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Posts Tagged ‘U.N.’

What Lies? Beneath the Mysterious History of an Iranian Nuclear Site

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on May 23, 2012

On the northwestern edge of Tehran, a wooded hill rises abruptly out of the gray low-rise cityscape. The roads meandering to the top are lined with grills and picnic tables, and from the north slope it was once possible to peer through the trees and make out where the of the Physics Research Center used to stand. The vacant lot looked just like it did on the satellite photos.

The day I visited, in June 2004,  it was also possible to wind back down the hill and pitch up at the site itself, still surrounded by a 20-foot wall. Inspectors for the IAEA had not been there yet but Iranian demolition crews certainly had: All the topsoil had been trucked away, along with every building except a guard shack. The man inside it came out and lied to us.

“It was a municipal sports complex,” he said, speaking without losing the ash on his cigarette. “It wasn’t big enough so they demolished it. And they want to build a bigger one.”

But there are lies and there are lies. And as the Iranians apparently prepare to sign a pact promising to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate suspected military components of its nuclear program, the question is how in heaven’s name the mullahs will manage to save face for their fibs of the past. A case in point is embedded in the mysterious history of that vacant lot at the base of Lavizan Park – a trapezoid of ground that once held nearly as much interest to U.N. inspectors as the Parchin military base the IAEA is keen to revisit now, in search of evidence of nuclear triggering experiments. Read the rest of this entry »

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Must-Reads From Around the World: April 26, 2012

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on April 26, 2012

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GettyImages/Pool

PETER DEJONG/AFP/GETTYIMAGES/POOL
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor takes notes at the start of the judgement hearing of his trial on charge of arming Sierra Leone’s rebels who paid him in “blood diamonds,” on April 26, 2012 at the Special Court for Sierra Leone, based in Leidschendam outside The Hague

Life For Death? – The five-year trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor, accused of 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and other offenses, is finally coming to a close in The Hague on Thursday, with a possible life sentence for the ousted leader. The Guardian, live-blogging the verdict from the tribunal, noted that Taylor is “clearly listening with care,” as it is read out. And judges found Taylor guilty of aiding and abetting war crimes during the Sierra Leone civil war.

New Front in Drone War – The White House expanded the authority of the Pentagon and CIA to carry out drone strikes in Yemen, which is widely believed to be a safe haven for al-Qaeda operatives, the New York Times reports. U.S. Defense Secretary LeonPanetta has defended the strategy, the Guardian says, but international legal experts argue that drone strikes amount to execution of suspects before trial, making them illegal – especially when carried out in Yemen where the U.S. is not engaged in war.

Questioning Misogyny – Following the fierce debate over its cover story, “Why Do They Hate Us?“ which casts Arab societies as deeply misogynistic, Foreign Policy shares critiques and commentary from six Muslim observers, including the senior editor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English-language website. Also chiming in is The Atlantic’s Max Fisher, who argues that while misogyny is a problem in Arab countries, it’s not a distinctively Arab problem. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Say You Wanna Bomb Iran? Take a Number and Stand in Line

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on November 3, 2011

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Yes, you heard right: Britain  is preparing to bomb Iran. Well, that’s if the latest reported leaks from the British government are to be believed. The Guardian — not known, like some of its British rivals are, for frequent breathless front-page claims of imminent military strikes on Iran — reported Wednesday that Britain’s Defense Ministry has stepped up plans for military action against Iran. Not that the Brits would kick things off, of course; their contingency planning is ostensibly geared towards playing a largely symbolic support role (think “Coalition of the Willing”)  should the Obama Administration “decide to fast-forward plans for targeted missile strikes at some key Iranian facilities.”

Beneath the attention-grabbing headline, the story is a familiar one:  British officials believe that while President Barack Obama “has no wish to embark on a new and provocative military venture before next November’s U.S. election … the calculus could change because of mounting anxiety over intelligence gathered by Western agencies, and the more belligerent posture that Iran appears to have been taking.”

The Guardian’s sources create the impression of dramatic new developments and a ticking clock, although the consensus among the  world’s intelligence agencies that Iran remains some years away from having  nuclear weapons, and has not yet decided to actually build them even though it is assembling the means to do so. But the alarmist messaging certainly jibes with an Israeli diplomatic campaign launched to persuade reluctant governments to impose tough new sanctions on Iran if they hope to avoid a potentially catastrophic war. Israel underscored the point, Wednesday, announcing it had successfully tested a missile capable of reaching Iran — at the same time as Israeli papers were filled with stories claiming that  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking cabinet approval for bombing Iran. 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

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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

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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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Census Update: What the World Will Look like in 2050

Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on July 1, 2011

By CLAIRE SUDDATH

Here is the world in 2050, as imagined by the U.S. Census Bureau: India will be the most populous nation, surpassing China

Getty Images

sometime around 2025. The U.S. will remain exactly where it is now: in third place, with a population of 423 million (up from 308 million in 2010). And declining birth rates in two of the world’s most economically and politically influential countries, Japan and Russia, will cause them to fall from their current positions as the 9th and 10th most populous nations, respectively, to 16th and 17th.

The findings are the result of population estimates and projections of 228 countries compiled by the Census Bureau’s International Data Base (IDB). They offer a revealing look into the future. “One of the biggest changes we’ve seen has been the decline in fertility in some developed countries, such as China,” says Loraine West, an IDB project manager, “while others are experiencing a slight increase.” In other words, China’s population boom is finally slowing down, while Western Europe’s long-declining birth rate is — in some places, at least — once again rising. Spain and Italy are “on an uptick,” says West, “but how high will [the birth rate] rise? Or will it simply fluctuate up and down on some long-term level? We’ll have to see.” According to Italy’s National Institute of Statistics, the country’s recent population increase can be largely attributed to its immigrant population.(See TIME’s guide to “intelligent cities.”)

The two countries on track to make the biggest population gains are Nigeria and Ethiopia. Nigeria currently boasts 166 million people, but by 2050 its population is expected to jump to 402 million. Ethiopia’s population will likely triple, from 91 million to 278 million, making the East African nation one of the top 10 most populous countries in the world for the first time. In fact, according to the U.N. Population Division, although only 18% of the world’s population lives in so-called high-fertility countries (places where women have more than 1.5 daughters on average), most of those countries are in Africa; the continent is expected to experience significant population growth in the coming decades, which could compound the already-dire food-supply issues in some African nations. Read the rest of this entry »

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