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Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

Gender: Iranian actress banned from homeland after naked magazine shoot

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 18, 2012

Telegraph

An Iranian actress has been told she is no longer welcome in her homeland after she posed naked in a French news magazine as a symbolic protest against strictures on women.

                  Iranian actress banned from homeland after naked magazine shoot

      Golshifteh Farahani said the government has sent a communication telling her not to travel back to her homeland

Golshifteh Farahani poses for Le Figaro

Damien McElroy

By , and Ahmad Vahdat

The nude photo of Golshifteh Farahani has been published by Madame Le Figaro magazine. The publication has attracted a wave of visitors to her Facebook page from Iran and the Middle East.

The Paris-based actress left Iran last year in protest against restrictive Islamic codes that the Iranian cinema industry has to follow under Ahmadinejad’s conservative cultural policies.

Now she said the government has sent a communication telling her not to travel back to her homeland. Read the rest of this entry »

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Can China Benefit From Growing U.S.-Iran Tensions?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 16, 2012

By AUSTIN RAMZY

U.S. efforts to reduce global demand for Iran’s oil exports as a means to pressure it into curbing its nuclear ambitions could present major problems for China, the leading customer of Iranian crude exports. China reacted strongly over the weekend to U.S. sanctions on Zhuhai Zhenrong, a Chinese firm the U.S. calls the largest supplier of refined petroleum to Iran. (Although a major petroleum producer, Iran is dependent on gasoline imports due to limited domestic refinery capacity.) Those imports violated U.S. law, the U.S. State Department says, and as a result Zhuhai Zhenrong is “barred from receiving U.S. export licenses, U.S. Export Import Bank financing, and loans over $10 million from U.S. financial institutions.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that the company appears to have no U.S. assets, so the sanctions are “largely symbolic.” But they raised the ire of the Chinese government. On Saturday Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin called U.S. efforts to internationalize its  sanctions against Iran by target a Chinese company were “completely unreasonable and don’t conform with the spirit or content of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” according to a statement (in Chinese) posted on the ministry’s website.

Last week U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited Beijing, seeking to convince China to back further sanctions against Iran. Last month President Obama signed legislation that would block firms that deal with Iran’s central bank—the key processor of oil receipts—from the U.S. financial system. Exceptions would be made for states that significantly reduce crude oil purchases from Iran. Japan, a major importer of oil from Iran, said it would support the U.S. measure. But China responded cautiously. Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said ahead of Geithner’s visit that China’s oil imports should be considered separately from the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program. Read the rest of this entry »

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Obama’s new Pentagon strategy: strip benefits and buy more weapons

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 6, 2012

Pensions and health care plans for US troops will be drastically reduced under a new budget presented by US President Barack Obama on Thursday. Not all aspects of the DoD will be annihilated, however.

The DoD will ditch medical benefits for troops but continue to spend on its expensive arsenal of doom.

President Obama joined Defense Secretary Leon Panetta from the Pentagon early Thursday in a rare public address from the two to talk changes made to the ledger in regards to the operation of the US military. As the US begins to scale back on foreign operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration is finding less of a need for the servicemen and women that have been on the battlefronts for the last decade. In order to cut costs, the new budget will thus eliminate positions from the armed forces and initiate changes to the pension and health care plans for military vets.

Those changes will help balance the Defense Department’s budget as the Pentagon unveils that it will continue to invest billions in cutting edge weaponry and cyberspace capabilities.

Citing the end of the war in Iraq and a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, the president said Thursday that the US must strategize on how to successfully prepare for future conflicts. In order to do such, said Obama, boots on the ground will be needed less and less. Instead, the US will rely more heavily on an agile, dispersed arsenal of troops and increased surveillance space age weaponry presence. Read the rest of this entry »

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Iran: ‘Keep Aircraft Carrier Out Of Gulf’ Tehran Warns US, As France Calls For Fresh Sanctions

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on January 3, 2012

Iran has warned the United States not to return an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf after Tehran conducted 10 days of military exercises conducted by Tehran.

On Monday Iran said it had completed successful tests of surface-to-sea cruise missiles, as well as shorter range and surface-to-surface missiles.

It also conducted a series of military tests and exercises in the Strait of Hormuz, a key ‘choke point’ for oil tankers in the region through which 20% of the world’s oil travels.

Following the exercises Major General Ataollah Salehi said that Iran “advises, recommends and warns” the US to keep the USS John C Stennis away from the Gulf, adding that “Iran is not used to repeating its warnings”. The ship had left the region for Dubai during the military exercises.

Quoted by the Fars news agency, General Salehi said it would not make “any unreasonable” retaliatory action, but warned it was “ready to counter any threat”.

The US Navy has not commented on the warnings.

Meanwhile, Tehran has denied that US economic sanctions designed to counter its nuclear programme were not behind its currency falling to record lows.

On Saturday US President Barack Obama signed a bill designed to attack Iran’s central bank when it comes into force in six months’ time.

The Iranian rial has since lost 12% in value, and Reuters previously quoted officials as saying it had suspended trading.

The US has imposed the new sanctions along with the UK and Canada following a report in November by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which stated that the country had carried out development tests related to nuclear weapons

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Ten Grim Lessons Learned From the Iraq War

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 17, 2011

Despite the upbeat talk of the Obama Administration, the eight-year war that ended this week has done plenty of long-term damage to both Iraq and the United States. And it has bequeathed lessons worth considering ahead of future conflicts

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Arab Spring One Year On: What Happened, What Changed?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 17, 2011

One year ago today, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight in Tunisia. It was a personal protest that had huge ramifications not only for his homeland, but the entire region. This was the incident which triggered the demonstrations that spread from Tunisia into Egypt, Libya, Syria and beyond. This was the start of the Arab Spring.

At Bouazizi’s funeral 5,000 marchers chanted: “Farewell, Mohammed, we will avenge you. We weep for you today, we will make those who caused your death weep.”

For all their passion, no one expected what happened next: 12 months of intense protests, violence and revolution across North Africa and the Middle East, which brought down governments and resulted in thousands of deaths.

But 12 months later what has the impact really been? Which governments have fallen, which are on the brink – and which, if any, are stronger than ever? Was the Arab Spring really a movement – or was it always an invention of the press?

And with protests breaking out in Russia, Greece, China and even New York throughout 2011, as well as in the Arab world, has the spirit of the Spring spilled become a truly global phenomenon?

IN PICTURES: A Photographic History Of The Arab Spring

ARAB SPRING TIMELINE: How The Arab Spring Unfolded

As the Arab Spring marks a year of protest, we look back at what happened, and what changed.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Russia breaks Qatar strings after envoy attack scandal

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 5, 2011

Russia has down-scaled the level of diplomatic relations with Qatar following an incident with the Russian ambassador to the country, who was physically attacked by Qatari customs and security officers.

Ambassador Vladimir Titorenko suffered an assault at Doha Airport on November 29, on his return from a mission to Jordan. While passing through customs control he was attacked by customs security, who made an attempt to confiscate his diplomatic pouch. Titorenko resisted and was beaten, together with two other Russian diplomats who were there to welcome the ambassador.

The next day Russian Foreign Ministry filed a note of protest to Qatar, demanding that official Doha apologize, but no such apology followed.

On December 4, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov officially informed Qatari Prime Minister and concurrently Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al-Thani that Moscow is suspending diplomatic relations with Doha until demands of the Russian side are completed in full. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pakistan seals border in response to NATO attack

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 26, 2011

A US Blackhawk army helicopter flies over the mountainous area of Gorbuz district, on the border with Pakistan east of Afghanistan, June 28, 2011. (AFP Photo / Ted Aljibe)

Pakistan has closed a key Afghan border crossing to NATO supplies after the US-led coalition’s helicopters fired on a checkpoint in northwest Pakistan, killing 25 soldiers and wounding fourteen more.

A customs official confirmed on Saturday that he had received a verbal order to stop all NATO supplies from moving across the border through the Torkham crossing, reports the Associated Press.

Pakistan’s state TV quoted the military as saying the helicopter attack occurred on Friday night in the Mohmand tribal area near the Afghan border.

Two intelligence agents and one government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed on Saturday that fourteen soldiers had also been wounded, reports Reuters.

The Alliance’s officials in Kabul said they were aware of the incident, and would release more information once they had gathered further details. Read the rest of this entry »

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Israel to attack Iran by Christmas – report

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 10, 2011

The British media say Israel may launch an aerial strike on Iranian nuclear facilities as early as next month. The offensive will receive support from the US, the speculation goes.

The attack is meant to decapitate Iran’s nuclear program, which a recent report by the UN atomic watchdog said may have a military component.

The Daily Mail cites British government sources as saying that the cabinet expects Israel to attack Iran “sooner rather than later.”

“We’re expecting something as early as Christmas, or very early in the New Year,” 
a Foreign Office source is cited as saying.

The operation will receive logistical support from the United States, the newspaper reports. US President Barack Obama will allegedly have to back Israel to secure Jewish-Americans’ votes for the upcoming presidential election. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Eurasian Project: A Threat to The New World Order

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 14, 2011

by Elena Ponomareva

One might be tempted to regard Russian premier V. Putin’s paper “A new integration project for Eurasia: The future in the making”, which saw the light of day in Izvestia on October 3, 2011, as the presidential front-runner’s sketchily laid out program, but upon scrutiny that appears to be only one part of a wider picture. The opinion piece momentarily ignited wide-scale controversy in and outside of Russia and highlighted the ongoing clash of positions on global development…Regardless of interpretation details, the reaction of the Western media to the integration project unveiled by the Russian premier was uniformly negative and reflected with utmost clarity an a priori hostility towards Russia and any initiatives it floats. Mao Zedong, though, used to say that facing pressure from your enemies is better than being in such a condition that they do not bother to keep you under pressure.

It helps to understand why, at the moment, Cold War-style headlines are constantly popping up in Western media and what perceived threat the West discerned in Putin’s recent Eurasian integration. The obvious explanation is that, if implemented, the plan would come as a geopolitical challenge to the new world order, to the dominance of NATO, the IMF, the EU and other supranational bodies, and to the undisguised US primacy. Today’s increasingly assertive Russia suggests and is ready to start building an inclusive alliance based on principles providing a viable alternative to Atlantism and neoliberalism. It is an open secret that these days the West is putting into practice an array of far-reaching geopolitical projects, reconfiguring Europe in the wake of the Balkan conflicts and against the backdrop of the crises provoked in Greece and Cyprus, assembling the Greater Middle East based on serial regime changes across the Arab world, and, as a relatively novel design, implementing the Asia project in which the recent disaster in Japan was an active phase. Read the rest of this entry »

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Will the Washington Bomb Plot Force Obama into War with Iran?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 14, 2011

By Tony Karon 

“We are not talking to Iran, so we don’t understand each other,” outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace last month. “If something happens, it’s virtually assured that we won’t get it right — that there will be miscalculation, which could be extremely dangerous in that part of the world.”

Mullen’s warning of the perils arising from the two sides’ inability to communicate and understand each other’s intentions — “Even in the darkest days of the Cold War, we had links to the Soviet Union” — seems especially prescient amid the fallout from the alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, blamed by the U.S. on “elements of the Iranian government.” Claims that officials within the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps initiated a bizarre scheme via an Iranian-American used-car salesman — described by his former business partner as “a sort of hustler” — to enlist the services of a Mexican drug gang for a terrorism strike in the U.S. capital have been seized on by the Administration to press for tougher international action against Tehran.

“We see this as a chance to go out to capitals and around the world and talk to allies and partners about what the Iranians tried to do,” an unnamed official told the Washington Post. “We’re going to use this to isolate them to the maximum extent possible.” Vice President Joe Biden added, darkly, that when it came to responding to Iran’s behavior, “nothing has been taken off the table.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Tony Blair: Time to go?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on October 9, 2011

By Marwan Bishara

”]

Tony Blair has been a political salesman since he first made his debut at the British Labour Party conference. And he is good, no doubt about that.

Not only because he speaks coherently; he is Scottish after all. Nor is it because he’s often compared with George W Bush.

It’s because Tony could peddle ideas and sell economic and military agendas better than most.

The question is: Would you buy a used car from Tony?

The Palestinians and the Arabs in general have concluded enough is enough.

Nabil Sha’ath, the Palestinian Authority’s first ever foreign minister, told me last year: “Forget Tony Blair. I think Mr Blair is at the wrong time at the wrong place and he’s just making it easier for Mr Netanyahu to deceive us, really, in more ways than one.” Read the rest of this entry »

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After a U.N. Moment of Truth, Obama Will Struggle to Restore a Broken Mideast Peace Process

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 28, 2011

by 

Perhaps nobody told President Barack Obama that last week’s United Nations showdown over Palestinian statehood was

Palestinians watch their President Mahmoud Abbas on TV as he delivers his speech at the United Nations during the General Assembly on September 23, 2011 in Ramallah, West Bank. (Photo: Uriel Sinai / Getty Images)

the proverbial “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment for his Mideast peace effort. U.S. officials are, this week, once again trying to herd the Palestinians back into the same unconditional talks that President Mahmoud Abbas had declared pointless and unacceptable all of last week. And, as if to amplify Abbas’ objection to talking while the Israelis continue to expand their grip on the occupied territories, Israel on Tuesday announced the construction of 1,100 new homes in the Gilo settlement the same day that its government accepted negotiating terms (coordinated with Israel) that were laid out last Friday by the Quartet — the U.S. and a backing vocal section comprising the EU, Russia and the U.N. Secretary General. Business as usual, in other words, from Washington’s side. But Abbas’ U.N. speech stated unambiguously that the Palestinians are no longer willing to indulge the illusion that open-ended talks while settlements continue to expand is doing anything to resolve the conflict.

“It is neither possible, nor practical, nor acceptable to return to conducting business as usual, as if everything is fine,” Abbas had told the U.N. “It is futile to go into negotiations without clear parameters and in the absence of credibility and a specific timetable. Negotiations will be meaningless as long as the occupation army on the ground continues to entrench its occupation, instead of rolling it back, and continues to change the demography of our country in order to create a new basis on which to alter the borders.”

The pablum served up Tuesday by State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland, however, suggests the U.S. has chosen, once again, to ignore Abbas. Saying the U.S. is “deeply disappointed” by the Israelis decision to build in Gilo, Nuland added, “We consider this counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the parties, and we have long urged both parties to avoid actions which could undermine trust… That doesn’t change the fact that we believe that the only way to get to two states living side by side in peace, in security, is through direct negotiations… and we are urging both parties to take advantage of the proposal that the Quartet put forward last Friday to come back to the table.” Read the rest of this entry »

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How 9/11 Provoked the U.S. to Hasten its Own Decline

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 9, 2011

by 

The twin towers of the World Trade Center burn behind the Empire State Building in New York, September 11, 2001. (Photo: Marty Lederhandler / AP)

During his first year in office, President George W. Bush was confronted by the key strategic challenge facing the United States in the new century, in an incident that began with the diversion of a U.S. aircraft — by Chinese fighter planes, which forced a U.S. Navy spy plane to land on the island of Hainan after a collision that downed a Chinese jets, killing its pilot. What followed was a tense 11-day standoff between Washington and Beijing, serving an early warning that China’s emergence as an economic superpower would inevitably alter the geopolitical balance of power in Asia, and globally.

But then came 9/11 — a mass-casualty terrorist provocation on an unprecedented scale — and the Bush Administration convinced itself, and much of America, that the world had changed. The new president had found his “calling” in a campaign to “rid the world of evil doers”, declaring a “war on terrorism” that would become the leitmotif and singular obsession of U.S. foreign policy for the remainder of his presidency — a presidency that despite massive, kinetic displays of military force, left the U.S. strategically weaker at its close than when Bush entered the Oval Office.

“We’d always treated terrorist attacks before primarily as a law enforcement problem… going after and finding the guilty party, bring them to trial and put them in the slammer,” Vice President Dick Cheney told TIME in an interview published in this week’s edition. “After 9/11, you couldn’t look on those as just law enforcement problems anymore. It was clearly an act of war. And that’s a significant shift. You’re going to use all of the means available…”

But while the scale and brutality of the attacks might have been akin to an act of war, 9/11 was the work of a tiny network of transnational extremists, founded on the remnants of the Arab volunteers who’d fought in the U.S.-backed Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ten Years After 9/11, Is It Now Time to be Afraid of China?

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on September 9, 2011

by 

As the commentaries, retrospectives and meditations pile up ten years after 9/11, expect quite a few in their closing paragraphs to look toward the next grand geo-political challenge facing the U.S. A decade of costly adventurism in the Middle East and Afghanistan, many will argue, distracted U.S. policy making from the new realities of Asia, where some of the world’s main economies and rising powers are shaping the future decades of the 21st century.

The bogeyman here is not an ideology or some shadowy terrorist threat, but, to be blunt, China. Beijing’s rise as an economic and military power raises understandable concerns. The modernization of its navy and army seem calculated to directly challenge the preeminence of American power. As an authoritarian state, China has shown a penchant for a cold-blooded foreign policy, happy to support troublesome regimes from Khartoum to Pyongyang. A raft of pundits have already issued grim warnings about the future of the global liberal, democratic order — one which emerged during the 20th century’s Pax Americana — as it gets pressured by the new imperatives of a Chinese hegemon.

Tapping into this sense of alarm, an essay published last week in the National Review by Michael Auslin, the resident East Asia scholar at the right-of-center American Enterprise Institute, offers up a vision for American strategy in the Pacific. Though Auslin claims his proposal is more “pro-Asia” than it is “anti-China,” it’s hard to see how the two in his formulation are all that different.

Auslin’s essay —  entitled “Build, Hold and Clear: An American Strategy for Asia” —  is a re-invention of the U.S.’s “counter-insurgency” doctrine invoked in Iraq and Afghanistan of “clear, hold and build,” now applied across the wide tableau of the Asia-Pacific. Given the profound doubts hanging over U.S. operations in those two war-blighted countries, questions ought to immediately arise. Auslin shrugs off any concerns of U.S. decline or failure, and calls for policymakers to focus on “the next American era today.” This involves, ostensibly, reasserting U.S. interests across Asia by “building a larger community” of like-minded allies and confronting China more directly. Auslin writes: Read the rest of this entry »

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