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November 10, 2009

ICA Newsletter – Week 6 Term 1

Internation Current Affairs Society

Meetings every Wednesday at 2pm in S0.18
Live at 5pm on RaW 1251AM every Friday

Below are the topics we'll be discussing at our weekly meeting. Come along for lively informal discussions on these issues and more.


IRANIAN PROTESTS FLARED BY STUDENT ACTIVIST

An Iranian maths student has publicly criticised the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a twenty minute long tirade, even going so far as to call the leader an idiot. The student’s speech has helped stoke the fires of dissention in Iran, which has been prevalent since the controversial re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iranian state media only reported the protest after claims by opposition supporters that he had been arrested, something which is common for those who oppose the Iranian regime.

There are also claims of torture and widespread police brutality against protesters. Until recently protesters had not openly criticised the supreme leader, and so this could be a sign that his absolute rule is weakening, likely due to his controversial support for Ahmadinejad in the election. Will anything come of these protests? Or is regime change impossible in Iran?


RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT ADMITS POLICE CORRUPTION

The Russian government has admitted to the severe corruption of police forces across the country. A video has appeared online showing a Russian police officer shooting three people in a Moscow supermarket, apparently acting with impunity.

Police officers regularly accept bribes and act like criminal gangs in some areas of the country. Now a senior policeman has made a personal request to Vladimir Putin to tackle the problem, before it gets any worse. How could the problem have gotten so bad? And will anything be done to solve it?


FORT HOOD SHOOTINGS

Maj Hasan, a soldier at the US military base of Ford Hood, in Texas, has shot dead 13 people. It has been revealed that the soldier was in contact with a radical Muslim cleric, and that this was known by US military authorities. However, such accusations should not be made lightly, as many fear that Muslim Americans may be targeted if the shooter is shown to have acted based on faith, as opposed to as a lone gunman. What will this mean for US attitudes to Muslim soldiers in the army?



October 31, 2007

Project for New American Century.

Today in the ICA meeting a member told us about the Project for a New American Century. It’s a think tank (set up in 1997) that aims to significantly increase US military spending and intervention in the world so to ensure US interests are promoted. On its foundation a statement of principles was a collection of signed supporters, below are a few of its signatories:

Jeb Bush: Governor of Florida (1999-2007) and George Bush’s brother.
Donald Rumsfeld: Secretary of Defense (1975-1977, 2001-2006).
Paul Wolfewitz: Deputy Secretary of Defence (2001-2005), President of World Bank (2005-2007).
Dick Chaney: Vice President (2001-).
Dan Quayle: Vice President (1989-1993).
Zalmay Khalilzad: Ambassador; Afghanistan (2003-2005), Iraq (2005-2007), UN (2007-).
Steve Forbes: CEO Forbes Inc (publishes Forbes magazine).


October 29, 2007

ICA newsletter, week 5

ICA newsletter – Week 5.

Hi all, my calendar tells me it’s another new week again so here’s another ICA newsletter:

• First story of the week is that the US has stepped up sanctions on Iran to target the finances of the Revolutionary guards, and three state owned banks. These sanctions also extend to the guards business interests. Condoleezza Rice claimed Iran is pursuing technologies ‘that can lead to a nuclear weapon’, but reiterated her commitment to a diplomatic solution, offering to meet her Iranian counterpart, ‘anytime, anywhere’. Such a position is a stark contrast from that of US Vice-President Dick Cheney, who is believed to be lobbying for a military intervention. With Iran’s position similarly hardening also, after the resignation of Ali Larijani and his replacement with the more hard-line Saeed Jalili, is there actually any hope of a peaceful solution? Or will America and/or Israel replicate the Syrian operation? (If we believe the satellite analysis).

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7063188.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7067378.stm – also it appears that it is perfectly ok for Egypt to build nuclear plants for power??

• Second, with the visit of King Abdullah, the first visit to the UK by a Saudi monarch in 20 years, ministers seem keen to stress the ‘shared values’ between the two states. One of the most important of those values seems to be the weapons industry, with the Saudis buying 72 Eurofighters from the UK in a deal worth £20 billion including maintenance and training. Lib Dem Vince Cable has boycotted the King’s visit, citing the Kingdom’s human rights record, and saying that the King should not have been invited. So should the UK press the Saudis harder on their human rights record? Or are the contracts and the jobs they bring just too good to resist?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7066754.stm

A UN expert has condemned the growing of crops to produce biofuels as a ‘crime against humanity’, calling for a five year ban on the practice. Production for biofuels has helped to push food prices higher. The IMF recently voiced concerned that a rise in the reliance on grain as a fuel source could have serious implications for the worlds poor.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/7026105.stm

Also in the news:

• Lets all hide monkeys under our hats…. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/6936533.stm
• Human race to split in two – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6057734.stm, along with artists impression
• Absence of goats made me speed – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/5322302.stm


August 14, 2006

Ahmadinejad online!

The president of Iran, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, has started his own blog. you can get it in English if you click the little American flag (well, it's not really but it's too small to see what it actually is). It will be interesting to see what he has to say on many topics (as long as he keeps it up to date).

The poll gave me a bit of a laugh though
"Do you think that the US and Israeli intention and goal by attacking Lebanon is pulling the trigger for another word war?"... can we expect more "so, have you stopped beating your wife"–type questions? we'll have to wait and see.

More info on this can be found at the BBC ( link ) or on the website. WARNING The site may or may not contain a virus (I have no idea since I'm on linux running firefox) but a fellow who was using windows and IE reported a problem... but here it is anyway if you want to go ahead ( link )... Upon further reading I feel this might only be aimed at people who are from Isreal, as always security no matter where you are or what you are doing is important.

It is also interesting to note that the website is based on Microsoft technology (which was created by "the great satan USA") and the website maintainer has a gmail account (president.irsite@gmail.com)... why are they so reliant on the infidell?

You can add comments as well, though I think free speech will be restricted.


July 13, 2006

ICA news update

Firstly I should apologise for the blog not being updated in a little while, but I'm practically running it on my own at the moment…

Anyway, back to current affairs, and I have good news!
It seems that the stupid, ill conceived ID card scheme has gone under, which is to say (in government speak), will be re–evaluated after another report to take place after Easter 2007. This means that it is off the table probably forever but even if they ever do think about bringing it back then it will be held back until at least the time when we can elect a different government.
link

Secondly I have more good news!
“Lord” Levy, the Labour party's chief fund–raiser and close friend of Tony Blair has been arrested last night, he was then questioned and released on bail, and this morning is being questioned again by police. If Lord Levy has broken the law then I would feel confident in saying that Blair too has broken the law (and probably Brown); because they management system would have to be seriously messed up if the head(s) of an organisation did not know how the finances were organised. The corruption could run very deep, but I wouldn't expect the police to even question the PM…
link

Thirdly, I will briefly mention Israel (I've not devoted any time to this because I am far from an expert, and it has been covered in depth in many other places). Israel has said that the attack on their soldiers by the Lebanese Hezbollah terrorists constitutes an act of war. Israel has attacked an airport in Lebanon and is imposing an air and sea blockade. Israel is also stepping up pressure on Gaza. Fighting continues.
link

Fourthly, Iran has been referred back to the security council for possible punishment, but this would not include military action. “Ministers meeting in Paris said Tehran has not signalled it was seriously considering incentives designed to get it to abandon uranium enrichment”. The success of this referral will be dependant on Russia and China who have not been keen on imposing sanctions on Iran because it could harm them economically.
link

If you feel that I'm not reporting on something which you feel you could say something interesting about, or if you would like to contribute in more depth feel free to respond here to mention it, I'll try and get you added to be able to post here.


June 04, 2006

Tehran warns of fuel disruptions

The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, now warns of fuel dispruptions, according to the BBC, if the US make, quote, the "wrong move". What the wrong move is remains unclear.

If he means war, then the statement becomes more of a tautology, however, if he means actions used to increasingly isolate and put pressure on Tehran, then we can be worried.

In the speech, he repeatedly stressed that Iran has no aspirations to acquire a nuclear bomb, since it would be against Islamic Law, and also that civilian nuclear technology is their legal right.

Whatever you think of the sincerity of the first point, the second remains valid. The Nuclear Non–Proliferation Treaty allows the pursuit of civilian nuclear technology (including uranium enriching), and any action on the basis of Iran 'breaking the rules' would therefore be illegal.

The claim that the whole world is behind the US on this issue is also flawed. You've probably heard of Venezuala refusing to condemn Iran, but other countries that use uranium enrichment, or are developing it, for use in civilian nuclear reactors, such as South Korea I believe, will be increasingly nervous about their own position if official actions against Iran are mandated by the security council.

Perhaps this is an inherent weakness with the original treaty, allowing Iran to use obstensibly civilian technologies as an almost subconscious threat (ie if they can do that then it might be possible they have a bomb etc) to Irseal (the only real enemy left in the area after the US took care of Iraq and Afganistan).

Whatever the case, it is obvious this situation was not foreseen when drawing up the original treaty (or perhaps it was, but they settled on a weaker deal). Let's just hope that either the west backs down and Iran is genuinely only interested in civilian technologies, or the west doesn't back down and Iran doesn't retaliate through the oil market. Both scenarios, unfortunately, look increasingly unlikely.


June 01, 2006

Iran and the nuclear question

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/5037678.stm

It seems that there might now be some kind of agreement within the world powers over how to deal with Iran and the nuclear issue (see above). Apparently they have set up both “carrot and stick” measures – meaning that Iran could get something good if they agree completely but will be punished (quite possibly sanctions) if they decide not to cooperate. We won't find out what the measures are until after Iran know – but the implication that China and Russia might now agree to sanctions is certainly new.

I'm still struggling to understand why we don't just let Iran have nuclear power. They don't (and couldn't) pose a direct threat to us because they are too far away and it would take decades for them to make effective ICBMs which would be needed for them to pose a real threat to us. It would be far easier for us to monitor that and then take military action if, and only if, they did develop those.

I'm willing to bet that what we had to give the Russians and Chinese in order to get this agreement was worth far more than the agreement itself


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