FPI Overnight Brief: May 15, 2009
AFP reports that "Indonesia urged fellow ASEAN member Myanmar on Friday to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and drop "arbitrary" new charges against her. 'The Indonesian government is very concerned about the arbitrary detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and we are hoping for a legal process so we know the basis for her detention,' foreign ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said. The 63-year-old Nobel prize winner and democracy leader is facing five years' jail for allegedly breaching the terms of her house arrest after a U.S. man swam to her lakeside house."
Kelley Currie writes in the Far East Economic Review that "During her first trip to Asia as U.S. secretary of state in February, Hillary Clinton declared U.S. policy on Burma a failure and announced a broad policy review. Since her announcement, there are indications this review has stalled as the Obama team has run into the stubborn facts about the nature of Burma's regime and the limits of U.S. policy options for dealing with it. It is understandable that Secretary Clinton's initial assessment of U.S. policy was based on flawed assumptions about both its contents and its effectiveness, given the mythology that surrounds this policy and the efforts of junta apologists to cast it in the worst possible light."
Commenting on the debate over the treatment of terrorists, Warren Kozak notes the historical analogy of General Curtis LeMay in a Wall Street Journal op-ed: "In peacetime, a country can deliberate the balance of its security and civil liberties. It can even apologize for actions that were clearly wrong. When a nation is in peril, however, a forceful defense takes priority... So when LeMay finally figured out a way to bring the war to a faster end [by firebombing Japanese cities], there was jubilation not just in the U.S. but throughout Asia. LeMay also knew that both the U.S. and Japan were preparing for what would be the largest invasion (and most horrific bloodbath) in history.... In the strange calculus of war, LeMay helped prevent an estimated one million American casualties and upwards of two million Japanese by helping push Japan's Emperor Hirohito to surrender before the invasion. Killing large numbers of people to save even more lives is not a decision most of us would want to make. But at the time, the majority of Americans were thankful that LeMay was willing to do it. Today, some question whether the ends justified the means. In 1945, no American with a husband, brother or son serving in the military did. For them, the speediest end of that horrible conflict was the only goal."
"Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is on the defensive, its struggles reverberating throughout Islamist movements that the secretive organization has spawned world-wide," reports the Wall Street Journal. "Just recently, the Brothers' political rise seemed unstoppable. Candidates linked with the group won most races they contested in Egypt's 2005 parliamentary elections, gaining a record 20% of seats. Across the border in Gaza, another election the following year propelled the Brotherhood's Palestinian offshoot, Hamas, into power. Since then, Egypt's government jailed key Brotherhood members, crimped its financing and changed the constitution to clip religious parties' wings. The Brotherhood made missteps, too, alienating many Egyptians with saber rattling and proposed restrictions on women and Christians. These setbacks have undermined the group's ability to impose its Islamic agenda on this country of 81 million people, the Arab world's largest."
The BBC reports that "Ukraine's interior minister has offered to resign after being detained at Frankfurt airport after an altercation with police while apparently drunk. Yuri Lutsenko said he was the victim of a banal situation that had been turned into a scandal for political reasons.... German reports said the minister and his son had reacted angrily to being prevented from boarding a flight and thrown their mobile phones at officers. Four policemen were injured in the incident, German media cited police as saying."
Danielle Pletka critiques on the Enterprise Blog an op-ed by Richard Haas: "A clarion call to do less with American power, to compromise on life and death matters like the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs, it is a manifesto for American unexceptionalism. We've seen Haass's ilk over the years. They're not isolationists, because they believe in cocktail party internationalism - we're all the same once we have a glass of chardonnay in our hands. They're the ones who condemned Hitler, but didn't want to enter the war, who hated Communism, but wanted accommodation with the Soviets, who hated Milosevic, but didn't want to "get involved". There's always a reason such people want to do less, whether its economic (Haass's reason of the moment), or its domestic politics, or its someone else's problem. But what are the consequences of an America that does less?"
Radio Free Europe, inspired by The Atlantic's mock "World Leaders" Facebook group, presents a Facebook-style summary of last week's events.
Reuters reports that "South Korea is requesting rare talks with North Korea over the fate of a joint industrial park that has become a focal point of friction between the rival states, an official said on Friday. Destitute North Korea, stung by tightened trade sanctions in response to its defiant rocket launch in April and decision to back away from a nuclear disarmament-for-aid deal, has been looking to obtain more money from South Korean companies at the park, which is the last major economic tie between the Koreas."
VOA reports that "U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says she hopes the June trial date set for two American journalists held by North Korea is a sign they may soon be released. The two young women journalists have been detained since mid-March. The Obama administration has been pursuing quiet diplomacy on behalf of the two journalists and Clinton says the fact a trial date has been set may be a sign that a process leading to their release is underway."
Czech President Vaclav Klaus writes in the Australian that "I am surprised at how so many people nowadays in Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere have come to support policies underpinned by hysteria over global warming, particularly cap-and-trade legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and subsidies for 'green' energy sources. I am convinced that this is a misguided strategy: not only because of the uncertainty about the dangers that global warming might pose, but also because of the certainty of the damage that these proposed policies aimed at mitigation will impose."
The Times of London reports that "Parliament suffered its darkest day yesterday as MPs and peers were suspended for alleged misconduct and the Commons faced an exodus of shamed and demoralized Members. MPs caught up in the expenses scandal admitted that they could be dropped by their local parties... Two Labour peers were recommended for suspension from the Lords -- the first since Oliver Cromwell's time in the 1640s -- after accusations that they had shown themselves willing to change laws in return for cash."
The Washington Post reports that "The House passed a bill yesterday that would provide more than $96 billion in funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through Sept. 30, as President Obama had requested, but a bloc of 51 Democrats opposed it. Democratic opponents are accusing Obama of the same charge they leveled against his predecessor: escalating a war without a clear exit strategy. The bill passed 368 to 60, with 200 Democrats and all but nine Republicans supporting it. Democratic opponents did not attack Obama by name, but some likened his increase of 21,000 troops and billions of dollars to win the war in Afghanistan to President George W. Bush's efforts in Iraq."
Reuters reports that "Washington has given Pakistan data on militants in the Afghanistan border area gathered by surveillance drones in Pakistani airspace under an agreement with Islamabad, U.S. officials said Thursday. Confirming the existence of the program, which started in mid-March, U.S. military officials said it allowed the Pakistani military to request missions over specific areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas."
Reuters reports that "A former Iraq oil minister and Kurdistan's U.S. representative Wednesday hailed an agreement to export Kurdish oil from Iraq and urged U.S. oil companies to seize the moment to help build Iraq's energy industry... Al-Oloum said the June 1 start of exports of Kurdish oil, agreed upon in recent days, is a major step toward solving disputes between semi-autonomous Kurdistan and the central government over control of oil deals and division of revenues... Al-Oloum also predicted the Nassiriya field development contract will be awarded soon, probably to a Japanese company. Three other field deals, including the south area of the East Baghdad field, likely will follow, al-Oloum said."
The Wall Street Journal reports that "The Obama administration is delaying submitting legislation to Congress on U.S. nuclear cooperation with the United Arab Emirates because of a graphic video showing an Abu Dhabi sheikh abusing an Afghan trader, officials said. Any protracted White House delay could imperil efforts by U.S. power companies to win contracts estimated at $20 billion that the U.A.E. is scheduled to award by this fall... The agreement authorizing cooperation between the U.S. and U.A.E. needs to be passed into law before U.S. companies can sell nuclear technologies to the Emirates. 'It would harmful for both the U.A.E.'s and U.S.'s long-term interests if American firms were to be taken out of the competition at this stage,' said Yousef Al Otaiba, the U.A.E.'s ambassador to Washington. He added that several U.S. firms made it through the qualification phase and were in contention for the final contract...The Abu Dhabi government says it detained Sheikh Issa and opened a formal criminal investigation into the incident. It established a unit within its Public Prosecutors' Office to investigate and prosecute human-rights complaints."
The Washington Post reports that "For his 'exceptional gallantry under intense enemy fire [in Iraq],' according to an official narrative, the Army awarded [Staff Sgt. Jarion] Halbisengibbs the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army's second highest combat medal, in a ceremony at Fort Carson, Colo., on Thursday."
VOA reports that "As Islamist insurgents continued an assault on government forces in Mogadishu, President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed signed a bill late Wednesday enacting Islamic Sharia law in the country. President Ahmed said Somalia is a Muslim country and the people support Islamic law. He instructed his cabinet ministers to implement the legislation and defended the bill from the criticism of the insurgents threatening the government... It remains unclear how the law will be applied or how it will relate to the existing secular constitution that governs Somalia's provisional government."
FOX News reports that "The director of the CIA was recently sent on a secret mission to Israel to warn its leaders not to launch a surprise attack on Iran without notifying the U.S. Administration, the Times of London reported on Thursday... As Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, prepares to visit Washington, it emerged on Wednesday that Leon Panetta went to Israel two weeks ago. He sought assurances from Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, the Defense Minister, that their hawkish new government would not attack Iran without alerting Washington."
The New York Times reports that "Pope Benedict XVI became further entangled in Middle East politics on Thursday when the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, urged him to denounce Iran. A day after visiting a Palestinian refugee camp and calling for the creation of a Palestinian state as a solution to the conflict with Israel, Benedict met with Mr. Netanyahu, whose hawkish Likud government has not endorsed that policy. Mr. Netanyahu used the occasion to raise what has become a central issue to his government. "I asked him as a moral figure to make his voice heard loudly and continuously against the declarations coming from Iran about their intentions to destroy the state of Israel," Mr. Netanyahu told Israeli television after meeting Benedict..."
The AP reports that "Colombia's senate has delayed a vote on scheduling a referendum that could let President Alvaro Uribe seek a third term.. Colombians previously underwent a similar experience that allowed Uribe's 2006 re-election. Uribe is a U.S.-backed conservative with high poll ratings. He's widely popular for humbling the Western Hemisphere's last remaining rebel army."
The AP reports that "A New Orleans-based water transportation company says it has had 11 vessels seized by Venezuela's state oil company. Tidewater also says it is owed $40 million for services it performed on Lake Maracaibo, an oil-rich area in Venezuela. The state oil company said Tuesday that it has taken control of 90 percent of oil contractors on western Lake Maracaibo as it aims to reduce costs due to falling crude prices. Venezuela is nationalizing 60 oil contractors as President Hugo Chavez moves to assert control over the industry."
The Miami Herald reports that "The Cuban activist who gave up solid food for nearly three months in a protest over prison and housing conditions ended his hunger strike Thursday, and vowed to launch an in-your-face campaign against the government that does not damage his health... Antúnez, his wife, Iris Pérez, and several friends set up camp on Antúnez's front porch in Placetas, a town about three hours east of Havana. There, the Cuban National Police surrounded the street and refused to let anyone pass. In that time, Antúnez's frame went from 213 pounds to 147. Pérez dropped from 157 pounds to 127. 'I am very thin,' Antúnez said in a telephone call Thursday from Cuba. 'When I look at myself, even I get scared.'"
The AP reports that "The chief of naval operations said Thursday on-time delivery of Lockheed Martin Corp.'s next-generation Joint Strike Fighter will be critical in closing the gap of the fighter jets needed to match current and future threats. Navy Adm. Gary Roughead told the House Armed Services Committee that the service's current fleet of legacy F-18s from Boeing Co. is rapidly aging and will need to be replaced quickly. Those jets have seen substantial action supporting forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan."
Greg Jaffe writes an extensive piece in the Washington Post on Secretary Gates's tenure at the Pentagon and management style.
Der Spiegel interviews Georgian opposition leader Salome Zurabishvili: "We were expecting a real dialogue with the president. A genuine dialogue about how we were going to find a way out of this political crisis. Unfortunately he was not prepared for such a talk. He seems to have lost his grip on reality and imagines that 65 percent of the population support him. He says the only crisis in Georgia is the aftermath of the worldwide economic crisis."
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