obama’s nominee for director of the CIA, John Brennan, says the United States is not currently engaged in an armed conflict with any terrorist group other than al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Read

VOA Rejects China’s Claims It Secretly Encourages Tibetan Protest Suicides

The Voice of America has dismissed as “totally absurd” suggestions in Chinese state media that the broadcaster uses secret codes to encourage people in Tibet to set themselves on fire to protest Chinese policies in their homeland. Read

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Chinese State Media Say North Korea Must ‘Pay a Heavy Price’ for a Nuclear Test

North Korea’s threat to carry out a new nuclear weapons test – possibly as early as the lunar new year this weekend – is prompting unusually frank criticism from state media in China, Pyongyang’s historical ally and defender. Read

White House Agrees to Release Memo on Targeted Killings by Drone

On the eve of a Senate confirmation hearing for CIA director nominee John Brennan, the White House said late Wednesday it would provide Congress with a classified legal document relating to the use of lethal force against American terrorists abroad. Read

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

U.S. Says ‘Inflammatory Comments’ From Turkish Leaders ‘Very Troubling’

The Obama administration has raised concerns with its Turkish ally over remarks chiding Syrian President Bashar Assad for not retaliating against Israeli aircraft involved in reported airstrikes inside Syria last week. Read

EU Reacts Cautiously to Finding That Hezbollah Was Behind Bulgaria Bombing

Responding to the Bulgarian government’s conclusion that two members of Hezbollah were responsible for a deadly July 2012 bombing, the European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Aston stressed Tuesday “the need for a reflection over the outcome of the investigation.” Read

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

China’s Return to Port Near Persian Gulf Sets Off Regional Alarm Bells

In a decision raising fresh concern about China’s ambitions in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, Pakistan has agreed to hand over to Chinese control a deep-water port, strategically located near the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Read

Turkey’s Leader Eases Talk of Joining Asian Bloc as an Alternative to the EU

Ten days after causing a stir by suggesting that Turkey may give up its aspirations to join the European Union and look instead towards an Asian-focused bloc of autocracies, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday pulled back on the statement. Read

Monday, February 04, 2013

Biden: ‘Still Space for Diplomacy’ With Iran to Succeed

Reacting to a fresh invitation from the Obama administration for bilateral talks, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Sunday Iran is a “rational” player that wants to resolve outstanding international issues through negotiation, but the United States must stop sending “contradictory signals” such as threatening to keep all options on the table. Read

As Kerry Takes Up Post, Pakistan Moves Ahead With Iran Gas Pipeline

In an early challenge to newly sworn-in Secretary of State John Kerry, Pakistan has confirmed it will go ahead and complete a pipeline that will enable Iran to supply it with natural gas for decades to come. Read

Friday, February 01, 2013

State Dep’t Skeptical of Iran’s Offer to Jointly Probe Terror Attack It’s Accused of Carrying Out

After appearing to reserve judgment on the matter for several days, the State Department on Thursday voiced skepticism about an agreement between Argentina and Iran to jointly investigate a terrorist bombing long blamed on Tehran. Read