Foreign Affairs Roundup

This Week's Top Stories in Foreign Affairs:

Haiti's Devastation

SI Anlysis: A 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti and tens of thousands are feared dead. Countries and aid organizations rushed to provide emergency relief. The UN peacekeeping mission there suffered horrible blows: 16 peacekeepers were confirmed dead, wheras 100 UN employees remain missing. Haiti is already critically poor and just barely emerging from a period of political chaos that brought great instability and violence to the small Carribean country. The repercussions of this quake will be felt for years to come.

China This Week

SI Analysis: China's massive economic weight and rise in exports led headlines at the beginning of the week; while the headliner towards week's end was Google's threat to withdraw all of its operations from the nation. (The multinational Internet giant cited Beijing's assaults on its computer systems from hackers in addition to the over-zealous government censorship policy. This accusation was followed by reports that similar cyberattacks have target defense companies with sensitive US technology). Behind these headlines was the fact that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Asia trying to proffer a more cooperative, but deeply Sino-conscious American foreign policy there. It was no surprise then that China announced this week that it is the first nation to follow the US with a successfully test of its own missile defense system. This show of force, uncharacteristically announced by Xinhua, will be of increasing concern to the Pentagon and other global players as the months progress. And the US' recent sale of Patriot missile-defence systems to Taiwan is certainly a factor here. In other piece of intriguing (and positive) news is that China rushed to the aid of quake-stricken Haiti, proving that it is day's of isolation and inward-focused policy is over and Beijing is serious about making itself an integral part of international rescue efforts.

Israel Under Pressure
SI Analysis: A diplomatic spat over the portrayal of Israelis in a Turkish television show and how Israeli officers from the Foreign Ministry treated the Turkish Ambassador has underscored the deep tension between the regional allies. This crisis comes just before Defense Minister Ehud Barak is headed to Turkey to try to repair relations, that have greatly degraded since the 2008 Gaza War. Some see the events as a direct effort from the far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Leiberman to thwart the talks. Israel faced further pressure from US Special Envoy George Mitchell who intimated in a recent interview that the US could withdraw loan guarantees from Israel is if it did not halt settlement building. Furthermore, there has been an increase in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza in recent weeks, prompting Israel to contemplate a possible violent retalitory response.

War Reports:

SI Analysis: Afghan President Hamid Karzai made his second proposal to Parliament in an effort to form a Cabinet this month; the amount of unknowns prompted criticism and it was unclear whether they would approve his proposal. The traditional winter slowdown in fighting in Afghanistan has not occured this year due to persistent Taliban attacks in Southern Afghanistan, an persistent pressure and attacks made possible by the increased number of US troops and the increased focus on the border with Pakistan with ongoing drone attacks. However this continued cadence seemed threatened by the slower than expected rollout of the increase in American troops. In Helmand Province, the opium trade is reportedly down helped by anti-narcotic efforts, a demand for wheat in neighboring Pakistan and depressed opium prices. Meanwhile, the repercussions of the Jordanian doctor double agent who killed 6 CIA officers in Khost last week are still being weighed by all parties in Afghanistan -- Al Qaeda claims to have masterminded the attack, though others suggest that the attack was made in retalliation for the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency publicaly proposes new methods to increase the efficacy of inteligence collection and analysis in Afghanistan,

SI Analysis: All eyes are focused on the upcoming March 7 parliamentary elections, with great scrutiny being paid to whether the great gamble of the Iraqi National Alliance -- which has sought to create parties across sectarian and religious divides -- will pay off. Furthermore, there are rumors that the US and the Iraqis are courting former Bathists set up in Yemen now to quell the ongoing Sunni insurgency ahead of elections (and to bolster a more effective effort against al Qaeda within Yemen).

Analysis in Brief:

Iranian Nuclear Conspiracy Thriller
SI Analysis: This week another curious event occurred in Tehran. Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, a prominent Iranian physicist and professor at Tehran University, was killed in a bomb blast outside his home. Ali-Mohammadi was allegedly involved in Iran's nuclear program and his death has led to all sorts of conspiracy theories. Was it secret forces from America or Israel that killed him? Or did Iranian forces off him? (After all, Iranian media was extremely quick to cover the event and condemn "Zionists".) Opposition figures at home were quick to note that Ali-Mohammadi was a fervent supporter of Mousavi and may have sufferefd the recent fate of many opposition supporters.

Nigerian Strife SI Analysis: A leadership crisis in Nigeria was exacerbated rather than tempered when Umaru Yar'Adua, Nigeria's president, made a radio address vowing his return after 7 weeks on silence following his emergency hospitalization in Saudi Arabia. Without effective leadership, many are calling for Yar'Adua to officially transfer power to Vice President Goodluck Jonathan.
Ireland: A Cautionary Tale for Peacemakers
SI Analysis: The last phase of Northern Ireland's peace accord seemed in great peril. The difficult task that would see the transfer of security responsability from London to Stormont is threatened not to uppity insurgents but mainly to stupid sex scandals (on both sides!). Presidential Elections:
  • This week Croatia elected a new President, Ivo Josipovic, a law professor and composer, and also a moderate. He is expected to bridge some of the divides in this Balkan nation and analysts hail him as good for the entire region's progress.
  • An impending presidential election in Ukraine leaves many predicting the comeback of Viktor Yanukovitch who was ousted in 2004 by the pro-Western "Orange Revolution". Ukraine's EU-friendly government, led by rivals President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoschenko has proved a disappointment to many and Ukraine has been stuck in many tumultuous disputes between Russia and the West, especially over Russian gas. Yanukovitch leads in the polls and his victory would be a boon to the Kremlin and Russian influence.
  • The second round of the Chile presidential election takes place pitting rightwing candidate Sebastián Piñera (who won 40% in the first round last month) against leftwinger Eduardo Frei, (who took 35%). Many analysts predict the right is poised to win.
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