Sunday, January 28, 2007

New Segmant - News from Other Countries

I love the New York Times, but even they sometimes mute themselves instead of addressing the way other countries see the US. So with that I'm going to introduce a new kind of post: News from the Newspapers of other countries. I may miss the liberal bias (reality) but who knows, maybe there will be more truth in there than our own newspapers. I'll tag it as "World Opinion." Different from World News, which is usually from American Newspapers.

From the Iran Daily:

America Intensifying Mideast Tension
TEHRAN, Jan. 27--Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said on Saturday the Untied States has adopted new policies to intensify religious and ethnic conflicts in the Middle East to compensate for it failures in the region.
Addressing a gathering of Defense Ministry personnel, Najjar said American officials are seeking to create discord among Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq and interfering in the domestic affairs of Lebanon, IRNA reported.
“They [Iraq and Lebanon] are examples of US policy for creating tension in the region. The US government believes that if it were to continue its illegitimate presence in the strategic Middle East and plunder its resources, war, conflict, tension and insecurity should be intensified in the region,“ he said.
Najjar added that the persistence of American neocons to send more troops to the region despite the opposition of the US Congress indicates that they have adopted policies to intensify tension in the Middle East.
The top military official said vigilance, self-control, non-violence, mobilization and regional unity in the Middle East are the most essential issues.
He noted that security, stability and peace in the region, in view of cooperation and constructive interaction among regional governments for preventing tension, will expedite the pullout of foreigners from the Middle East.
Najjar stressed that US moves in the region will have no result except increasing tension and hatred of nations and governments for the American warmongers.

While Iran currently poses the biggest threat to the US and the Middle East, it is interesting to note that they blame neocons and America for not only Iraq, but also the tensions between Hezbollah and the Lebanese Government. Even as a liberal hippy, I completely recognize the obvious propaganda (so no stupid emails, thanks) considering the Shi'a and the Sunni have been at war for centuries, and Hezbollah - a known terrorist organization - is organizing large protests against the government for being the government. But the efficacy in the propaganda is that Iranians, as well as most of the middle east, can easily believe that the country that invades another country and causes a civil war may have planned that from the beginning.

Apparently Iran has air pollution too. You can read about that here.

I like this article a lot:
From the Saudi Times and the Guardian Unlimited (A UK internet newspaper):
They're broken men, so don't let them take us to a new war

Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad have lost face at home; now others must forge peaceful settlements in the Middle East

Henry Porter
Sunday January 28, 2007
The Observer

There is a striking likeness in the expressions of George W Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran as they confront each other over the issues of uranium enrichment and dominance in the Middle East. It falls somewhere between the chastened and defiant playground bully.

This is unsurprising: though not political equivalents, the two are really quite similar. Both had little experience of government or international affairs before being carried to power on a tide of populist, religious conservatism. Neither travelled abroad much, but they both had certain views about the world and the destiny of their nations. They had all the answers, yet there was also a dangerous lack of seriousness in them which has now earned them both the scorn of their people and rebuffs from their elders.

We think of Bush as being the more unpopular of the two. His approval ratings are at the level of Nixon's just before he left the White House. After an unconvincing performance in the State of the Union Address, his plans for the troop surge in Iraq were rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and may now be voted down by the entire Senate. Senior Republican senators such as Chuck Hagel and John Warner are furious that sensible suggestions contained in the Iraq Study Group Report have been ignored. Although the President looked receptive when the report was delivered to him by James Baker, there has been no progress in policy, no evidence of any kind of deeper thinking in the White House. Nothing except that familiar foggy, narrow-eyed truculence of Bush Junior in a tight spot.

This would be a depressing but for similar difficulties experienced by Ahmadinejad over the last few weeks. Just as the senior Republican elders have turned on Bush, so Iran's religious leaders are moving to restrain their President. They criticise his bellicose foreign policy and the exceptionally poor record on promised reforms at home. There is a sense of embarrassment among sophisticated Iranians about their President's pronouncements, which surely rings a bell with Americans.

The most important sign-off disenchantment came in Jomhouri Islami, the newspaper owned by Iran's supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which said in an editorial: 'Turning the nuclear issue into a propaganda issue gives the impression that to cover up the flaws in government you are exaggerating its importance.'

The paper also suggested that the President should speak about the nuclear issue less, stop provoking aggressive powers like the United States and concentrate on the daily needs of the people - 'those who voted for you on your promises'. Two weeks ago, 150 legislators sent a letter to Ahmadinejad openly attacking him for missing his budget deadline and blaming him for inflation and rising unemployment.

A loss of confidence in both men at home is important because it offers us a brief opportunity to assert diplomacy over the habits of rhetoric and escalation. Although UN nuclear experts suggest the Iranians are at least five years from developing a bomb and delivery system, the Iranians are due to open a large uranium enrichment plant within a matter of weeks. If this goes ahead, a peaceful solution will be much harder to find; to decommission this new facility will require a loss of face for Ahmadinejad.

So the hawks in the West will begin the slow drumbeat for a first strike. Indeed, it has already started. For some weeks, the Daily Telegraph has been running a series of what, in my opinion, are extremely dubious stories all attributed to mysterious 'European defence officials' and 'senior Western military sources'. A front-page story last week suggested that North Korea has offered to help Iran with a nuclear test within the year. Apart from these shadowy spokesmen, it could offer no evidence, which is why the story was only seriously picked up in Israel.

In Israel, it is believed that the Iranians may be able to launch a nuclear warhead into its territory within three, not five, years. Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked who will defend the Jews from a genocidal government in Iran if they do not themselves. Israeli historian Benny Morris contributed this chilling thought to the Jerusalem Post. 'One bright morning in five to 10 years, perhaps a regional crisis, a day or a year or five years after Iran's acquisition of the bomb, the mullahs in Qom will convene in secret session... and give President Ahmadinejad the go-ahead.'

In Iran, 38 nuclear inspectors have been barred from entering the country in retaliation for the UN resolution introducing mild sanctions, and now the Iranians have installed a missile defence system (supplied by the Russians) to defend their nuclear facilities from air attacks. The Americans have responded by moving another aircraft carrier into the region and by offering Patriot missile systems to Iran's uneasy Arab neighbours.

Make no mistake: this a much more dangerous situation than Iraq and it is unfolding on the watch of a couple of second-raters.

It is true that few nations that have been more estranged over the last quarter of a century, but with the stakes so high, it seems extraordinary that America has no representation in Tehran and almost no contact except through the Swiss embassy. As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times reminded us last week, in 2003, America rebuffed an advance made by the Iranians through the Swiss, which, in exchange for the lifting of sanctions, suggested the two countries work together on the capture of terrorists in Iraq, stabilising the country after invasion and coming to an agreement on uranium enrichment as well as the financing of Hizbollah and Hamas.

The offer, made almost two years before Ahmadinejad was elected, was layered with insincerity and bluff, but professional diplomats are used to this. At least the two sides would have been talking and Tehran could have been held to account for some of the things that have been going on in Iraq.

But the situation is not beyond hope. The West must realise that if a first strike takes place we have lost. Whatever is destroyed in Iran, the Iranians will come back and produce a bomb that they may feel more entitled to use. The clash of civilisations predicted by neocon academics for years will have moved a step closer to dominating the 21st century at the very moment when all civilisation needs to concentrate on the multiple threats presented by climate change.

What we must hope for is a collective act of will in Europe, and among wiser heads in Washington DC, which says it doesn't have to be this way. This is not impossible. Only last week, representatives from 30 countries led by America and Saudi Arabia met in Paris to contribute to a £5bn fund to prop up Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's government in Lebanon. This was a diplomatic action taken by both Middle Eastern and Western powers to defend Lebanon against Iran's proxies in the Hizbollah terrorist organisation, and it is exactly the right way to deal with Iran.

What can the British government do about Ahmadinejad? The first thing to is to recognise his failing support at home is an advantage that will be lost if the drumbeat to war is allowed to continue. There is no reason why Tony Blair should not add to the call from the head of UN inspectors, Mohamed ElBaradei, for a time out in which sanctions would be suspended. Blair still has a voice that is heard in the US. He should consider making a speech which insists that Bush initiates direct diplomatic relations with Tehran as well as a renewed effort to create the two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. He owes something to the cause of peaceful resolution and, besides, these are hardly controversial views: both have already been expressed by James Baker's Iraq Study Group.

I like how he says "[the possible conflict with Iran] is unfolding on the watch of a couple of second raters." and that "Both had little experience of government or international affairs before being carried to power on a tide of populist, religious conservatism... They had all the answers, yet there was also a dangerous lack of seriousness in them which has now earned them both the scorn of their people and rebuffs from their elders."

Well said.

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