WOI World Brief


A string of aggressive gestures by Iran this week — assassination attempts on Israelis living abroad that were attributed to Tehran, renewed posturing over its nuclear program and fresh threats of economic retaliation — suggest that Iranian leaders are responding frantically, and with increasing unpredictability, to the tightening of sanctions by the West. – New York Times

Urging nations to draw “red lines against Iranian aggression,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that the arrest of Iranians in Bangkok after a suspicious explosion and bombing attempts on Israeli diplomatic personnel in India and Georgia had exposed Iran’s “acts of terror” to the world. – New York Times

Israeli officials traced a trail of bomb attacks against Israeli diplomats to Iran on Wednesday, and police in Malaysia arrested a third Iranian suspect linked to explosions in the Thai capital. – Washington Times

Iran lashed out against Western sanctions on Wednesday with new threats to cut oil sales to European countries and defiant claims of progress in its nuclear facilities, statements that U.S. officials dismissed as “bluster” and signs of increasing desperation within the country’s senior leadership. – Washington Post

Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator said in a letter that the country welcomes resuming negotiations on its nuclear program. – DEFCON Hill

The U.N. nuclear watchdog sent its top brass to an Iranian embassy event in Vienna last week, but the goodwill gesture likely won’t be enough to win over Tehran to transparency about its nuclear activity at crunch talks in Tehran next week. – Reuters

Interview: RFE/RL correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari spoke to Juan Zarate, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and former deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism about the attacks and Iran’s alleged role. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

[Video] – FPI Executive Director Jamie Fly and former Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns discussed the prospects of an Israeli or American attack against Iran – CNN International


Sunni extremists, including fighters linked to Al Qaeda’s franchise in neighboring Iraq, are likely responsible for two big recent bombings in the Syrian capital as well as attacks on Friday in Aleppo, the country’s largest city, American officials said Wednesday. – New York Times

Syria’s downward spiral toward civil war is weighing heavily on Lebanon — particularly in Tripoli and the rest of the north of the country. As events next door escalate, tensions in Jebel Mohsen and Bab al-Tabbaneh have flared, with residents increasingly seeing themselves as a part of Syria’s conflict. – New York Times

Almost a year into the national rebellion, one that has turned increasingly bloody in most major Syrian communities, activism in Aleppo remains in a nascent stage. Government opponents have yet to win over much of the population, which includes an affluent business community that greatly values the stability that, in the last few years, had been a hallmark of Assad’s rule. – Los Angeles Times

Syrian troops attacked Deraa on Thursday to try to stamp out rebels in the border city where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule began last March, residents and opposition activists said. – Reuters

France said Wednesday it wanted the U.N. Security Council to set up humanitarian corridors in Syria to alleviate civilian suffering and that it was negotiating with Russia on a new U.N. resolution on the conflict. – Reuters

Eleven months into the bloodiest uprising of the “Arab Spring,” U.S. President Barack Obama is staking his Syria policy on a fragile and untested international coalition that has few palatable options for ending the violence. – Reuters

Josh Rogin reports: Russia and Iran are continuing to send arms to the Syrian regime that can be used against protesters, a top State Department official said today. – The Cable

Radwan Ziadeh writes: What’s undeniable is that Syrian people are in desperate need of humanitarian aid as well as political and economic assistance. Assad has proven he will not relent, with the Interior Ministry vowing that it will continue to implement the “security solution” until every expression of resistance is eliminated. With Russia and China essentially giving the green light for Assad to continue his massacre, only an international coalition led by the United States can stop the regime’s violence. The hope for a democratic future in Syria currently hangs in the balance. – The New Republic


The leader of Bahrain’s largest opposition party Wednesday confirmed that senior officials had engaged in informal contacts with the government, following a Washington Times report about a secret meeting. – Washington Times

More than 120 protesters have been wounded in clashes with police in Bahrain this week, activists said on Wednesday, in a crackdown to stop majority Shi’ites breaking out of their neighborhoods to stage protests one year after an uprising. – Reuters


Reports say a leading Al-Qaeda operative in Yemen has been killed in a family dispute, and that an ensuing battle has left at least 16 other tribesmen dead. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Islamist militants shot dead five people on Wednesday including a Yemeni military officer and the regional head of the country’s election committee in the province of al-Baydah, a local official said. – Reuters


Egypt’s interim military leaders intend to hold a presidential election in May, a month ahead of schedule, state media reported Wednesday. – Washington Post

Angry Egyptian soccer fans protested at the general prosecutor’s office on Wednesday in Cairo, demanding that authorities bring to court those responsible for soccer violence that left 74 people dead. – Reuters

Interview: Moussa tackles them all in an exclusive interview with Foreign Policy: the military’s future rule in politics, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty, and the upcoming U.S. presidential election, among others. In his discussion with Adel Abdel Ghafar, he says that certain aspects of pact with Israel should be “revisited” and admits that he would vote to give President Barack Obama another term in office — but only because his misgivings about Obama’s Republican challengers. – Foreign Policy

David Schenker writes: Facing extreme challenges at home and in need of distractions, anti-Americanism has become Cairo’s preferred populist recourse. Although a solution might be found for this particular controversy — with or without U.S. foreign assistance — this bilateral dynamic assures that the next crisis is not far off. – Los Angeles Times


One of the first trials involving Libyans detained on suspicion of links to the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi is turning into a prime example of the shortcomings of the country’s justice system. – Associated Press

About 5,000 rebels have joined Libya’s nascent national army but more of the militias that have dominated the country since the revolution must sign up if the armed forces are to reassert their authority, the new chief of staff said. – Reuters

While the taste of freedom is sweet, the new era in the North African country has gotten off to a shaky start. Life for ordinary people has improved since the eight-month NATO-backed campaign against Gaddafi and the subsequent months of chaos, but security and political woes abound in the run-up to the country’s first free elections in June. – Reuters

North Africa

Protesters are set to mark the first anniversary of Morocco’s February 20 pro-democracy movement with demonstrations and strikes across the country starting Sunday. But activists say that, rather than a celebration, the protests will be a reminder to the regime that they will not give up before their calls for reform are answered. – New York Times

Sudan said it would resume talks over oil transit fees with South Sudan in the next two weeks after the two sides failed to reach a deal in the latest round of negotiations, a Sudanese spokesman said. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

While Tunisia’s Islamists and secularists, leftists and nationalists squabble over the symbols and values of a country freed from dictatorship, an unemployment crisis could render their debates academic and endanger the first successful popular revolt in the Arab world. – Financial Times

Tunisia’s defense minister has called for increased cooperation with the United States to help guard his country’s borders. – Associated Press

[Algeria]’s rulers continue to run the country much as they have since independence from France 50 years ago: with a huge state apparatus backed by the powerful security forces and elections dominated by the ruling FLN party and its allies. That is looking more and more out of step with the mood of the times, however, and a parliamentary election set for May 10 could be a watershed. – Reuters


The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is facing a 10 percent funding cut next year but top officials said Wednesday it will still be one of America’s largest diplomatic missions in the world. – Associated Press

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Iraq on Wednesday to speed up the transfer of Iranian dissidents at a camp near Baghdad to a temporary facility that the dissident group has compared to a prison. – Reuters


Turkey’s regional status as a democratic role model is being threatened by the Muslim country’s 30-year conflict with Kurds, which now is pushing Turkey toward violent upheaval. – Washington Times


On the second day of an ambitious tour through the United States, China’s vice president and presumed next leader, Xi Jinping, said Wednesday that the two nations must respect each other’s “core interests” while working to build trust and cooperation on a variety of issues, including trade policies and diplomacy with North Korea and Iran. – New York Times

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Wednesday urged greater cooperation with the United States on trade and security issues, what he called a “new type of relationship between major countries.” – Washington Post

With little fanfare, China’s currency has appreciated significantly in the last year and a half, leading many economists to question whether the exchange rate is still the most important economic issue for the United States to press with China’s leaders. – New York Times

When the Arizona Republican questioned Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping Wednesday about his country’s ties to North Korea and Syria and its human rights record, Xi replied: “Senator McCain, your candor is well known in China.” Xi’s response drew laughs from both the Chinese and Americans in the room. McCain wasn’t amused. – Politico

Now, as fresh protests and a grisly wave of self-immolations ripple through Chinese-ruled Tibetan areas, the situation around Gartse and most of what is today Qinghai province remains relatively calm. Local Chinese, Tibetan leaders, experts and exile groups give credit to the relatively lenient governance style in much of Qinghai, which contrasts starkly with far more punitive policies elsewhere. – Financial Times\

Editorial: Was Ms. Johnson gagged by an administration fearful of offending Mr. Xi? White House and State Department spokesmen say no. China did not formally deny the visa, State says, and Ms. Cook still hopes to visit. Perhaps she will; but it will help if the administration makes clear to Beijing and its incoming leader that matters such as religious freedom are as important in U.S.-China relations as currency rates and World Trade Organization cases. So far, it hasn’t done so. – Washington Post

Mitt Romney writes: The sum total of my approach will ensure that this is an American, not a Chinese century. We have much to gain from close relations with a China that is prosperous and free. But we should not fail to recognize that a China that is a prosperous tyranny will increasingly pose problems for us, for its neighbors, and for the entire world. – Wall Street Journal


The U.S. and Afghan governments have begun secret three-way talks with the Taliban, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told The Wall Street Journal, disclosing an important breakthrough in efforts to end the 10-year war. – Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan arrived in Pakistan on Thursday after saying he wanted to explore how Islamabad could help foster peace negotiations with his adversary, the Afghan Taliban. – New York Times

NATO has resumed handing over Taliban detainees to the custody of Afghanistan’s government, following a break of nearly four months after the coalition halted the practice on the grounds that prisoners faced torture by Afghan interrogators, alliance officials said Wednesday. – Washington Post

NATO acknowledged on Wednesday that it killed eight young Afghans in an airstrike in eastern Afghanistan last week and vowed to try to help the isolated home village of those who were killed. – New York Times

Afghanistan’s Culture and Information Ministry has defended its request that female television presenters wear head scarves and avoid heavy makeup, which one newscaster has warned will contribute to her feeling of “being caged.” – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The Pentagon on Wednesday offered new details of its plan for shifting from a combat mission in Afghanistan to one focused on training and advising Afghan forces as they gradually shoulder more of the combat burden. – Associated Press

The drawdown of NATO forces in Afghanistan will make it increasingly difficult to find out if prisoners transferred to Afghan authorities are being tortured, officials with the international military coalition said Wednesday. – Associated Press

Afghanistan cannot be stable while its economy depends so heavily on the drugs trade, and its allies must step up the fight to combat the industry, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said on Thursday. – Reuters

The Taliban used the 23rd anniversary of the humiliating Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan on Wednesday to taunt the United States that it would suffer the same fate as preparations to hand over security to a shaky government are underway. – Reuters


The U.S. and Pakistan need to reset their strategic relationship, which has been “burdened” with too many expectations, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S said Wednesday. – Washington Times

Pakistan’s new ambassador to the United States says relations between Washington and Islamabad are “burdened by too many expectations” and have become overly emotional. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Although there are questions over how much control the ISI director can exert over its most opaque branches, US officials will be hoping that the new chief will take a tough line against the extremist groups the agency has nurtured. – Financial Times

Bound together by hatred of the United States and support for insurgents fighting in Afghanistan, a revived coalition of supposedly banned Islamist extremists and rightwing political parties is drawing large crowds across Pakistan. – Associated Press

North Korea

Its state-run economy in ruin, North Korea is turning to the kinds of private business activity that it technically considers criminal, allowing commerce driven by private citizens with stashes of foreign currency. – Washington Post


India and Saudi Arabia will explore the joint development and production of weapons and equipment to control rising imports. – Defense News

India will next month test a new long-range nuclear-capable missile which can strike targets more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) away, a defense research spokesman said Feb. 16. – AFP

Editorial: The real question for India is whether it is prepared to take its place as a responsible keeper of the world order. Or does it prefer to cast its lot, for the sake of a handful of rupees, with the spoilers of Moscow and Beijing? – Wall Street Journal Asia (subscription required)

Southeast Asia

Senior UN officials have agreed with Myanmar’s government to work jointly on holding the first large-scale international aid conference this year, in another sign of the dramatic changes taking place in the country. – Financial Times

Myanmar’s government expects to reach ceasefire deals with all of the country’s ethnic minority rebel armies within three months before starting a process of political dialogue towards “everlasting peace”, its top peace negotiator said on Wednesday. – Reuters

Singapore hosted military brass from across Asia this week at the region’s biggest arms and aerospace bazaar, almost 70 years to the day since it fell to Japanese forces sweeping across Southeast Asia during World War Two. – Reuters


The chief editor of the embattled Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy has announced via Twitter that Russian prosecutors have withdrawn a subpoena summoning him for questioning. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

A court in western Russia has annulled the 10-year prison sentence handed down to an opposition activist jailed on drug charges her supporters say were politically motivated. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

An official responsible for Russia’s foreign arms sales says the country set a weapons export record in 2011 — despite competition from China and the loss of some Arab clients. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly Transneft is in talks on building a link between its routes in Germany and the Czech Republic to ensure that its exports to central Europe can bypass Ukraine if necessary, a top company official said. – Reuters


France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy hosts British Prime Minister David Cameron on Feb. 18 for a summit on boosting defense cooperation and to clear the air after recent bitter clashes over Europe. – AFP

Italy will cut its acquisition of Joint Strike Fighters from 131 to 90, Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola told the Italian Parliament on Feb 15. – Defense News

Serbs in northern Kosovo have voted to reject the authority of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian rulers. Kosovar Serb officials say 99 percent of voters in a two-day referendum had voted “no” to recognizing Pristina’s government. – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty


NATO will spend 3.0 billion euros ($3.9 billion) to buy and operate five U.S.-built drones over 20 years in an effort to fill a gap exposed in the Libyan air war, an official said Feb. 15. – AFP

United States of America

Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t waiting for a vice presidential offer to go after President Barack Obama: He’s been locked in a quiet battle with the White House for months, blocking key diplomatic appointments in hopes of getting his say on foreign policy. The Rubio-Obama administration skirmish — sloppy, confusing and still largely unresolved — could presage an even bigger, sloppier and more confusing Rubio-Obama political battle this fall. – Politico

The Department of Homeland Security has stepped up its outreach to the Jewish-American community in an attempt to thwart attacks from Hezbollah, secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.  – DEFCON Hill

A key Republican on the Senate Budget Committee sharply criticized President Obama’s proposal to use savings from reduced defense spending to help fund the Department of Transportation. – DEFCON Hill

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is taking a tougher line on so-called hidden earmarks. – DEFCON Hill


One of the top bosses of a Mexican gang tied to more than 1,500 killings during a terror campaign along the U.S.-Mexico border – including the fatal ambush of a U.S. Consulate employee, her husband and the husband of another consulate worker – has been sentenced to life in prison without parole. – Washington Times

[T]hree high-profile cases this month that are being investigated outside the military’s own secret courts have prompted the army’s top commander to say the military may have committed serious human-rights abuses. – Wall Street Journal


A furor has erupted in Venezuela over voter secrecy in an opposition primary election held on Sunday to choose a candidate to run against President Hugo Chávez, with political leaders expressing fear that the government might seek reprisals against voters if their names are publicized. – New York Times


Al Qaeda’s decision to formally extend its terrorist franchise to what once was a nationalist movement in Somalia may be only a desperate joining of hands to prop up two militant groups that are losing popular support and facing increasingly deadly military attacks, analysts said. – Associated Press

About Courtney Messerschmidt

Is a personae for the contact, co creator, poster girl and correspondent of GrEaT sAtAn"S gIrLfRiEnD a collective of diplopolititary junkies. A real girl, she is an annoying, arrogant, audacious, bloodthirsty, conniving, cool, cruel, deceitfully sweet, discombobulated, flirtacious, jealous, hedonistic, lazy, machiavellian, manipulative, militaristic, self absorbed, self aggrandizing, self centered, semi charmed, semi retarded, shallow, spoiled, stuck up, high maintainance ne'er do well pixie with a penchant for immense libraries, depleting strategic cash reserves and wrecking cars every 10 months. Super saavy history and current events. My superior intellect and easy going smartassticness armed with a chaotic emotion meter gave me a formidable ability to be independently dependent. Currently exiled in Hillbillyland, I wield a vocabulary far above my tiny tiny weight class and have traveled widely including Europe, the Middle East and Alabama. I like Am Ex, Carte Blanche, Discover, Mastercard, Ray Bans, Visa and devouring American Dollars in alarming quantities.
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