International Affairs

International Affairs

North Korea deal won’t be popular on Capitol Hill

Hillary Clinton has called the deal just struck with North Korea a “modest first step in the right direction.” She’s right. We have been there before.

North Korea has agreed to a nuclear weapons freeze in return for 240,000 tons of food aid to the impoverished and isolated country. Today’s joint announcement from the State Department and Pyongyang comes after direct talks between the United States and North Korea in Beijing. But I doubt it will be popular on Capitol Hill.

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Stop apologizing, Mr. President

President Obama should stop apologizing to the Afghan people about American troops burning the Quran.

The Afghan prisoners converted a holy book into an implement of war by using it to distribute subversive literature.

In doing so they desecrated their holy book and took it out of the realm of being a sacred object. The object the U.S. troops burned was an implement of war and not a holy relic.

Mr. President, please don't apologize for our troops destroying an object our enemies often use in the war of terror against us.

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A reality check on Iran

The congressional hawks on Iran didn’t get what they came to hear today from U.S. intelligence chiefs.

Instead of underpinning the argument for military strikes on Iran — (remember Iraq?) — Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lt. Gen. Ronald Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, came to a Senate hearing on Capitol Hill with plenty hedging on the Iranian nuclear capability.

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Why are Tibet’s nuns self-immolating? Who is the Karmapa?

The International Campaign for Tibet reports: “News has reached ICT from Kirti monks in exile in India of the self-immolation today [Feb. 11] of an 18-year-old Tibetan nun, at around 6 p.m. in Ngaba. This is the third Tibetan nun to set fire to herself since the wave of self-immolations began inside Tibet in February 2009, and the second from her nunnery.”

It brings heartfelt response from Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Frinley Dorje, known to Tibetan Buddhists as the 17th Karmapa. Karmapa is a sublime young man who is said by some to fill the shoes of the Dalai Lama when he passes on. As Xi Jinping expects to soon become China’s top leader, these two go together. His comments from the International Campaign for Tibet:

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US and Egypt should walk back on NGO row

U.S. relations with Egypt have sunk to a new low in a row between the Egyptian military rulers and foreign pro-democracy NGOs accused of fomenting instability in the country. Unfortunately, both sides have mishandled things and the crisis is escalating.

I’m in Cairo, where Egyptian activists say that the military authorities should have acted earlier to enforce a 2002 law providing for the registration of NGOs. But while Egyptian authorities contend that the NGOs failed to register, the NGOs say they had taken steps to do so and fear that the registration is just a pretext for the crackdown.

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Supporting the Arab world, and not breaking the bank

Facing serious economic and political constraints, how can the United States effectively engage Arab countries in the midst of transition and help support Arab voices for dignity, opportunity and greater inclusion? At the Institute for Education’s first session of its 21st INFO season, Undersecretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats weighed in on this critical question, and Indonesia’s ambassador to the United States, Dino Djalal, pointed to the power of example in Indonesia’s experience with democracy.

Fresh from a trip to the Middle East, where he met with students in Tahrir Square, Secretary Hormats argued that the United States cannot — and should not — try to micromanage transitions in the Arab world or dictate what democracy should look like in each Arab nation trying to find its way.

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Engagement with the Arab world

The United States has advocated democratic and liberal reforms in the Middle East for over half a century. Sometimes it has worked behind the scenes. Other times, it has been out in front, trying to catalyze change.

Whatever the strategy, U.S. policymakers have repeatedly found their efforts stymied by the grip of longstanding authoritarian regimes, the persistence of deeply rooted cultures and social norms, and hostility to Western “meddling.” How ironic, then, that, when change finally arrived in the Middle East, the United States was taken by surprise — just like everyone else watching from the outside — and left scrambling to keep up as the situation on the ground changed on almost a daily basis. Even more ironic, now that the historic transition that the United States has long supported is finally under way, American policymakers — like their counterparts in Europe — are hardly in a position to lend the Arab world much support.

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Moshe Feiglin v. Netanyahu: Last exit to Jerusalem

Why must I, a cold-country New Englander and a solitary mountain dweller with a broken foot, be the only American to write about the upcoming election in Israel for leadership in the Likud, as critical to Israel’s destiny and to American interests in Israel as the fateful primary in South Carolina?

The Israeli paper Arutz Sheva reports that Moshe Feiglin, who is challenging Benjamin Netanyahu for leadership of Likud in the party's primaries two weeks from now, cited a favorable poll Tuesday morning as evidence that his chances of seriously embarrassing Netanyahu are high, and that a victory by Netanyahu is not a complete certainty: “In a poll conducted by polling company Ma’agar Mochot, about 26 percent of Likud members not affiliated with Feiglin's faction agreed that ‘it is important to vote for Moshe Feiglin in the upcoming primaries, even though it is clear that Binyamin Netanyahu will win, just so that the right wing inside Likud will gain strength.’ "

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A new kind of warfare

A story that should certainly have your immediate attention is slowly developing in Iran. Over the past several months five Iranian nuclear scientist have been assassinated, the latest one being yesterday, when two motorcyclists attached a magnetic bomb to a car fender and rode away while detonating the device.

No one has claimed responsibility, and the Iranian government is accusing Israel and the United States of the assassinations (in which both vehemently denied any involvement).

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Ron Paul on Israel: ‘Hong Kong of the Middle East’

Israel, in its current incarnation, can be seen in its post-war generations; warriors like Moshe Dayan, old-world kibbutzniks like Golda Meir, Carter, Clinton and Bush allies, and these are characterizations shared by American sympathizers and Jewish Israelis alike. But in 2012 it is safe to say that these generations are passing into history and when former New York Mayer Ed Koch slanders Ron Paul in classic ’60s hyperbole it simply registers as rude and confusing. Gary Bauer, a Christian evangelical leader, with support from Weekly Standard founder William Kristol and the Emergency Committee for Israel, also warns that Paul is an enemy of Israel. But with what legitimacy do these speak for Israel today? The idea of Israel as an American pseudo-state becomes preposterous as more immigrants arrive from Russia and elsewhere, and as more children are born in Israel to first- and second-generation Americans and Europeans who have made aliyah or sacred passage. Moshe Feiglin, who challenges Netanyahu for leadership in the Likud this month, says there are more Jews today in Israel than there are outside: The exile is over. In this new situation, America’s demands and expectations on Israel can seem as ill-advised and illegitimate as China’s over Tibet.

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