Wednesday, July 31, 2013

As Kerry Launches Peace Effort, Where’s the Goodwill Gesture from the Palestinians?

As Secretary of State John Kerry announced Tuesday a goal of achieving a “final status agreement” between Israelis and Palestinians within nine months, secrecy surrounds what concession or goodwill gesture – if any – Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas made to get the process underway. Read

Fresh Appeals for Syria Truce as End of Another Bloody Ramadan Approaches

Both the Syrian regime and rebels fighting to topple it have ignored appeals for a truce during Ramadan, but leaders of the world’s Arab and Islamic nations are making a fresh appeal for a ceasefire over next week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday, which brings the Muslim fasting month to a close. Read

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Pakistani Taliban Springs Hundreds of Prisoners, Kills Shi’ite Inmates

A brazen Ramadan attack overnight on a Pakistani prison housing hundreds of Sunni militants saw more than 200 prisoners escape, and the attackers also seized the opportunity to kill several Shi’ite prisoners, at least one of whom was reportedly beheaded. Read

No Gay Diplomats: U.S. and British Promotion of LGBT Rights Abroad Sparks Backlash

Stepped-up efforts by the U.S. and British governments to promote homosexual rights abroad are risking a backlash in conservative countries, where critics say the West is trying to impose norms that clash with local tradition, religion and culture. Read

Monday, July 29, 2013

Both Sides in Deadly Egypt Standoff Harden Positions, Ignore US Appeals

As Egypt counted the cost of the deadliest day of violence since the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in early 2011, both the military-backed interim government and the Muslim Brotherhood signaled an intention to escalate the crisis despite appeals from the U.S. for them to “step back from the brink.” Read

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Kerry to Open a New Mideast Peace Effort--With an Iftar

The Obama administration announced Sunday that Israeli and Palestinian representatives will meet in Washington on Monday evening to resume talks aimed at reaching a “final status agreement” that has eluded a succession of Israeli, Palestinian and U.S. leaders for decades. Read

Friday, July 26, 2013

LGBT Groups Object to New Chairman of Int'l Religious Freedom Watchdog

Princeton University Jurisprudence Professor Robert George, the newly-elected chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, is a leading Catholic thinker and ethicist, but homosexuality advocacy groups are unhappy about the position going to an opponent of same-sex marriage. Read

Groups Opposed to Chicago School Closures Seek U.N. Intervention, Claim Human Rights Violations

Advocacy groups opposing the planned shutdown of 49 schools in Chicago are turning to the United Nations for help, urging U.N. officials to investigate and take steps to prevent human rights abuses which, they say, will result from the closures. Read

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kerry’s Vietnam Comments Focus on the Past, Skirt Human Rights Concerns Today

Human rights advocates want the Obama administration to press the visiting president of communist-ruled Vietnam on human rights violations, but during President Truong Tan Sang’s first public event Wednesday, his host, Secretary of State John Kerry, skirted the issue. Read

Magna Carta, Anne Frank’s Diary and--Che Guevara Papers? UN Culture Agency Honors Castro’s Comrade

The United States has called on the United Nations’ culture agency to reverse a decision to include the writings of “Che” Guevara in a register of documents representing some of the human race’s most significant heritage. Read

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Senators Press Dempsey on Post-2014 Afghanistan: What's Best for US?

Having succeeded in prodding the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to outline options for potential military intervention in Syria, two senior senators are now pressing him for his views on Afghanistan, including the question of a post-2014 presence and the Taliban peace initiative. Read

Syrian Kurds’ Plan to Declare Autonomy Alarms Turkey and U.S.

A reported plan by Syrian Kurds to declare an autonomous region inside the borders of Syria has set off alarm bells in neighboring Turkey and in Washington, where the Obama administration says it would be a “highly provocative” move. Read

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dempsey Offers Options on Dealing With Syria, Says Risks Include Empowering Jihadists

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, acknowledging that the conflict in Syria is both “complex” and “sectarian,” has warned of numerous risks, including the inadvertent empowering of extremists. Read

Biden Visits an India Anxious About Future Regional Security

Vice President Joe Biden has begun a visit to India at a time when uncertainties over Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s future direction are impacting an Indo-U.S. relationship touted as increasingly significant in recent years. Read

Monday, July 22, 2013

U.S. Lawmakers Urge Opening to Iran, But Supreme Leader Says U.S. Cannot be Trusted

As the Aug. 4 inauguration of Iran’s “moderate” new president approaches, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned him on Sunday night not to trust the United States and not to be optimistic about possible bilateral talks. Read

European Union in a Major Shift Agrees to Blacklist Hezbollah's 'Military Wing'

The E.U.’s 28 member states agreed unanimously Monday to place Hezbollah’s “military wing” on its list of terrorist organizations. The U.S. welcomed the move, which Secretary of State John Kerry said sent a strong message that the Lebanese group “cannot operate with impunity, and that there are consequences for its actions.” Read

Friday, July 19, 2013

Arrest in CIA Rendition Case Seen as ‘Warning Sign’ to Other U.S. Officials

A left-wing non-profit legal advocacy group said Thursday the reported arrest of a former CIA station chief wanted in Italy for the 2003 abduction of a terror suspect should be taken as a “warning sign” by American officials who have yet to face justice for their involvement in controversial post-9/11 counterterror practices. Read

Kerry Raises ‘Potential of Civil War’ in Egypt As Reason for Morsi’s Ouster

Two full weeks after the Egyptian military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Secretary of State John Kerry said it was still “much too early to make pronouncements” on what took place. Read

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Arabs Tell Kerry the Israeli-Palestinian Dispute Is Region’s ‘Core Issue of Instability’

Amid a deadly civil war in Syria, turmoil in Egypt, sectarian violence in Lebanon and Iraq and continuing Iranian nuclear activity in defiance of the international community, Arab ministers meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in Jordan Wednesday maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute is “the core issue of instability in the region” – and Kerry evidently did not disagree. Read

Obama’s Envoy to Islamic Bloc Condemns ‘Anti-Semitic’ Ramadan TV Show

Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), is urging Muslims to speak out against a controversial television drama airing in the Arab world this Ramadan, calling it “divisive and anti-Semitic.” Read

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cuban Missiles Headed for N. Korea Similar to Ones That Shot Down U-2s in 1960s

The Cuban government said late Tuesday that weaponry found aboard a North Korean-flagged ship detained in the Panama Canal after leaving Cuba was “obsolete” material being sent to North Korea for repair. Read

Conservatives Urge Rejection of Obama’s U.N. Ambassador Pick

The battle surrounding President Obama’s nomination of Samantha Power to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations heated up Tuesday when a group of conservative policy experts and others urged senators not to confirm her, accusing her of having an “affinity for those who would diminish our sovereignty and strengthen our adversaries.” Read

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Pakistan’s New Leader Is the Latest to Seek ‘Peace’ Deal With Terrorists

Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is planning to hold talks with jihadists, including the umbrella group known as the Pakistani Taliban, despite the failure of numerous similar initiatives over the past seven years. Read

Jesse Jackson Urges U.N. Human Rights Council to Investigate Trayvon Martin Shooting

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, founder and president of the Rainbow Push Coalition, wants the United Nations’ human rights watchdog brought into the debate over the shooting of Trayvon Martin. Read

Monday, July 15, 2013

Latin American Leftists Want U.N. to Punish Diversion of Bolivian Jet Thought to Be Carrying Snowden

Left-wing regimes in Latin American want the United Nations to punish those responsible for diverting a presidential jet mistakenly thought to have been carrying the fugitive former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Read

Republicans Blame Obama Funding Cuts for 3rd Failure of U.S. Missile Defense Test

As the array of foreign missiles capable of reaching the United States grows, four Republican lawmakers are pressing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for assurances after a third consecutive failed test of “the only national missile defense system in place to protect the American people.” Read

Friday, July 12, 2013

On First Friday of Ramadan, Cairo Braces for Rival Protests

Egyptians on both sides of their country’s political divide are preparing to hold more demonstrations on Friday – the Muslim Brotherhood protesting the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi and supporters of the military takeover celebrating his departure. Read

With Syrian Christians in Peril, Archbishop Says Don’t Send More Weapons

Leaders of Britain’s largest churches are calling for a special focus this weekend on the civil war in Syria, as the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby encourages people to ask their members of parliament “to think very carefully about the wisdom” of introducing more weapons into the conflict. Read

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Calls for Ramadan Ceasefires Spurned, a Reminder of Fasting Month’s Bloody History

With the Assad regime and the Taliban rejecting Ramadan truce appeals, the Islamic fasting month looks set to bring further bloodshed as the former presses its offensive against rebels and the latter continues attacks against Afghan and coalition forces as well as civilians, including the 16 women and children killed in a roadside bombing Tuesday. Read

Chinese State Media Accuse U.S. of Cyber Double Standards

As U.S. and Chinese officials continue high-level talks in Washington, Chinese state media are reiterating Beijing’s contention that recent revelations of widespread National Security Agency surveillance have undercut U.S. accusations of Chinese cyber-attacks. Read

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Human Rights Abusers Eye Seats on U.N. Human Rights Council

The composition of the United Nations’ top human rights body looks set to change significantly in 2014 as a group of countries with poor human rights records seek a comeback after a year’s absence enforced by term limits. Read

18 and Counting: Plum Ambassador Posts Go to Obama Campaign Bundlers

President Obama on Tuesday nominated two major campaign bundlers to two of the most prized ambassadorships available anywhere – London and Rome – part of a pattern that has seen him reward at least 18 top fundraisers with plum diplomatic positions since 2009. Read

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

No ‘Precipitous Decision’ From White House on Question of Egyptian Coup

As Egypt continues to grapple with the violent aftermath of the ousting of its president, the debate over how the United States should respond is blurring traditional party political and ideological lines, especially regarding the future of U.S. aid. Read

Pakistani Commission Wants Another Trial for Doctor Who Helped Find Bin Laden

Shakeel Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden, should be put on trial to determine his role in the affair, an official Pakistani commission of inquiry into the death of the al-Qaeda terrorist has recommended. Read

Monday, July 08, 2013

Muslim Brotherhood Claims Early-Morning ‘Massacre’

A violent weekend in Cairo was capped by a deadly clash early Monday morning between security force members and supporters of the ousted president. The latest clash comes amid the ongoing debate over whether last week’s military action constituted a coup and should consequently trigger a suspension of U.S. aid. Read

Muslims Divided Over Egypt As Ramadan Nears

As Ramadan begins this week, an Islamic world already at odds over the civil war in Syria is further divided over the ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, with some governments denouncing the military intervention and others not sorry to see the Muslim Brotherhood dealt a setback. Read

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Egyptian Military Deposes Morsi; ‘Deeply Concerned’ Obama Orders Review of US Aid

Egypt’s armed forces ousted President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday, bringing to an end a year of Muslim Brotherhood rule that many Egyptians said did not meet the promise offered by the country’s first democratically-elected administration. Read

Syrian Rebels Did Not Behead Franciscan Priest--They Shot Him 8 Times

A Catholic priest slain in Syria last month was not one of the three men seen being beheaded in a video clip posted online – but he was killed by anti-Assad rebels, who gunned him down as he tried to defend nuns at a monastery. Read

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Morsi Defiant as Army Deadline Looms, Death Toll Mounts in Egypt

As clashes between opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continue in Cairo overnight, a deadline set by the army for politicians to resolve the crisis draws nearer, with no sign that it is likely to be met. Read

Kerry Assures Asia He’s Not Overly Preoccupied with the Middle East

Although he has visited Israel five times since March and has made no secret of his determination to push the Palestinian peace track ahead, Secretary of State John Kerry expressed surprise when asked in Southeast Asia Monday about the focus on the Middle East in the light of the administration’s previously-touted “pivot” to Asia. Read

Monday, July 01, 2013

U.S. Embassy in Cairo Remains Closed for 3rd Day As Fury at U.S. and Morsi Escalates

As Egypt’s turmoil continued overnight, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said it will remain closed for a third consecutive day on Tuesday, and President Obama said that ensuring U.S. diplomatic facilities there are protected is his “number-one priority.” Read

Reported Beheading of Syrian Priest Boosts Fear for Christians’ Safety

Claims that a Catholic priest has been beheaded by jihadist rebels in Syria are drawing new attention to the plight of Syrian Christians, caught in the middle of a brutal struggle and said by campaigners to face an existential threat. Read