Tuesday, December 31, 2013

And The Country Posing The Greatest Threat to Peace as 2013 Ends is …

The past year witnessed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq, turmoil in Egypt, anarchy in Central Africa, threats by a nuclear-armed North Korea and Chinese military posturing, but as 2013 ends a global poll finds that the country seen as representing the greatest threat to peace today is ... the United States. Read

Three Key Foreign Policy Deadlines Await in 2014

The coming year holds three critical foreign policy deadlines in western Asia for the Obama administration, which hopes that by the time 2014 ends some of the region’s most intractable disputes will be well on their way to being settled. Read

Monday, December 30, 2013

Stuck in Southern Midsummer Ice: Second Icebreaker Turns Back

For the second time in two days, an icebreaker inching its way towards an expedition ship trapped in Antarctic ice – in the southern hemisphere midsummer – was forced to suspend its rescue mission on Monday. Read

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Intelligence Committee Members Dispute NYT Assertion That al-Qaeda Had No Role in Benghazi Attack

Republican and Democratic members of the House Intelligence Committee on Sunday questioned a central assertion in a major New York Times investigative report, that neither al-Qaeda nor “other international terrorist groups” were involved in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya. Read

Friday, December 27, 2013

Russian-Led Alliance to Spend $1 Billion on Weapons in 2014

As Russia prepares to assume the rotating presidency of a military alliance of former Soviet states in 2014, a senior official announced plans Thursday to spend $1 billion on weapons for the bloc’s rapid-reaction force. Read

Thursday, December 26, 2013

As Egypt Calls Muslim Brotherhood ‘Terrorists,’ Petition to WH Remains Unanswered

Egypt’s interim government on Wednesday declared the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization. Meanwhile, an appeal to the Obama administration to make an equivalent designation under U.S. law continues to languish, unanswered, on the White House petition site. Read

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Supreme Leader: If Jesus Were Here He Would Fight America

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei marked Christmas Day with social media messages tying Jesus into political rhetoric directed at the United States. Read

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pakistani Mother Faces Fifth Christmas on Death Row

As Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth a fellow believer is preparing to spend her fifth consecutive Christmas behind bars in Pakistan, the victim of a “blasphemy” conviction widely viewed as fabricated. Read

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Obama Tells Congress He ‘May Take Further Action’ in Turbulent South Sudan

President Obama informed Congress Sunday that if necessary he “may take further action” to protect U.S. citizens, personnel and property, including the embassy, in South Sudan, where troops deployed to evacuate Americans came under fire on Saturday. Read

Friday, December 20, 2013

UN Endorses Iran’s Call for a ‘World Against Violence and Extremism’

Three months after Iran’s president first invited the international community to embrace Tehran’s vision of a “world against violence and extremism” – or what he calls WAVE – the U.N. General Assembly has endorsed a resolution on the matter. Read

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Senators Defy Obama With Bipartisan Iran Sanctions Bill; WH Promises Veto

Hours after more than two dozen senators from both parties introduced new delayed-trigger Iran sanctions legislation, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Thursday that President Obama will veto it if passed. Read

Senate Panel Passes Religious Freedom Envoy Bill Opposed by Administration

What a difference a year makes. Amid growing awareness of the plight of religious minorities in “Arab spring” countries and other parts of the Islamic world, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday passed legislation creating a special envoy post to focus on the issue. Read

U.N. Suspends Human Rights Measure Hailed by U.S. as a Major Achievement

The U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday suspended an initiative that aims to protect human rights defenders from reprisals by repressive governments, just three months after its passage at the U.N. Human Rights Council was hailed by the U.S. and others as a major achievement. Read

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

U.S. Reaches Out to Islamists in Syria Peace Bid

Alarmed at the rise of al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, the U.S. government is hoping to encourage a newly-formed Islamist alliance, the Islamic Front, to join the shaky U.S.-backed mainstream coalition before a long-delayed conference aimed at ending the civil war convenes in Switzerland next month. Read

Big-Spending China Unhappy With Japanese Military Expansion Plans

China responded with expected frostiness to Japan’s announcement Tuesday of a new security strategy that includes a five percent increase in military spending over the next five years, although its own military spending dwarfs that of its neighbor and rival. Read

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

After Years of Threats, Russia Deploys Missiles Near NATO’s Borders

Russia has threatened for years to deploy offensive missiles near its borders with NATO countries in response to U.S. missile defense plans, and on Monday it confirmed that it has now done so, but gave no details. Read

U.S. Boosts Maritime Security Funding for SE Asia, But Says It’s Not About China

The Obama administration has announced new assistance to strengthen maritime security capabilities in Southeast Asia, but quickly distanced the move from current tensions over territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Read

Monday, December 16, 2013

In Vietnam, Kerry Broaches Human Rights – Cautiously

Urged to be vocal about human rights during his visit to Vietnam, Secretary of State John Kerry at the weekend did call on the communist authorities to protect rights, but without mentioning specific abuses or calling publicly for the release of political prisoners after an increase in convictions this year. Read

Iran Cancels Loan for Pakistan Gas Pipeline, Which U.S. Opposes

Just days after Pakistan said it had agreed with Iran to speed up work on a gas pipeline being built between the two countries – a project strongly opposed by the U.S. – Iran has abruptly canceled a $500 million loan to Islamabad for work on its side of the border. Read

Friday, December 13, 2013

BBC Pedophile Scandal Back in the Headlines, But Not at the NY Times

A year has passed since an independent inquiry into the BBC’s handling of a major pedophile scandal accepted the word of its former director-general Mark Thompson that he did not know about the scandal until he left the BBC to take the job as New York Times Co. CEO. Read

Putin Questions Need for Missile Defense Shield When Iran’s ‘Nuclear Program Is Going Away’

President Vladimir Putin stepped up criticism Thursday of a U.S.-led NATO missile defense system in Europe, reiterating Russia’s newly-minted argument that the nuclear agreement reached with Iran last month has removed both the threat and the West’s justification for the shield. Read

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Honeymoon Cut Short: Court Overturns Australia’s First Same-Sex Marriage Law

Australia’s High Court on Thursday overturned the country’s first same-sex marriage legislation, just five days after it came into effect. Read

PLO Angered by Planned NBC Cable Series Set in Jerusalem

The prospect of a new television action drama by the Israeli writer of the popular “Homeland” series being set in Jerusalem has raised the ire of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, which wants the plan stopped and is already calling for a boycott of the production. Read

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Russia Sending Military to Resource-Rich Arctic As Claims Heat Up

Facing competing claims for territory it covets, Russia aims to deploy a military force in the Arctic from next year to protect its “national interests” in a region believed to boast vast untapped resources, including oil and gas. Read

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

‘Castro Uses That Hand’ to Sign Repression Orders, Lawmaker Says

On a day when President Obama’s handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial service triggered a social media storm, critics of the communist regime back home were reporting the arrest of pro-democracy activists and cutting of phone lines. Read

White House Expects No Bilateral Meetings With Other World Leaders in Johannesburg

The White House does not expect “any bilateral meetings” between President Obama and other world leaders attending Tuesday’s memorial services for Nelson Mandela, a spokesman said Monday in response to a question about a possible meeting with Iranian President Hasan Rouhani. Read

Kerry’s Mideast Peace Push Strained by Security Proposals for Jordan Valley

Less than a week since he returned from his ninth visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories this year, Secretary of State John Kerry will make the journey yet again on Wednesday, amid signs that proposals on the region’s future security arrangements are placing severe strains on the peace talks he is championing. Read

Americans Skeptical As Kerry Defends Nuclear Agreement With Iran

As Secretary of State John Kerry prepares Tuesday to defend the Iran nuclear agreement on Capitol Hill where lawmakers are considering new sanctions legislation, a new poll suggests that convincing Americans of the wisdom of the deal will be an uphill battle. Read

Monday, December 09, 2013

N. Korean Media Confirms Purge of Kim’s Powerful Uncle

After days of speculation, North Korea’s official mouthpiece confirmed Monday that Kim Jong-un’s uncle, a senior member of the Stalinist regime, had been removed from all official posts for “anti-party and counterrevolutionary crime.” Read

Obama: Eliminating Every ‘Nut and Bolt’ of Iran’s Nuclear Program Not an Option

President Obama argued at the weekend that it was unrealistic to envisage an agreement with Iran requiring a complete end to uranium enrichment. But Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu countered that turning up the pressure could deliver “a better deal,” describing the issue as “the paramount challenge of our generation.” Read

‘Satan Lays a Trap’: Iran Warns Obama May Seek Out Rouhani at Mandela Memorial

With a death of Nelson Mandela, some people are wondering about a possible encounter between the American and Iranian president at memorial events in South Africa this week – especially after a failed attempt by U.S. officials to arrange one at the U.N. last fall. Read

Friday, December 06, 2013

Russia Wants to Use Iran Nuclear Deal to Shut Down Missile Defense Shield

The United States and other NATO members have shot down suggestions by Russia that the nuclear deal struck with Iran last month removes the alliance’s declared justification for a missile defense shield in Europe. Read

Thursday, December 05, 2013

South Africa Loses Its 'Greatest Son': Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

South Africans had been preparing themselves for many months, but when the news broke late on Thursday night local time it still came as a shock: Nelson Mandela, one of the most widely-admired and recognizable figures of the 20th century and beyond, had died, aged 95. Read

Climate Change Moving Down Americans’ Foreign Policy Priority List

The number of Americans who think “dealing with global climate change” should be a top U.S. foreign policy goal continues to fall in a poll that has tracked the issue since the 1990s, and five years under an administration more inclined to make it an issue does not appear to have stemmed the slide. Read

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Biden, Chinese President Avoid Public Comment on East China Sea Tensions

Smiles and polite words were on display when Vice President Joe Biden emerged from a long meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing Wednesday, but during a brief media appearance neither mentioned tensions over a territorial dispute that has seen both countries send warplanes into contested airspace over the East China Sea. Read

Kerry Cancels Ukraine Visit to Signal Displeasure With Its Embrace of Russia

Secretary of State John Kerry has confirmed that his decision to cancel a scheduled visit to Ukraine is a signal of U.S. displeasure with its pro-Russian president’s about-face on strengthening links with the European Union. Read

‘Iran Should Be Invited’ to Syria Conference, Says U.N. Chief

Iran’s chances of being invited to an international conference next month aimed at seeking a solution to the Syrian crisis look a little stronger, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying he supports Tehran’s participation. Read

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Kerry Pledges Ongoing Effort to End ‘Anti-Israel Bias’ at U.N.

In a rare victory at the United Nations, Israel has been admitted to a regional group at the U.N.’s institutions in Geneva, ending a longstanding anomaly that has prevented it from fully taking part in U.N. activities there. Read

New Study Puts Abortion-Breast Cancer Link Back in the Spotlight

A new study pointing to a link between breast cancer and abortion among Chinese women may breathe new life into a debate over a long-contentious issue which both sides have accused the other of exploiting to promote its cause. Read

Monday, December 02, 2013

Biden Heads to Asia to 'Reaffirm' U.S. Presence As a 'Pacific Power'

China’s unilateral establishment of an air defense zone over the East China Sea is expected to feature prominently during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to the region beginning Monday, but the Obama administration’s messages have caused some uncertainty. Read

Protesting Ukrainians Look to U.S. for Support As Their Gov't Tilts Toward Russia

Many Ukrainians who favor a future linked to Europe rather than Russia are looking to the United States for backing as they call for the resignation of their Kremlin-friendly president. Read