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In the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake in May, I described China’s press management as controlled transparency, and mentioned that the cautious manner in which it allowed the world to see its domestic tragedy reflected a lot about how comfortable China was, or wasn’t, with its newfound status. The same obviously goes for the upcoming Olympic Games, and by every indication, China still has some ground to cover. With the opening of the Games just days away, the news has now leaked that Beijing has backtracked on its commitment to press freedom, restricting access to Internet websites ranging from the […]

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Turkey was awash in rumors yesterday, as news leaked of a secret meeting last Sunday between President Abdullah Gul and PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the home of an AKP lawmaker. The unprecedented meeting provoked speculation that the two had been tipped off to an unfavorable Supreme Court ruling and were planning the AKP’s response. Instead, the Court announced today that the ruling AKP party narrowly survived a case that could have resulted in it being closed and its prominent members (including PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan) banned from holding office. Significantly, the Court actually voted in favor of closure, six […]

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Matthew Yglesias calls John McCain’s refusal to commit to ordering a U.S. strike on Osama bin Laden in Pakistan were we to have actionable intelligence on his whereabouts bizarre. It’s also inconsistent with these comments McCain made in an interview with the editors of Defense News last October: Q: Does the U.S. have any options with regard to al-Qaida and reputed al-Qaida strongholds in the federally unregulated areas in Pakistan? Other than what seems to be sort of a status quo of waiting for them to come over the border, the Pakistani Army occasionally launching a strike to — well, […]

Earlier this month, the Philippine government hinted that its four-year ban on Filipinos working in Iraq might be lifted before the year is up. In a July 15 statement, Assistant Foreign Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Jesus Yabes cited the improving conditions in Baghdad as a reason to end the prohibition. The ban was put in place in 2004 by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo following the abduction of a Filipino truck driver who was working in Iraq at the time. Yabes’ statement came just a month after a Filipino was killed and two others injured in a […]

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ARGENTINEAN COURT CONVICTS ‘DIRTY WAR’ PERPETRATORS — An Argentinean court sentenced eight men, including former army commander Luciano Benjamin Menendez, to long jail terms July 25, finally delivering a measure of justice to the thousands of Argentinean who fell victim to the military government’s murderous 1976-1983 campaign of state-sponsored violence. The court sentenced Menendez to live out the rest of his days behind bars for the kidnapping, torture and murder of activists who were held at the notorious La Perla detention center, a secret facility used by the military dictatorship where only 17 of more than 2,000 detainees survived incarceration. […]

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Via Abu Muqawama, a Stars and Stripes write-up of the firefight that left nine American soldiers dead in Afghanistan two weeks back. It’s a stark reminder of the reality of war, the one that’s fought on the ground. Kip from AM concludes: Counterinsurgency may be a thinking man’s war, but it remains a fighting man’s war. The essence of force remains the same, described by Rupert Smith as “both the physical means of destruction–the bullet, the bayonet–and the body that applies it.” A valiant and successful defense of a position against an overwhelming enemy, executed by brave Americans who have […]

“If China is winning, the United States must be losing.” That is precisely the principle that many Americans see at work not only in the world, but also in the Middle East. China’s surging manufacturing capacity has contributed to the steep decline in manufacturing jobs in the United States. U.S. businessmen worry about the consequences of Chinese firms taking over U.S. firms such as Unocal and 3Com and scuttle the deals. U.S. bankers agonize over China’s massive current accounts surpluses and its huge dollar holdings. Many perceive China to be a military threat too, expanding its reach in the Pacific […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s ruling party has claimed victory in Sunday’s election after soundly defeating opposition efforts to unseat him. Meanwhile, high-level diplomatic talks with Thailand regarding a flaring border dispute got under way. As final vote counting continued, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) seemed assured of winning 90 seats in the 123-seat parliament, easily surpassing the minimum 50-percent-plus-one-seat required to govern outright, while the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP) was expecting to win at least 30 seats. The balance would be split between the Human Rights Party (HRP) and the Norodom Ranariddh Party (NRP), while […]

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Do not miss Vikram Singh’s WPR piece on the applicability of the Surge to Afghanistan. It’s a balanced, insightful, and revealing treatment of what is increasingly becoming the common wisdom consensus. While Singh is far from a pessimist on the current situation in Afghanistan or on the chances for a successful outcome there, he very ably points out the limits of the current discussion, and what needs to be included to make it more relevant.

After a brazen Taliban attack killed nine U.S. soldiers in a remote outpost in Afghanistan on July 13, Sens. McCain and Obama seemed to start a competition over who would more rapidly surge U.S. military forces to Afghanistan. Sen. Obama’s trip to Afghanistan and Iraq has further focused attention on the vast disparity in U.S. resources going to the two wars. Americans should welcome the recognition by both presidential contenders that Afghanistan is central to U.S. and international security. But we should remain wary of promises to apply an Iraq-style surge to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is even more complex than Iraq, […]

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodian authorities have called for a special U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at resolving a border dispute with Thailand as a wave of nationalism sweeps the country ahead of national elections on Sunday. Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said Tuesday Cambodia’s ambassador in New York had sought the request, as a troop build-up around a 900-year-old temple in this country’s remote northwest continues. Reports Wednesday indicated that the Security Council would discuss the issue at a Thursday meeting. “Thai troops with artilleries and tanks are building up along the border, constituting a very serious threat not only […]

An ogre of a giant looms to the east of Europe, occasionally in the shape of a country, other times in the shape of a company, the two often indistinguishable. Russia and Gazprom are poised to devour the whole of Europe and its Asian neighbors. OAO Gazprom’s influence has been underestimated and, astonishingly, often ignored. By far the largest owner of natural gas reserves and the largest supplier of gas in the world, six times as big as No. 2, Royal Dutch/Shell, the company currently provides over a quarter of Europe’s natural gas, and is aggressively looking to greatly increase […]

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It looks like Indian PM Manmohan Singh has handily won today’s “trust vote” in the Indian Parliament. The vote was triggered by the departure from the governing coalition of the Left Party following Singh’s decision to present the U.S.-India Nuclear deal to the IAEA for its seal of approval. Singh now has a governing majority, but no guarantee that the IAEA and Nuclear Suppliers Group will sign off on the deal in time for it to be ratified by the U.S. Congress. Nevertheless, the vote does clear him to pursue those groups’ approval, which will be essential for any subsequent […]

Editor’s Note: Rights & Wrongs covers the world’s major human rights-related news and appears every week. Click here to browse past installments. NEW U.N. RIGHTS CHIEF TO BE NAMED — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week will name South African Judge Navanethem Pillay as the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, according to various press reports. Under apartheid, the Harvard-educated Pillay, who is an ethnic Tamil, was the first woman to establish an independent legal practice in South Africa’s Natal province in 1967. In post-apartheid South Africa, Pillay became the first woman named as a high court judge in […]

On July 15, Indonesian and East Timorese leaders jointly accepted the findings of the Commission of Truth and Friendship, established in 2005, which blamed Indonesian security forces for committing “gross human rights violations” in a failed attempt to prevent the succession of East Timor from Indonesia in 1999. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta and East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao issued a joint statement that expressed “deep regret to all parties and victims, who directly or indirectly suffered physical and psychological wounds” due to the affair, in which hundreds of people died. At a time […]

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It looks like William Burns has pulled double duty, because according to this report from The Times of India, he’s stopping over in Vienna for today’s IAEA briefing on the U.S.-India nuclear deal before continuing on to Geneva for tomorrow’s talks on the Iranian nuclear program. Meanwhile, The Hindu reports that one of India’s opposition parties has demanded that PM Manmohan Singh promise to withdraw the safeguard agreement from the IAEA should his government lose next week’s confidence vote. The demand comes in the wake of rumors that Singh plans to forge ahead with the deal even if next week’s […]

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It’s reassuring to see that a COIN pro like Charlie over at Abu Muqawama has got some concerns about the McCain campaign’s Afghanistan “surge”: Charlie would love to know which specific “strategy” has been nominated for export….and whether it was based on any assessment of, you know, Afghanistan. There are some basic COIN best practices that might improve the situation in Afg (one word: sanctuary), but the broader population centric approach would require significant changes to be successfully applied there. And if McCain’s crew think they can blindly transfer “lessons” from the Anbar Awakening to the assorted tribes in Afg […]

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