Thursday, April 30, 2009

ANZAC Day; Camerone Day

With all the distractions of the last few days, I've been unacceptably lax about keeping track of the date. ANZAC Day came and went (25.April) without the much-deserved 'thank you' that called for. Both countries are still doing their part: the Kiwis are about to send back in their Special Operations troops to Afghanistan (they've been in before) and the Joint Task Forces / ISAF will have another battalion of Diggers in the line soon as well (maybe 700 more troops in total, between 450 regulars, support forces and then Commonwealth SAS). Bless you and thank you, all.

I'm sure that there were other worthy memorials recently as well, and my regrets for any oversight on my part.


But come the end of April, there is one day that never slips past...

...the brave stand of Capitaine Danjou and the 65... Hacienda Camarón, April 30th, 1863. Camerone Day.

"Nous avons des cartouches et ne nous rendrons pas!"
Jean Danjou, Capitaine, Légion étrangère

Sadly, they didn't expel Dmitry

About the same time that the Russian Federation announced that they were taking over border control in Abkhazia and South Ossetia along the de-facto line of control, and drew a rebuke from NATO for doing so...
NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the signing of the pacts contravened the peace deals brokered by the EU after Russia's brief war with Georgia last August.

"This is in clear contravention of the 12th August and 8th September agreements negotiated by the European Union and is not in the interests of long-term peace and security in the South Caucasus region," Appathurai told reporters.
...NATO also got around to dealing a little pay-back for the Estonian Spy Scandal back in February...
"Two Russian diplomats have been told they are not welcome here," the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The pair were attached to the mission Russia has at NATO headquarters although it is not a member of the alliance.

The diplomat said they were expelled over the case of Herman Simm, an Estonian jailed for more than 12 years for treason in February for handing more than 2,000 pages of information to handlers in Russia's SVR Foreign Intelligence Service.
Sadly, Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's Ambassador to the Atlantic Alliance, was not on the DLTDHYITAOTWO list ("Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out"). Ah well, hope springs eternal.

Curacao Hezbollah Drugs-Arms Ring busted

The Washington Post offers this AP report on the arrest of 17 people, including four Lebanese for alleged involvement in a Drug Trafficking Ring. Citing police chief Carlos Casseres, who said at a news conference:
Some of the proceeds, funneled through informal Middle Eastern banks, went toward supporting groups linked to the militant Hezbollah organization in Lebanon, according to Casseres. The smuggling ring also allegedly forwarded requests from Lebanon for arms to be shipped from South America.

"We have been able to establish that this group has relations with international criminal organizations that have connections with the Hezbollah," prosecutor Ludmila Vicento said.
Pretty clear example of the things spoken of here previously (multiple times); that the Terror-Smuggling-Nexus has spread to the shores of the Caribbean, and that the threat that entails goes far beyond simple drug smuggling.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Phase 5

The WHO has now updated their pandemic warning / preparedness notice for the Mexican "swine flu" A/H1N1 outbreak through 4 and up to Phase 5, reflecting human-to-human transmission in two or more countries (Mexico and the U.S.A.; no surprise there).

What that means for Japan is this: Border surveillance, already in place, will be re-enforced; Readiness preparedness for managing any outbreak has begun to move from the planning room to the clinics. Kyoudou (Kyodo) wire service is now reporting that Masuzoe Youichi (Y. Masuzoe), the Kousei Roudou Daijin (Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare) has ordered the preparation of "fever clinics" at medical institutions nationwide.

To say the government is taking all prudent precautions may be an understatement. As of this morning (Thursday, local time) Japan has *no* confirmed or suspected cases of the influenza in question. But the cost is relatively small and the preparations might just be the difference between there being a major event and the government receiving a bit of snark over all the effort. If it were my call, with the resources available, I'd have ordered the same precautions.

Six reports you should read

While each of these deserves a detailed commentary of their own, matters mundane simply preclude my having the time to address them properly. Here they are, for your interest and general information, pending further discussion:

Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador, wins re-election. The Oppo's carried the Guayaquil Mayoralty, but the country as a whole went toward Correa's party by 55%.

Manuel Rosales was granted Asylum in Peru, and Peruvian President Alan Garcia claims this "will not disturb" bilateral relations between Peru and Venezuela. Good luck with that. Venezuela has withdrawn their Ambassador in protest.

Speaking of people under international warrant: INTERPOL has issued a warrant for Russian State Duma Deputy Adam Delimkhanov in the case of the murder of Chechen commander Sulim Yamadayev in Dubai last month. This case is the latest event in what appears to be a series of assassinations targeting rivals of Kremlin-backed Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.

The Seychelles Coast Guard, in cooperation with the Spanish Navy, has captured 9 pirates in the waters of the Seychelles believed to have participated in the attempted hijacking of the cruise ship MSC Melody. Spanish, French, and Indian Navy patrols are now active in the Seychelles region. More at EagleSpeak on this item.

The civil disorder in Madagascar grows worse, with the arrest of four members of the Ravalomanana faction for inciting violence and the possession of weapons. In addition, a former member of ousted-President M. Ravalomanana's Presidential Guard has been accused of plotting the murder of the wife of coup-leader President A. Rajoelina.

More Kivu troubles in the D.R. Congo are happening. The arrest of L. Nkunda has left the CNDP under the leadership of J. B. Ntaganda, who is a wanted fugitive from ICC war-crimes prosecution, but that hasn't stopped the Congolese Army (FARDC) from integrating the remaining CNDP forces into their command and preparing a new offensive in South Kivu as an expansion of ongoing operations against the Interahawme Hutu-based factions of the FDLR. The MONUC U.N. peacekeepers have stated they can not continue to support the FARDC if Ntaganda is involved, but internal reports show that the MONUC administrators have known since April 8th of his role.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Schedule Change

My regrets, folks, but the unexpected is still a major factor in my life. I'm obliged elsewhere.

The Weekly N&C will post later this week.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

I'm not planning any other new discussion threads today (unless the bottom drops out of things somewhere in the world); We'll have to see if things can wait until the Weekly item come Monday (North American time zones).

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

My thanks to Fausta Wertz of Fausta's Blog for her assistance and collaboration this week on the Rosales story. It was a pleasure, ma'am.

There are no other site admin matters of note for now.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Flu to You

The mass media is full of reports on the Mexican-origin H1N1 Influenza outbreak, and it certainly is a serious matter for Mexican health officials and one that bears watching across the globe, but...

The World Health Organization (WHO) is on the case and has only gone to Condition 3 of their 6 step response scale. General screening of travelers and livestock is the prudent response at this point, and that is being done.

The U.S.A. and other countries adjacent to Mexico with limited border controls (at best) are likely at some risk, and well, the government of the U.S.A. is swinging into full-on political mode on this.
The White House plans a briefing Sunday afternoon to discuss swine flu and the government's response.
The officials who will discuss the situation include Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and the acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Richard Besser.
(bold by me)

Your doom is sealed. Sorry, Yanks; we'll miss you.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's the little things in the news

It is the little things buried in the news that often are the most telling...

Here's an example: A report by Reuters on the investigation into the attempted murder of "Yellow Shirt" People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Sondhi Limthongkul, which remains unsolved despite claims in the Bangkok Post claiming a military role in the attack. Late in the report, it changes focus to give information on upcoming protests by "Red Shirt" activists of Thaksin Shinawartra's United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) party. It concludes with
Thaksin, who lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a two-year jail term on conflict of interest charges, was not expected to address the rally as he did previous protests by video link.

Thailand revoked Thaksin's passport after the latest violence and has urged governments to deny him refuge, but the wily former premier has eluded Bangkok's efforts to extradite him.

Thaksin has a diplomatic passport from Nicaragua and showed up in the West African country of Liberia last week, saying he was scouting for investment opportunities.
Now it is well known that Thaksin has access to the U.K., and significant business interests there, but it has been something of a wonder that he has stayed ahead of arrest while he seemingly carelessly jet-sets around the world.

Now you know. He's untouchable.

The current Government of Nicaragua can be bought.

Given the access groups like Iran's Pasdaran (IRGC) have to Nicaragua, this should pretty much put chills up the spine of any national security officer in the world.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A solid win for the ANC, but... 2/3rds majority.

Reuters is now reporting a 66.1% vote share for the ANC with ~95% of the ballots counted.

The Democratic Alliance looks to have won a majority in West Cape, and has just under 16.4% nationwide.

COPE, the ANC splinter party, underperformed expectations and has come in at just under 7.5% of the total vote.

So bravo for Zuma and the ANC, but bravo as well to the opposition. Denying the ANC government the power to change the constitution without consultation and agreement is good for the Republic.

footnote: Given the relationship J. Zuma has with Robert Mugabe and the ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)... which is unfriendly to say the least... this win is good news on that issue as well.

Red Notice for Rosales

Manuel Rosales, one of the Venezuelan opposition targeted by the latest Chavez-inspired persecutions, is now under a "Red Notice" warrant from INTERPOL as a fugitive. He is reported to be in Peru, seeking Political Asylum.


Fausta of Fausta's Blog has a full work-up on the situation.


El Universal (in English) has several reports related to this item.

*Here* is the statement from Nicolás Maduro, Foreign Minister of Venezuela, on the declaration of Rosales as an international fugitive.
"We hope that the request we are making through the international mechanisms of capture and search of criminals such as Manuel Rosales is granted by all the countries of the region and all the countries in the world and is complied strictly, just like Venezuela does," Maduro said...
which may also be a reference to *this*.

Rosales has claimed that the arrest was part of a plot to kill him.
"They wanted to put me in jail. They were going to send me to a prison called La Planta, characterized by inhumane conditions... They wanted to put me in jail and then somebody would kill me... I decided to leave Venezuela to protect my integrity because they could have killed me and later they would have said that I had fought with them (the inmates)," Rosales said.

Meanwhile, the City Council of Maracaibo has appointed Daniel Ponne as the replacement to Rosales as Mayor, pending a new election.

Another FARC arrest... but in Venezuela?

Yainer Esneider Acosta Peña, the supposed leader of the FARC's 45th Front operation, has been arrested in Zulia State, Venezuela and turned over to Colombia's DAS security service.

Noticia24 confirms the report. (Spanish-language source)

Ok, I'll be the one to ask; What did this guy do to blow his "protected" status?

Well, for service to somebody

Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the President of the Republic of the Fiji Islands, has chosen at this time to award a Companion of the Order of Fiji to reinstated Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who just happens to also be the head of the military and chief Junta plotter in the 2006 military coup that, well, brought the job of President to R. J. Iloilo.

As to the service to humanity part of the award...

I'm not quite sure how the crackdown on Free Speech and enforcement of censorship (since his April 11th return to the Premiership) quite qualifies.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The battlefront has moved... closer

Efforts by the Government of Pakistan to reach a kind of "live and let live" accommodation with the various faces of the Pakistani Taliban have led to: failure throughout the FATA (Tribal Territories; the central borderland with Afghanistan); a concession on the part of the nation in Swat, and now...

A Taliban walk-over in Buner, the next territory closer to the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

The always excellent Bill Roggio over at Long War Journal has a superb analysis, with multiple Pakistan sources cited and a very clear map showing just how bad things really are.

It is so bad that even U.S. Secretary of State H. Clinton seemed to notice,
calling the (situation in the) nuclear state a "mortal threat" to the security of the world.
Well, yes. The unasked question at the Congressional Hearing she was speaking at was "Has your Department come to believe that just recently?"

That was then

Self-exiled "former" President Marc Ravalomanana:
Last week, he told Reuters that he was open to sharing power with Andry Rajoelina, Africa's youngest president, who has accused Ravalomanana of being a dictator.
But, now...
Ousted Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana has rejected sharing power with the new army-backed president in a move likely to entrench the deadlock between the two camps.
Can you say "failed negotitating ploy"?

source -- Reuters

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Here we go, South Africa

The pundits are all calling this for J. Zuma and the ANC, but it remains to be seen whether the South African Election today will be a walkover.
The ANC looks assured of a fourth straight win since defeating white minority rule in 1994 under Nelson Mandela and will make its leader Jacob Zuma president weeks after he was able to get corruption charges dropped on a technicality.

But the party faces an unprecedented challenge from opposition parties hoping to capitalise on frustration over corruption, poverty and crime, and could lose the two-thirds majority that gives it the right to change the constitution and entrench its power further.
Here's hoping for a clean election, fair representation and a better Republic of South Africa for the process.

Operation Pathway -- 0-12

The title pretty much says it all. Operation Pathway, the emergency British Anti-Terrorism operation that detained 12 suspects to supposedly thwart an Easter Bombing threat has turned up...


no bomb factory.

no evidence leading to indictments.

all 12 suspects released without charge.


There is going to be political hell to pay on this one.

If we have Chavez, why do we want God... ?

This is the item I mentioned yesterday that was waiting to be sourced and dated.

The Catholic Bishops of Venezuela have been one of the strong points in the opposition to President Hugo Chavez' centralization and seizure of power. For their trouble of doing so, they have been on the receiving end of political denunciations, an assault on the diplomatic dignity of the Vatican, and acts that can only be called gangsterism (Spanish source, sorry) like these threats to life and property made last September.

It seems those were only the warm-up.

Here is an image of a pamphlet thrown in a Church in Táchira State on April 5th... Palm Sunday.

It reads (translation):
If we have Chávez, why do we want God, Death to Priests. Socialism advances.

all motors at maximum speed
I questioned the source, indirectly, and was told "(He) assured me that (he) received the pamphlet from (his) friend who was vacationing in San Cristóbal, who got it on Palm Sunday."

We've seen this before somewhere, haven't we?

Ah yes, we have. The French Revolution. The Reign of Terror.

That killed what, 30,000 priests?

Astute watchers of Venezuela have seen a pattern of events over the last few weeks:

. The M. Rosales accusation; A pre-written judgment against him in the hands of the judge before any trial even started; and the efforts to internationalize the arrest of Rosales after his flight to Peru.

.. The pamphlet mentioned above.

... A communique' from "La Piedrita" demanding the closure of Globovision.

.... A possible legal challenge to Teodoro Petkoff, a leftist politician/journalist in opposition.

..... An effort by Podemos Party parliamentarians to "neutralize" Social Democrat parliamentarian Ismael Garcia.

It adds up to Chavez, the Chavistas, and the goons that operate in their shadow, all believe that they have freedom of action... that no one is going to stop them now.

Given the way things went at the Congress of the OAS (Trinidad, April 2009), I'd say they are reading things all too well.

There have been no English-language reports of the pamphlet event made, so far as can be found.

My thanks to my excellent Spanish-sources reader for passing word to me of this.

FARC arrest reveals their operations in Panama

The Panama Star reports that Luis Orovio Lobon, aka “Mello,” in a house in Aguablanca, Cali has now provided documented proof of the FARC drug-and-gun smuggling in Darien along the Panama-Colombia border.

This was a bonus find, frankly, as the Colombian authorities were backtracking a link hoping it led to "Mono Jojoy", Jorge Briceño Suarez, the current priority-number-one FARC leader targeted by the authorities.

The arrest of "Mello" may also finally solve the case of the kidnapping of Juan Cecilio Padron, a Cuban-American, which has been attributed to the FARC.

Since the capture of the "Raul Reyes" computer files, it has been abundantly clear that FARC operatives have long-established activities from Panama through Costa Rica on north as far as Mexico. In several cases now, those operations have been interrupted or shut down by law-enforcement actions.

Here's hoping that this arrest will accelerate the dismantlement of the FARC's Panama operations.

Minty, again

Apparently, A.S. Minty still has the support of the Republic of South Africa (and lots of friends in the U.N. bureaucracy) in his quest for the IAEA Director-Generalship.

Thankfully, it is looking to be a better race this time than the Amano-Minty stalemate was...
Luis Echavarri of Spain and Ernest Petric of Slovenia have also been endorsed as candidates by their governments.
As has Y. Amano, who won the plurality in the last vote but missed the threshold majority.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rosales seeking asylum?

There is one report in now that Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales is now seeking asylum in Peru.

He has been functionally hounded from office as the Mayor of Maracaibo, and has been in hiding since last month. See this CompHyp thread for related material on the supposed case against him.

Heads Up on something else:

I've got one more item on Venezuela, related to the Chavez criticism of the Catholic Church in the country, but...

...I can't open-source the item yet for confirmation.

So stay tuned late today and I'll see what I can say about the matter.

83 on this day

The lads up at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities OTC program didn't overlook the day, and neither shall we here.

Happy Birthday, Your Majesty.

...we'll save any further ceremony for the "official" celebration in June, though.

Something... bad.

The Republic of Georgia and The Russian Federation have been at each other again politically, mostly over the upcoming NATO exercises in Georgia next month, but now...

*This item* from the AP just hit the wires: The Russians have been moving forces up to the line-of-control.
Peter Semneby, the EU special representative for the South Caucasus, said the Russian military presence was clearly "significantly larger" that it had been.

"The timing is peculiar," Semneby said. "It creates an additional source of nervousness and uncertainty."
This could be a very bad thing.


Galrahn at Information Dissemination is already all over this story and has been following things since observers noticed a large deployment of the Black Sea Fleet for no apparent reason last week.

52,000 hostages liberated

The media cheers when a single hostage held by a terrorist band or criminal is rescued safely... I know; I rejoice when that happens as well.

So how big a celebration should be planned for the successful rescue of 52,000 people who were held as "human shields" by the LTTE terrorists?

The Sri Lankan Army is in the midst of the final push to destroy the LTTE military wing on the ground in Sri Lanka, and have taken all the precautions reasonably asked of them. Where the next challenge lies is in the care of those displaced persons and in conducting the last stage of the campaign with a mind to rescuing those remaining people held against their will... Which might number as many as 50,000 more according to the ICRC...

No quarter to the armed insurgents from this point, either.
The operation gathered speed after the military's noon (0630 GMT) deadline for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to surrender passed without any word from the separatists, in what appears to be the final act in Asia's longest-running war.
They had their chance.

May fortune and good planning favor the Sri Lankan Army, and all who can be rescued brought out safely.

Update: Reuters Alertnet is now revising the figure to 62,000 rescued.

Bygones? Bygones!?!

In yet another example of the fecklessness of the ruling regime (the real regime; Mugabe's) in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) and their casual disregard for anything like property rights...
Zimbabwe's central bank governor admits he took money from the bank accounts of private businesses and foreign aid groups without permission to keep the country's cash-strapped ministries running.
He also claimed that since there is a new coalition government, it is time "to let bygones be bygones".

I've got your "bygones" right here, mister.

The day will come when justice will be served as to the murders, thefts and repressions committed by your boss, your so-called political party... and you.

The only thing you have in your favor is that your admitted conduct barely rates the time it would take a judge to sentence you for stealing money.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Weekly N&C for April 20th, 2009

How bad is it at Durban II?

The answer to that is rather different depending upon what one’s political agenda is. “Durban II”, or more correctly the United Nations –sponsored World Conference against Racism (WCAR) 2009, Durban Review Conference, is supposed to be one of the premier international dialogues on Human Rights. However, the ongoing meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, is living up to the reputation earned at the first session at Durban, South Africa, in 2001… of being an open exercise in grievance-mongering by bands of agenda-driven non-European nations and their NGO supporters.

Allow for a moment a brief recapitulation of the inherent contradictions carried over from Durban I:

Slavery and Colonialism – much ado about reparations for the Atlantic slave trade, so much that even the then-President of Senegal was appalled by the single-minded greed associated with targeting the European nations historically involved in such; an entirely unwarranted conflation of Colonialism (specifically Imperialism) in Africa with the slave trade; no mention what so ever of either the North African or Arabian slave trades nor the roughly contemporaneous slave-taking and selling of the Ottoman Empire. The final document produced by Durban I managed to soft-pedal the issue by condemning the history of slavery but stopping short of openly advocating reparations.

Israel, Zionism and Racism – A blatant attempt was made by the Arab League representatives to resurrect the Zionism=Racism charge long a part of U.N. General Assembly speeches, to codify it in a diplomatic document and to update it (for the media, apparently) by associating Israeli acts with Apartheid. To call that a stretch of the facts is probably the kindest thing one can say about that… unless one is former-President J. Carter of the U.S.A. who has sold books and speaking engagements based on his willingness to make that claim publicly. This item as well didn’t make it into the final document as a direct charge, but the intent of the language was so obvious that neither the U.S.A. nor Israel attended the conference in protest.

Oh, and one more note about process, if you please.

The Durban I final statement, like all major summit and international conference statements, was entirely written by diplomats and staffers *before* the Conference opened. The Conference itself was simply the public opportunity for all the parties with vested political interests in what would be produced to stand up and give speeches on the topic and get their pictures taken by the world’s mass media. It would take a particularly bad (Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium –level bad) case of diplomatic loss-of-manners to throw things into disorder. As all the invited nations to such events already know the final document’s wording before the meeting, the acceptable thing to do if a nation (or leader) can not tolerate the terms is to simply not show up for the Conference.

So Durban I barely escaped being a total failure by producing a watered-down document of no binding value on any of the major contested issues, but not without drawing a boycott from two nations who found the final statement unacceptable: the U.S.A. on principle; Israel on grounds of self-preservation. In the end, only one measurable result occurred and it certainly wasn’t the intended result of the statement drafters… UN High Commissioner on Refugees Mary Robinson lost all support she had from the U.S.A. when it came time to renew her appointment, and shortly thereafter she lost her job.

Now fast-forward to the present. Eight years later, and a Conference under the same auspices chartered to “Review” the process that produced the Durban I statement. This time the same issues have come back, although the exact wording of the slavery terms still lacks either breadth or reparations-mongering, and one more has been thrown into the mix: The specific intention to label a number of academic and political challenges to the nature of the religion of Islam as “Islamophobia” and to find that equitable with the prohibitions against Anti-Semitism.

(I refuse to even discuss here the hysterical side of the argument, nor to attempt to develop any case that Islam teaches or advocates an ideology considered a risk to world peace, so don’t even start in on that sort of debate. Cf. the dismantlement of State Shintou in the post-World War II occupation of Japan for arguments at the time as to why destroying a religion could be considered justifiable if you really must, but do it elsewhere.)

The challenge I am more than willing to make to the WCAR II DRC final document is that it is a direct affront to the principle of law in many, many societies that investigation and political discourse upon a system of social control is not merely acceptable, but a fundamental part of the inalienable right to free speech. It certainly wasn’t always so, but like lese majeste laws, they are now considered a part of the unenlightened past (at least according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

Any religion (Organized Religion; one with canon law) that places itself as an instrument of law or governance *as a state* has cast aside any protections it may have had exempting it from Free Speech challenges to that system of governance. There are many examples: The instant that the State of Israel declares it is “a Jewish state”, then criticism of the applicability of religious law to the general populace *is a valid criticism of the government*; The period where the Irish Free State based its constitution upon Papal approval of all articles placed *the role of Catholic authorities* in valid claim when challenging the codification of Irish Law. But *neither* case would justify the open-ended insult of followers of either religion. That could, and should, be taken to task as sectarianism of the worst kind.

The Organization of Islamic States, in their “contribution” to the WCAR II DRC final document, has expressly placed Islam above any such distinctions.

No surprise that, really. Like pre-Reformation Catholicism, the religion and the state are one, in their view. Islam is by intent a system of governance and social order that by design results in Islamic Theocratic States. That is one (of many) reasons why nations like Malaysia find themselves on the horns of a dilemma any time they attempt to move toward a more secular form of governance, and why nationalist states like Egypt are regularly declared “apostate regimes” suitable only for re-conquest at some unspecified date unless they cast aside such secularism.

So much for the right of self-determination of each of the peoples of the world.

So much for the unalienable right to Free Speech.

Nine countries have looked upon the WCAR II DRC final statement and found it so egregiously offensive to the principles of, well of the U.N. for one thing, that they are boycotting the Geneva session.

Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Poland, and the United States of America

My only question is “Why only nine?”



There is some confusion over Canada’s participation as they have sent an observer, but are not participating in the session statement.

The conference is in session right now, and President Ahmadinejad of Iran has been speaking…

He said the magic word, it seems, as several nations' representatives just walked out.

Here is a rough transcript of his remarks. Expect a proper transcript to be available soon via wire services.

Here is the FOXNews and AP version, as of now: They report that representatives from Britain, France and Canada (observer) joined the walk out.

End Notes:

Here was the situation as reported going into the session.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon tried to put the best face on this mess yesterday.

Here was the German Foreign Minister’s statement on their withdrawal.

Here is the General Information on WCAR I and WCAR II DRC, from wiki-p. Links in the sources will direct you to the specific statements and proceedings. As always, when using Wikipedia, please check the sources.

WCAR I, 2001, Durban, South Africa

WCAR II DRC, 2009, Geneva, Switzerland

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

I'm not planning any new discussion threads today (unless the bottom drops out of things somewhere in the world); We'll have to see if things can wait until the Weekly item come Monday (North American time zones).

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

There are no site admin matters of note for now.

As always, thanks for coming here!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Question for the Japanese Government

So Ms. Roxana Saberi, dual citizen of the United States of America and the Islamic Republic of Iran, has been convicted in a secret trial on charges of Espionage... the third set of charges leveled against her after her arrest in January. Harsh, and likely unreasonable treatment of a practicing journalist with credits like the BBC and NPR on her resume (likely unreasonable as no evidence what so ever has been released by Iran in regards to her case).

Her mother is Japanese.

If, as would have been usual, her mother saw to registering the child at birth in the koseki (family registry) of her mother's family line, then is she not presumed under Japanese Law to be a national of Japan as well?

After all, one doesn't need to have the family name "Fujimori" to be given proper and due consideration of nationality.

Do they?

Philippines ICRC hostages: one rescued

The reports rolled in earlier today of the successful rescue of one of the three ICRC staffers held hostage by Abu Sayyaf terrorists on Jolo Island in the Philippines. One other, a Philippine national, was released earlier. The Philippines military and local self-defense militiamen pulled off this rescue in a nasty fight, but they did bring out Mr. Andreas Notter, safe and as sound as one can be after three months in the hands of Abu Sayyaf.

The ICRC has now released a formal statement on his condition, and offered hopes for the safe return of Mr. Eugenio Vangi, the remaining hostage.

In what was perhaps an oversight, the ICRC statement offered no thanks to the Philippine military for the rescue.

perhaps an oversight...


Nothing to celebrate

This author woke up today to find in his copy of The Japan Times one of those paid puff-pieces written by the Embassy Staff of a foreign nation to celebrate said country's national holiday. The day before, there was one from the Pakistani Embassy with two pages-full of paid advertising from Japanese businesses and Pakistani expatriate firms.

Well, today is "Zimbabwe Independence Day". We got the Ambassador's puff-piece, promoting tourism and hoping to reestablish the business ties between Japan and his country that were a big part of the 1990's "Zim-boom", now but a distant economic memory. He got a grand total of two small supporting advertisements, by the way. Fair enough. He was just doing his job to write it. My hackles stood up trying to read it without throwing the paper across the room, but restrain prevailed...

(Regrettably, the JTimes does not make such National Day messages available on their on-line edition, so no link is possible.)

Until now.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday congratulated the people of Zimbabwe on their Independence Day and urged the country's transition government to continue moving toward reforms.
"The United States has long stood with the people of Zimbabwe in their times of need and will continue to do so," Clinton said in a written statement.
Madam Secretary, the one thing indisputably clear about the American role in forcing the Lancaster House Agreement that overturned Rhodesia's own choice of democratic reforms and handed the nation over to the so-called "Patriotic Front" was that the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. at the time, Mr. Andrew Young, spiked any possible resolution other than selling out the nation of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.

Unless, in your inexplicably ill-informed opinion, you actually believe that what "...the people of Zimbabwe in their time of need..." needed was the mass slaughter of the population and the almost complete annihilation of any meaningful economic activity over the course of more than two decades.

Is that what you really believe? Is that the position of the State Department of the Obama Administration?

Of course, if *that* is what you really meant to say, Madam Secretary, then I retract the accusation calling you ill-informed. In *that* case, I'll just call you a wilful collaborator in the massacres and looting.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Cheap locks, were they?

This week's prime example of "Not the best thing a member of the government can say about a jail break" comes from Liberia:
"Forty inmates, very hardcore criminals, broke jail from the correction center in Zwedru, Grand Gedeh county," said provincial governor Christopher Bailey. "These are hardened criminals who are capable of causing havoc anywhere."


"The locks to the gates are substandard and cheap. I think some of these led to the prisoners breaking jail."
This isn't a unique event, folks. Last year about 100 prisoners staged a revolt and escape from the South Beach jail in Monrovia, although they had to overpower the guards (including U.N. personnel) that time.

In fairness to the police, a fairly rapid response has re-captured nine of the escapees. Likely those escapees had failed to pay their "lock-are-cheap fees" on time. After all...


Games South Africans Play, part 2

A lot has been made of African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma's self-identification with the noble history of the Zulu tribe (which he *is* a descendant of, no doubt). J. Zuma has even looked to Shaka for inspiration as a leader.

Well, there is just one little problem with all that...

The ancestral leadership of the Zulu inspired and organized Inkatha, which by 1975 served as the model for the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) of Buthelezi-subtribe (Zulu) Inkosi (chief) Mangosuthu Buthelezi. The IFP is still the 3rd largest political party by representation with 23 members in the National Assembly. Granted, that is small potatoes in an assembly of 400 members, but as minor parties go in South Africa that is a noteworthy success in the face of the ANC machine.


With elections coming again on April 22nd and J. Zuma expected to be inaugurated as President of South Africa upon the expected ANC victory, perhaps it should come as no surprise that substantial accusations of ANC violence against IFP supporters are now coming out.

Apparently, Mr. Zuma and his followers have their own ideas about who runs politics in KwaZulu-Natal embodies the true Zulu ideal, and intend to enforce that vision of things.

Bolivian Plot

Remember the comment made here previously about how unsteady regimes (in Africa, in that case) always haul out the claim that the opposition is employing Foreign Mercenaries? True or false, the simple assertion of such seems almost required...

Bolivia claims Foreign Mercenaries plotted to kill President Morales. They've got 3 dead foreigners and two more in custody after a raid by national authorities, and assert a large stock of military-grade weaponry was confiscated.

However, the opposition claims a fabrication:
Santa Cruz Gov. Ruben Costas said in a news conference that local police were not involved in the operation and suggested that it was staged to discredit his government.

"The government for three years has repeated allegations of a coup but has never shown any evidence," Costas said.
Certainly should be interesting to see what evidence comes out now, and how it stands up to scrutiny.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

NATO Exercises in Georgia, 2009

Civil Georgia news source reports that NATO announced on April 15th that the planned Cooperative Longbow 2009 and Cooperative Lancer 2009 exercises with the Republic of Georgia are to run from May 6th to June 1st, as has been scheduled since last spring. The article makes public several details regarding these interoperability exercises, and lists which NATO member and partner countries will be participating (19 in all).

(Note to NATO: update your website press releases. When they do get caught up to this week, the press release will be at this site. *sheesh*)


Let's just say the Russians are upset... specifically one Russian we know and "love": Dmitry Rogozin.
"This is absurd and a provocation," Russia's envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, told Reuters by telephone. "I have asked the NATO secretary general ... to postpone these exercises or to cancel them."
You can ask, big guy, but it will likely go over about as well as your conduct during the Russian Invasion of Georgia (2008) did. Remember that? It involved a quick trip home.

Mauritania Junta steps down

This is the story from back in August, 2008, of the coup d'etat against the elected government of Mauritania (as covered on CompHyp at the time).

It appears, from reports by the AP, that the junta has stepped down to fulfill the constitutional requirements that would allow the Generals to run in the announced June, 2009, election. General M.O.A. Aziz, who was the coup leader, is certainly to be a candidate. No word on whether the former President, S.O.C. Abdallahi, will run again... He has been released from detention by the Junta, so it is possible.

For now, the nation is administered by an interim government under Senate President Ba Mamadou Mbare.

No word yet from the African Union as to whether this will cause them to put aside the sanctions imposed against the Junta.

Footnote: B.M. Mbare is of Sub-Saharan ancestry, and is the first leader of Mauritania of that background. This is notable in that people of that ethnicity are often indentured in Mauritania to families of North African Arab ethnicity. The Associated Press did get the details right, but insisted on using "black" to identify the difference. Such is an oversimplification, esp. when dealing with the complexities of ethnicity in the Maghreb.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

OFAC lists 3 Mexican Drug Cartels

This puts an official ban on any financial transaction by


as authorized under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act. (The notation in [...] refers to the SDN listing of these organizations)

A link to the pdf file of the full announcement by the Office of Foreign Assets Control can be found *here*.

About bloody time, fellows.

Norway concludes agreement on its Continental Shelf

In an act of well-mannered and steady diplomacy, the Kingdom of Norway has concluded the lengthy negotiations needed to fully justify its extended Exclusive Economic Zone as allowed under the U.N. Law of the Sea Treaty.
"Norway is the first polar nation to complete this work," Stoere told a news conference of talks with a U.N. Commission that is trying to agree limits to continental shelves of coastal states as part of a revisions to the U.N. Law of the Sea.


Stoere said boundaries were set between Norway and Greenland, Iceland and the Faroes.

"In the discussion about who owns the North Pole -- it's definitely not us," he said.
Well presented, well defended and not overly rapacious in its goals. Norway deserves credit for this, and support in resolving the Svalbard and Russian border issues (dating back to the Spitsbergen treaty of 1920 - ratified and in force since 1925).

Note the location

The French Navy Frigate Nivose responded to a distress call from a Liberian-flagged ship under pirate attack in the Indian Ocean, and foiled the attack.

They then pursued and captured the pirate mothership with 11 pirates and 2 skiffs rigged for piracy.

Good on you, Marine Nationale.

The capture happened about 900 km (~400 nm) off Mombasa, Kenya, out in the Indian Ocean.

For those of you lacking a map reference: The major islands of the Seychelles are roughly 1500 km due east of Mombasa.

Brotherly Love

The West African nation of Togo has been a fairly tranquil place, but then again with the way old man Gnassingbe Eyadema ran the place (since 1967)... the citizenry didn't have a whole lot of choice about it. But with the old man gone, and something that looked a little like a democratic election in 2005, things were supposed to get better. The International Monetary Fund even resumed lending after a 14 year suspension.

The "election" was a nasty affair, and *big surprise*, Faure Gnassingbe (one of the old man's sons) won the Presidency.

Maybe he should have shared a bit more of the spoils...

Former Defense Minister and current Member of Parliament Kpatcha Gnassingbe was arrested today for plotting a coup d'etat during the President's planned trip to China this Sunday.

Yes, same patronym. That would be because K. Gnassignbe is the President's brother.


"Don Mario" captured

Amongst the drug trafficking gangs of Colombia, there is a sort of division of labor: Some handle transhipment; some build the containers and vessels like the infamous semi-submarines; some like the FARC control the growers and the processors out in the countryside; some provide the muscle for the intercine wars...

Daniel Rendon, a.k.a. "Don Mario", is one of the latter type. His organization is reputed to provide armed hit-men to the highest bidder. Well, maybe not any more: A Special Element of the Colombian Police have successfully apprehended him.

Now let's see if he will sing about how he got all those guns from the FARC, and maybe other places as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sri Lanka suspends offensive for 2 days

The campaign against the LTTE ("Tamil Tigers") terrorist / secessionist movement by the Sri Lankan Army has been a success on the battlefield. A grinding campaign of reduction has confined the last of the LTTE combat forces to a tiny patch of land in the far northeast of the country... but that patch of land is a previously designated "no-fire" zone to allow civilians to escape the horrors of combat.

Apparently the LTTE considered that a license to simply hold all those people as a sort of hostage. In previous battles, the LTTE has prevented civilians from fleeing to government-controlled territory (in at least one U.N.-reported case, by shooting them). Even so, over 65,000 civilians have been brought out of the danger area so far and are under protection. Sadly, tens of thousands more are still in danger.

The Sri Lankan Army has declared a 2 day operational pause to allow time for civilians to flee the last LTTE-held area (if they can) during the local New Year's Holiday. The LTTE's apologists in the media are sneering at this, and if reports of LTTE firing are confirmed, it seems the remaining militants are sneering at the offer as well.

Those above-mentioned apologists are also orchestrating protests in a number of foreign countries, one of which demolished the Sri Lankan Embassy in Norway. So much for the responsibility to protect diplomatic facilities.

Very well; two days to try and save the innocent...

...then roll it up. End this thing once and for all. Don't Ease Up.

Mass arrests in the Ergenekon case

The Government of Turkey has been moving against what it considers an "arch-rightist plot" against the elected administration, and this weekend they made another series of arrests, detaining 40 more accused conspirators.

Where this is likely going to run into problems, as was discussed here back in January, is over the criterion being used to determine the nature of the conspiracy. Is it really a plot, with active hands in the military preparing to act? Or are these arrests targeting a purely political opposition? If it is the latter, and clearly seen as a threat to the integrity of the Kemalist state, might that not inspire a coup d'etat where none exists now?

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Weekly N&C for April 13th, 2009

Leaving Denial

It has been a longstanding matter in Arab Republic of Egypt that the greatest threat always comes from within. Neither Israel’s willingness to fight on Egyptian soil rather than their own, nor Libya’s occasional threats of border warfare are existential threats; the Israelis have no desire to attack the heartland of Egypt, and the Libyans lack the capability. But Egypt is a secular Arab nation, perhaps the definitive example of the Arab Nationalist State, and that has meant that through all the years since the rise of Jamal Abdel Nasser’s seizure of the state and his securing power in the wake of the Suez Incident (1956), there has been a single significant opposition to the power of the state: The Moslem Brotherhood. This Islamist movement has significant strength in other Arab States, but nowhere does it have such deep roots as in Egypt. While the government of Egypt makes some substantial claims that the Moslem Brotherhood participates in militant resistance to the secular state, and they are certainly advocates of such, what they actually provide to the Islamist cause is an ideological base and a large following that has been taught to believe in that thinking.

The government has been more than willing to attribute all manner of plots and affairs to the Moslem Brotherhood, has placed bans on their activities and actively pursued members of the group for crimes real… and perhaps not-so-real. But one thing that was almost insistently claimed was that the activities of such Islamist inside Egypt was an Egyptian problem, caused by and blamed on Egyptians. To consider the possibility of an outside hand influencing things was often dismissed with such canards as “Sunni militants don’t cooperate with Shiite militants”.

Where that all began to break down was when the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) appeared from within the Moslem Brotherhood’s ranks in 1980. This group came to the fore with stunning rapidity and on October 6th, 1981, committed the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat. There are a host of names associated with Khalid Al-Islambouli, the assassin who would be heard of again, elsewhere: Omar Abdel-Rahman wrote the fatwa (clerical justification under Islamic Law) for the assassination; another of the Cairo-based element was Ayman Al-Zawahiri; just to cite examples.

Astoundingly, while the Egyptian government did break the cell and arrest most all of the then-called Tanzim al-Jihad, only 5 members were executed and the bulk of the mid-rank members were released from jail after serving a few years in prison. Those members then went into wide dispersal, many to Afghanistan and Pakistan to join in the Mujahideen in the war against the Soviet invaders of Afghanistan.

But even without its most militant faction, the Moslem Brotherhood continued to inspire. In nearby Gaza of the Palestine Mandate Territory, the Palestinian wing of the Moslem Brotherhood spawned Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah, the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known by its acromym: HAMAS. From its very beginning in 1987, HAMAS has proven to be the most determined Islamist movement inside the Palestinian community, and by far the most successful. Moreover, the strength that has allowed that success is of a kind not only drawn from the support of fellow believers inside Egypt but from a close, supportive relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Weapons and money flowed into HAMAS, and more; the only Palestinian militant group that has even considered implementing the particular version of Islamic Law practiced by the theocrats that run Iran is HAMAS.

So here we have a parallel linkage occurring.

EIJ members are one of the significant elements that make up al-Qaeda and implement their plots: Abdel-Rahman was a key part of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (truck bomb); Al-Zawahiri is one of “a majority” of the members of al-Qaeda’s ruling council drawn from EIJ. In the annals of al-Qaeda, EIJ formally became a part of al-Qaeda in June of 2001. But in the background, back home in Egypt, there is a wide community of support for such endeavors in the well-sown field of the Egyptian under-classes that are the political base of the current incarnation of the Moslem Brotherhood. This is just the sort of prepared ideological base that can be turned to use by active militants, just as it had been throughout the period of “open war” between the EIJ and the Egyptian government (1993~2000).

Yet at the same time, the HAMAS group is a cat’s-paw of Iran in their struggle for dominance over the Middle East. They need constant support and re-arming, and Iran is the primary facilitator for that. But one can not (as some more innocent supporters found out when they tried) simply sail a boat loaded with supplies into the Gaza Strip. The district is under strict Israeli embargo / inspection on three sides, and the Egyptian government makes at least all the right public postures about keeping their Gaza border closed as well. To get anything of value to militants into the Gaza, one has to have a route through Egypt (from somewhere, most often Sudan) leading up to the Sinai, and then access to the HAMAS-controlled smuggling tunnels into the Gaza.

There are a few sources that say the parallel linkage had become unified during the time EIJ was run by al-Zawahiri, with members being sent to Iran for training, and to work and train with Hezbollah, the Iranian front-group in Lebanon…

Oh yes, Hezbollah (Hizub’llah; Party of God), the state-within-a-state opposition to Israel’s existence and primary tool world-wide of Iran’s Pasdaran (Guardians of the Islamic Revolution; commonly abbreviated as IRGC). Now there is a shining example of Shiite extremism forged into a useful weapon for Iranian military and political goals. But such a group couldn’t possibly find any support or assistance within Egypt for its activities, could it?

The government of Egypt certainly acted as if Hezbollah’s agenda had no traction, at least until recently. Well, it seems that it is time to be leaving such denial behind:

April 9th, 2009, Egypt discovered and arrested 15 Hezbollah operatives inside Egypt planning acts of terror against the state and seeing to supplying arms to HAMAS for use against Israel.

April 12th, 2009, the details of the case became clearer and the origin of the threat to the Egyptian government was connected to the growing hostility between Egypt and Iran (over Bahrain’s sovereignty; Lebanon’s political future; and over a host of Arab reactions to recent Iranian provocations).

April 13th, 2009, the sheer size of the Hezbollah operation is unmasked, with Egyptian authorities in pursuit of 13 more Hezbollah operatives in the Sinai.

There is a lesson to be learned here, and it applies not only to the situation in Egypt:

Iran’s Pasdaran will use whatever linkage they can to gain support, where ever they can find the ground prepared.

That means not discounting an active al-Qaeda connection just because the Taliban are historically opposed to Iran. It is provable that Iranian arms are being fed into Afghanistan just as they were (and are, albeit at a lesser rate) into Iraq.

That means remembering the success Iran (via Hezbollah) has had in South America, successfully performing two major bombings in Argentina.

That means being very, very wary of the Tehran-Damascus-Caracas air link and the toleration that is being shown to Hezbollah representatives in Venezuela; the same applies to the outsized “diplomatic” presence in Nicaragua held by the Iranians right now.

If one insists on denying that the Iranians are not intent on using their capabilities to further their campaign of undeclared war, at a time and place of their choosing, then…

Then one day the arrests won’t just be happening in Egypt.

They’ll be happening where you live.

That is, if your police are as fortunate as the Egyptian authorities were this time.

End Notes:

All directly relevant End Notes are linked in the text.

General Information on all the Groups, Persons, and Places can be found at Wikipedia. The usual caveat applies to such, however: Check all the sources.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

BANG!'re dead. Well, three of the pirates are. One more was captured and Richard Phillips, Captain of the Maersk Alabama, was rescued uninjured.

The U.S. Navy is now confirming the report. Free and safe.

Should be a heck of a story, if and when the details come out.

Job well done, fellows. BZ

Sunday Morning Push

There will be no other new discussion threads today unless the bottom drops out of things somewhere in the world; Next up will be the Weekly piece come Monday (North American time zones).

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

There has been a lovely little bump in the number of site visits the last couple of weeks. I'll do my best to keep things going that are of such interest. Oddly though, the rate of comments has generally fallen off. Some topics get the comments, others... well, I can just hope those topics are interesting enough as written.

There are no other site admin matters to trouble with for now.

As always, thanks for coming here!


May the spring holiday(s) bring you joy in the hope of life returning.

Three things from last week

These each deserved their own thread topics, but given other items and obligations elsewhere, this shall have to suffice as way to bring these matters to notice.

1) The Colombian Army is in action all the time, but some fights are more important than others. This one has the chance of further degrading the FARC leadership in a critical border region.

As long as we are talking Colombia, by the by, another story in the Latin American Herald-Tribune reports that Colombian Customs and the Military snagged a load of ELN cash... all in Venezuelan currency. Reminder: the ELN is "the other" Colombian Communist rebel movement, long beholden to Cuba's Communists but in recent years they are really just another narco-trafficking operation. Perhaps they have a new patron, or they got a really good exchange rate when they bought those Bolivars...

2) The Times (UK) has an analysis of what sort of leader Jacob Zuma will be when he (almost inevitably) becomes the next President of South Africa. Here's a hint: His role model is Shaka. If he lived up to that heritage, he might do fair-on well, but then Shaka wasn't beholden to labor activists and the South African Communist Party for his throne...

3) Oh, what a difference a decade makes... M. McGuinness, former IRA commander, now threatened with death by a dissident IRA faction as "a collaborator".

Pity that. Marty's been working so hard at his new life. Be a crying shame if something bad were to happen to him.

Thai protests move to Bangkok

The same "red shirt" protesters who forced a state of emergency in Pattaya (now lifted) by their invasion of the ASEAN+6 conference site have now gone after the Interior Ministry building in the capital, while the Prime Minister was in the building. He got out, and as a first order of business ordered a State of Emergency for Bangkok and the surrounding area.

That seems necessary, as the protesters have now massed at the Police HQ and at Government House. What comes next could get pretty rough if someone doesn't back down.

Until this comes to some resolution, best not to be going into harm's way. Consider this a Travel Warning and avoid unnecessary travel to or through Thailand for now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

ASEAN+6 meeting cancelled by protests

The "red shirt" protesters in the employ of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have broken into the conference building, forcing the government of Thailand to cancel the ASEAN+6 meeting scheduled to begin this weekend. Abhisit Vejjajiva, the current Prime Minister has declared the entire area of Pattaya to be under a state of emergency.
The cancellation is a huge embarrassment for Abhisit's government, which came to power in December via parliamentary defections the opposition says were engineered by the military.

The weekend's events will raise questions about how enduring his government can be after four prime ministers over the last 15 months have failed to resolve Thailand's deep political rifts.
That almost underplays the seriousness of the problem.

The government has been reduced to evacuating by helicopter those leaders that arrived early.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What's wrong with this picture?

Here's what is wrong with *this*:
According to a report released Thursday, the Coast Guard, operating the 270-foot medium-endurance cutter Bear, boarded the fishing vessel more than 500 miles east of Brazil. Five suspected drug smugglers were arrested in the operation, the Coast Guard reported.

The five suspects and the cocaine will be transferred to Venezuelan authorities for further investigation.
They took the ship, loaded with over a ton of cocaine, on the high seas... and they are turning over the suspects and the drugs to Venezuela?!?

There better be a heck of a good legal explanation for turning all that over to a country implicated at the state-level in narcotics trafficking, specifically to support the FARC. If anyone knows, please do comment and explain.

Easter bombing threat

It looks very much like MI5 and the police in the U.K. have interrupted a plot to conduct a massive terrorist attack on Easter. 12 suspects have been arrested in a hastily re-planned police operation (after the now-former senior Anti-Terrorism Officer in the U.K. committed a blunder that nearly revealed the investigation).

The search is now on for the bomb-making "factory", and likely for other suspects implicated by the arrests and confiscations of materials.

These arrests also are rapidly turning into an international incident as 11(?) of the suspects are Pakistani Nationals, with 10 of them having entered the U.K. on student visas approved (in part) by Pakistan. Substantial ties to al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban are reported to have been found as well.

This is an on-going story, and likely further information will become public shortly.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

50 Golden Years

On this day (April 10th, in Japan) a young prince did marry a common-born lady, and for 50 years they have been wed. The "Tennis Court Romance" may well have been the first marriage-for-love in the history of the Imperial Household.

Apparently that was a good choice, for they speak of being most happy together.

Congratulations, Heika, Michiko-sama, may good health and happiness accompany you both always.

Fiji democracy now a distant vision

The military coup-installed government of Fiji has faced its final legal challenge this week, and lost. The December, 2006, junta has been ruled illegal by the Court of Appeal. The matter can be taken to the Supreme Court of Fiji, but that matters little for now as the Court of Appeal was unwilling to grant a stay to the ruling, and then...
Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, whose military government has been declared illegal by the Court of Appeal, revoked the constitution on Friday and sacked the country's judges, according to reports from the capital Suva. He decreed that fresh elections will not be held for five years.
--source: DPA, or if you'd prefer, here is the AP version.

So down goes any pretense of legitimacy. The architect of the junta, V. Bainimarama, remains head of the Kingdom's military.

A tale of two protests

It is "compare and contrast" time again here at CompHyp.

Two countries attempting to come to terms with their condition on the edge of Russian influence (and intervention) have been faced with popular protests against the elected governments' hold on power.

Moldova has had an ugly round of demonstrations where the intendedly peaceful protest against what was very likely a rigged election turned into riots against the government. Things got so bad that the Parliament and the Presidential Residence were stormed by rioters. The matter has turned into an international incident as well, with allegations of Romanian manipulations of the protests being called an attempted coup d'etat. Diplomatic relations have now ruptured as Moldova has sent the Romanian Ambassador packing.

and then...

The Republic of Georgia has seen a massive, but smaller than expected, Rally by the political opposition against the Saakashvili administration. These protests are passionate, but lack the violence (and government crackdown) of the Moldovan situation, at least for now. The protesters claim they will stay in the streets until President M. Saakashvili resigns. The test will come if the protests grow, or turn violent.

Both situations bear watching, and both could bode ill in a number of ways for future of the nations in question.

...and never forget who stands to benefit most from instability in both regions.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Now they've gone and done it

Apparently, the American reputation for disproportionate reprisal (which *all* reprisals should be) just isn't what it used to be...

Somali Pirates hijack the Maersk Alabama, U.S. flagged with 20 American nationals on the crew.

That link takes you to EagleSpeak for the report, U.S. Navy statement, and some assessment.

One other report cites there being 21 crew.

Bet there is some serious "can we get authorization to try?" going on aboard the ships of the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group right now.


It seems the tables have turned on the pirates.

FOXNews is now reporting that the crew has regained control of the vessel and one pirate is in custody.


Reports (various) say that indeed the general crew is safe, and one pirate captured, but that a group of the pirates (3?) are holding the ship's captain as a hostage. Negotiations are said to be underway.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Fujimori Trial: the verdict is in


He is facing up to 30 years for this; sentencing is expected later Tuesday, local time.

An appeal is planned.

Update Wednesday morning ('blog time)

The sentence is in. 25 years.

You can read about it, and how dutiful daughter may not be the big political success she thinks she is *here* -- source: The AP

Thanks to TIME, from CompHyp

It is a pleasure to thank TIME magazine's on-line edition for linking to the Competing Hypotheses thread "After Lula?" in the Related Content links on their October 6th, 2008, article on Brazilian President Lula da Silva and the municipal elections at that time.

Yes, I know the article vastly predates the CompHyp thread. Likely their Related Content system updates as new information comes on to the Internet.

None the less, the reference is greatly appreciated.

Um, Madam Ambassador...

Sometimes, this author simply can't understand how people who are supposed to be experts in what they do say things that are patently wrong... and misleading. Perhaps it was an honest mis-statement. Perhaps. Maybe the transcript is wrong. Maybe. Sure looks like an effort to mislead the media on the "value" of whatever agreement the UNSC reaches on the North Korean Missile question, though.

Dr. Susan Rice, AFRICA EXPERT, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, speaking in an interview with FOXNews yesterday (times given match the interview recording; text quoted as written):
14:52:24 [Re: statement by senior State Department official not to get "hung up on" the form of a UN Security Council response, be it formal resolution or less binding statement]
14:53:23 I wouldnt say you're seeing a lowering of expectations. I think what you're seeing is addressing reality. 14:53:29 The fact is we believe that the most effective and most appropriate ponse, response to this would be a United Nations Security Council resolution. 14:53:40 but there are many ways for the Council to speak, including for example through a presidential statement that are nonetheless still binding. 14:53:49 But because this was a violation of a previous Security Council resolution, we think it would be most appropriate that it would be treated in a subsequent Security Council resolution 14:53:57. But our aim is not only the form it is the substance.
Bold added to highlight, by me.

Um, Madam Ambassador...

Only Chapter VII resolutions are indisputably binding. Even Chapter VI resolutions are in doubt as they lack enforcement clauses.

Any Presidential Statement issued by the UNSC is *intentionally* non-binding. It is a message of the sense of the Security Council when the issue is one not able or desired to be resolved as a formal Resolution.

If all you get out of the UNSC about North Korea's intentional violation of UNSCR 1718 is a Presidential Statement, then in fact nothing has been gained by the process.

Note: Our friends at FOXNews were alerted to this yesterday, but have made no reply as yet as to whether the interview verbatim was somehow in error. If such clarification comes, I shall amend this thread. Until then, this stands as written.

Games South African Play

The reorganization of the African National Congress party (ANC) in South Africa is moving on from the T. Mbeki era... but how is it moving?

Two indications from the recent news reports:

In one of the least expected moves of the new leadership, Jacob Zuma is attempting to mend fences with the Afrikaner minority, which would be just fine if it wasn't being done in a way to drive a bigger wedge between the Boers and the Anglo-South Africans.
Praising Afrikaners as deeply rooted in the African continent, where Dutch settlers first landed at the Cape in 1652, he said: "Of all the white groups in South Africa, it is only Afrikaners who are true Africans in the real sense of the word."
The Afrikaners are true Africans, yes, but the only? There is a heck of a presumption there, Mr. Your-Tribe-Migrated-South-in-the-18th-Century.

The Public Prosecutor's Office has seen fit drop the charges against J. Zuma in the French Arms Deal corruption scandal. This was one of those cases where motivation trumped the facts: The repeated interventions by elements within the T. Mbeki government in continuing the investigation was rightly seen as a politically-motivated hit job on Mr. Zuma, but... The rival COPE party asks the correct question about the charges themselves:
The presidential candidate for COPE, a recently formed political party that broke away from the ANC, countered saying prosecutors should have gone forward with the case.

"We still have not heard about the merits or the demerits of the case against Mr. Zuma. The South African people want to know: Is he innocent or is he guilty?" COPE's Mvume Dandala said.
Sadly, because of some serious procedural misconduct, we may never get an answer to that.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Weekly N&C for April 6th, 2009

There is no news

Well, there is, but once again this author feels constrained by his self-imposed rule to not use this space for pointless rantings (pointed rants are acceptable, of course).

For just one example of why the limiter has kicked in, John Bolton has a very fine Op-Ed piece on how America's Allies should now consider themselves on their own.

I no longer consider it a contingency to have to advise officials in the government here to have a plan to go on alone; I consider it a necessity to prepare for such.

So let us restate the above premise more nearly correctly:

There is news; There is no comment.

This thread topic is subject to revision and addenda.

Addenda1: With the U.S. Defense Budget as proposed by SecDef Gates, it looks like American capabilities are about to shrink to match the political mood mentioned above. Enough for the war being fought, and not very much to prepare for the next war.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Morning Push

There will be no other new discussion threads today unless the bottom drops out of things somewhere in the world; Next up will be the Weekly piece come Monday (North American time zones).

Lots of things left to do with the existing discussion threads, and I'll be around to comment on them too. Rather than posting an "Open" thread this weekend, this thread is left open to comments to fill any needs for that sort of thing. It will take a pretty compelling event to require a stand-alone Open Thread anytime soon, I believe. So enjoy here as you choose and the usual rules still apply; play nice.

My particular appreciation goes out to those following the Somali Pirates / Seychelles Area and the North Korean Missile Test topics. I hope what is said here is of use to you. As always, my regrets to the fans of Miss Kosovo 2009... but I do hope you find other things here that interest you.

There are no other site admin matters to trouble with for now.

As always, thanks for coming here!

NORAD says... no satellite

So much for getting to listen to endless revolutionary music broadcasts.

The thread title about sums it up: NORAD says nothing made it to orbit.
"Stage one of the missile fell into the Sea of Japan. The remaining stages along with the payload itself landed in the Pacific Ocean," they said. "No object entered orbit and no debris fell on Japan."
The kicker, of course, is the obvious possibility that there was never any intention of a controlled 3rd stage burn and a payload separation. Just proof-testing the first two stages and getting clean staging on those is a big technical gain.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

North Korean missile launch

Reports from multiple sources are now confirming, at 1130 hrs Sunday local time (Japan), that the North Koreans successfully launched their so-called-satellite, but no confirmation as to anything reaching orbit has come in.

Yomiuri newspaper has the most details so far (source in Japanese) Their report has it that after a missile flight time of 43 minutes, something (probably the second stage) fell into the Pacific Ocean 1270 km to the east of Japan.

Reuters has the story as both the Japanese and American governments are confirming the launch, and that "the projectile has passed over Japan". The story gives no citation of any apparently success at orbiting a satellite, but it is really too early to know about that yet.

Key Points:

It seems the missile functioned mostly correctly, with both 1st and 2nd stage separations successful.

Nothing fell on Japan.

No one attempted to intercept any part of the missile.

Expect a letter from the international community 'saying how angry we are'.

Anyone else hearing the words "...step a little to the left, Hans" about now?

Update: 22 minutes after the hour

Stage 1 of the booster is confirmed to have gone into the Sea of Japan 280 km west of Akita Prefecture (source in Japanese), safely away from Japanese territory.

And right on schedule, here come those letters...

Japan protests "Regrettable" launch

South Korea calls launch "Reckless"

U.S. State Department says "(America) will take appropriate steps
"The launch by the North Koreans is seen as a provocative act and will prompt the United States to take appropriate steps to let North Korea know that it cannot threaten the safety and security of (other) countries with impunity," State Department spokesman Fred Lash told reporters in a conference call.
Hm. Seems a bit too late for that, Mr. Lash... threatening other countries with impunity is just what North Korea has done.

Update: 55 minutes after the hour

Yonhap news of South Korea has more about the launch. Specifically, that the flight-path was suitable for a satellite launch, but...
"A senior South Korean foreign ministry official identified the North's rocket as a "space vehicle" carrying a satellite.

"We believe North Korea fired a rocket carrying a satellite," the official said. However, it does not necessarily mean that the launch was a success."
Still waiting for a U.S. DoD or Japan Boueishou (Defense Ministry) statement on the final stage.

Update: 5 hours 30 minutes after the time of the post

No official statement from the Defense departments yet as to whether the "satellite" made it to orbit intact.

Here is the FOXNews summary of the events of the day and the various protests and claims being made. Invariably, the call for a U.N. Security Council meeting on Sunday will result in nothing of substance as the P.R.Chinese (and less strongly, the Russians) have made it clear that they will not support any expansion of the sanctions regime.

So, for those of you needing a bit of comic relief after all this, let's wrap this up for today with the English-language version of North Korea's official statement on their success, which includes the opportunity for those of you with the correct radio receiver to tune in on 470 MHz to listen to the satellite broadcasting "...the melodies of the immortal revolutionary paeans 'Song of General Kim Il-sung' and 'Song of General Kim Jong-il'..."


I was hoping that at least their taste in music had improved. No dice on that.

"I don't call it a war..."

Those are the best words that a Prime Minister trying to defuse a crisis can possibly say, and they are just what Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia said at a speech given shortly after a deadly incident Friday (local time) that resulted in a prolonged exchange of fire between Thai and Cambodian forces near the Preah Vihear temple site.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen sought to downplay the latest incident during a Saturday speech to handicapped veterans and villagers in the southern province of Kampot.

"It is normal that every side has the right to self-defence. If they come, it happens. And as we enter their territory they also have the right to fire at us," Hun Sen told the crowd.

"But we consider this (clash) an incident. I don't call it a war... We are very sorry. We don't want Cambodian or Thai soldiers to die," he added.
Of course, it is easy to be magnanimous when your side took no apparent casualties. Two Royal Thai Army soldiers have died, and 10 more are still hospitalized.

Perhaps more disturbing is the continued use of heavy weapons in the area. Rocket and mortar fire occurred, as well as machine gun fire, in the skirmishes after the initial exchange that resulted in all the casualties reported.

The Cambodian Foreign Ministry says that this will not interfere with either ASEAN or joint border talks scheduled shortly.

Here's hoping that is so. This needs to end.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Steady, Lads. Steady.

This is no time to get a case of the nerves.

There is no way that a secondary (to this mission) air search radar in Chiba would have the first look at any North Korean missile launch.

Leave it to the professionals on the dedicated land-based platform up north, the two sea-based platforms with a look from the Sea of Japan, and the field radars out with the deployed defenses.

Don't blame yourselves, but look to this as a learning experience.

...because it is obvious from the media and local government authorities that there is a limited amount of good-will on this matter...

...and when the real launch comes, all this is something you *have to* get right.

UPDATE - SAT 0430 (time as reported on this'blog; U.S. Pacific time)

Here is where the fumble happened, as per Kyoudou wire service:
According to the Defense Ministry, the ground-based FPS-5 radar at the ministry's Iioka research and development site in Asahi, Chiba Prefecture, picked up a trace over the Sea of Japan on the radar screen.

The information was immediately conveyed to the ASDF's Air Defense Command in the suburbs of Tokyo, but the person who received it mistook the information for satellite early warning information provided by the U.S. military.

The satellite early warning information is based on data sent by the U.S. Air Force's Defense Support Program satellite orbiting the Earth. Equipped with an infrared telescope, it is normally the quickest means to detect ballistic missile launches.

The erroneous information then got passed onto the SDF's Central Command Post at the Defense Ministry headquarters, from which it was conveyed to the crisis management center at the prime minister's office, according to the ministry.
Very well then. Learn from it, and don't do it again.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Chavez repression of rivals expands

So soon after the former Governor of Zulia State, now Mayor of Maracaibo, Manuel Rosales felt he had to go into hiding to avoid arbitrary arrest ordered by agents of the Chavez regime...

...The Military Intelligence Directorate (DIM) has taken former Defense Minister General Raúl Isaías Baduel. The warrantless arrest occurred without official warning. He was forcibly detained and taken from his residence.

Now, this has been in the wind for literally months.

General Baduel is also not by any measure a particularly good guy. His role in reversing the 2002 coup d'etat against Hugo Chavez was no credit to him, nor were his public suppositions over the years that the United States of America was waging a clandestine war against Venezuela, but something caused him to turn coat in November of 2007. He has been a voice of opposition to the Chavez autocracy ever since.

The explanation of why this is happening, and why now, is sadly simple:

It is because Hugo Chavez thinks he can get away with doing this.

Someone should prove him mistaken.

One gets out

One of three hostages held for over two months by the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group on Jolo Island of the Philippines, and the focus of a massive military pursuit that has hounded the band of kidnappers, has been released.

This is a great relief, as the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf have a history of killing hostages. It is also a win for the combined efforts of intercession by the International Committee of the Red Cross / Red Crescent (ICRC), the NGO that the three hostages were a part of, and the Philippines Military, which has used a mixture of measured force and negotiation but not caved in to absurd demands.

May the other two hostages be released or rescued safe... and soon.

Seychelles Defense Mobilized

...after a second Seychelles-flag vessel, the Indian Ocean Explorer, was captured by Somali pirates this week. That means a doubling of forces available and deployments to the outer islands.

Bravo, sirs.

Good Luck and Good Hunting.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Nobody here but us Lemurs

It is the favorite bogeyman claim of any African government in a precarious position:

"The (insert opposition name here) have hired mercenaries to attempt a coup."

The thing is, such still happens in Africa and other such places where a small number of well-led and well-equipped professionals can make mincemeat out of the local forces... when fighting on their terms. But it is much, much harder to do than it used to be, and much more likely to be a temporary victory that is overturned by international disapproval and legal intervention.

The Rajoelina 'junta' in Madagascar hauled this claim out again yesterday with their search of Rio Tinto's QMM titanium sands project. However:
"The local police assisted by local army members informed QMM that they wanted to search the mine site for mercenaries and arms," spokesman Nick Cobban said in London.

"The search has been completed, nothing was found and they've all gone home."
No surprise there. Rio Tinto is *way too smart* to actually have a direct hand in such goings on.

If there are any such goings on.