Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peter Moore freed

This borders upon the astounding...
British hostage Peter Moore has been released alive from captivity in Iraq, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.
Three reports all confirm his freedom:

From the BBC;

From Reuters AlertNet;

From the AP.

It was a willful release by his captors; no explanation as to how or why is given.

Still to be done is the determination of the fate of Alan McMenemy, the fourth guard kidnapped with P. Moore. All the guards are believed to have been killed (although, so was thought about Moore), but no remains of A. McMenemy have been recovered to date.

That any of them survived to be released is simply a wonder.

Welcome home, Mr. Moore.


UPDATE: The Guardian (UK) has lots on this.

Camara's condition in doubt

Apparently, General Sekouba Konate (the power behind the Guinea Junta, for now) can't get anyone to tell him the real condition of Captain Moussa "Dadid" Camara... he's to take a look for himself. He's off to Morocco shortly.
Officials said Gen Sekouba Konate's courtesy visit was for "consultations".

But a police official told Reuters that Gen Konate wanted to assess Capt Camara's health for himself.
Not the best of signs, that.

I'll stand by my earlier assessment: Camara having to be taken out of the country means Camara is out of power.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Again? Again.

The government of South Korea pardoned the incorrigibly corrupt former Chairman of Samsung, again.
President Lee Myung-bak said he pardoned Lee (Kun-hee) to allow the former chairman to serve on the International Olympic Committee, which is campaigning to bring the 2018 Winter Olympics to South Korea.

The pardon was Lee (Kun-hee)'s second.

Another national Olympic Committee lives up to their reputation as a den of spoiled patronage once again.


The only surprise was that he wasn't welcomed in the IOC as long as his conviction stood, given their history of corruption. The only crime is getting caught, apparently.

But what excuse other than blind nationalism does the otherwise respectable administration of President Lee Myung-bak have for being a part of this?

Yonhap News has it like this, by the way. Not a hint of concern on their part.

Not exactly with the program

Bilateral negotiations underway to replace the START I nuclear arms control treaty have run a bit over deadline... the treaty regime ended on December 5th... explanation: Someone is *not exactly* with the program.

Then again, if all their projects go as well as the tests of the Булава (Bulava) missile, keep blowing a major part of your defense budget on expensive things that don't work, Ivan.

Spending half as much on force readiness and expeditionary capability would be far more worrisome than what is being done.
er... yeah.

Freedom for Iran: Countermeasures

The regime rolled out counter-protests today, massing thousands of regime supporters, and turned loose the media machine with a favored old saw in hand: blame foreigners
The elite Revolutionary Guards accused the foreign media of joining hands with the opposition to harm the Islamic state and the British ambassador to Tehran was summoned by the Iranian government to be accused of "interference" in state matters.

"If Britain does not stop talking nonsense it will get a slap in the mouth," Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said. The British government said their envoy would respond "robustly" to any criticism.
Perhaps more importantly, the authorities are also sweeping up opposition members.
Iranian authorities on Monday arrested several prominent aides of opposition leaders and a former foreign minister, according to opposition Web sites -- the latest move by Tehran in its more than six-month effort to stamp out anti-regime protests.
All of this, coincidentally(?), with just days remaining before the P5+1 negotiators (UNSC Permanent members, plus Germany) reach their year-end deadline on the decision as to what sanctions or actions will answer the Ahmadinejad government's refusal to cease nuclear proliferation activities.

A pivotal moment approaches.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Freedom for Iran: Ashura Protests

Reports are still coming in piece-meal, but based on what is known, massive demonstrations were met with force by the regime. The death toll is somewhere between 8 and 15 (even official reports contradict each other).

Here's the latest from FOXNews and the AP on this, as well.

Here's the version from the New York Times late Sunday (North American times).

Further reports with more details should begin to be seen as today progresses.

Sunday-go-Monday Push

I'll be back to post a few threads later on, but for now...

This thread is left open for comments if you have any topics you'd like discussed, or suggestions as to things to look into in more detail here. The usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

No setting fire to underpants, yours or anyone else's, is allowed.

As always, thank you for coming here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hatoyama Secretaries Indicted

It is now official: Prosecutors indicted two of the former secretaries of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama without arrest Thursday over falsified fund reports in violation of the political funds control law, while exempting the premier from the charges due to insufficient evidence of involvement.


...insufficient evidence of involvement.
(Former Secretary K. Katsuba) is also accused of omitting donations from Hatoyama's mother and sister in a political fund report from 2005 to 2008.

According to sources close to the case, Hatoyama's mother, realizing that Katsuba was in trouble over the collection of political funds, provided 15 million yen monthly for seven years through last year, totaling around 1.26 billion yen, and parts of this money are believed to have been logged as donations by fictitious donors.
Don't worry; Prime Minister Y. Hatoyama has provided prosecutors with a written statement denying any involvement in the case.

I have got to remember to do that if I ever get called into question by the Public Prosecutor's Office.

Seriously, the real issue here is why anyone, much less the Public Prosecutor, is willing to overlook this when any number of lesser failings have brought down Prime Ministers in the past...

...unless you believe that Y. Hatoyama is merely a marionette for someone else who really runs the show...

...a someone else who has already demonstrated unindictablity in the past. (Cf. Pension scandal, 2004)


No, that's not a typo. It is what you get when Hugo Chavez demands that the automobile manufacturers of Venezuela (at least the major foreign ones) "...share their technology with local businesses or leave the country."
If the demand isn't met, he said: "I invite you to pack up your belongings and leave. I'll bring in the Russians, the Belorusians, the Chinese."
Let's just say that isn't going over well here in Japan, and I'll take the flyer that the labor unions in Venezuela dependent upon jobs with foreign auto manufacturers aren't too thrilled either.

I've always wondered what would happen if the unions turned en-masse against the Chavistas. At this rate, we may all get to find that out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eritrea sanctioned

On a vote of 13-1 with one abstention, the United Nations Security Council has placed sanctions upon Eritrea over its interventions in the Somalia Civil War.
The resolution places an arms embargo on Eritrea, and also imposes travel bans and asset freezes on businesses and individuals.
The means of enforcement have not been promulgated yet.

Freedom for Iran: Protests Spreading?

It certainly seems so. How big, and how strong they are is still unclear. The Oppos says big, the Regime says they are nothing more than handfuls of troublemakers.

With Ashura coming soon it should become clearer how much strength the Opposition has, but if the memorials to Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri have been any clue, this could be the next real moment of crisis for the government.

Not a moment too soon.

MONUC mandate extended

...for five more months, not the usual one year finding authorization.

The UNSC vote was unanimous.
The extension, diplomats say, will give the United Nations time to prepare a plan to reconfigure the mandate of the force, known as MONUC, to focus more on training the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and protecting civilians.

A resolution unanimously approved by the 15-nation council extended the deployment of approximately 20,000 uniformed personnel, the biggest U.N. force in the world, until May 2010. But diplomats say it will be prolonged again after that.
The Secretary General is asked to submit a "strategic review of the situation" by April 1.

The Kabila regime (D.R. Congo) is still lobbying for an end to MONUC by next summer, supposedly on grounds of national pride. The open question remains, however:

...who benefits from ending MONUC while the northeast of Congo is still a warlord's paradise?

Imperial Birthday

Today is the 76th birthday of tennou heika (His Majesty, the Emperor of Japan), a fine time to remember that this year brought the 20th anniversary of his taking the throne and the 50th wedding anniversary of the Imperial Couple.
"I hope that all of you will take good care of yourselves and be able to ring in the New Year in good health," he said during three separate appearances at a palace balcony.
May you as well, Majesty. May your reign be known ten thousand years.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The American government let this out to the media earlier...
(source: Reuters AlertNet)

They got an answer to that "if" in record time, too:
"Who are they to set us a deadline?" Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech in the southern city of Shiraz.

"We set them a deadline that if they do not correct their attitude and behavior and literature we will demand from them the Iranian nation's historic rights," the hardline president told the crowd, without elaborating.
I'd call that, the the whole lot more that the Ahmadinejad regime is doing, pretty much the textbook example of "unwilling".

Monday, December 21, 2009

This man is either a fool or a liar be the judge.
Visiting Tokyo to meet with senior Japanese officials, (Iran's chief nuclear negotiator) Saeed Jalili said his country's nuclear program is for civilian purposes, although the U.S. and other nations fear its goal is to produce weapons.
He's a fool if he has this negotiator's job but is so out-of-the-loop that he doesn't know what his countrymen in the Pasdaran (Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution; IRGC) are up to; he's a liar if he does know.

Bets are, he knows. Everyone else seems to...
In Paris on Monday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the international community has no other choice but to impose new U.N. sanctions on Iran for its refusal to cooperate on its nuclear program.

Kouchner said Russia was already "on board" with the need for sanctions, and that he believed "the Chinese will follow."

"I think there is no other solution," Kouchner told journalists.

America's top military officer agreed Monday that Tehran shows no sign of backing down in the standoff and said that military force must therefore remain an option.

"My belief remains that political means are the best tools to attain regional security and that military force will have limited results," Adm. Mike Mullen wrote in an annual assessment of the nation's risks and priorities. "However, should the president call for military options, we must have them ready."
On a more positive note, it appears that our Foreign Minister is not taking the bait:
Earlier in the day, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada expressed his "strong concerns" to Jalili over the current situation regarding Iran's nuclear program, a Japanese Foreign Ministry official said.
I'd rather see an embargo, but "strong concerns" and a serious role in the UNSC-ordered sanctions regime are probably all that are possible for now.

The shame of it all is that someone decided to let S. Jalili into Japan at all, much less for a five day trip... including a propaganda stop at Hiroshima... Here's hoping the local mass media camps on this fellow with cameras rolling and catches him saying something ...impolitic... as he tours the Shrine to American Guilt Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.

Yes, laughter and pointing at the pictures would qualify as "impolitic".

Rajoelina scraps the deal

The thread title pretty much sums it up: the Madagascar unity deal is off.
Madagascar's leader Andry Rajoelina has formally abandoned a power-sharing peace deal a day after appointing a military prime minister.
The BBC is calling this "...a complete reversal of any progress made so far to solve Madagascar's political crisis."

The AU, SADC, and the UN are now faced with a big nothing for all their intervention efforts. What official position France takes on this has not yet been reported, but they are the deciding voice on the ability of outsiders to influence the outcome of all this.

Meanwhile, Madagascar's military becomes even more a part of the politics and things march along toward conflict or a breakdown of order.

More Threats? More Threats.

Hugo A-go-go Chavez, the President of Venezuela, apparently isn't satisfied with the reaction to his declaration of Communist affiliation at the COP15 meeting... but given how bad (and long) his speech there was, perhaps the world can be forgiven for having nodded off before he got to that part...

Anyway... if no one is noticing him, goes the rational, it must be time for more threats:
It is not uncommon for Chavez to accuse other nations, especially the U.S. and its allies, of conspiring against Venezuela.
First he threatened the Kingdom of the Netherlands over anti-drug operations flying out of the Netherlands Antilles, then it was more frothing against Colombia (various claims), and now he's hauled out the "Yankee Spy Planes" claim:
Speaking during his weekly television and radio program, Chavez said the aircraft overflew a Venezuelan military base in the western state of Zulia after taking off from neighboring Colombia. He did not elaborate, but suggested the plane was being used for espionage.

"These are the Yankees. They are entering Venezuela," he said.

"I've ordered them to be shot down," Chavez said of the aircraft. "We cannot permit this."
I guess it is good to have hobbies.


I'd say something like "Bring it, little man", but the fact is that dictatorial madmen like Chavez get a lot of people killed when they actually get the nerve up to try something. This kind of lunacy simply must be ended.

Freedom for Iran: Montazeri passes

The demise by natural causes of Grand Ayatollah Hoseyn Ali Montazeri, who was an inspiration to the Green Movement opposition in Iran, has become a new rallying point for the masses. Tens of thousands marched in Qom, and thousands more did so in the theologian's home town of Najafabad.
The government knows the funeral is one demonstration it cannot forbid, says the BBC's Tehran correspondent Jon Leyne, although it fears it could spark another round of protests.
The AP has more information:
Many people during Monday's funeral made references to the Green Movement of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who joined the procession in Qom, witnesses said. Opposition leaders had called for people to turn out for a day of mourning, and Mousavi described Montazeri's death as a "great loss."
Montazeri, it should be remembered, was one of the original leaders of the theological movement in parallel with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolutionary movement. But the famous falling out between Montazeri and Khomeini in 1989 and Montazeri's open contempt for the rise of (current) Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 1997 made Montazeri a voice of reason in the face of dictatorship and a valued patron of the Opposition.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Strikes in Yemen vs. AQAP

The Yemeni internal war has taken yet another turn for the strange. Last time it was the Saudi Arabian military intervention... this time, it was a combination of American cruise missile strikes and Yemeni military action. First reports looked, well, about like the average strike against al-Qaeda assets: a mixed bag of good kills, missed opportunities and some number of unintended dead locals.

The thing is, there is a lot more to this than meets the first examination.

Long War Journal sees it like this. Bill Roggio is most always a quality source, and he may well be this time too, however...

Jane Novak at Armies of Liberation (the source for all things about Yemeni politics and infighting) has been running a vast amount of from-Yemen material, with a very suspicious eye cast on the Government of Yemen's actions and reporting. She has several threads on the topic; here is her latest, as of today. Not a pretty picture.

The official reports are starting to come out, from the U.S.A. and from sources in the region, and to sum them up here is the AFP report from earlier today.

In the finest tradition of the name of this 'blog, I've already formed an analysis matrix of reported results vs. possible explanations. Some things are pointing to the possibility of more foreign airpower than just cruise missiles being involved, and an off-target strike by said airpower... but nothing rules out Yemeni airpower or ground fire being used in an indiscriminate manner... and the ever-present "co-mingling with supporting civilians" still is the Occam's Razor answer as to why so many civilians were killed.

But I just can't buy into the simple answer this time.


It was another one of *those* weeks. Best not to ask.

Glad to have time to do this again.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Push -- Quiz Time

There is a lot going on out there, and a lot that deserves attention and some 'blog threads here, but matters mundane leave me unable to do them justice.

So, rather than just a Sunday Open Thread, here's a little fun for you who like to research stories yourselves... focusing on some things we've discussed here previously:

. Madagascar's constitutional crisis is back in the news, and has a new twist. What happened?

.. Former President M. Zelaya is still in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa, but what was the story on his supposed departure this last week? What did actually happen?

... Uganda's parliament just passed two astounding pieces of legislation, on the basis of making law regarding two societal matters. What were they? Are either reasonable laws?

.... Mauritania arrested 3 "bankers". How does that relate to the constitutional crisis there that was recently resolved? Is this important?

..... Another arms trafficking scandal just happened in Thailand. What was it, and who all got arrested and for what?

...... Speaking of arms trafficking, it looks like H. Chavez of Venezuela is ramping up arms deliveries and talking tough again. Why, and what of it?

....... and for bonus points: A 727 was found burned near an improvised airfield in what West African nation eariler this month? What happened (what do the authorities think, at least), and what reason was the aircraft out there in the middle of nowhere in the first place?

I'll give this a day or so, and then post up some answers (or confirm yours) in the comments to this thread.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just a minor rule change...

One of those "that is what the law said, but..." moments came last year for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev when he (or someone in his name) ordered Russian troops en-masse into the Republic of Georgia:
Then, he sent troops into the ex-Soviet state in violation of the constitution after Tbilisi launched a military assault on the pro-Moscow rebel enclave of South Ossetia.

Russian law at the time specified that the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, had the exclusive right to send troops overseas. The Federation Council did not meet until after the 5-day war was over.
Apparently, the law promulgated after that which increased the number of allowed uses of troops...
Under existing law, Russia can only send troops abroad to defend its citizens and allies, to fight piracy, and to protect international shipping routes.
...but still required prior approval from the Federation Council just wasn't good enough.

So, if one doesn't like the rules, and one has the power to make the rules, it would be pretty silly not to change the rules.

Yes, it is a formality. No, it didn't stop them before and it wouldn't next time.

It is still a step backward for Russian foreign relations if they adopt this "request". The Europeans (in general) have come to consider specific authorization of military force normal.

Sadly, it isn't surprising.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Morales re-elected

Commendation where commendation is due: President Evo Morales has won re-election in Bolivia by a wide margin, in what appears to be a clean election. (No snark on my part there; I haven't found any plausible claims of foul play, nor would anyone bother to cheat in a multiparty election where 2/3 of the vote is almost fanatically loyal to said candidate.)

His keys to victory:

Tribal autonomy, Populist policies, and enough natural gas revenue to pay for the expensive parts of his plans. On top of that list, add in the utterly woeful state of the conservative opposition.

Now with his party in control of the Upper House and nearly at the helm in the Lower House, E. Morales has a lot of room to maneuver. I'd like to think that would be a maneuver *away* from Hugo Chavez' orbit, but let's be realistic about this: it isn't going to happen that way. All that is left is to cooperate when it suits "our" interests, and contain when it doesn't, and try not to make an open enemy in the process. That's how foreign affairs work.

Ah, well. So goes democracy. May the Oppos win next time... if there is a next time.

Freedom for Iran: Dec 7th Protests

A tough day for the "Green Movement", faced with literally thousands of anti-riot police and Basij militiamen, but somehow they got through it with some successes.

the down side: More than 200 protesters were arrested.

fight to a draw: The grounds of Tehran University were surrounded, isolated and even enshrouded by a "wall" of hanging cloth to prevent photography of what happened during the (allowed) Student Day protest. So the freelancers took pictures of the police and militia thugs...

the up side: With no actual call for protests by any of the main "Green Movement" political figures, demonstrations broke out in a wide number of places.
The turnout in Monday's protests — fueled by students marching by the thousands on more than a dozen campuses around the country — showed that months of arrests and government intimidation had failed to stamp out the movement.
That is what is needed to keep the cause alive; that it continue to be widespread.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gration gets the proper treatment

Oh, this was a thing of beauty...

The American Special Envoy to Sudan, J. Scott Gration, got hauled in front of Congress and Chairman Donald Payne of the House Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health invited in Senator Sam Brownback to ask a few pointed questions.

Please read the TNR article linked above, and for real enjoyment follow the link to the YouTube video provided there for the actual testimony.

It was a much-deserved beating.

h/t to Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard 'blog (link to this specific item).

Iran in Latin America

They are just reaching out... building diplomatic relationships... sure...

You might want to read this before you take that position.
The Argentinean prosecutor who ferreted out Iranian links to Argentina's largest terror attack warned Wednesday of Teheran's growing terror network in Latin America.
He cites chapter and verse on the whole story... and it isn't good news.

Guinea's Camara shot

This broke late yesterday (with the AP biffing the first report, saying it was his Presidential Guard that shot him... it wasn't), and now the details are coming in.

Junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara of Guinea (the former French Guinea) was shot by the troops of one of his Lieutenants. Camara is reportedly still alive. The fate of the shooter is not clear; he may have escaped any quick reprisal, or he might have been dropped in a dark hole already.
The whereabouts of Aboubacar "Toumba" Diakite, the officer allegedly behind the attack, is unclear.

(Communications Minister Idrissa) Cherif had said he had been arrested after the shooting but reports on Friday say road-blocks have been set up in Conakry by security forces trying to find him.

Government minister Keletigui Faro told the BBC that Lt Diakite had gone into hiding.
Just for explanation's sake, it should be noted that most of the blame for the massive army rampage against civilians in Guinea last September is being laid at the feet of A. Diakite, with fingers pointing within and without the Junta.

Mark Doyle of the BBC has it like this:
It appears that what happened on Thursday night is that Capt Dadis Camara travelled from his stronghold in one military camp on the outskirts of Conakry to meet Lt Aboubacar Diakite, known as "Toumba", at another military camp in the centre of the city.

A firefight then broke out between the forces of the two men. Reports say Capt Camara was injured, and then, with helicopter support, was evacuated from the area. What is not yet known is why the leader of the junta decided to confront Toumba at this time.

Tensions have been high since late September when soldiers massacred scores of pro-democracy activists who were demonstrating at a rally in a football stadium.

A UN commission of enquiry is currently in Guinea trying to establish which soldiers were responsible. Diplomats say Toumba was present at the stadium when the killings took place - but so were other officers who remained loyal to Captain Dadis.
Capt. Dadis = Capt. Camara, if that wasn't clear in context.

Anyway, Senegal sent in doctors to treat Camara, and now the word is that he has been flown out to Morocco...
Communications Minister Idrissa Cherif said Capt Camara was "walking and talking and doing fine", the AP news agency reports.

He told Reuters that the military leader had gone to Morocco for a check-up.
...and that is when your "sense of disbelief" should kick in.

*NO ONE* at the head of a military Junta *EVER* leaves his faction's place of power in the face of a mutiny or counter-coup, and expects to come back home any time soon.

Camara is either at death's door, or has been told by one of his troop leaders that he is no longer the man-in-charge, or he and his camp followers are getting out with as much of the loot as they can before civil war breaks out.

Count on it.




Reuters Africa now has it as surgery required for a head wound.
Guinea's junta leader Captain Moussa Dadis Camara faces a likely operation in a Moroccan clinic after being hit by bullets in a gun attack, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore said on Friday.

The statement by Compaore, citing Camara's personal doctor, appeared to contradict an earlier statement by the Guinean junta that he was only slightly wounded in the attack late on Thursday by his former aide de camp.
Expect the reports to move closer to accurate over the day.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Hatoyama's turn to evade a decision

This time it is all about the U.S.-Japan relocation of forces agreement...

Seems that the Americans were about to try the professional route, sending over Michael Schiffer, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Asia and the Pacific, this week and planning to send over the specialists from the Japan desk at DeptState's Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs.

But (to all appearances) so timed as to make a hash of that, the leader of shakai minshu tou (the Social Democratic Party; SDP) announced that if the Hatoyama administration sticks to the plan as previously negotiated, she's pulling out of the ruling coalition. Now, the SDP is electorally insignificant these days *EXCEPT* for the fact that Hatoyama's Democrats don't quite have a majority in the Upper House of the Parliament by themselves... they need the SDP reps and those of the minor party led by the politically odious S. Kamei to hold a majority. So until either the Opposition seizes the Upper House back in next year's election, or the Democrats get a single party majority up there, Hatoyama-souri needs to keep both those minnows happy.

Here's how he will buy time to try and do that.

If it makes you feel any better, this sort of "gee, let's negotiate more, but quietly" malarkey is exactly what the latest visitor from Russia said *to* Hatoyama about the Northern Territories problem. Maybe he thought that was such a politically harmless thing to hear, he's use it on the Americans...

111-14 to any reinstatement of Zelaya.

Best coverage of this at La Gringa's including a live 'blog of the proceedings up to the point of majority in opposition.

Here's hoping that this finishes the Zelaya nonsense and La Gringa can get back to her gardening.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Election Day in Honduras

'tis the 29th of November; time to go to the polls to elect the next President of Honduras. Thankfully, that *can't* be M. Zelaya.

Here's the pre-election coverage from the BBC. Sadly, our friends at Angus Reid Global Monitor have no current polling data for this election, so we'll have to presume a strong chance for either of the leading candidates. The Beeb picks it like this:
The favourite to win is conservative Porfirio Lobo from the National Party, and Elvin Santos from the Liberal Party is considered his nearest rival.
I'll hedge and say that the Liberal Party has done a fine job of distancing themselves from Zelaya's supporters by holding firm in the interim under R. Micheletti; that might be enough for E. Santos to make it.

But what I hope for, and what I think we should all hope for, is that Honduras gets to choose their next President in a free and fair way. That's what the whole removal of Zelaya was about, after all.

Viva Honduras! Viva Democracia!


The best English-language source from inside Honduras on all this remains La Gringa's Blogicito. She's doing a great job monitoring what is on the local media, and what is heard in the street; a far better source than most of what is hitting the wire services. She also has links to lots of Spanish-language sources for those that can read or listen to them.

For summary information from a wide variety of sources, you can also look in on our other friend, Fausta's Blog (Honduras tab). Fausta covers lots of things, so I've taken the link directly to the sort for Honduras items for your convenience.

How to lose a point of GNP in a day


Step 1.
Have ~30% of your GNP be generated by US$-based export trade.

Step 2.
No matter how many warnings you hear, or how bad the trends have been for almost 2 years (since the Americans started the proverbial printing presses to cover massive government red ink)... even as you watch the en (Japanese Yen) muscle up from an arguably overstrong 110-to-the-$ range into the low 90's... do *nothing* to increase availability of the en. Be particularly insensitive to fears that deflation will return to the Japanese economy.

Step 3.
Lose over 3% of your exchange rate on recovering said dollars into your national currency in a single trading day.
...a 14-year high of 84.82 to the dollar...
Voila! It is done.

Seriously... it happened about that way; that's a fact that even the hatoyama naikaku (Hatoyama administration) is waking up to. The question now is:

With deflation already present in the economy *again*, and the loss of domestic consumption that brings with it well underway... is *this* too little, too late?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

very, very distracted

There is a lot to cover going on out there right now, but in one of the unfortunate coincidences of life right now, I'm obliged elsewhere.


Here are some reports and some very good writers you should spend a little time with, while I keep shoveling in the stables. (insert optimistic comment about finding a pony, *here*):

The ICC has opened the trial of two warlords from the 2003 fighting in Ituri, D.R. Congo, on war crimes charges. It is a particularly nasty set of charges, and Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has a very good case.

Also from the Congo, a report to the U.N. about MONUC and cooperating with the FARDC has been leaked... and it is one of those stories that cause one to question if there are any good guys in that fight. There are, but there are some really bad ones on both sides and that's where the problem lies right now.

Richard Fernandez (of Belmont Club reputation) has a superbly insightful piece on how the recent massacre in the southern Philippines came to be, and how it doesn't surprise experienced Philippines-watchers that it happened. There is no more-expert opinion out there on things political in the Philippines than R. Fernandez; he lived what he talks about on that topic.

Lastly, for now, *REMEMBER* 29.November is election day in Honduras... and the Zelaya-insurgents are intent on making a fight of it (and not just in the polling places). Look to La Gringa's Blogicito for first-class English-language reports from in-country as this all happens.

Thanks again, folks, and I'll be back to regular postings as soon as I can. Just need to get a little sleep first...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Midday Push

There is, as always, a lot out there to comment on. I, however, am obliged (hopefully only one more day)... That means it is your turn.

This thread is left open for comments if you have any topics you'd like discussed, or suggestions as to things to look into in more detail here. The usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

I'll be back here late today, at least to look in.

Thanks, All. Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

That was what they wanted...

The French and German governments had made it fairly clear that they wanted the new European Union President as defined under the Lisbon Treaty to be someone limited to greeting foreign dignitaries and chairing summits.

That was what they wanted...
Van Rompuy, 62, is a technocrat with a penchant for haiku poetry. A Dutch-speaking Christian Democrat, he is unknown abroad, and even in Belgium he keeps a low profile. Or as a Belgian commentator recently put it: "Van Rompuy opens his mouth only to breathe."
...and that was what they got. Herman Van Rompuy, currently Prime Minister of Belgium.

Same idea, but more lefty, for the E.U. Foreign Policy brief:
Ashton, who has never been elected to public office and is largely unknown outside Britain, had seemed an unlikely choice. She won the foreign policy brief after British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and left-leaning leaders from Spain, Greece, Slovakia, Slovenia, Portugal and Austria decided to put her name forward.

Ashton, 53, was a junior minister and leader of the House of Lords in 2007 and had a history as an anti-nuclear weapons campaigner.

She has barely caused a ripple during her year as EU trade chief and has no known foreign policy experience.
Catherine Ashton of Britain, currently the E.U. Trade Commissioner.

So it appears that Henry Kissinger's famous question regarding Europe... (paraphrased) "who do I pick up the phone and call?" is still unanswered.

Some one is there to take the call now, but they appear to be a message center worker.


The article linked above has a line saying "German Chancellor Angela Merkel and often-outspoken Premier Nicolas Sarkozy of France did not reveal a preference before the meeting." Technically correct. Other sources have confirmed that the Von Rompuy choice was predetermined by Franco-German agreement before the nomination.

Hugo over-reaches

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is trying to get people to look anywhere else than at the massive economic and utility failures that are defining his administration of the country, and his latest ploy is to once again go looking for trouble with Colombia.

He's been frothing at the mouth on his televised appearances (which happen at a whim, often daily).

He's making more trouble by engaging in petty provocations, and with the number of low-quality militia (and regular) troops he is waving around, things are likely no longer under any real control from the Palacio de Miraflores (Miraflores Palace; the office of the national executive in Venezuela).

This isn't going over very well. A number of sources inside and associated with the Venezuelan military are saying some parts of a war have already started, and it isn't going to end well for Venezuela.

But that's not what friends of Hugo are saying; the best friend he ever had says "I know Chávez very well. He would be the last one to provoke a conflict where Venezuelan or Colombian blood could be shed."

Oh, really?

Clearly we've misjudged Hugo.

If the biggest exporter of Soviet-inspired revolutionary violence in the Western Hemisphere says Hugo is a right fellow, it must be so.

Yeah, right.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FDLR arrests in Germany

This has the potential to be hugely important:
Police in Germany have arrested two Rwandan militia leaders on suspicion of crimes committed in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ignace Murwanashyaka, the leader of the FDLR rebel group, and his aide Straton Musoni were held on suspicion of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Rwanda Genocide trials) , the Congolese *and* the Rwandans are probably standing in a queue now to get a piece of this, indictments in hand.

By the way, as long as they are where questions can be asked, let us not overlook asking about where the Gold of the Congo has gone, eh? Some names of the brokers and smugglers in Uganda and Dubai who get a piece of the theft would be good answers.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kabila now wants MONUC out

Oh, how helpful.

Just as some things were going better in the D.R. Congo, at least as a trend...

and Rwanda had come to some accommodation with the Congolese government to deal with the FDLR (Hutu-exile insurgents; the Rwanda Genocide perpetrators and supporters)...

and the focus was shifting to the (previously intentionally underreported) heinous conduct of the FARDC (DRC Army) in the Kivu regions...

President Joseph Kabila of the DRC gets a case of injured dignity and wants to end the MONUC United Nations peacekeeping operation in the D.R. Congo.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomats and U.N. officials said President Joseph Kabila was putting pressure on the U.N. and Security Council ahead of the country's 50th anniversary next year to come up with a plan for ending the peacekeeping mission, known as MONUC.


"It's partly a question of dignity," one Western diplomat told Reuters. "Kabila's eager to show that his government's reliance on U.N. peacekeeping is decreasing. It's understandable. No leader wants to give the impression that he needs U.N. peacekeepers to stay in power."
Now that the attention is being focused on how bad his own army is, he gets a case of pride.

Moreover, the truth is that *he does need peacekeepers to stay in power* unless he resorts to violent suppression of all competing factions. And that will lead us right back to the internecine massacres of the Congo Wars.

Someone needs to take J. Kabila and company aside and tell them that's not acceptable. Privately. Then again, publicly if he insists on *not* taking the opportunity to reform the FARDC that cooperation with a re-enforced MONUC for a few more years brings.

Otherwise, the Security Council will likely be authorizing another peacekeeping operation in a few years to try and pick up the broken pieces of the D.R. Congo after someone brings Kabila down... and a whole lot more people have died.

It is a ploy

The news media has picked up on the reports that the Palestinian Authority intends to make a unilateral appeal to the UNSC for recognition of Statehood. The claim goes something like this:
The Palestinians plan to go to the U.N. Security Council in an effort to secure international support for an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, officials said on Sunday.
Leaving aside the fact that the PLO declared "independence" back in 1988 (likely-not-coincidentally also on the 15th of November)...

What appears to be actually happening is a ploy to self-collapse the Palestinian Authority and throw the door open to things like the "One-State Solution" so beloved by Arab League proxies in the negotiations.
Palestinian officials predict the US would veto a UN resolution. If the resolution fails, senior Palestinian officials are considering completely dissolving the Palestinian Authority. That would leave the burden of running the West Bank to Israel--a policy that the Israeli government would be fearful of.
It is a ploy. A rather nasty one, actually. It can be countered diplomatically, but that will take steely resolve on the part of Israel's friends to hold the line.

Otherwise, the burden of protecting themselves falls squarely upon Israel.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Tourists: part 2

The Obama visit to Japan must have gotten a bit crowded a couple of times today, as the American President was accompanied by his three best friends, Me, Myself, and I, during his speech at Suntory Hall.

On the positive side:

He didn't forget the abduction issue when he spoke about North Korea problems.

He specifically mentioned the Treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines as being "...fundamental to our shared security".

The resurrection of the Doha round of the WTO talks was implied by his call to continue working toward an agreement.

He made a renewed commitment to America providing the "nuclear umbrella" in the defense of both Japan and South Korea, "so long as these weapons exist".

Iran was mentioned alongside North Korea as part of the larger weapons-proliferation problem. Locals tend to see those as different problems, but they aren't and it was good to keep them together in the public view. Pity Burma wasn't mentioned in this context, nor Syria.

Bringing up the issue of Human Trafficking, one of the remaining Human Rights scourges of East Asia, and speaking of means to counter that trafficking was a very good thing. This issue has been shamefully overlooked.

On the negative side:

No mention was made of the Northern Territories matter, nor of Russia at all.

Completely left out of all discussions was the fundamental nature of the Japan-America military alliance, that Americans can be asked to die for Japan's defense, but that Japan will not (some argue 'can not') fight for the defense of America other than in the course of its self-defense if war were to come. It remains a protectorate relationship, and until Japan finds a way to *be* an equal partner, it won't be anything else.

Far too much focus was placed on matters of Climate Change -driven activities, and on claiming that progress is being made on both the Burma and North Korea issues. The first can be explained by that being the *only* matter where a substantial agreement was produced as part of this visit... although one can't be very substantial about "striving for success in Copenhagen". The second could have been meaningful, but neither depending on Six-Party Talks with North Korea nor extending the "Sen. Webb goes to Myanmar" approach to Burma have a whole lot of promise of reaching what could be called success; they are at best means of process.

If I hear "Let me be clear:..." one more time in an Obama speech, the possibility of spontaneous combustion on my part can not be ignored. It is an ugly pretension, and it takes away from what ever else the man is saying. The "America's first Pacific President" claim was another annoyance. Hint to the Man in the Oval Office: Really, boss, it is *not* always all about you.

And then, it was off to lunch with His Imperial Majesty and The Imperial Consort.

Well, at least he tried to show respect. If it were I in the position of a being both a Head of State and a visitor calling upon the Imperial Family, I would have gone with the simultaneous bow (understanding that tennou heika bows very little) and then a handshake if His Majesty offered one. This probably wasn't the best move, as some Americans do get upset about Presidents bowing to anyone and more to the point it looked awkward as all heck. Thankfully, His Imperial Majesty is known to be a rather forgiving fellow about such things.

I'd comment about the lunch itself, and the discussions at that time, but the Imperial Household Agency is quite strict about keeping those sort of things absolutely privileged... only an interpreter accompanied the three during the meal.

So, to wrap up as President Obama is on his way to Singapore now:

...not much got done

...not much was expected

...nothing went horribly wrong

...and Ambassador Roos got a visit from his buddy (and then apparently turned invisible, which is may be the first correct thing he's done in his months here. When the President is in-country, the Ambassador becomes a third wheel if he tries to be involved.)

Let's hope the rest of this trip goes as this did, and we can all get back to doing things instead of just talking about doing things.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Civil Trial in New York

Words fail to describe this:

YHGTBFKM <-- ((an outcry of dismay unsuitable for gentle ears))

I'd like to believe that this is just U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder freelancing while the boss is out of town... but the President made the implication that he's on-board with doing this.

Miserable amateurs, the lot of that administration.

More Tourists: part 1

Oh joy, the Yanks are visiting. No, not the sports team, the President and his entourage.

They managed to fit a meeting with Hatoyama souri (Prime Minister Y. Hatoyama) into their busy day, and many words were said. One pre-negotiated* agreement was let out as a Joint Statement on Climate Change Negotiations.

Otherwise, not much. The opportunity to really make a shambles comes tomorrow, anyway: The Big Speech (tm) at 1000hrs local time; and an audience with tennou heika.

Here's the full story in Japanese, which for many of you is just an opportunity to look at the pictures. My regrets, but there's not enough there to merit posting a full translation.


note: pre-negotiated* ~ almost every "summit" agreement is long-before-the-meeting-negotiated by staffers or representatives. No complaints about that here. The rare ones that aren't are often really bad.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yemen insurgency ~ a three way fight?

The civil situation in Yemen has not been stable for years, but this just about takes the cake:

The National Army is fighting both a low grade rebellion in the South and a real insurrection in the North.

The Northern conflict (the al-Houthi tribal rebellion) has signs of being partly fueled by Iranian activities, and there is a large al-Qaeda presence around that region that seems to be anti-Houthi, but is often anti-Government as well.

The Houthi rebellion has now spilled over into Saudi Arabia, drawing a heavy Saudi response on land and a naval blockade of Red Sea routes of supply to the rebellion. The Saudis are (unofficially) painting their intervention as thwarting Iranian influence.

The National Army, led by a government that can't seem to decide if they are old-school Nasser-inspired Arab Nationalists or new-model Islamists, are being offered help... the American military...

...and... al-Qaeda's Arabian Peninsula forces.

I'd call this a three-way fight, but with all the players now deciding to jump in, it could be a five-way fight. That is, *if* everyone weighing in is really on different sides and no one is being played for the fool.

Any bets the Americans are at least one of the ones in motley?


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

They celebrate it as Veteran's Day in the U.S.A., and as Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth.

It was the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, and it was the moment of hope that war would never come again between nations.

To get to that point required the expenditure of the blood and treasure of a generation; To lose that opportunity took only two months... then selfishness ruled the day again and the hope was doomed.

But for the fighting men (male and female) who paid that cost, let this be their day.

Let them be remembered.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Let this also be a day for all our war dead, and one to appreciate the veterans in our nations, making special note of those who could not come home intact. If you have the means and are in the U.S., please consider helping at the Warrior Legacy Foundation, or at Soldier's Angels Project Valour IT... or find a way to donate time in your community to veteran's matters.

Now excuse me, folks; I'm going to spend this day with some old friends. Barring any major interruptions, I'll be back here tomorrow. The Lord bless and keep you, All.


Last year on this topic here at CompHyp.


In Remembrance:

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow..."

"Ich hatt' einen Kameraden..."

Chavez looking for trouble; Uribe looking for support

The #1 fan-favorite here at CompHyp, Hugo A-go-go Chavez, President of Venezuela, has been ranting on about how he expects war with Colombia (and the United States of America) and has recently ordered increased troop readiness along the Colombian border.

The Uribe administration in Colombia is still trying to take the "reasonable" approach to all this, but they have referred the matter to the UNSC for discussion. So long as this can be cast as a preventative measure to counter any war-fever outbreak in the Chavez regime, it is a good move.

The willingness of Correa in Ecuador and Morales in Bolivia to echo the call for "war" should just remind any observer that ALBA (their alliance) never was intended to be a reactive defensive alliance. It is an attempt at forming a regional power bloc to isolate non-member states and then threaten them.

But that threat is still fairly weak; Hugo is still looking for the rest of his "ten battalions of tanks" that were supposed to be there the last time he ordered troops to confront Colombia... but if he keeps buying weapons, one day *soon* he might just have the means to back up his words.

Better to derail this whole ALBA scheme now, before it becomes difficult.

APEC run-up: China Matters

The upcoming APEC meetings, combined with the Japanese effort at the Mekong Development Summit and the East Asia tour of America's President Obama and entourage, will bring many issues to be dealt with, but perhaps none more likely to go wrong than matters with the People's Republic ("Red") China.

Here are two danger areas that the leaders of Japan (and the United States) had best be considering carefully *before* they speak:

The P.R. Chinese economy is very likely not capable of being an engine of recovery, even for its own people not to mention trying to be the next great consumer economy. The numbers just don't add up. Someone is cooking the books. Taking a trusting position right now won't help anyone.


The issue of Taiwan is, and has been, greatly aided by policies of Strategic Ambiguity on the part of Japan and the United States; the answer to the question of "Would either nation defend Taiwan from an attack by the PRC?" being somewhere between "*YES*" and "maybe", but never less than that. But given the performance of the Obama administration abroad so far, there is a genuine fear that he might say otherwise on this trip. Never mind that contravenes American law on the matter; all he has to say is "um... no?" and the PRC will take that as a green light for action.

So here's hoping for some diplomatic good sense on the part of all involved...

...faint hope that may be.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A wreath at dawn

Today's little trivia item:

Someone's grave in the Arch Street Friends Meeting House graveyard (Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A.) is marked at dawn with a wreath this day... every year.

Whose grave? Who marks it? ...and why?

My congratulations if you know this without opening reference material. I had to look up the place.


Monday, November 9, 2009

A wall longer than just Berlin came down

...a wall between families, a wall between people, a wall between freedom and a life of modern serfdom. The Restricted Zone.

The zone is now gone, but for a few marks on the ground like old watchtowers, but the memory lives on:
"When I talk about these times, I get quite angry,” Michaela says. “I'm furious, too, at those who now say that life was wonderful in East Germany. It was anything but wonderful."

Michaela and her parents also ask themselves why, 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, no one has been punished for making them spend the better part of their lives behind fences.
A very good question, indeed.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

I'm taking some time to enjoy this weekend... it has become autumn in its fullest here, and that means a fire in the fireplace to fend off the chill and dark that comes earlier each week for now.

It is Remembrance Sunday in the U.K. today, and there will be our own Remembrance come the 11th here at CompHyp.

So until the 'morrow, be well and safe, All. This thread is left open for comments if you have any topics you'd like discussed, or suggestions as to things to look into in more detail here. The usual rules still apply: Play Nice.

My thanks to All who come here, read and especially those who comment.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hun Sen throws in with Thaksin

...and the Thais then throw *out* diplomatic relations with Cambodia.

This is just monstrously stupid of Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen, by the way. He *can't* have believed that the Government of Thailand would sit idly by when he invited convicted-in-absentia criminal and former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawarta to an advisory post in his administration.

It ranks as doubly insulting given the delicate negotiations going on over the contested Preah Vihear temple site along the border between the two nations... negotiations that are the only answer other than fighting over the land and heritage site... negotiations that haven't been going very well.

The Kingdom of Thailand is not accustomed to being treated this way, and it is now abundantly clear that they are not going to leave this as a tit-for-tat.

This is going to get worse unless Hun Sen and his crew realize that their little personal gravy-train of foreign aid and quiet self-aggrandizement is going to come to a sudden halt if they don't back off supporting Thaksin.

It remains to be seen whether such rational conduct is in their capacity.

Perhaps some Thai overtures to the Sam Rainsy Party would get Hun Sen's attention?

Speaking of deals that don't work...

Speaking of negotiated international deals to "resolve" constitutional crises in various places, there seems to be a *not* unexpected hitch in the implementation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord in Honduras. The power-sharing deadline came, and the Micheletti government went ahead and has offered a grand coalition that includes all the viable political factions *except one*:
As the power-sharing deadline passed, Mr Micheletti said he had "finalised the process of confirming a unity government".

"Everybody, with the exception of Mr Zelaya, recommended Hondurans to lead the institutions of our country as part of the new government," he said.

Though Mr Zelaya had not submitted a list of names, Mr Micheletti said the government was "representative of a large ideological and political spectrum in our country and complies strictly with the agreement" signed last week.
Anyone who thinks that Manuel Zelaya has any intention of abiding by the agreement he signed is, given the obvious, clearly dreaming.

The danger remains that those dreams may yet be one of a Zelaya-supporting assault on the liberty of Honduras. They've tried almost everything else; they may be getting to the point of just casting aside all pretense of legitimacy and going for the armed-overthrow-of-the-nation route... which will require outsiders, as there simply isn't enough Zelaya-ista support for a successful insurgency to arise internally.

Watch where Patricia Rodas goes in the next few days; Watch the Nicaraguan border; and for goodness sake, start cooperating with the Honduran government again and bring down the smuggling aircraft that are constantly making it into Honduran territory. They likely are as not are the way the guns are being brought in.

Madagascar talks extended

There was a little set-back in the negotiations to resolve the Madagascar political impasse, but it is all better now...
Madagascar's leader returned to power-sharing talks on Friday, hours after storming out, reviving hopes the Indian Ocean island's political rivals might broker a deal on forming a unity government.

Andry Rajoelina said international mediators had assured him an agreement which saw him retain the office of president, struck last month between the country's main political movements, would remain in place.
That's not going to sit well with the camp of Marc Ravalomanana, and likely as not the same goes for the exile factions negotiating for the advantage of their respective sides.

Resumption of E.U. aid to Madagascar depends on an acceptable (to the Europeans) resolution to this stand-off. Talks will continue until November 7th, according to the lead international negotiator.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

ICC to take up Kenya election violence cases

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is placing the request to open the investigation, so that means that at least it will begin.

Here's the BBC News report on the matter. The formal request is scheduled for December of this year.

Bets are that we do not get to see the 10 names on the indictment list until then.


Previous items here at CompHyp on Kenya's election violence:

Jan 6th, 2009 Media Crackdown

Oct 26th, 2008 Waki Commission report

Mugabe gets time from the Kimberley Process

...undeservedly so, but that's what this report says:
Zimbabwe has escaped suspension from the Kimberly process - the certification scheme which regulates the sale of so-called blood diamonds.

Instead, the 70-member international diamond trade body has agreed to give Zimbabwe more time to reform its mining practices.
A specified length of time would at least have been something. This is, for all intents and purposes, nothing.

The pressure was on at the meeting from both human rights groups (who are *outraged*) and from political players who, knowing that the "Unity Government" of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) is meeting with SADC officials in Mozambique to try and patch together that sham so it holds together a little longer (Heaven knows, but why?).


By the way, here's a pop-quiz on unsourced / illegal trade / stolen diamonds:

What country is currently the major source of diamonds lacking certified origin?

Hint: They used to be a part of the Kimberley Process, but the current regime there pulled out.

2nd Hint, if you need it: Look at the label at the end of this thread. South(ern) Africa and...


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

...has no time...

Oh, this should go over well: gaimu daijin (Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs) Okada Katsuya (K. Okada) will not be meeting with American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prior to the visit by American President Obama to Japan later this month, because "(Japan) has no time (to meet with the U.S.)".


Parliamentary sessions.

Scheduling conflicts.

Okada daijin needs to rotate the air in his tires.

We're busy.

Oh, it might have something to do with the "great" impression SecDef Gates made on his last visit here. It might be that the guy wearing the American Ambassador's hat is still playing tourist. It could be that the Hatoyama naikaku (Hatoyama Administration) really doesn't want to do Defense things, or American things, and especially not American Defense things...

But this is more likely:
Correspondents said the cancellation was partly because the Diet, Japan's parliament, was in session, but also because there appeared to be disagreement within the Japanese government about the direction of policy.
No kidding.

In fact, the The Pushmi-pullyu comes to mind.

30 since it was 66, then 52 for 444

It has been thirty years...

Thirty years since the American Embassy in Iran was overrun.

66 hostages ended up in Iranian hands, 52 of them held through the entire incident of 444 days.

If you don't know much about this, this author *strongly* recommends Mark Bowden's Guests of the Ayatollah, the definitive reportage-after-the-fact on the entire incident.

But, if the facts of how this came to be and how it still is part of the War are too dire a tale for your mood, let me offer another part of the tale for your interest: The way six Americans evaded capture and the incredible heroics of Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor and his team. (Oh, some guys from Langley helped a little, too.)

May there be an American flag at that Embassy, open for consular affairs, in a Free Iran next year.


Last year on this, here at CompHyp.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fiji tosses Aus, NZ diplomats

The Bainimarama junta was looking to re-stack the High Court, and the Governments of Australia and New Zealand made it clear that *whoever* got hired into the jobs was going to get added to the travel ban on the junta leadership. Fiji, to say the least, disapproved:
The latest spat is over a group of expatriate judges from Sri Lanka that Fiji wants to hire to replace some of those fired by Bainimarama's administration in a power grab earlier this year.

Australia and New Zealand told the judges this week that if they take up the posts in Fiji they would be subject to travel bans the two countries have placed on all senior officials in Bainimarama's government because of the coup.


In April, Bainimarama ally President Ratu Josefa Iloilo fired all of Fiji's judicial officers after a senior court ruled that the commander's government was illegal. Since then, Bainimarama has been appointing new judges, with critics complaining they are not independent appointments.
And with that, hi-ho-and-out-they-go...

The Heads of Mission for Australia and New Zealand have been given 24 hours (Wednesday, local time) to be out of Fiji.

Freedom for Iran -- something is happening

There is something afoot for the 4th of November...

If that date doesn't connect with you, it will. There will be a thread posted here tomorrow about the history of it. But if you *do* get it...

...then this report and the fact that the students were tossing the insult "House of Spies" at the *Russian* Embassy...

...and this tantalizing possibility are both indications that the Green Movement is willing to risk everything to show that it stands against every premise the hard-liners in power have built their "legitimacy" upon.

It could be a heck of a day in Iran tomorrow.

Keep watching. Help, if you can.

Go, Bears!

No, this isn't a sports posting.
A bear killed two militants after discovering them in its den in Indian-administered Kashmir, police say.

Two other militants escaped, one of them badly wounded, after the attack in Kulgam district, south of Srinagar.
source: BBC News

One bear vs. four rifle-armed miltants... Go, Bears!

Mann and 4 others pardoned

Not going to say a whole lot about this, other that to say it is a good thing that they are going home.


CORRECTION: 3 4 others. As per The Times Online (UK)
Four other plotters - South African arms dealer Alan du Toit, who was also sentenced to 34 years, Sergio Cardoso, Jose Domingos and George Alerson were also pardoned and released.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Russia Wargames Polish Aggression?

This would be one for the "You're joking, right?" Department, except for the fact that at least two reports have it that Belarus-Russian exercises called Operation West were based on Poland as the aggressor, Belarus the victim of an "ethnic" uprising, and various means including nuclear missile strikes being required to win, as defined by the exercise set.

This wasn't just a paper exercise, either, apparently:
The manoeuvres are thought to have been held in September and involved about 13,000 Russian and Belarusian troops.
If reports are right, the Polish government is steaming about this, and given how faithful an ally the rest of NATO is looking to be right now, having Russia practicing storming Polish beaches has got to be almost maddening.

One question, though: The best open source on matters like this, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, has *nothing* on this as of right now... the link is included to allow a look there later to see if anything breaks.


A rather lengthy piece on the importance of Belarus to Eastern European security, its history, and the odd with-them-against-them alliance they have with Russia was posted last year, here at CompHyp.

MONUC gives up on FARDC

The Nord-Kivu (North Kivu) district of the Democratic Republic of Congo has been the scene of a long-running tale of horror, with rebel forces of all sort and Congolese Army (FARDC) troops taking turns massacring each other (and the local population). The fact that a significant number of the rebel forces still out there are drawn from the Hutu exiles from Rwanda... the Interahamwe killers of the Rwandan Genocide, now formed under the misnomer of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda; FDLR)... does *not* excuse misdeeds by any other party. Indeed, it almost demands that the forces fighting against the FDLR be demonstrably more legitimate, more correct, "better" than the murderous barbarians they pursue.

...but we are talking about the FARDC here... army slapped together from various tribal and patronage forces; little better than an association of warlords in the same uniform. The integration and reform plans of 2005 and 2007 have been little more than polite fictions to let MONUC, the United Nations peacekeepers in Congo, keep justifying their role in the drama.

But even MONUC is able to see what is happening now, and that means the end of international support may be on the way:
"We have decided that (Congo's peacekeeping mission) MONUC will immediately suspend its logistical and operational support to the army units implicated in these killings," Le Roy, who has been touring the region, said.

Le Roy named the units as being part of the 213th brigade of the Congolese army. But he did not say how many were affected by the move or what the implications were for UN support of the wider operations.
He probably didn't say so because he doesn't really have any one element to fix blame upon.

The FARDC has been so busy renumbering formations recently that it may be that he doesn't really know who and what is in the "213th Brigade" other than the leader's name on a piece of paper.

But far more likely, the field commanders at MONUC know exactly who is doing the killing... the thousands of rapes... and that it is widespread. It is the way these tribal gangs fight, nowadays; the difference this time is that some of them are wearing uniforms.

Nothing short of mass reform will turn the FARDC into a responsible warfighting force, and that reform will require a whole lot of arrests and drummings out. Until then, expect more of the same in tomorrow's news.

The real shame is that the FDLR needs to be run out of business, permanently. The dead of the Rwandan Genocide deserve better avengers than the FARDC. But...


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kimberley Process goes after Mugabe's thugs

We'll have to see if this can be made effective, but it seems clear now that, given the unapologetic non-compliance by the ZANU-PF -run Ministry of Mines, a KPCS suspension is in the works. In fairness, that is a weak hand to play:
A suspension would in effect stop the Zimbabwean government importing and exporting rough diamonds. However, the scheme is voluntary and the Zimbabwean authorities would be required to enforce it – the same authorities that are said to be heavily involved in illegal smuggling and violence at the mines.

Perhaps more importantly, a suspension would also put the onus on reputable traders and governments not to buy Zimbabwean diamonds, which dealers can easily identify by their coarse, pebble-like appearance. Those trading in non-KPCS diamonds risk expulsion from the world's 24 diamond bourses.
...but it might do something to cut into the Kleptocrat's revenues.

More importantly, it brings back into the public view the reality of how Mugabe's government of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) is staying in power... by stealing and killing.


Common and Uncommon (Crimes against Humanity).

Crimes that need be answered for.

"...was not suicide"

There have been two notable unsolved deaths in the last year of U.N. anti-proliferation experts. Both cases involved finding the body at the bottom of a stairwell... this time, a 17 story stairwell in the U.N.'s Vienna building.

To no great surprise, the post-mortem has come back with the opinion that this ...was not suicide.

The mystery is two-fold, however: Why would either of these investigators be killed, and why would similar-if-not-identical methods of their demise occur?

This is not time for the U.N. to engage in its usual "close the door; move along; nothing to see here" manner that it resorts to whenever scandal or accusations come their way. It is, however, time for the U.K. to invest a coroner's inquest into the matter *separate from the U.N. investigation*. The truth need be confirmed by more than interested parties.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Honduras: sold out

They (the Americans) forced an agreement.

Zelaya is supposedly coming back into power for four months.

Tom Shannon did the dirty work, and then...
Backers hugged Zelaya after hearing the news and one asked him to autograph a white cowboy hat resembling the one the deposed leader always wears.

The hat had already been signed by the top U.S. envoy for the Americas, Thomas Shannon, who led a delegation to Honduras this week to pressure the two sides to resolve the crisis after months of diplomacy failed to break the stalemate.
Hope you like that job you've got, Tom.

You've worked *so* hard to keep it.

Which is good, because you couldn't get another job with your reputation right now, big guy... unless Soros is hiring... or Zelaya... he's got lots of money and friends right now...

More on this, with sources, at Fausta's Blog and La Gringa's Blogicito.


Personal Note: This is the voice of disappointment speaking. What we are witnessing is the death of the concept of "Truth, Justice, and the American Way"... which isn't just Superman's credo, but was a way of seeing what was right in the world. The American government didn't always strive to achieve it, but those of us who saw the universal nature of the ideals behind that saying knew that working toward them was what was right, even if it wasn't ever exclusively "American". Days like today show just how far from those ideals the current American administration has gone.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New York Times and Reich, part 2

If you read this thread here at CompHyp, then you'll likely be pleased to see that on October 26th, the New York Times did finally print a version of the letter... except that it is actually a second letter written and submitted on the 21st.

They *should* have printed the original, but if Ambassador Reich is content with this publication (and he apparently is), then I shall leave it at that. It was nice to see that Mr. Dan Fisk got in his 2 cents on the original article as well... even though his letter sat since the 12th...

"...been treated in such a manner"

That manner being... detained and expelled.

The party doing the expelling... Mugabe's ZANU-PF run Security Services.

The party getting expelled... Manfred Nowak, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Now this author is no particular fan of Professor Nowak, to say the least, but when he gets used as a pawn in the contest between Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change even he gets some sympathy.

Read all about it. It is just another example of how the "Unity Government" and the role of SADC in promoting said accommodation is a sham.

Honduras tries the ICJ route

They've filed a case at the International Court of Justice against Brazil for harboring M. Zelaya in their embassy in Tegucigalpa.

So far, Brazil sneers at the attempt:
Brazil said the case had no basis as the current government, led by Roberto Micheletti, was illegitimate.

"The de facto Honduran government has no legitimacy to lodge a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice," a Foreign Ministry spokesman in Brasilia said.
ICJ ruling are, on matters where both parties are not in concord as to filing the case, pretty much just beautiful words on clean paper. That said, anything that would make it less comfortable to be assisting Zelaya would be a win of some kind for Honduras.

Here's hoping for a quick provisional judgement.

HRes872: an attempt to Terror-List Chavez' Venezuela

It is only an attempt, but if this Resolution finds traction (and maybe even passes), then there is going to be some serious pressure to get a State Sponsor of Terrorism listing for Hugo Chavez' regime in Venezuela... and all the embargoes and financial sanctions that go with that.

About bloody time someone got out the hammer.

As made abundantly clear by Douglas Farah's recent testimony before the American Congress, the Axis-of-Evil has been on a recruiting drive and Venezuela under Chavez is now actually looking like a threat (to people outside Venezuela; they've been a threat to liberty at home for a long time).

What in Sam Hill... ?

One of my former instructors was a great proponent of the "stupid is more likely than malice" analysis of an apparently counterproductive course taken by some actor. The logic was that there are usually enough other signs of vile intent to confirm that as the cause of the action, and in the absence of those pure incompetence was a far more likely explanation for an action.

Yeah, I'll even ascribe to that as a general case.

So, when I find relentless counterproductive conduct by the U.S. State Department (and a certain NSC staffer) and an attempt by certain biased U.S. Senators to revise the truth about events in Honduras, I'd say its is time to make a judgement as to *WHY?* these acts of persistent idiocy are happening.

I'd like to hope that it is all because one political faction in the Obama administration, that one controlling Foreign Policy, is boundlessly incompetent... It would explain why they have misread Iran, mishandled the Bout extradition case in Thailand, stumbled publicly on negotiations with China and Russia, and generally upset most every alliance the U.S.A. is a part of...

...because *if it malice*, then some very, very bad things are happening.

So forgive me, Professor, but this time I will hope for stupid but plan as if it is malice. The cost of not assuming malice has become prohibitively high.



two more examples of the course being followed:

SecState Clinton in Pakistan, as observed by John Hannah (link via J. Hinderaker at Powerline).

An assessment of the U.S. role in the current IAEA negotiations with Iran, by Robert Kagan.

Things are *not* looking good, folks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Angola Arms Case Convictions

Good News: there have finally been some convictions in the French trial of 42 individuals accused of participating in an illegal scheme that delivered French armaments to the government of Angola during the last part of the Angolan Civil War.

Bad News: of the four major convictions handed down, the two most punishing are six years imprisonment... on the two people who were being tried in absensia. Good luck serving those detention orders. Another got a suspended sentence... the one named Mitterrand. Gee, that's a shock, isn't it? Only former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua got hit with a jail term he is expected to serve... one year. That's nothing to sniff at, but not a big penalty either.

Ah well, at least the precedent has been set of being able to get convictions on Arms Trafficking / Bribery charges in modern France. Wonder if that means that the case of the French Frigate Scandal will ever be resolved (on the French side)?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Exporting the SM-3

Oh, that can't be much of a problem; the United States does choose to export a lot of its advanced weapons systems to allies (and occasionally to not-so-allied nations). The only stop sign on that road in recent times has been the F-22A Raptor fighter aircraft... which the Obama administration chose to cease production on rather than to extend manufacturing to allow an export market ...because that aircraft is deemed so highly sensitive that not even America's closest allies like Japan and Australia could be trusted to guard its secrets. (Don't even ask if the Israelis were in line to buy some.)


Japan is the co-producer of the Standard SM-3 Block 2A, the current American and Japanese naval Ballistic Missile Defense interceptor...

And since Japan has had a *no-weapons-export-to-anyone* policy since 1976, with a single exception put in place in 1983: sales to the United States...

...then there can't be a problem when along comes U.S. SecDef Robert Gates to ask Japan to export the SM-3 to third countries in support of the Obama administration's new "plan" for BMD in Europe, can there?

chotto matte (Jp: "wait a moment")

When you need our manufacturing to make part of a system, we're your trusted pal. As we then must trust you as well, of course we'll deliver the system to whomever you think should get it.

When we need the best fighter-interceptor available to replace a whole lot of aging aircraft *which by the way defend your bases here as well*, then we are unworthy of being trusted with the F-22A.

Given that being the current relationship, explain to me please *WHY* we should change our laws for your benefit again.


And they wonder back in Washington D.C. why various Defense negotiations go sideways.

Urgent Fury remembrance

It is Thanksgiving Day on Grenada today.

If you need a reminder as to why, one need only look back to this day last year here at CompHyp.

Operation Urgent Fury. 26 years ago.

As if all the problems were interrelated...

So many of the issues in the world are run together in the media that it almost begs doubt any time more than one of the terrible things happening out there keys into another of the troubles... but sometimes they do. This one shouldn't be a surprise, actually:
Ugandan rebels desperate for supplies attacked a camp for Darfuri displaced persons in south Sudan, killing five people, the region's army said on Saturday.
The reason why it shouldn't be a surprise is that during the years when the Lord's Resistance Army (L.R.A.) was spreading its war into South Sudan, the explanation as to why a "Ugandan rebel force" would be fighting Sudanese was that the North Sudan (Khartoum; the al-Bashir regime) was the primary supply path and patron of the L.R.A. in a ploy to prevent the South from having a secure rear-area.

After this year's less-than-successful campaign by several nations to corner and kill the L.R.A., the rebels have become a dispersed force with some of them in the dense Ituri Forest region of the D. R. Congo and others scattering into the Central African Republic's outlying territory along the Sudanese border.

It may well be that those latter forces are now in motion northward, intent on regaining a line of support (if not supply) in North Sudan-controlled Darfur.

...and that would bring Uganda's nightmare to the doorsteps of the already hard-pressed people of Darfur.


Mean-spirted Aside: One has to wonder if this will get al-Bashir another "gold star" from American Special Envoy J. Scott Gration and his negotiators.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The 'Root (26)

It is one of the things that has defined the last year for this author: coming to terms with the fact that there have been more years since some of the events that shaped (my) life and world view than (I) lived before they happened. Even ones I could only watch from afar.

Oct. 23rd, 1983

Beirut, Lebanon.



A previous post on this item here at CompHyp.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Negotiations with Russia will not be easy..."

Given the apparent tendency of the Hatoyama naikaku (spec. Cabinet; in usage, Administration) to think that everything ever done by previous administrations is fair game for a re-think... cf. U.S. Base negotiations and the Privatization of Japan Post, just to pick two obvious examples... was a joy to hear Maehara Seiji (S. Maehara), who holds both the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism portfolio and the State Ministry for Okinawa, the Northern Territories and Disaster Management, use the opportunity of a visit to the closest point of approach to the islands to say the truth:
"Historically, the Northern Territories are an integral part of Japan. It is literally an illegal occupation (by Russia) and Japan should keep saying so."
(Note on the linked article: The Islands of the Northern Territories were occupied over the course of August 18th and September 3rd of 1945... after the announcement of surrender. The article leaves that in doubt.)

S. Maehara also spoke about the coming round of negotiations with Russia on the sidelines of the November (see Edit, below) East Asia Meetings as "...will not be easy but we will do our best".

Hm. That sounds all too much like the Italy G8 summit sideline, which resulted in nothing. Why is there a vague sense of worry coming into play about now?


That would be because the guy back in '56 who negotiated the Joint Declaration was also named Hatoyama. Signed the letter under situational duress (over a thousand Japanese "internees" were still in Soviet hands in 1956), but that didn't seem to overmuch influence his role. That Declaration only covered restoring diplomatic activities, although it famously includes a promise by the Soviets to hand over two of the four Northern Territories "after the conclusion of a Peace Treaty".

How swell of them.

They want the Hatoyama of today to be as compliant as the Hatoyama of yesterday, and have said so:
Russia has already begun its approach to Hatoyama and his government, as evidenced by the prompt call on the prime minister by Ambassador Bely. Following their meeting, Andrei Nesterenko, spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, told reporters that Moscow hopes that Hatoyama "will make the right decision like his grandfather."
Did I mention that Hatoyama Kiichirou (K. Hatoyama), the son of Hatoyama Yukio (Y. Hatoyama; the current P.M.), is living in Moscow *now* as a student at University of Moscow?

It is either friendship or one heck of a potential duress item, and either would suit the goals of the Putin-Medvedev administration come negotiations time.

That vague sense of worry just got a whole lot less vague.

S. Maehara is probably going to have to go up against two Prime Ministers to win through on this.

...not easy, indeed.


*Edit: the East Asia meetings began late this week. Oddly, media reports here on Y. Hatoyama's meeting schedule do not mention any scheduled time with Russian representatives. There may be something in November that was conflated with the East Asia meetings in the previous reports.

Monday, October 19, 2009


...elsewhere for another day or so.

In the meantime, here's an open thread for any comments / topic suggetions since y'all didn't get one on Sunday this week.

Be well and safe, All.

Things should be happening again here not later than Wednesday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The New York Times wrongs Reich

One of the pleasant parts of doing this weblog is the associations one makes, and the associations that then follow. Ambassador Otto J. Reich would be one of those associations-of-the-second-degree.

Now Amb. Reich is a proper gentleman, and that means well able to take care of himself in a dispute, but when he lets on to colleagues that he has been wronged then it is time for us to stand up for him. Now is just such a time.

The New York Times published an article on October 8th of this year that misrepresents an interview with O. Reich, to which he rightfully takes strong exception...

But five days after he wrote a Letter to the Editor, it seems clear that the NYT has no intention of actually answering his letter nor printing it. Fine. That is their choice. This is mine.

Here is the Letter to the Editor:
To The Editor,
The New York Times
Dear Sir:

The October 8 article by Ginger Thompson “Leader Ousted, Honduras Hires U.S. Lobbyists” is erroneous, misleading, and thoroughly misrepresents the lengthy interview I gave her. Through innuendo, it implies that I am one of the aforementioned “lobbyists” hired by the Government of Honduras, and that I am behind the Congressional “hold” on two Obama Administration officials. Those allegations are false, as I repeatedly told her.

Though she says that I claim to not have lobbied, Thompson cleverly implies otherwise by associating my name with some who have lobbied. In fact, my name is the first that appears to document the article’s hypothesis. Ms. Thompson is so determined to “prove” that I communicated my views to the US Congress, apparently in what she thinks is some nefarious manner, that she misreports. For example, she states “For his part, Mr. Reich sent his thoughts to members of Congress by e-mail” and cites the following: “We should rejoice that one of the self-proclaimed “21st-century socialist” allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen.”

This quote is an excerpt from an article I published in National Review Online on September 28, with Thompson’s selection in italics, as follows: “The U.S. had nothing to do with Zelaya’s removal, and it should do nothing to force his return. Rather, we should rejoice that one of the self-proclaimed “21st-century socialist” allies of Chávez has been legally deposed by his own countrymen.” I did not send this “thought” to any member of Congress, as she states; instead it was published and freely available online.

Thompson further states that “… Reich said he had used his connections to push the agenda of the de facto government, led by Roberto Micheletti.” I said no such thing! I did say I believe the Obama Administration policy is wrong and I explained my opinion. I have not supported the “Micheletti agenda;” I have only criticized my own government’s misguided policies.

All my testimony, op-eds, articles and media interviews are my own doing. No one directs me, no one pays me (in fact, these efforts cost me money, as they take considerable time from my consulting practice) and no one else reviews my statements before they are published. I told Thompson that I do this because I see it as the duty of a citizen in a free society to dissent from his government’s policies when his conscience so dictates.

Finally, I told Thompson repeatedly that I oppose Congressional “holds" on nominees since as a several-times Presidential appointee I have been the subject of three such delays - one by Chris Dodd and two by Jesse Helms. None of this was mentioned by her. Indeed, there is another false implication that I am behind the holds of State Department nominees Arturo Valenzuela and Tom Shannon. Fortunately, both of the nominees are personal friends are *and know these allegations are false.

All the above is on the record and I urge you to print it in the interest of journalistic objectivity.


Otto J. Reich
reproduced here by the expressed permission of Otto Reich Associates LLC, 16.Oct 2009. Editorial correction made at the * mark for clarity.