Global News Round Up Time…

January 19, 2010

A global news round up. Yay!

The Times, “Britain and US consider asking India to train Afghan National Police

This doesn’t sound like a great idea. Pakistan is extremely paranoid about India extending its influence in Afghanistan, seeing it as a strategically vital goal to limit such influence and protect the country’s northern flank. This may be a low-down quid pro quo, of course, as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been in India “to discuss issues including expanding co-operation in Afghanistan and boosting US arms sales to India.” In other words, you get some influence, and we get $$$.

I think it’s fair to say too that “India also wants to offset the growing influence of its newer rival, China, which is developing a huge copper mine south of Kabul and plans to build a railway across Afghanistan” as the Times does, but there are other motivations at work.

In other related news, the global hacking controversy continues, with India and China rowing over alleged Chinese “cyber-warfare.” According to Indian National Security Adviser M.K. Naranayan, “Chinese hackers may be involved in a December 15 attempt to penetrate Indian government computers, including that of his office.” Chinese spokesman Ma Zhaoxu replies that “these accusations are groundless” and has claimed that “China itself was the “biggest victim” of hacking activities.”

Also in India, apparently the French supermarket giant Carrefour is set to break into the nation’s bulk retail market, despite many protests against similar ventures by small grocers. A joint deal signed by Carrefour with an Indian firm follows similar deals signed by Wal-Mart and Tesco. This is all a bit of a departure. As AFP reports, “Under India’s tight foreign investment rules, no overseas chains are permitted in the retail sector — except for single-brand outlets such as Nokia or Reebok — to protect local retail players.” What will happen to the locals?

There was another killing in Iran, which authorities have blamed on Kurdish separatists. The death of prosecutor Vali Hajgholizadeh follows that of nuclear scientist Massoud Ali-Mohammadi last week, which Iran vaguely blamed on the United States and Israel. Some though, have blamed Hezbollah for the bomb attack which killed the professor, who allegedly had links to the political opposition. The latest killing has been claimed by the Free Life Party of Kurdistan, based in Iraq although sometimes called the PKK’s “Iranian offshoot.” The attack could be a reprisal for the execution of Kurdish prisoner Fasih Yasamani, who was killed by the Iranian state on January 6.

The Associated Press has a report about an American military contractor who manufactures rifle sights – but not ordinary ones. Apparently, the U.S. military has been buying equipment from Trijicon, based in Michigan, which “carry references to Bible verses.”

“Markings on the Advanced Combat Optical Gunsight, which is standard issue to U.S. special operations forces, include “JN8:12,” a reference to John 8:12: “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”

Back in the real world, all is not well in Iraq, where some Sunnis are annoyed by the banning of 500 or more ex-Baathists from elections. One Sunni lawmaker, Salam al-Jumaili, told Reuters that “I believe the timing of this measure is a part of … a political liquidation or political assassination because it has touched some figures who have been involved in the political process for many years.” He’s probably right. The Electoral Commission in Iraq has no remit to issue bans on minor Baathists, just high ranking officials. This looks like a classic purge of opponents on behalf of the reigning power, which is Shi’ite.

Moreover, the purge was organized by Ahmed Chalabi, who the U.S. groomed as a successor to Saddam during the 1990s and whose Iraqi National Congress provided much of the fictitious “intelligence” which justified the war. So he’s possibly not the most neutral figure to be running elections.

The New York Times agrees, with its editorial, “Iraq’s Ban on Democracy” by some of the war’s most fervent backers, Kenneth Pollack and Michael O’Hanlon. The editorial notes that one of those banned is the Defense Minister, “a former Baathist, but one who turned against the party in the 1990s and was imprisoned and tortured by the regime” and a prominent Sunni power broker who recently gave his support to Maliki rival Ayad Allawi.

In Sudan, the government has made the startling concession that it would “accept the south’s secession if southerners were to vote for independence in a referendum next year.” President Omar al-Bashir said at a rally that “his Northern Congress Party did not want the south to secede” but that “the party would be the first to welcome such a decision.” Apparently, people in the southern capital Juba were “cheering as he delivered his speech.” Meanwhile, it turns out that what might just keep Sudan united is…football, of course!

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