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CIA attempt to persuade Europeans to maintain forces in Afghanistan 29, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Central Asia.
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Wikileaks has obtained a classified ‘not for foreigners’ CIA memo discussing strategies to shore up European support for ISAF forces in Afghanistan. In the wake of the Dutch Government’s demise over troop questions, the report states that there is a similarly grim outlook in France and Germany.

In France the report suggests focusing on the Afghan refugees as a way of ‘promoting’ the issue, whereas in Germany the notion of stressing the consequences that would negatively affect German interests is suggested as the way to proceed. Additionally, a focus on the multilateral and humanitarian nature of the conflict might shore up German support.

Using President Obama’s high regards in Europe was also suggested as a strategy. Were he to stress his full commitment to the process and the gains for Afghan women, this might also prove advantageous.

New York Times curiously apologises over Singapore comments 29, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Forgive me for quoting at length here, but things have been put rather well already and this area of the world is outwith my expertise (such as it is).

A few days ago the New York Times ran the following apology.

In 1994, Philip Bowring, a contributor to the International Herald Tribune’s op-ed page, agreed as part of an undertaking with the leaders of the government of Singapore that he would not say or imply that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong had attained his position through nepotism practiced by his father Lee Kuan Yew. In a February 15, 2010, article, Mr. Bowring nonetheless included these two men in a list of Asian political dynasties, which may have been understood by readers to infer that the younger Mr. Lee did not achieve his position through merit. We wish to state clearly that this inference was not intended. We apologize to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong for any distress or embarrassment caused by any breach of the undertaking and the article.

This is a curious thing. Firstly, that a reporter would be help to account for some kind of undertaking made 16 years ago. Secondly, that the NYT really cared that much to print such an apology. Third, that, as Outside the Beltway put it:

Is there any question whatsoever that Singapore, despite having had elections for decades, is authoritarian by Western standards?  Or that nepotism and other forms of personal loyalty plays a stronger role in Singapore than in true representative democracies?  Or that Lee Kuan Yew played and continues to play an outsized role in Singapore and People’s Action Party politics?

Joyner, the author of the above comment, then clarifies via a quick email from a friend:

The reason the New York Times issued that correction is that if you print something about the Lee family, they will sue you in Singapore courts, which they control, and then they will win, and then they will seize any assets you happen to have in Singapore.  For the New York Times, this is an issue.

If you have ever wondered about the strange kid-gloves treatment the rather noxious family gets in the international media, that’s why.
And Joyner concludes that
It makes sense, actually.  And as Steven Taylor notes in the comments below and CJ Morton speculates via Twitter, it’s quite possible that NYT wrote the correction in the way they did precisely to elicit the reaction they did from readers paying attention.  That is, they simultaneously met their obligation to the Singapore autocrats and thumbed their noses at them.
An interesting little story.

Qatari Emir: ‘I’ve failed as Arab League head’ 29, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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In a refreshing speech, Qatar’s Emir has said that he has

no achievements to boast of in the past one year as head of the Arab Summit.

He continued to insist that there needs to be reforms within the Arab League if it is to succeed. Yet with differences entrenched, it is difficult to see any kind of unity befalling the League in the near future.