Friday, August 30, 2013

Obama’s Visit to Russia Nears As U.S. and Russian Warships Head to Eastern Med

Russian warships reportedly were heading for the eastern Mediterranean on Friday, one week before President Obama is due to attend a G20 summit hosted by President Vladimir Putin at a time when bilateral relations are at their lowest ebb since Russia invaded Georgia five summers ago. Read

Thursday, August 29, 2013

U.S. Envoy Heads to N. Korea in Effort to Free Christian Prisoner

A senior U.S. official’s visit to North Korea on a mission to secure the release of an imprisoned Korean-American has prompted some optimism about a possible thaw in relations, but other reports suggest that Kim Jong-un’s regime is as hostile and dangerous as its predecessors. Read

UK Confirms it Won’t Take Part in Any Syria Military Action After Lawmakers Defeat Gov’t Motion

Britain’s defense minister said late Thursday his country would not be involved in any military action against the Assad regime, after the House of Commons defeated a government motion endorsing British participation. Read

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Frustrated at UN, Administration Signals Willingess to Circumvent Security Council on Syria

The State Department implicitly acknowledged Wednesday that despite the administration’s enthusiastic embrace of the United Nations and its determination to deepen engagement with the world body, when it feels that reasonable action is being stymied – as with Russia’s stance on Syria – it will circumvent the Security Council and look elsewhere. Read

Vietnam’s Communist Leaders Try to Rein in Social Media

Starting on Sunday, the more than 30 million Vietnamese who use the Internet risk punishment if they use their Facebook or Twitter accounts to share news articles. Read

Don’t Try It, Israel Warns Syria--Amid Threats From Damascus, Tehran

Amid threats from Syria and Iran, Israel warned Tuesday that it would respond to any attack on the Jewish state in retaliation for any Western military strike against the Assad regime. Read

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wife of Imprisoned Iranian-American Pastor Challenges Obama’s Silence

The wife of an Iranian-American pastor whose eight-year prison term for purported national security offenses was upheld by an Iranian court this week expressed disappointment that “my president, President Obama, has not spoken a word about him.” Read

Chemical Attack: Russia Says Wait for Results of a U.N. Probe That Won’t Say Who’s to Blame

Russia on Monday accused the West of making judgments on alleged chemical weapons use by the Assad regime before the results of a United Nations investigation are in – even through Russia is fully aware that the U.N. probe is specifically not empowered to say which side is responsible. Read

Monday, August 26, 2013

With Syria Decision Possibly Looming, Defense Chiefs Meet in Jordan

A meeting currently underway in Jordan of Western and Arab defense chiefs was scheduled several months ago, but last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s capital just over 100 miles away is expected to dominate the agenda. Read

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Russia, Iran Warn of ‘Devastating’ Consequences if the West Attacks Syria

As United Nations inspectors in Damascus prepare to visit the site Monday of an alleged chemical weapons attack, Russia warned the United States not to repeat what it called “past mistakes” by bypassing the U.N. and taking military action against the Assad regime. Read

Friday, August 23, 2013

War on Egypt’s Christians Renews Push in Congress for Religious Freedom Envoy

A spate of evidently orchestrated Islamist attacks on churches and other Christian targets in Egypt is focusing fresh attention on congressional attempts to establish a U.S. special envoy for religious freedom in the Middle East and South Asia Read

Ban Ki-Moon Thanks U.N. Security Council--As It Fails to Respond to Chemical Attack in Syria

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday put a brave face on the failure of the U.N. Security Council to present a united front in responding to claims of a significant chemical weapons attack in Syria, thanking it for its “prompt action” in convening a meeting quickly to discuss the emergency. Read

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Christians, Other Egyptians Protest Perceived Pro-Muslim Brotherhood Bias of White House, Media, CAIR

Coptic Christians and other Egyptian-Americans plan a rally in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to highlight what they say is a pro-Muslim Brotherhood bias by the Obama administration and “certain American media.” Read

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

US Urges Syria to Let UN Team Visit Site of Alleged Chemical Attack

If the Syrian regime – which is stridently denying claims it carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack – has nothing to hide, it will allow United Nations investigators currently in Damascus immediate access to the site of the alleged incident, the White House said Wednesday. Read

Conservatives Split Over Continuing U.S. Military Aid to Egypt

As administration officials mull a response to the turmoil in Egypt, conservative foreign policy experts and commentators remain divided over the question of U.S. aid and how to deal with the military following its takeover and the recent bloodshed. Read

Four Months After Their Abduction, Fate of Syrian Bishops Unknown

Orthodox Christians in Syria’s second city on Thursday will mark four months since their bishops went missing, their fate no clearer now than at any time since they were abducted by armed men and their driver shot dead near the Syria-Turkey border on April 22. Read

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Saudis Warn the West: We Won’t Forget Your Stance on Egypt

In a blunt warning to countries critical of the Egyptian military crackdown and considering suspending aid, longstanding U.S. ally Saudi Arabia suggested that the decisions they make now will have long-term consequences for their relationships in the Arab and Muslim world. Read

Iranians, Invoking CIA’s 1953 Iran Coup, Say U.S. Still Interfering in Egypt

The release of CIA documents formally acknowledging for the first time the agency’s role in a 1953 Iranian coup comes at a good time for those in Iran who accuse the West of having a hand in the recent ousting of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Read

Monday, August 19, 2013

Lawmakers Remain Split Over US Aid to Egypt, But Some Are Shifting

Some senior Republican senators are calling on the Obama administration to suspend aid to Egypt in response to the turmoil there, just a fortnight after they opposed a bid by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to do just that. Read

Terrorist Vs. Terrorist: Hezbollah Chief Vows to Continue Fighting in Syria

Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian civil war has made it a target of the type of terrorism for which it is itself notorious, but the Lebanese Shi’ite group’s leader is vowing it will not be deterred in its support for Bashar Assad’s regime. Read

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Egyptian Islamists Target Christian Churches in Wave of Apparently Coordinated Attacks

Some supporters of Egypt’s ousted Islamist president directed their wrath at the country’s Christian minority Wednesday, in what activists described as “the worst coordinated attacks on Egypt’s Coptic community in modern history.” Read

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Administration Deplores Bloodshed After Egypt’s Military Spurns its Direct Appeals

The Obama administration acknowledged that its appeals to Egyptian authorities not to crack down on opponents of the military takeover had failed but signaled no direct consequences or policy shift as a result of Wednesday’s bloodshed and return to emergency rule. Read

Sailors Feared Dead After Unexplained Explosion on Indian Submarine

A massive, unexplained early-morning explosion and fire crippled an Indian Navy submarine berthed in a secured dockyard in Mumbai on Wednesday, and authorities were trying to trace at least 18 personnel believed to have been onboard. Read

Little to Celebrate for Pakistan’s Non-Muslim Minorities on Independence Day

Pakistan commemorates its 67th independence day on Wednesday, but for religious minorities in the world’s second most-populous Islamic state, there is little to celebrate after another year of deadly violence targeting non-Muslims. Read

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

State Dep’t Is Hands-Off As Tensions Between India and Pakistan Rise

Tensions between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan are at their highest point in several years, but a State Department spokeswoman could not say Monday whether Secretary of State John Kerry or anyone else in the administration had been in touch with the two governments to urge restraint. Read

Nigerian Terror Group Boko Haram Designates U.S. As a Terror Target

The leader of the Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram – which the State Department so far has refused to designate as a foreign terrorist organization – boasted Monday that it was now strong enough to “comfortably confront” the United States. Read

Monday, August 12, 2013

‘OMG!’ – New Ambassador to the U.N. Gets Rock Star Reception in First Public Speech

Samantha Power, the youngest-ever U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chose as an audience for her inaugural speech an organization of young activists who gave her a rock star welcome after she was introduced as “one of the most amazing women on earth.” Read

Contrary to Obama’s ‘Narrative,’ Al-Qaeda Threat Getting Worse, Say GOP Critics

The al-Qaeda terrorist threat against America is “getting worse, not better,” it’s “deceptive” of President Obama to suggest otherwise, and a lack of U.S. leadership is contributing to the problem, two senior Republican lawmakers charged on Sunday. Read

Friday, August 09, 2013

U.S. Withdraws Diplomats from Consulate in Pakistan’s Second-Biggest City

The State Department has ordered the withdrawal of all nonessential U.S. personnel from the American Consulate in Lahore, citing a “specific threat” to the mission and advising U.S. citizens not to travel to Pakistan at all. Read

Nigerian Christians Say Recent Events Should Hasten Terror Listing for Boko Haram

A Nigerian Christian group expressed hope that long-frustrated appeals for the U.S. government to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization may be boosted by claims that the Nigerian group was part of an alleged al-Qaeda terror-planning “conference call” that prompted this week’s U.S. embassy closures. Read

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Moscow Rejects Criticism of ‘Anti-Gay Propaganda’ Law; Says Don’t Link it to Olympics

Russian officials said Wednesday that the recent introduction of a law outlawing the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientation” to minors does not mean that homosexual and lesbian athletes visiting Russia for the Olympic Games next winter will face discrimination. Read

Human Rights Groups Criticize Islamists for Inciting New Violence Against Egypt’s Christians

Alarmed at the fresh targeting of Egyptian Christians since the military takeover, 16 human rights groups on Wednesday condemned both sides in the continuing standoff – Islamists for inciting violence against the religious minority and the state for not providing adequate protection. Read

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

WH Insists ‘Core’ Al-Qaeda Is Weakened, As Pakistan Tries to Stop Terrorist Prison Breaks

The Obama administration on Tuesday reiterated its view that “core” al-Qaeda is “on the run” and “severely diminished,” but at the same time in Pakistan, army personnel were being deployed at key prisons in an attempt to prevent another in a series of prison breaks in which the group is believed to be involved. Read

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

As Pentagon Takes Heat over Syria Options, Europe Worries About Jihadists Returning From War Zone

At a time when some U.S. lawmakers charge that Pentagon top brass are overly reticent about U.S. military options in Syria, the mood in the European Union appears to be swinging against intervention, with less talk about arming rebels and more concern over potential jihadist blowback in Europe. Read

Relaxing China’s Birth Limits Won’t End Coercion or Abuses, Activist Says

Reports that China is considering loosening its controversial population-control restrictions should not divert attention from the reality that even if relaxed, the policies will still lead to abuses including forced and sex-selective abortion, a human rights campaigner cautioned Tuesday. Read

Monday, August 05, 2013

US Takes Conciliatory Tone Toward Iran’s New President, Who Voices Support for Syria, N. Korea

Hours after Iran’s new president was sworn in, the White House on Sunday renewed an offer of engagement with Tehran first made weeks after President Obama took office in 2009. Read

Sunday, August 04, 2013

‘Credible’ Terror Threat: Expanded List of US Embassy Closures Now Includes Some in Sub-Saharan Africa

The State Department has instructed 16 U.S. embassies and three consulates in the Middle East and Africa to remain closed for the entire week amid continuing concerns about an al-Qaeda terror threat that prompted a worldwide travel alert Friday. Read

Friday, August 02, 2013

Kerry Says Use of Drones in Pakistan ‘Will End,’ But State Dep’t Insists No Change in Policy

Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan has secured an agreement to restart a strategic dialogue after an almost three-year hiatus, but neither Pakistanis nor Americans were left any the wiser Thursday about the future of U.S. drone strikes there. The strikes and broader issue of Pakistani sovereignty violation allegations were largely responsible for the talks’ suspension in the first place. Read

Security Closures of US Embassies Across Middle East Coincide With Ramadan ‘Night of Power’

Many U.S. embassies across the Middle East will be closed on Sunday – usually a working day in the Arab world – in what the State Department says is a precautionary measure based on “security considerations.” Read

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Harsh ‘Blasphemy’ Sentence as Saudi Arabia Continues to Evade US Religious Freedom Sanctions

The sentencing of a Saudi blogger to seven years’ imprisonment and 600 lashes for blasphemy spotlights again the fact that the U.S. administration has for years waived the one legislative tool available for putting pressure on the kingdom over religious freedom violations. Read

US House Passes Tough Iran Sanctions Measure Days Before New President Sworn In

The House of Representatives easily passed tough new sanctions legislation on Wednesday despite calls from some quarters for Congress to hold off and allow the Obama administration to take advantage of the potential opportunity presented by the election of a “moderate” new president. Read