Thursday, July 23, 2009

N. Korea "Clinton is a Funny Lady"

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- North Korea launched a scathing personal attack on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday after she likened the leadership in Pyongyang to "small children and unruly teenagers and people who are demanding attention."

Hillary Clinton says N. Korea's refusal to discuss nuclear program could provoke arms race.

At a meeting of southeast Asian nations in Phuket, Thailand, a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman blasted Clinton for what he called a "spate of vulgar remarks unbecoming for her position everywhere she went since she was sworn in," according to the state-run KCNA news agency.

The spokesman called Clinton "by no means intelligent" and a "funny lady."

"Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping," the statement said.

The verbal tussle between the two countries culminated with the reclusive communist state making it clear that six-party nuclear talks, stalled for over a year, were effectively finished.

Clinton had earlier warned that North Korea's refusal to discuss its nuclear program could escalate tensions and provoke an arms race in northeast Asia. Watch as North Korea insults Clinton »

"I was gratified by how many countries from throughout the region spoke up and expressed directly to the North Korea delegation their concerns over the provocative behavior we have seen over the last few months," Clinton said at a meeting of southeast Asian nations in Phuket, Thailand.

"Unfortunately, the North Korean delegation offered only an insistent refusal to recognize that North Korea has been on the wrong course," she said. "They expressed no willingness to pursue the path of denuclearization. In their presentation today, they evinced no willingness to pursue the path of denuclearization, and that was troubling not only to the United States, but to the region and the international community."

Before Clinton's remarks in Phuket on Thursday, the North Korean delegation attempted to take the podium to speak to the media. But it was turned away by security guards.

North Korea tested a nuclear device in May and fired seven ballistic missiles earlier this month in defiance of a U.N. resolution.

At the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting, Clinton said she had unanimous support for U.N. Resolution 1874, passed by the Security Council in June. It tightened sanctions on North Korea, imposing an embargo on the shipment of arms from that nation.

The North protested the resolution by saying it would enrich uranium and weaponize plutonium, according to KCNA. When enriched to a high degree, uranium can be used as weapons-grade material. Plutonium can be used in atomic bombs.

Clinton said the United States will continue to push North Korea to come to the table. She said a "full normalization of relationships" was possible if North Korea agreed to a verifiable dismantling of its nuclear program.

"The United States and its allies and partners cannot accept a North Korea that tries to maintain nuclear weapons, to launch ballistic missiles or to proliferate nuclear materials," Clinton said. "We are committed to the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a peaceful manner."

The United States has also expressed concern that military cooperation between North Korea and Myanmar could destabilize the

Friday, July 17, 2009

Iranian Opposition Re-gains Momentum

TEHRAN, Iran – In a sign of endurance for Iran's protest movement, demonstrators clashed with police Friday as one of the nation's most powerful clerics challenged the supreme leader during Muslim prayers, saying country was in crisis in the wake of a disputed election.

The turnout of tens of thousands of worshippers for former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's sermon at Tehran University and the battles with police outside represented the biggest opposition show of strength in weeks. Protesters faced fierce government suppression and hundreds were arrested following the disputed June 12 presidential election.

Outside the university, protests grew from several hundred before the sermon to thousands afterward as worshippers joined in, chanting, "death to the dictator," a reference to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Protesters were confronted by riot police and a menacing line of pro-government Basiji militiamen on motorcycles, who charged with batons. Plainclothes Basijis fired volleys of tear gas, and young protesters with green bandanas over their faces kicked the canisters across the pavement. Some set a bonfire in the street and waved their hands in victory signs. Dozens were arrested, taken away in trucks, witnesses said.

Protests, which flared following the election, had been stifled in recent weeks. The sometimes tearful sermon by Rafsanjani could be a significant boost to the movement's staying power. It was an open challenge to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, aired live on nationwide radio from one of the country's most potent political stages. By openly showing the divisions in the leadership, it punched a hole in efforts by Khamenei and hard-line clerics to end the controversy over Ahmadinejad's re-election.

Worshippers chanted "azadi, azadi," Persian for "freedom," during Rafsanjani's sermon, his first since the election. Opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who claims to have won the election, sat among the worshippers, attending the country's main prayer service for the first time since the turmoil began.

Many of those gathered wore headbands or wristbands in his campaign color green, or had green prayer rugs, crowding the former soccer field where prayers are held and spilling into nearby streets.

Rafsanjani denounced the government crackdown on protests and called for the release the hundreds detained.

He reprimanded the clerical leadership for not listening to people's complaints over the election, which was declared a victory for Ahmadinejad despite opposition accusations of fraud.

"There is a large portion of the wise people who say they have doubts (about the election). We need to take action to remove this doubt," he said. "The trust that brought the people to vote in such large numbers is not there anymore. We need to return this trust."

Rafsanjani avoided directly mentioning Khamenei or outright calling the vote fraudulent. He couched his sermon in calls for unity in support of Iran's Islamic Republic, but it was clear he blamed the leadership for the loss of unity.

The cleric got tears in his eyes as he spoke of how Islam's Prophet Muhammad "respected the rights" of his people. He said the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, "would always say that if the system is not backed by the people, nothing would stand."

For Iranians listening across the country, the weekly Friday sermon in Tehran is the voice of the leadership and a symbol of its backing by God.

After hundreds of thousands joined protests against the election results in the days following the vote, the supreme leader used the podium to declare Ahmadinejad's victory valid and order a stop to unrest. The crackdown was launched soon after. In the weeks that followed, hard-line clerics have used the sermon to depict the protesters as tools of foreign enemies and tell worshippers to follow Khamenei.

Rafsanjani's sermon lay bare to the broader public that the dispute was internal and even Iran's ruling clerics are split. He directly referred to the divisions, saying the revered topmost theologians of Shia Islam, who have millions of followers, were not happy with the government.

Rafsanjani heads two powerful clerical bodies that oversee the government and parliament, the Expediency Council and the Experts Council. He is bitter rival of Ahmadinejad and is considered Mousavi's top supporter within Iran's clerical leadership.

A mercurial and savvy politician, Rafsanjani positioned himself as a leader emerging to resolve the unrest, saying he hoped his words would be a start to "help us pass safely through a problem that can unfortunately be called a crisis."

He specifically criticized his top rivals within the clerical leadership — the Guardians Council, a body dominated by hard-liners. The council oversaw the election, then held a partial recount that upheld Ahmadinejad's win but was dismissed by the opposition.

Rafsanjani said the Guardians Council missed an "opportunity to unite the people and regain their trust."

Inside the prayers, worshippers traded competing chants with some hard-liners in the congregation. When the hard-liners chanted "death to America," Mousavi supporters countered with "death to Russia" and "death to China," a reference to Ahmadinejad's alliance with both countries.

The Iranian government has accused the U.S. and other Western countries of inciting the massive street protests and interfering with the election. On Thursday, Ahmadinejad demanded and apology from the U.S. as a step toward dialogue between the two countries.

"They tried to interfere in our elections. They talked nonsense. They were rude. They fomented aggression against people's wealth and property," Ahmadinejad told a crowd of thousands in the northwestern city of Mashhad.

The U.S. has denied the government's allegations.

More than 500 remain in prison following the government's crackdown and at least 20 were killed. In the past three weeks, the opposition held only one other significant protest before Friday's.

The scene outside the university on Friday was tumultuous. Before the sermon, police fired tear gas at hundreds of Mousavi backers trying to enter.

When Mahdi Karroubi, another pro-reform candidate in the June election, headed for the prayers, plainclothes Basijis attacked him, shouting "death to the opponent of Velayat-e-Faqih," or supreme leader, witnesses said.

Also arrested was a prominent women's rights activist, Shadi Sadr, who was beaten by militiamen, pushed into a car and driven away to an unknown location, Mousavi's Web site said.

Protests died down by nightfall. After sunset, Iranians could be heard shouting from rooftops, "God is great" and "death to the dictator" — a show of opposition support that has been held every night since the election, but appeared louder and more widespread Friday night.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Allegations Against the IDF

Reports/allegations of human rights abuses have been circulating almost since day one of Operation Cast Lead...and the 'debate' continues....

Shift of World Dominance...?

We've seen China rising steadily in recent years...and this global economic crisis will reveal much about the new balance of power in the 21st century. It's not necessarily good news--or bad news--but it's intriguing.

Human Rights Activist Killed in Russia

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zawahiri Warns Pakistanis of US

(CNN) -- The people of Pakistan must back Islamic militants to counter the influence of the United States in their country or face punishment from God, Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, said in an audio message released early Wednesday.

"I believe that every honest and sincere Muslim in Pakistan should seriously contemplate ... Pakistan's present state and expected future, because the blatant American crusader interference in Pakistan's affairs ... has reached such an extent that it now poses a grave danger to Pakistan's future and very existence," al-Zawahiri said in the message, which was released on radical Islamist Web sites.

Zawahiri warned Muslims that they have a religious duty to support the jihad, or struggle.

"If we stand by passively without offering due support to the mujahedeen, we shall not only contribute to the destruction of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but we shall also deserve the painful punishment of almighty God," he said.

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The Pakistani military is fighting Taliban militants in the country's north, and suspected U.S. missile attacks from drones have targeted militant leaders.

Reports from the region suggest government troops have dislodged the Taliban from many areas of the North West Frontier Province, but militant attacks continue daily.

Two government troops died and six were wounded Wednesday in the Bannu district when a bomb was detonated near a patrol, police said. A militant rocket attack near Peshawar about midnight missed a police checkpoint, but injured two civilians.

Across the border in Afghanistan, NATO-led forces are battling the Taliban as well. U.S. and British forces recently launched offensives in Helmand province.

This is the seventh message from al-Zawahiri espousing the views of the al Qaeda terror network in 2009. In addition to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the others have focused on Somalia, Yemen and Israeli military operations against Hamas leaders in Gaza.

Pakistani refugees

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Some Americans refuse to drop the Iran issue--bravo

Many people don't know, or have long since forgotten, that there were candlelight vigils held in Tehran after 9/11. I'm glad that some Americans are now standing up for the oppressed inside Iran--not only that, but that they have shown determination and stamina to not allow the issue to die out as media attention has waned.