Europe still needs the United States, and some were encouraged by President Bush's charm offensive during his whirlwind tour. That did not change the fact that when it comes to substance, the administration's policies remain wildly out of sync with much of the rest of the world.
PRESIDENT BUSH ENCOUNTERS THE DIVERSITY OF EUROPE
The Guardian's Ian Black sketches out the difficulty underlying President Bush's fence-mending mission to Europe. Black suggests: "Spare a thought for poor George Bush. It shouldn't be too much of a problem remembering who he's dealing with when he meets fellow Nato leaders in Brussels this week. Lots of American accents and uniforms give the place a homely feel - even if the transatlantic alliance is getting unmanageably big these days, and busy in far-flung places such as Afghanistan. But confusion looms when the prez crosses town to mend fences with the EU. Protocol requires he see José Manuel Barroso, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg (running the union's rotating presidency) and a brace of national leaders, as well as Javier Solana, the EU's cumbersomely titled "high representative for the common foreign and security policy". He's the man who has to work out how Europe and America can get on in the messy post-9/11, post-Saddam world..." (Ian Black, The Guardian, February 21, 2005)
-NRC Handelsblad's Marc Chavanes, CSIS' Richard burt and Thomas Donnelly discuss the trip on PBS' News Hour.
IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI NAMED AS IRAQ'S NEXT PRIME MINISTER
The BBC reports: When he was serving in the mainly ceremonial role of vice-president in the outgoing US-appointed interim regime, an opinion poll last year suggested Mr Jaafari was Iraq's most popular politician. He trailed only Ayatollah Sistani and radical firebrand Moqtada Sadr in the public's esteem. Mr Jaafari's appeal as PM could be as a unifying figure, keen to bring Sunni Arabs into the democratic fold after their widespread absence from polling stations. He would also work to satisfy the Kurds' thirst for autonomy without endangering the integrity of the country. (BBC, February 16, 2005)
-Juan Cole and Laith Kubba discuss background of Iraq's probable next Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
With the Bush administration trying to find a way to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield--most notably in "bunker-busting" tactical nukes that might be employed against a "rogue" state's underground wmd facilities, the new secretary of energy, Samuel Bodman, will at least nominally have a say in testing and production. Michael Roston notes in Nuclear Test Watch, that Bodman's testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee made it clear that even the secretary is not quite sure of what is going on.
(Michael Roston, Nuclear Test Watch, February 21, 2005)
IRAN MAY BE TRYING TO POSITION SUPPORTERS IN THE NEW IRAQI GOVERNMENT
Newsweek reports that Fresh intel suggests Tehran is trying to expand its influence over whatever government emerges in postelection Iraq. According to U.S. officials familiar with the latest intelligence, the Iranian government has been secretly directing its agents inside Iraq to plant themselves in influential positions throughout the Iraqi government--into agencies that handle economic affairs, like the ministries of Oil, Public Works and Finance, as well as departments like the Interior Ministry that handle national security. (Mark Hosenball, Newsweek, February 21, 2005)
TIME REPORTS U.S. BACKROOM NEGOTIATIONS WITH IRAQI INSURGENTS
Until now, the Bush administration has steadfastly rejected any negotiations with the Iraqi insurgency which has steadily grown in force over the last few months. That policy now appears to be changing. Time reports on what it says were two secret meetings between U.S. and insurgent intelligence officers. (Michael Ware, TIME, February 21, 2005)
-The Independent picks up the story
ARAB WORLD FEARS NATO RAPPROCHEMENT MAY NOT BE IN ITS INTERESTS
Salama A. Salama writes in Cairo's Al Ahram Weekly,"At the Munich International Security Conference -- the West's most important venue for setting and coordinating defence policies -- Egypt's foreign minister warned NATO against undertaking missions in the Middle East on the pretext of safeguarding international peace and security. This is the UN's responsibility, he said, adding that NATO's reputation and credibility in the region is not above suspicion.... The Americans and Europeans are busily mending broken fences following Washington's go-it-alone handling of Iraq and the so-called war against terror. This trans-Atlantic rapprochement is not necessarily in the Arabs' favour. Indeed, there is every reason to suppose it is a prelude to tailoring the map of the Middle East to suit the interests of major powers." (Al Ahram, February 17, 2005)
LEBANON AND SYRIA'S DIPLOMATIC TSUNAMI
The Beirut Daily star notes: Lebanon and Syria are not unlike the Pacific Basin that produced the tsunami...Here in Beirut, however, it is a diplomatic tsunami that is brewing, with the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri akin to the earthquake that produced the tidal wave...As the storm gathers force, Syria's supporters here are becoming less imaginative by the day. Indeed, the government appears leaderless and directionless except for a blind obsession to cling to power. Prime Minister Omar Karami, for all intents and purposes, may as well not exist. This lack of leadership has created a vacuum into which other actors are stepping. Hizbullah secretary general Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, and parliamentary speaker and Amal Movement leader Nabih Berri have, it seems, nominated themselves to represent a disheveled and disoriented government. Once again it is possible that Lebanon is witnessing the ascendance of community leaders to fill the gap left by a crumbling national government. (Beirut Daily Star, February 21, 2005)
-LEBANESE WANT SYRIANS OUT
Rightwing and leftwing groups, Muslims and Christians, factions that fiercely fought each other during Lebanon's civil war - all marched in lock step on Monday to mark a week since former prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri was killed in a massive bomb blast. (Al Jazeera, February 21, 2005)
ISRAEL'S ARIEL SHARON STEELS HIMSELF FOR THE REAL STORM OF THE GAZA PULLOUT
Yossi Verter notes in Haaretz: In the United States, when the president signs into law a bill that has taken much effort, a dramatic stage is set, in the Oval Office or in the Rose Garden, with special pens and many guests.With us, it's somehow always improvised: The prime minister is seen in profile, scribbling his name; the defense minister is across from him, not exactly sitting, not exactly standing; the military liaison officer sits on a low chair, his eyes looking tired; a young aide, leaning against the wall, wonders when he can go home for the night. It all made one feel like asking: Is this why the entire country has been dragged from apocalypse now to peace now, between civil war to a New Middle East, between Danny Naveh's overwrought dramas to Dalia Itzik's euphoric happiness?The quiet yesterday in the government complex, outside the Knesset, at the junctions and in the settlements, was misleading, of course. An illusion of quiet. The quiet after the political storm, before the real storm. (Yossi Verter, Haaretz, February 21, 2005)
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN U.S. OVERSEAS BASES BECOME VULNERABLE TO ENEMY MISSILES?
Several states will likely attain a credible capability to threaten U.S. bases despite the sophistication of U.S. missile defenses. Missiles will grant states some leverage to dissuade the United States from actually using overseas forces, as well as a means to coerce host states into denying access to the United States. (By Joel Wuthnow, U.S. Army War College's Strategic Studies Institute, January 2005)
CHINA DEVELOPS SEA POWER
With an influx of cash, partly financed by the U.S. deficit, China has launched a crash program to upgrade its military capabilities. Improved naval power will give it the means to extend influence throughout the Pacific.
In light of Beijing's quest to secure energy resources, its extensive maritime seaboard, and unresolved territorial disputes, Chinese naval interests deserve continued attention. (Jamestown Foundation, February 2005)
-HU BUILDS HIS POWERBASE-Economist Intelligence Unit
GLOBAL CONFLICT REQUIRES A NEW DIMENSION IN NEWS COVERAGE AND GENERAL EDUCATION
Parameters, the strategic review of the U.S. Army War College notes that whether you believe in Samuel Huntingdon's Clash of Civilizations, the politics, insurgency and terrorized are increasingly globalized and that leaves it up to the news media and educational institutions to explain the increasingly complex cultural context in which conflicts evolve. (Philip Seib, U.S. Army War College, Parameters, Winter 2005)
-Bloggers begin to challenge European news media
Iraqi insurgents prepare to meet an assault by U.S. troops at Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Despite the U.S.-sponsored elections, the insurgency continues unabated, and has accelerated in recent weeks.
IRAQI INSURGENCY DEVELOPS SOPHISTICATED STRATEGY
"In a stark illustration of the change, of more than 30 sabotage attacks on the oil infrastructure this year, no reported incident has involved the southern crude oil pipelines that are Iraq's main source of revenue. Instead, the attacks have aimed at gas and oil lines feeding power plants and refineries and providing fuel for transportation around Baghdad and in the north.he overall pattern of the sabotage and its technical savvy suggests the guidance of the very officials who tended to the nation's infrastructure during Saddam Hussein's long reign, possibly aided by sympathizers in the ministries now. (James Glanz, New York Times, February 21, 2005)
THE COMPANY OF SOLDIERS
Whatever questions one has about the reasons for the war in Iraq, there is no question about the heroism of the American soldiers trying to cope with a seemingly impossible situation. PBS's FrontLine has produced an exceptional 2-hour documentary based on a month with Company D, of the 1-8 Cavalry Regiment. There were questions about whether it could be shown on American television because of the FCC's prudishness about raw language. Front Line will make the film viewable online on February 25.
(Front Line, February 22, 2005)
Jane Mayer's disturbing report in the New Yorker on the new paradigm for outsourcing high stress interrogations, a.k.a. torture, to third world dictatorships in order to circumvent the Constitution, federal law and human decency is now available on line. (Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, February 7, 2005)
THE QUESTIONS ABOUT NEGROPONTE
The man the administration chose to oversee all U.S. intelligence operations, is the same man who told Congress that he had no knowledge of Honduran death squads while serving as U.S. ambassador there. David Corn recaps a controversial career, which embraced the Iran-Contra scandal, in The Nation. (David Corn, the Nation, February 17, 2005)
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