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.