Close strategic partnership with Pakistan will continue: US



WASHINGTON: The United States said it would continue to have a close strategic partnership with Pakistan, Radio Pakistan reported. 

State Department Spokesperson, Jen Psaki in Washington said that the United States’ relationship with Islamabad is strong and vital for its strategic needs.

With continued tension between India and Pakistan and shelling on the line of control and the Working Boundary, the spokesperson said that the two countries should enter into a dialogue for a peaceful resolution of their issues.

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At root of Argentina spy intrigue – a deal with Iran



The Intelligence Secretariat, or SI, and its 3,000 or so employees report, in theory, to the president. But in practice, it has long operated in a murky world of its own, critics say.

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For alleged Russian hacker, a visit to Amsterdam is a costly trip


At noon on June 28, 2012, Vladimir Drinkman, targeted as one of America’s most wanted cybercriminals, and his wife hustled into a cab pulling away from their Amsterdam hotel. They had just been tipped off that the police were on to them, but an unmarked police car blocked their getaway. The Russian was handcuffed and arrested on charges of helping to mastermind what has been called the largest criminal hacking scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.Read full article >>



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Abbas to visit Stockholm after Israel shuns Swedish FM


Date 30/01/2015, 17:08 (Jerusalem)

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World Briefing: Venezuela: Military Says It Downed Plane Near Aruba


Venezuela’s defense minister said Friday that Venezuelan military aircraft had shot down a small plane that crashed a day earlier in the waters near the island of Aruba.



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The Political Scene: The Evolution of Islamic Extremism


On this week’s Political Scene podcast, the New Yorker staff writer Jon Lee Anderson joins host Dorothy Wickenden to talk about the current status of the war against Islamic radicalism. The two discuss the ways in which terrorism is expanding across the Middle East, the dystopian vision of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), and the limited impact of ISIS’s defeat in the Syrian town of Kobani.

See the rest of the story at newyorker.com

Related:
Weekend Reading: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Lawyer, A Men’s-Rights Icon, and More
“Timbuktu” and “Girlhood”
Listening to the Brain Below

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5 Russian Nuclear Weapons of War the West Should Fear


Dave Majumdar

Nuclear Weapons, Defense, United States, Russia

When it comes to Moscow’s military might, these are the real threats the West should be concerned about. 

Modern Russia is not the Soviet Union. While the USSR adhered to a no first use policy for nuclear weapons, modern Russia dropped that pledge in November 1993. In fact, Moscow reserves the right to use its nuclear arsenal during any conflict under a doctrine it paradoxically calls “de-escalation.”

The reason for that is because while the Soviet military was confident it could win a conventional fight against all comers, the modern Russian military is a shambolic mess. While some units are well equipped and well trained, much of the Russia’s conventional forces are composed of poorly trained conscripts using antiquated hardware from the Soviet-era.

Therefore, Russia has to rely on its nuclear forces to offset NATO’s overwhelming conventional military superiority. As such, Russia is investing heavily in modernizing its nuclear forces—strategic and tactical.

Here are five Russian nuclear systems— think not just nuclear weapons but systems that have a “nuclear component”— that pose a threat to the United States.

Borei-Class Ballistic Missile Submarine:

Ballistic missile submarines are the most survivable part of a country’s nuclear deterrent. The Soviet Union maintained a fleet of Delta and Typhoon-class boomers, but those boats are aging and need to be replaced. The successor to the Delta and Typhoon-class boats are the new Project 955 Borei-class nuclear submarines.

Considerably smaller than the massive Project 941 Akula— also known as the Typhoon—the new boats are still larger than the U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class boomers. Based on a project conceived towards the end of the Soviet-era, the Borei-class boomers are capable submarines that can carry 16 Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The boats are quiet and have efficient hydrodynamics.

Three of the boats have been completed, there are three more being built—some of which are an improved derivative that some reports have suggested carry 20 missiles. Russia hopes to build 10 Borei-class boats—but there are questions as to whether they afford to pay for those vessels.

Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missiles

Read full article

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No, King Abdullah Was Not a ‘Reformer’


On Jan. 23, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah was buried in an unmarked grave in a public cemetery in Riyadh. If the trappings were designed to show humility, the guest list betrayed his influence: Leaders from around the world came to the late king’s gravesite to pay respects to one of the most powerful men in the Middle East during his 19 years running the country.

From all corners of the globe came praise for Abdullah: “The Arab people have lost a great leader who offered a lot to his nation and its people,” said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who “knew him well and admired him greatly,” called Abdullah a “patient and skillful modernizer.” President Barack Obama eulogized him for taking “bold steps in advancing the Arab Peace Initiative, an endeavor that will outlive him as an enduring contribution to the search for peace in the region.” Obituaries around the world, from the New York Times to the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat, heaped praise on the recently deceased.

But the legacy that King Abdullah leaves behind is one of neither regional peace nor domestic progress. And while modest social reforms may have been achieved, such as his foreign-education scholarship program, the monarchy remains in bed with a repressive religious establishment and continues to crack down on any type of dissent. A quick examination of human rights in Saudi Arabia during King Abdullah’s rule quickly refutes the notion of the king as a reformer.

In an interview with Barbara Walters in 2005, King Abdullah claimed, “I believe strongly in the rights of women … my mother is a woman, my sister is a woman, my daughter is a woman, my wife is a woman.” He also said that women’s right to drive — an issue that Saudi feminists had been pushing for since 1990 — would be granted. “I believe the day will come when women drive. In fact, if you look at the areas in Saudi Arabia, the deserts and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive. The issue will require patience. In time, I believe it will be possible.” This kind of rhetoric won the king sympathy from his subjects.

Too bad it was empty. At least four of King Abdullah’s 15 daughters are reportedly locked up under house arrest, and have been so for more than 14 years. They have not been charged with any crimes but, according to an interview with one of the princesses, they are detained because they wanted to highlight the kingdom’s human rights abuses. And when women demanded the right to drive during King Abdullah’s rule, they were arrested, detained, threatened, and finally prosecuted on terrorism charges. Loujain Hathloul and Maysaa Alamoudi, two women who challenged the driving ban, were sentenced just weeks before Abdullah “The Reformer” met his maker.

Terrorism, an issue on which the late king was allegedly a reliable partner for Saudi Arabia’s allies in the West, is also a favorite cudgel with which he beat back his opponents. A new anti-terrorism law was enacted by royal decree in December 2013 with broadly defined articles to silence dissent. The first “terrorist” to be tried and convicted under the law was Waleed Abulkhair, a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for “inciting public opinion.” His real crime? Establishing a human rights monitoring group. Abulkhair’s wife, Samar Badawi, was banned from traveling to a European Union-sponsored human rights forum.

On the other hand, real terrorists, such as the Islamic State in its early stages, received financial and logistical support from King Abdullah’s government in Riyadh. The Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, was reportedly a key player in the arming of the opposition groups fighting the Syrian regime. And while Saudi Arabia officially banned joining the jihad in Syria, it was not enforced.

So what were King Abdullah’s top priorities? Mostly crushing any attempts at creating moderate and open civil society. Legislation — all of which came in the form of royal decrees — was passed to target activists who aimed to promote human rights. Questioning religious authorities, communicating with international human rights organizations or the media, or even attending conferences critical of the country’s policies are considered acts of terror. In 2013, Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani, who founded the Saudi Political and Civil Rights Association, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

And forget open discourse online. Article 6 of the cybercrime law, passed by a royal decree in 2007, says that a person can be subjected to up to five years in prison or fined up to 3 million riyals (almost $800,000) for producing, preparing, transmitting, or storing materials deemed to impinge on public order, religious values, or public morals. The law is continuously cited in the prosecution of activists and human rights defenders. Even tweeting a controversial opinion regarding the state or the official clergy or organizing an assembly for unemployed citizens can get you locked up, charged with endangering the national peace or defaming the kingdom.

Generating real legal reforms in Saudi Arabia — the kinds of reforms that might actually empower citizens — is not easy. A law that would legalize civil society organizations has been drafted by the Consultative Council (the closest thing Saudi Arabia has to a parliament) for a decade without being enacted. A law that would protect women from abuse at their workplaces was rejected by the council in 2012 on the grounds that it would encourage women to work alongside men.

So let’s agree to disagree over whether King Abdullah’s years in power were the boon for civil rights reforms that his eulogizers seem to remember. But maybe his foreign policy was on the right side of history? Hardly.

During the uprisings that have electrified the Arab world in recent years, Riyadh, under King Abdullah’s guidance, has been a force for reactionary stability. In March 2011, King Abdullah dispatched thousands of troops and armored vehicles to Bahrain to help put down a pro-democracy uprising there. When Tunisia’s dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, fled his country during the revolution, he found refuge in the Saudi kingdom. When then-Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi launched his coup in Egypt in July 2013, he did so with King Abdullah’s blessing.

Stability in all things was King Abdullah’s mantra. And there was perhaps no pillar he needed to keep more stable than Riyadh’s relationship with Washington. The United States’ main interests, of course, are regional issues like countering the Iranian nuclear threat and fighting Islamist militants, as well as continued access to Saudi Arabia’s vast oil reserves. Those priorities are unfortunate ones for the Saudi people. They far outweigh any concern for democracy, political reform, or human rights.

Obama’s administration kept quiet when it came to human rights under King Abdullah. Despite some minor gestures — such as Michelle Obama’s decision not to wear a headscarf during her recent visit to Saudi Arabia — the United States’ real priorities are clear. The president has even spoken bluntly about them: “Sometimes we have to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns that we have in terms of countering terrorism or dealing with regional stability,” he told CNN just before he went to pay his respects to King Abdullah and check in with his replacement.

Should Saudis hope that any of this will improve with King Abdullah out of the picture? The newly crowned King Salman, King Abdullah’s half brother, looks remarkably similar to the recently departed monarch in all senses. He holds traditional views on domestic governance, regional politics, and relations with United States. When Obama met with King Salman earlier this week, the new king assured him that business will continue as usual.

On Thursday, King Salman announced that he would reshuffle his cabinet. That move solidified his power, but also made clear what his priorities are. King Salman has brought in businessmen and close confidants to powerful ministerial positions, and he appointed his son as the head of an economic and development council with 22 ministers under him. He appointed his nephew, Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, as the head of a new national security council that will enforce King Salman’s excessive security measures. It’s now clear that even if King Abdullah is gone, his legacy lives on. And it is not a legacy of reform.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

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Winston Churchill’s Funeral, Recreated


On Friday, the United Kingdom observed the 50th anniversary of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s funeral. While anniversaries are typically noted or marked, observed seems more precise here considering both the gravity and extent of the ceremonies held to honor the iconic leader.

AP

AFP attributed the intensity of the festivities to Churchill serving as a “reminder of a faded age of [Britian’s] global influence.” As Reuters explains, the 1965 funeral for the World War II leader was the largest in the world at the time: “Queen Elizabeth granted him the rare honor of a state funeral and more than 320,000 people filed past his coffin to pay their respects during three days of lying in state.”

Leaders from more than 100 countries attended the funeral. But, as the historian Michael Beschloss recalls, President Lyndon Johnson’s absence (due to illness) and his failure to dispatch Hubert Humphrey, his newly inaugurated vice president, created a significant media scandal at the time, echoing the controversy surrounding Obama’s absence from the recent unity march in Paris:

Some British officials called the president’s refusal to send his No. 2 a deliberate affront. (One far-fetched interpretation was that Johnson, an old F.D.R. acolyte, was paying Churchill back for his failure to attend President Roosevelt’s funeral in 1945.)

Beschloss suggests that the more likely reason for Johnson’s absence was that the president, who had suffered a heart attack a decade earlier, worried that he might take a turn for the worse and didn’t want his second-in-command traveling overseas at such a moment.

On Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron addressed a remembrance for Churchill at Parliament, later laying a wreath at a statue of Churchill at a second ceremony in the House of Commons. “A full 50 years since his funeral, when the cranes along the Thames dipped low and the streets were lined with vast silent crowds,” Cameron said, “the sheer brilliance of Winston Churchill remains undimmed.”

Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Speaking of the Thames, the Havengore, the ship that carried Churchill’s coffin in 1965, was recommissioned to retrace its original journey from the Tower of London to the Palace of Westminster. This time, it carried members of Churchill’s family. Along the way, the Tower Bridge was raised in honor of the occasion, halting traffic in London, and bagpipers played as the HMS Belfast warship fired a four-gun salute.

British news outlets were filled with tributes from Britons who attended the 1965 funeral to testimonies from figures in Churchill’s life, ranging from relatives to his family driver. In York, as the BBC reported, the National Railway Museum unveiled its display of “the locomotive—named Winston Churchill—that pulled his funeral train from London to Oxfordshire before his burial.”

The outpouring of nostalgia, however, wasn’t universally embraced. Among the lamentations for what the loss of Churchill  represented were a number of calls to reevaluate his legacy, which one writer dubbed “The Churchill Myth.”

This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/winston-churchills-funeral-recreated/385043/



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Sources: U-2 in USAF Budget Request, A-10 At Risk


The Air Force will include both the U-2 spy plane and Global Hawk unmanned system in their FY16 budget request, but will once again ask to retire the A-10 Warthog, sources tell Defense News.

       
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