Friday, March 29, 2013

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Puts Rocket Forces on ‘Standby to Fire’ at U.S. Targets

North Korean media reported early Friday that Kim Jong-un had ordered strategic rocket forces to be on standby to strike U.S. and South Korean targets, Seoul’s Yonhap state news agency reported. Read

‘Sexual Jihad’ Fatwa Urges ‘Temporary Marriages’ for Syrian Rebels

Reports about a fatwa urging young girls to travel to Syria to provide sexual services for jihadist rebels are causing a stir in Tunisia, while also drawing attention to the Islamic concept – little-known in the West and controversial among Muslims themselves – of “temporary marriage.” Read

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Diplomats Wrap Up Work on U.N. Arms Trade Treaty That Will Test U.S. Resolve

( – Diplomats from the United States and 192 other countries hope to wrap up negotiations by a Thursday deadline on a global conventional arms trade treaty that has eluded the United Nations for more than a decade. Read

After U.S. Unblocks Aid to Palestinians, Abbas Flouts U.S. Wishes by Advancing Push for Statehood

Just days after the Obama administration announced it was unblocking almost $500 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority, P.A. chairman Mahmoud Abbas told an Arab League summit this week he was pushing ahead with efforts to upgrade the P.A.’s status – the reason Congress wanted the money held up in the first place. Read

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In New Zealand and France, Support for Same-Sex Marriage Wanes as Legalization Looms

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in two same-sex marriage cases, the approaching passage of laws legalizing same-sex marriage in New Zealand and France appear to be prompting a public opinion shift against the change. Read

Not Our Job to Avoid Offending Governments, Says Religious Freedom Watchdog

Uncertainty over how the State Department and U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom should promote religious freedom abroad “has at times created tensions with foreign government officials,” the Government Accountability Office notes in a new report, citing Turkey and Vietnam as examples. Read

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In Egypt, Crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood Critics Appears Imminent

Tensions threatened to erupt in Egypt late Monday after the country’s top prosecutor ordered the arrest of five prominent anti-Islamist activists and the Muslim Brotherhood was reported to be on a state of “high alert” ahead of an announcement of unspecified new decrees by President Mohammed Morsi. Read

Kerry ‘Very, Very Comfortable’ With Karzai Saying the Media Misconstrued His Offensive ‘Collusion’ Remarks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai now says his recent comments suggesting collusion between the U.S. and Taliban were misinterpreted by “the media,” and that explanation appeared to satisfy Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday, even though the contentious remarks were made during a nationally televised speech. Read

Monday, March 25, 2013

Anti-Assad Opposition Crumbles in Syria

As Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday urged Iraq to stop allowing overflights of aircraft suspected to be carrying Iranian military supplies to the Assad regime, the administration’s Syria policy took another blow as the opposition movement it helped to build threatened to fall apart. Read

U.S. Attempts to Heal Israel-Turkey Rift, But Divisions Remain

The Obama administration hailed its mediation of an agreement aimed at healing a deep rift between Israel and Turkey, but different emphases in the wording highlighted by the two sides over the weekend may yet stymie the reconciliation effort. Read

Friday, March 22, 2013

State Dep’t Hopes EU Will Crack Down on Hezbollah Following Terror Conviction in Cyprus

In a ruling largely overshadowed by the country’s dire financial crisis, a court in Cyprus Thursday convicted a Lebanese Hezbollah member on criminal charges relating to gathering information for the terrorist group on prospective Israeli tourist bombing targets. Read

NYT CEO Denies Knowing About Sex Abuse Allegations, but BBC Official Says She Told Him

New York Times Company CEO Mark Thompson’s repeated assertions that he did not know, while serving as BBC chief, about allegations of child sex abuse by the late British TV personality Jimmy Savile, are again being challenged. Read

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Jerusalem: 'Eternal City,' Says Obama; 'Ancient Capital,' Says Netanyahu

Behind the bonhomie evident between President Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Wednesday, the Israeli leader delicately reminded his guest about Israel’s three millennia-old claim to the city he is visiting. Read

N. Korea Sounds Air-Raid Warnings, Threatens to Target U.S. Bases

Ratcheting up an already tense situation in northeast Asia, North Korean state media on Thursday issued baffling air-raid alerts to its citizens while its military warned that its “precision” weapons had U.S. military bases in Japan and Guam within range. Read

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cyprus Banking Crisis Could Hold Strategic Silver Lining for Moscow

As the Cypriot government considers its options after lawmakers Tuesday rejected a controversial bailout plan taxing savers’ bank deposits, Russia’s state-controlled energy giant Gazprom reportedly has offered to come to Cyprus’ aid in return for rights to develop lucrative offshore natural gas reserves. The Russian Navy also could benefit. Read

Same Tune: Chavez’ Heir Alleges U.S. Plots, Rails Against Pentagon, CIA

The Cuban-backed socialist politician running to succeed the late Hugo Chavez as Venezuela’s president called on President Obama Tuesday to stop the “insane hawks” in the Pentagon and CIA who, he charged, were conspiring to sabotage the election. Read

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Obama Itinerary Will Highlight Israel’s Historic Claims to Disputed Land

Ten days after President Obama’s June 2009 address “to the Muslim world” in Cairo, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in a speech of his own, gently chided him for linking Jewish aspirations for a homeland with persecution and the Holocaust rather than a 3,000-year connection to the land. Read

Obama’s New Year Message to Iran Silent on Looming Elections

In what has become an annual tradition, President Obama Monday sent Iran Persian new year’s greetings on Monday, but chose not to mention the forthcoming presidential election in a country where the last one triggered massive protests and a violent crackdown. Read

Friday, March 15, 2013

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood: Expanding Women's Rights Would Be A ‘Cultural Invasion of Muslim Countries’

As the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women tries to finalize a document on violence against women by the end of its two-week session Friday, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood is leading a pushback by governments that accuse it of trying to undermine religious or cultural values. Read

Deadline Approaches for Obama Administration to Name Russian Human Rights Abusers

In less than a month, the Obama administration’s commitment to its so-called “reset” with Russia will be tested when it is required under new bipartisan legislation to submit to Congress a list of egregious human rights violators in Russia. Read

Thursday, March 14, 2013

More Grief From Karzai: Warns Delay in Prison Handover Could Harm Ties with U.S.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday warned that further delays in the handover of a U.S.-run detention center to Afghan control could harm bilateral relations, but opposition parties accuse Karzai himself of jeopardizing the ties, slamming his recent remarks alleging Taliban-U.S. collusion. Read

World Views of U.S. Leadership Under Obama Continue to Decline

The last year of President Obama’s first term saw a continuation of the slow decline in worldwide approval of U.S. leadership that has marked his administration, according to a new Gallup poll. Read

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Intelligence Director: ‘Arab Spring’ Has Benefited Islamists

The “Arab spring” has benefited Islamists rather than democracy advocates, while political transitions and unrest in the region have provided opportunities for terrorists to mount attacks against U.S. interests, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers Tuesday. Read

Tensions Simmer, Hamas Makes Threats As Obama’s Israel Visit Approaches

As President Obama’s long-awaited trip to Israel and surrounding areas nears, Palestinian groups hoping to capitalize on the visit are calling for protests – and in some cases threatening violence. Read

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is U.S. Training Syrian Rebels in Jordan? State Dept. Won’t Say

The State Department on Monday declined to confirm or deny reports that the United States is involved in training Syrian anti-regime rebels in Jordan, a development that -- if true -- would signal a deepening involvement in an increasingly messy conflict. Read

Post-Chavez Venezuela Gears Up for Bitter Election Campaign

The month-long election campaign to succeed the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez began on Monday with harsh rhetoric between his anointed heir and the opposition flag bearer. Read

Monday, March 11, 2013

Violence Against Christians Flares in Pakistan Amid Charges of ‘Blasphemy’

Christian schools in several cities remained closed on Monday following the weekend looting and torching of more than 150 Christians’ homes and stores by a Muslim mob riled by allegations of “blasphemy” against Mohammed. Read

Karzai: Taliban Suicide Bombings Serve American Interests

Two weeks after Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that Hamid Karzai’s assessments of progress in the war in Afghanistan were “legitimate,” the Afghan president on Sunday delivered another assessment – implying that the U.S. and Taliban are colluding in violent attacks to justify a post-2014 U.S. presence in the country. Read

Friday, March 08, 2013

Arrest of Bin Laden’s Son-in-Law Could Shed More Light on Iran’s Collaboration With Terrorists

The capture of the Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, who served as his spokesman, may in time provide fresh insight into allegations of Iranian collaboration with al-Qaeda over the years since 9/11. Read

Egypt's Christians Think U.S. Is Backing Muslim Brotherhood, Congressman Warns

A Republican congressman who recently returned from a Mideast visit warns of eroding U.S. credibility, citing a perception among Egyptians that the Obama administration is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and employing a double standard by overlooking abuses, especially those targeting minority Christians. Read

Thursday, March 07, 2013

After Kerry Expresses Support, Qatar Prods Arab League to Approve Arming Syrian Rebels

Fresh from talks with visiting Secretary of State John Kerry – who said the U.S. supports the decision by countries like Qatar to arm Syria’s rebels – the Qatari prime minister led a successful push at an Arab League meeting Wednesday to endorse military backing for the Syrian opposition. Read

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

U.N. Human Rights Council Honors Hugo Chavez, But Is Silent on His Rights Record

The U.N. Human Rights Council was criticized Wednesday for holding a minute of silence to honor Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a decision that again illustrated the tension between the body’s actions and its professed commitment to upholding human rights around the world. Read

N. Korea’s Threat to Tear Up Armistice Comes As S. Korea Supports U.N. Human Rights Probe

North Korea’s threat to abrogate the half-century-old armistice with South Korea is being viewed as a response to a new sanctions push at the U.N. and joint U.S.-South Korea military drills. But it also comes after a less-noticed but significant shift in Seoul’s international diplomacy. Read

Kerry Stresses That It’s ‘President Obama’s Foreign Policy’

Whether on Syria, Egypt or Iran, Secretary of State John Kerry wants Americans to know that President Obama, not he, is in charge of America’s foreign policy. Read

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Hugo Chavez Dies; Anointed Successor Already Polishing Anti-U.S. Credentials

The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Tuesday should pave the way for a new election within a month, providing a second chance for a young state governor who five months ago posed the biggest electoral challenge faced by the U.S.-baiting socialist firebrand in his 14 years in power. Read

Kerry: ‘No Guarantee’ That Weapons From U.S. Allies Won’t Go to Jihadists

In Saudi Arabia Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry played down concerns about weapons from U.S. Gulf allies ending up in the hands of radical jihadists in Syria, pointing instead to the arms the Assad regime is getting from Iran and others. Read

Monday, March 04, 2013

As Elections Approach, Pakistan’s Non-Muslim Minorities Call for Voting Changes

As Pakistan prepares for an elections in May that would be the first in the country’s history to see an elected civilian government complete a full term, non-Muslim minorities are calling for changes to a system that prevents them from voting directly for their own co-religionists. Read

Kerry, in Egypt, Ties $250M in U.S. Aid to Little-Noticed Reform; 'Outrageous,' Says Congressman

Announcing the release of $250 million in U.S. aid to Egypt on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry called it “a good-faith effort to spur reform,” but developments there over the 10 months since his last visit to Cairo offer little cause for optimism. Read

Early Results in Kenyan Election Favor Candidate Wanted by Int’l Criminal Court

Early results in Kenya’s closely-watched presidential election early Tuesday give the lead to a man who if victorious would be the first head of state ever elected while wanted by the International Criminal Court. Read

Friday, March 01, 2013

U.S. Hints at Sanctions as Pakistan Moves Ahead on Gas Pipeline With Iran

The State Department has warned Pakistan to avoid activity that could result in sanctions after President Asif Ali Zardari visited Tehran to push ahead with plans for an Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline. Zardari was quoted as shrugging off Western opposition and saying that “nations have learned what to do in response to the enemies of Islam.” Read