Home
May 21, 2013

Speculations of North Korea’s Nuclear Advances

March 31, 2013 by

A soldier stands guard near a barbed wire fence on Hwanggumpyong Island located in the middle of the Yalu River, near the North Korean town of Sinuiju. Image via The Washington Post

U.S. officials and independent experts say North Korea appears to have taken unusual steps to conceal details about the nuclear weapon it tested in February, fuelingsuspicions that its scientists shifted to a bomb design that uses highly enriched uranium as the core.

At least two separate analyses of the Feb. 12 detonation confirmed that the effects of the blast were remarkably well contained, with few radioactive traces escaping into the atmosphere — where they could be detected — according to U.S. officials and weapons experts who have studied the data.

U.S. officials anticipated the test and monitored it closely for clues about the composition of the bomb, which was the third detonated by North Korea since 2006. The first two devices were thought to have used plutonium extracted from a dwindling stockpile of the fissile material that North Korea developed in the late 1990s.

Read the rest at The Washington Post

Read more about:

Mr. Kim and the Envelope

March 31, 2013 by

Photo released by KCNA news agency on March 29, 2013 shows top leader Kim Jong-Un attending an urgent meeting with top military officials. KCNA/Xinhua via ABC News

Like his father, Kim Jong-Un is best compared to a bellicose 13-year old child who stomps his feet and makes a fuss until he gets his way. Unlike an ordinary child, this one’s tantrums come with high stakes. The young Mr. Kim has now taken his game of chicken as far as it can go without actually pulling the trigger. The series of exchanges and threats are indeed worrisome for Washington and its allies; China, Japan, South Korea and the United States are taking it all seriously. Is Kim Jong-Un dumb enough to actually follow through?

According to a statement released by state-run KCNA, North Korea has stated that it is in a “state of war” with South Korea. “Situations on the Korean Peninsula, which are neither in peace or at war, have come to an end,” the statement read. “From this time on, the North-South relations will be entering the state of war and all issues raised between the North and the South will be handled accordingly.”

(more…)

Read more about:

Syria’s Multi-Sided Chess Game

March 31, 2013 by

Free Syrian Army fighter Mohammad Jaffar patrols a street in Bustan Al Basha, one of Aleppo’s most volatile front lines, Oct. 22, 2012. Sebastiano Tomada/Sipa USA

In some ways the Syrian civil war resembles a proxy chess match between supporters of the Bashar al-Assad regime— Iran, Iraq, Russia and China—and its opponents— Turkey, the oil monarchies, the U.S., Britain and France. But the current conflict only resembles chess if the game is played with multiple sides, backstabbing allies, and conflicting agendas.  Take the past few weeks of rollercoaster politics.

The blockbuster was the U.S.-engineered rapprochement between Israel and Turkey, two Washington allies that have been at loggerheads since Israeli commandos attacked a humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza and killed eight Turks and one Turkish-American. When Tel Aviv refused to apologize for the 2010 assault, or pay compensation to families of the slain, Ankara froze relations and blocked efforts at any NATO-Israeli cooperation.

Under the prodding of President Obama, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu phoned his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and buried the hatchet. The apology “was offered the way we wanted,” Erdogan said, and added “We are at the beginning of a process of elevating Turkey to a position so that it will again have a say, initiative and power, as it did in the past.”

(more…)

Read more about:

Peace Corps Diary: Ethiopia 1962-1964 Part 17

March 31, 2013 by

Celebration on Tukul Hill. Celebrating the unification of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Photo by the author

November 18, 1962 was a day of public celebration in Gondar. Our Peace Corps director, Harris Wofford, arrived from Asmara and accompanied us to the “Unity Day – Ethiopia and Eritrea” celebration on Tukul Hill (the mountain behind the post office). There gathered were many hundreds of local nobles and officials from throughout the province. The Governor and other high officials were sheltered in a large army tent where a crush of men tried to sit as close to the Governor as possible. The celebration was held in recognition of the Eritrean assembly vote which dissolved the Federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia and allowed Eritrea to be annexed to Ethiopia.

A week after the event I spoke with a Tigryean merchant from Asmara who told me that the Emperor got the approval of the Eritrean Assembly by sending army trucks throughout Eritrea rounding up all the Assembly members and hauling them to Asmara at gun point. He went on to relate that the Ethiopian government would not let any of the American or European Counsels near the Assembly members on the day of the voting. A year later while I was learning more about Ethiopian agriculture during a two weeks’ stay at Alamaya Agricultural College, a student whose father had been a member of the Eritrean Assembly corroborated what the merchant had reported.

(more…)

Read more about:

The Economics of Policy Schools and Fundraising

March 28, 2013 by

Columbia University’s campus

A few months ago a letter was sent to my permanent address in Dallas. I’ve been thinking – intermittently – about its contents for a couple of months. The letter came from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Among other things, it reminded me that attending a top policy school is not necessarily compatible with pursuing a career in the public or non-profit sectors – something that many SIPA alums do.

The letter, dated on December 6, was from a MPA (class of 2014) candidate. Having spent his “childhood in and out of over 30 foster homes in Washington State,” this is a man with a story to tell. After graduation he will return to DC (where he worked for several years) and “work on child advocacy and make significant, lasting improvements to the foster care system.”

(more…)

Read more about:

Iran’s Long Leash

March 27, 2013 by

Syrian security officers gather at the scene in front of destroyed buildings where triple bombs exploded at the Saadallah al-Jabri square, in Aleppo, Syria, back in October of 2012. SANA/AP

Although all of Syria’s neighbors have been negatively impacted by the country’s crisis, Iraq’s sectarian tensions and the religious, historical and cultural bonds between Syrians and Iraqis connect the two states’ political fates. While many of Iraq’s Sunnis support the Syrian opposition, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki continues to lend considerable support to Damascus, not only as a proxy for Iran, but also fearing that Al Qaeda affiliates and anti-Shia groups may gain safe haven in a post-Assad Syria, and in turn wage war against Baghdad. Recent events suggest that the Syrian crisis may ultimately push Iraq back to renewed sectarian civil war.

Given Mr. Maliki’s orientation toward Iran and Syria, Washington realizes that Baghdad is not aligned with the interests of the U.S. and its regional allies. Despite the Obama Administration’s efforts to convince Iraq to deny Iran its airspace in an attempt to impede the flow of weapons to President Assad, Iraq continues to allow Iran’s shipments to occur. Baghdad has every reason to continue to support the transfer of Iranian weapons into Syria, because the rise of Sunni Islamists with an extremist ideology in Syria pose an existential threat to the post-Saddam Shia-led order in Iraq.

(more…)

Read more about:

Haunted by Her Yesterdays: Female Ex-Combatants in Post-War Sri Lanka

March 27, 2013 by

This documentary tells a story of silent agony, trapped screams and repressed mourning. A story of women forced to deny their identity – who are trapped in between a government which sees them as “Tigers,” and a society whose norms they are no longer deemed worthy of.

These women fought bravely alongside men as members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) during Sri Lanka’s bloody thirty-year civil war. From protectors and defenders of their families, villages and nation, thousands of female ex-combatants have now returned home to assume more traditional roles as mothers, wives, widows, and teachers – in communities where they are perpetually shunned. Through several powerful voices, “Haunted by Her Yesterdays” allows a few to share their pain and suffering – the wounds that remain unhealed, the scars that are impossible to ignore and the hearts that still burn with pain, passion and grief – for the world to hear. This film is a gripping tale of loss, betrayal and struggle, but –above all else – it is a search for inspiration and a call for action. As the country’s war-torn North and East struggles to rebuild itself, this documentary tells a deeply moving story that has been overlooked for far too long.

(more…)

Read more about:

John Kerry in the Middle East

March 26, 2013 by

  • Image via State Department

    Israeli students welcome U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry prior to President Obama’s speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center on March 21, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are greeted by Bethlehem Mayor Vera Baboun, left, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, upon arrival at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on March 22, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry and Jordan’s King Abdullah II chat as Air Force One departs Amman on March 23, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry visits Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his home in Amman, Jordan on March 23, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before their working dinner in Jerusalem on March 23, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry greets the flight crew that transported him to Baghdad, Iraq on March 24, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry steps off military transport in Baghdad, Iraq on March 24, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry greets Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Usama al-Nujayfi in Baghdad, Iraq on March 24, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry surveys Baghdad as he travels to meetings during an unannounced stop to Baghdad, Iraq on March 24, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Usama al-Nujayfi in Baghdad, Iraq on March 24, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry flies over the Arch of Triumph in Baghdad, Iraq during his visit on March 24, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hand with U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham after arriving at the Kabul Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 25, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry steps of a U.S. military helicopter upon arriving in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 24, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 25, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 25, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 25, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry tours local businesses in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 26, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry (center), U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham (near left), and Senior Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan David Pierce (near right) participate in a roundtable discussion with elections stakeholders in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 26, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry looks out the window of a Blackhawk helicopter as he flies over Kabul, Afghanistan, March 26, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to U.S Embassy Kabul staff and families in Kabul, Afghanistan on March 26, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham listens, in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 26, 2013.

  • Image via State Department

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry departs the U.S. Embassy in Kabul in a U.S. military Blackhawk helicopter on March 26, 2013.

Read more about:

A Trip Through the Heart of Mali

March 26, 2013 by

A suicide car bomber hit a checkpoint about 5 miles from Timbuktu, injuring seven Malian soldiers. Five insurgents were killed and one captured. Photo by Yeah Samake

I have been writing about Mali, even before the military coup that took place last March, since my friend Yeah Samake, the mayor of Ouelessebougou, was running for president. The coup destabilized the country, and the elections were called off.  Islamist extremists took advantage of the ensuing lack of governance in the northern region and seized control of the towns of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu. They instituted Sharia law and brutalized the Malian people in these towns and surrounding villages.

There was also an influx of insurgents from countries as far away as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Northern Mali — about the size of France — had become the epicenter for the Islamists in the Sahel. Many of these insurgents were involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.

On Jan. 10, Malian President Dioncounda Traore called French President Francois Hollande and asked for military help, since a large group of extremists from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA) had moved south and taken over the town of Konna, just 300 miles from Bamako, the capital. The next day French troops and Mirage jets arrived from nearby Chad.

(more…)

Read more about:

President Obama in the Middle East

March 25, 2013 by

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama meets National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, left, and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, in the conference room aboard Air Force One en route to Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama pauses as the national anthem of the United States is played during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. The President is flanked by Israeli President Shimon Peres, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talk with members of the Israeli Defense Forces in front of an Iron Dome launcher unit at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the official arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013. Israeli President Shimon Peres stands at left.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama walks across the tarmac with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 20, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    Kelly Adams-Smith, Executive Secretary for NSS, left, and Danielle Crutchfield, Director of Scheduling and Advance, wait aboard a helicopter at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, before departing for Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Air Force One is seen in the background.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres approach the stage for a joint press conference at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres participate in a press conference at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama greets members of Hora, a local children’s dance troupe, before departing Israeli President Shimon Peres’ residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama talks with senior advisors before a press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. Pictured, from left, are: National Security Advisor Tom Donilon; Pete Rouse, Counselor to the President; Press Secretary Jay Carney; Senior Advisor Dan Pfeiffer; and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before a press conference at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama participates in a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama, along with members of the American and Israeli delegations, listen to a musical performance following a working dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk the grounds at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama views the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama, accompanied by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, views the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama talks privately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after viewing the Dead Sea Scrolls at The Israel Museum in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority pause as the national anthem of the United States is played during an official arrival ceremony in the courtyard of the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority participate in a bilateral meeting at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    Secretary of State John Kerry talks with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama participates in a press conference with President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority at the Mugata Presidential Compound in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama watch a dance performance at the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013. Dr. Samih Al-Abed, Chairman of the Board, Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center, left, and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority are seated with the President.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority at the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama participates in a youth roundtable at the Al-Bireh Youth Resource Development Center in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama departs aboard Marine One from the landing zone in Ramallah, the West Bank, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama walks on stage before delivering remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    Members of the audience listen as President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama waves to the audience after delivering remarks at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama shakes hands during a meet and greet at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama receives the Medal of Distinction from Israeli President Shimon Peres during a State Dinner at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres toast during a State Dinner at the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama listens to a musical performance during a State Dinner hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama talks with guests before departing the President’s residence in Jerusalem, March 21, 2013. Secretary of State John Kerry talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres at left.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama signs a guestbook after visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl during his visit to Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli President Shimon Peres stand with the President.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama pauses after placing a wreath at the grave of Yitzhak and Leah Rabin, during his visit to Mount Herzl, in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing with the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli President Shimon Peres; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; and Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama visits the Hall of Names during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing with the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate; and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama visits the Hall of Names during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing with the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate; and Israeli President Shimon Peres.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama pauses after adjusting a wreath placed in the Hall of Remembrance during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013. Standing behind the President, from left, are: Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau; Israeli President Shimon Peres; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu; and Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu look out a window before their lunch at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    Phil Gordon, White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region, left, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, center, and Prem Kumar, Acting Senior Director for Middle East and North Africa, confer in a hallway as President Barack Obama has lunch with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama lights candles as he tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus during his visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus during his visit to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority talk following their tour of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    Clergy watch as the President’s motorcade prepares to depart the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the West Bank, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and Israeli President Shimon Peres embrace during a departure ceremony at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    A motorcycle escort accompanies President Barack Obama’s motorcade as it arrives at the Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama is greeted by King Abdullah II of Jordan upon his arrival at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    Members of the White House press corps pass in front of Jordanian soldiers mounted on camels during the official arrival ceremony at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan inspect the honor guard during the official arrival ceremony at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan stand at the dais as the honor guard is dismissed during the official arrival ceremony at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    Jordanian guards prepare to open a door at the Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan participate in a bilateral meeting at Al Hummar in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013. Secretary of State John Kerry is seated at left.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and King Abdullah II 0f Jordan participate in a joint press conference at Al Hummar Palace in Amman, Jordan, March 22, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama shake hands during a meet and greet with U.S. Embassy staff at the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman, Jordan, March 23, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    A United States Secret Service agent stands watch as Marine One descends towards a landing zone near Petra, Jordan, March 23, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama views the area near the Treasury during a walking tour of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama watches as a vendor writes a name using colored sand in a bottle during a walking tour of the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    President Barack Obama and Dr. Suleiman A.D. Al Farajat, a University of Jordan tourism professor, jump from a ledge of the Nabataean Amphitheater during a walking tour the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    A Jordanian soldier stands watch from a portion of the Nabataean Amphitheater as President Barack Obama and Dr. Suleiman walk through the ancient city of Petra, Jordan, March 23, 2013.

  • Chuck Kennedy/White House

    President Barack Obama’s motorcade departs the ancient city of Petra in Jordan, March 23, 2013.

  • Pete Souza/White House

    King Abdullah II of Jordan waves to President Barack Obama as he boards Air Force One at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan, March 23, 2013.

Read more about:

Gimme Shelter: Jordan’s Refugee Past Makes for an Unsure Future

March 23, 2013 by

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter meets with Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the Royal Palace compound in Amman, Jordan, Feb. 5, 2013

President Barack Obama rounded out his recent visit to the Middle East with a quick stopover in Jordan. Over the course of the Arab Spring, Jordan has remained the peaceful outlier in Middle Eastern politics, but recent events have put that position in grave peril.

As governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Syria underwent violent upheaval or regime transition over the past two and a half years, Jordan has thus far defended itself against all challengers. Surrounded by conflict on all sides - Iraq to its east, Syria to its north, and Israel and Palestine to its west - Jordan now may be rightly viewed as the eye of the storm rather than its safe harbor.

Decades of war have resulted in a deluge of Palestinian, Iraqi, and Syrian refugees taking up residence and valuable resources in the capital, Amman, and across the country. Already lacking sufficient supplies of water and having to import all of their gas and oil, Jordanians are not prepared to spare what little they have, according to the International Monetary Fund.

(more…)

Read more about:

Explaining Iran’s Nowruz

March 23, 2013 by

Ruins of Persepolis outside of the southern city of Shiraz. Photo by Daniel N. Lang

Nowruz is considered the most important national holiday in Iran. It marks the beginning of a new solar year and the arrival of spring. According to the Persian calendar, it begins exactly at the moment when the center of the Sun is in the same plane as the Earth’s equator and the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun. Although the holiday signifies the commencement of the vernal equinox, which starts on March 20 or 21, it doesn’t always start at the same time; the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is different every year. But that’s the beauty of Nowruz- it starts on a unique moment each time, and people excitedly and breathlessly wait for the announcement of what is known as transition point of the year. The timing is astronomically and mathematically calculated according to the Jalali solar calendar in a precise manner and officially inaugurates the New Year.

Nowruz is now considered a global festival as it was officially recognized and registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in February 2010. The same year, the UN General Assembly recognized March 21 as the International Day of Nowruz, describing it as a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over thousands of years. Like Christmas, Nowruz is a pleasurable, elaborate and delicate festival which brings millions of people together, but it seems that there are certain elements in Nowruz which make it a distinctive tradition, and one of these important elements is its historical significance.

(more…)

Read more about:

Kafka and Cocaine: The fall of the Australian Labor Party

March 22, 2013 by

Kevin Rudd, the former prime minister of Australia. Photo by Mauroof Khaleel

It would be odd to find parallels between the Australian Labor Party’s behaviour during the week, one which saw a meandering and vain attempt at self-destruction, and a central European writer with a sense of the apocalyptic. But the parallels are there – the absurd situation, the words that mean little and the sheer arbitrariness.

Odder still is that this is a party in government presiding over a country that has seen 21 years of uninterrupted economic growth, with an unemployment rate of 5.4%. Australia is a nation bored by luxuries and governed by brats and prats. Its political classes are hollow. Its visionaries are permanent absentees.

(more…)

Read more about:

China’s Xi Jinping Seeks to Strengthen Relations with Russia and Africa

March 22, 2013 by

China’s president, Xi Jinping, pictured with He Guoqiang and Jia Qinglin in Beijing in November 2012. How Hwee Young/EPA

The first official state visits by the new president of China, Xi Jinping, have just been announced; Xi Jinping will embark on a four-country tour of Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In terms of grand strategy, the Chinese visit to Russia and South Africa, as well as BRICS countries is about balancing against the West and pushing for a multi-polar world order. The visits will prioritize China’s interests as a mixture of cementing geopolitical alliances and closing major strategic resource deals.

While one can expect the usual announcements of eternal friendship in Tanzania and South Africa, the real test for Xi Jinping will be whether he can close an oil deal with Russia and resolve the resources-infrastructure trade-off agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo. From an African perspective, it appears that the new Chinese leadership is redoubling efforts on its comprehensive charm offensive in Africa.

(more…)

Read more about:

President Obama’s Jerusalem Speech

March 22, 2013 by

(more…)

Read more about:
Page 1 of 41234