Topic: General News.
The Mehlis Report on the death of Rafik Hariri has come out and it's a shocker. Not that there's any surprise Syria was involved, but what is kind of mind boggling is that Bashar al-Assad actually threatened to blow Hariri and his family up at a meeting the two had in August 2004, this according to the BBC World Service report this morning. You'd think if the Syrians were going to kill someone of such prominence they would at least attempt to provide Assad with some sort of plausible denial. As interesting as that fact is, though, what's even more amazing is that the explosive laden van that killed Hariri was brought into Lebanon on a secure Syrian military road and the suicide bomber that drove it was an Iraqi who was told his target was Ayad Allawi. This use of an Iraqi suicide bomber isn't going to make the Syrian argument that they don't have anything to do with the Iraqi insurgency any easier. Looks like the Syrians have a few diplomatic problems on the horizon.
Even before the UN report Robin Wright in the WaPo writes that the US and France were preparing to introduce two resolutions to the UN next week holding Syria responsible for the Hariri assassination and the flow of illicit arms and individuals into Palestinian camps in Lebanon. The US wanted to include language condemning Syria for supporting terrorism in Iraq but France has nixed that because of Algerian concerns on that matter, in particular, and the Arab world's opposition to the US invasion in general. Word is that the US had been looking at Gen. Kanaan to possibly replace Assad in the event international pressure forced him out over the Mehlis report, but since Kanaan has gone ahead and committed "suicide" US planners are at a loss. Not that that is unusual, I just hope that now that the US has the moral high ground on this issue the brains trust in the administration don't do something stupid like try to pull a coup or bomb Damascus.
More progress in Afghanistan:
What is not going to help our standing in the Muslim world is the desecration of two dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan by burning them. [ABC] Pointing the bodies toward Mecca and calling the Taliban fighters "lady men" is not only an incredibly stupid thing to do, in free and sovereign Afghanistan, but also shows amazingly bad judgment on the part of the Psy-Ops officers responsible for this who should have known better. I don't know if this is as bad or worse as Abu Ghraib but it makes a great recruiting poster for every Muslim extremists group in the world and has done nothing to garner sympathy for our global struggle against violent extremism. (Killing four Afghan policemen last Monday in Maywand and other police shootings in the past month don’t really endear us to the people were supposedly fighting to liberate, either. [Daily Times])
Its a lie, we are not Nazis!
Junichiro Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine has caused the Chinese to cancel a scheduled visit by Japan's foreign minister Nobutaka Machimura to Beijing. Also, about 100 Japanese parliamentarians and their aids followed his example by going to the Shrine that contains the remains of some of Japan's most notorious war criminals. When is the US going to read the riot act to these history deniers who seem to be ascendant in Japan these days? If Angela Merkel ran on a platform of blaming the "November Criminals" and the Jews for WW II what do you think the reaction would be from the US? I guess we owe the Japanese a lot more money than we do the Germans. Its easy to see why the US is losing its influence in North Asia and South East Asia to China. Every other country that suffered under the Japanese looks at us ignoring Japan's war guilt and arming them to the teeth and looks to China to be a counter to Japan's colossal military. [South Korea has canceled an offical visit to Japan over the Shrine visit.BBC]
Bye, bye South Korea:
Meanwhile we're pulling more troops out of South Korea---down to below 30,000---not because we think the South Koreans can defend themselves from the North Koreans, but because we need the troops in Iraq and if the North Koreans were to attack the South our troops would be sitting ducks anyway, so what's the point of keeping them there? [BBC]
We won't torture anyboby, we promise.
I read that the Brits have come to an agreement with Muammar Gaddafi to take back Libyan nationals suspected of being terrorists deported from the UK. This is a part of the new terror legislation B-liar has come up with. The Libyans have promised not to torture these deportees and you can take that to the bank. This follows a similar agreement with Jordan and you can be sure Jordan and Libya will abide by international human rights standards just like the British used to. [Keep in mind that while the US and UK was negotiating with Gaddafi, who Jack Straw called a "great statesman," to give up his WMD, he was busy paying an old friend of Grover Norquist to assassinate then Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Very trustworthy, no?]
Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev tells theNYT that he's confident his party will post an overwhelming victory in upcoming parliamentary elections next month. Just like his 95% election win when he took over from his father in 2003, its obvious the Azeri people love him and hate the opposition. The fact that Azerbaijan is soon expected to be pumping as much as a million barrels of oil has nothing to do with the US looking the other way as he uses the levers of government to stifle dissent and manipulate the vote tallies. The opposition has taken to wearing orange in solidarity with the pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine, but the chances of them recreating that triumph of people power in Azerbaijan is very remote. Condi is all for stability when it comes to the stable, oil rich government in Baku and any rocking of the boat in that very sensitive part of the world is not likely. The Ukrainians for their part are enabling Aliyev and his band of oligarchs by having Azeri opposition leader Rasul Guliyev held in custody for extradition back to Azerbaijan on charges of embezzlement, which are largely seen as politically motivated. Everybody is doing the Putin these days in the former USSR, and the Dept. of State has nothing much to say on the subject.