Facts: Two sophisticated suicide bombings rocked Baghdad this week killing over 60 people. Meanwhile at least 12,000 troops will leave Iraq by September's end and the US top official in Iraq General Ray Odierno says the US could pull more troops if security improves.
SI Analysis: The increase in attacks and violence in Iraq prompts some to worry about a new spike of sectarian insurgent activity in the country, particularly between rival Sunni factions who temporarily united for the Anbar Awakening. US and Iraqi officials argue the opposite, saying that the attacks represent frustration on the part of insurgents faced with increased Iraqi stability and security.
A Chance for Palestinian Unity?
Facts: Acting Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad resigns just before Palestinian unity talks in Cairo, expressing hopes that his depature will pave the way for a unity government. In Cairo:
Iran in the News
News: Iran hosts the Economic Cooperation Organization summit in Tehran, bringing together 10 regional nations including Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The summit urges aid for Gaza and Afghanistan, and Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan vow in increase trilateral ties. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gives a typically firebrand speech, accusing the West of creating the financial crisis while warning that capitalism is dead. Mr. Ahmadinejad does not offer an alternative economic system. And, he also openly rejects Turkey's offer to mediate possible talks between the US and Iran, calling it "unnecessary".
SI Analysis: Ahmadinejad continues to court and indulge international news pundits with his headline saavy and substance paucity. Though engaging with Central Asian neighbours is wise and judicious, there seems to be little concrete policy to put behind the Economic Cooperation Organization. Analysts continue to speculate on Iran's financial downturn due to low oil prices and ponder if the economy could spell doom for Ahmadinejad in June elections, in which case, the end of capitalism will at least be preceded by the end of Ahmadinejad.
Non-event of the week: Biden in Brussels. US Vice-President Joe Biden flew to Brussels to attempt to gather more support and coordination from NATO member nations for the war in Afghanistan. While arguing for a greater troop level commitment, Biden also pushes for talks with the "moderate" Taliban, as proposed by US President Obama. Biden describes 70% of Taliban fighters as mercenaries who could change, but critics are quick to argue: "What moderate Taliban?" Biden receives a quiet response that could be described as lukewarm at best.
Doom prediction of the week: The World Bank. The World Bank has been making headlines all week. It started Sunday when the international monetary organization warned that the global economy will shrink in 2009 - the first time since WWII. On Monday, the World Bank's Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala announced that G-20 needs to divert portions of its stimulus packages to the world's poorest countries in order to avoid a humanitarian disaster of immense proportions. Finally, on Thursday, World Bank President Robert Zoellick makes a stronger prediction about the global economy, stating that it will contract by as much as 2.0% in 2009, compared to the International Monetary Fund prediction of 0.5% growth for the year.
Debut of the week: South America Steps Out. Hopes in Washington that the new Obama administration would mend ties with South American nations were muted this week. Bolivia expelled US Ambassador Francisco Martinez on conspiracy allegations. In 2008, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg was expelled for allegedly inciting anti-government protests. 12 member states of the Union of South American Nations met for the inaugural meeting of the South American Defense Council, led by Brazil and aimed at "consolidating South America as a zone of peace". The council calls for and end to the American embargo on Cuba.
Boo-boo of the week: Big US Intelligence Resignations. You likely know that Obama's Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Chas Freeman withdraws before starting his job after repeated and intense criticism from the pro-Israel lobby in Washington for his apparently anti-Israeli views. The resignation is generally viewed as a manifestation of the lobby's strength in the US. What you might not have noticed is the resignation of Rod Beckstrom, the head of the Department of Homeland Security's National Cyber Security Center. Beckstrom's letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano explained his opposition to the growth of the National Security Agency and its expanding monopoly over computer security as "threats to our democratic processes." These two resignations make for a continued rocky start to the Obama administration coupled with difficulty in forming a coherent foreign policy.
Double insult of the week: Nations on the fringe of the Arab world have harsh treatment for both Israel and Iran this week. Over the weekend, Mauritania kicks out the Israeli diplomatic mission after severing ties with Jerusalem and Morocco cuts diplomatic relations with Iran. Mauritania's problems with Israel were largely viewed as resulting from pressure from it's anti-Israel allies and Israel's new right-wing government, while Morocco's spat with Iran resulted from "intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom" involving a Sunni-Shi'a controversy.
Up and Coming Conciliatory Diplomacy: Saudi King Abdullah, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and Kuwaiti Emir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah will meet for a summit in Riyadh next Wednesday to boost Arab unity. This includes mending ties between Syria and Saudi Arabia, improving relations with Syria and Egypt, and attempting to draw Damascus away from the Iranian sphere of influence.
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