janeiro 31, 2010

Aumento da tensão com o Irão: ‘EUA enviam mísseis Patriot e navios para o Médio Oriente‘ in Guardian

Tension between the US and Iran heightened dramatically today with the disclosure that Barack Obama is deploying a missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf from attack by Tehran.

The US is dispatching Patriot defensive missiles to four countries – Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait – and keeping two ships in the Gulf capable of shooting down Iranian missiles. Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia develop a force to protect its oil installations.

American officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran and reassuring Gulf states fearful that Tehran might react to sanctions by striking at US allies in the region. Washington is also seeking to discourage Israel from a strike against Iran by demonstrating that the US is prepared to contain any threat.

The deployment comes after Obama's attempts to emphasise diplomacy over confrontation in dealing with Iran – a contrast to the Bush administration's approach – have failed to persuade Tehran to open its nuclear installations to international controls. The White House is now trying to engineer agreement for sanctions focused on Iran's Revolutionary Guard, believed to be in charge of the atomic programme.

Washington has not formally announced the deployment of the Patriots and other anti-missile systems, but by leaking it to American newspapers the administration is evidently seeking to alert Tehran to a hardening of its position.

The administration is deploying two Patriot batteries, capable of shooting down incoming missiles, in each of the four Gulf countries. Kuwait already has an older version of the missile, deployed after Iraq's invasion. Saudi Arabia has long had the missiles, as has Israel.

An unnamed senior administration official told the New York Times: "Our first goal is to deter the Iranians. A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don't feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well."

The chief of the US central command, General David Petraeus, said in a speech 10 days ago that countries in the region are concerned about Tehran's military ambitions and the prospect of it becoming a dominant power in the Gulf: "Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the Gulf front."

Petraeus said the US is keeping cruisers equipped with advanced anti-missile systems in the Gulf at all times to act as a buffer between Iran and the Gulf states.

Washington is also concerned at the threat of action by Israel, which is predicting that Iran will be able to build a nuclear missile within a year, a much faster timetable than assessed by the US, and is warning that it will not let Tehran come close to completion if diplomacy fails.

The director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, met the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and other senior officials in Jerusalem last week to discuss Iran.

Pro-Israel lobby groups in the US have joined Republican party leaders in trying to build public pressure on the administration to take a tougher line with Iran. One group, the Israel Project, has been running a TV campaign warning that Iran might supply nuclear weapons to terrorists.

"Imagine Washington DC under missile attack from nearby Baltimore," it says. "A nuclear Iran is a threat to peace, emboldens extremists, and could give nuclear materials to terrorists with the ability to strike anywhere."

Washington is also concerned that if Iran is able to build nuclear weapons, other states in the region will feel the need to follow. Israel is the only country in the Middle East to already have atomic bombs, although it does not officially acknowledge it.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said in London last week that the US will press for additional sanctions against Iran if it fails to curb its nuclear programme.

Europe's foreign affairs minister, Catherine Ashton, today said the UN security council should now take up the issue. "We are worried about what's happening in Iran. I'm disappointed at the failure of Iran to accept the dialogue and we now need to look again at what needs to happen there," she told Sky News.

"The next step for us is to take our discussions into the security council. When I was meeting with Hillary Clinton last week we talked about Iran and we were very clear this is a problem we will have to deal with."

However, China and Russia are still pressing for a diplomatic solution.

Tony Blair, Middle East envoy on behalf of the US, Russia, the UN and the EU, continually referred to what he described as the Iranian threat during his evidence at the Chilcot inquiry last Friday. Textual analysis now shows that he mentioned Iran 58 times.

Besides the new missile deployment, Washington is also helping Saudi Arabia to create a 30,000-strong force to protect oil installations and other infrastructure, as well as expanded joint exercises between the US and military forces in the region.

The move is a continuation of the military build-up begun under former president George W Bush. In the past two years, Abu Dhabi has bought $17bn (£11bn) worth of weapons from the US, including the Patriot anti-missile batteries and an advanced anti-missile system. UAE recently bought 80 US-made fighter jets. It is also buying fighters from France.

Petraeus said in a speech in Bahrain last year the UAE air force "could take out the entire Iranian air force, I believe".


janeiro 28, 2010

‘Cientistas envolvidos no escândalo dos emails escondem informação ambiental‘ in Times

The university at the centre of the climate change row over stolen e-mails broke the law by refusing to hand over its raw data for public scrutiny.

The University of East Anglia breached the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to comply with requests for data concerning claims by its scientists that man-made emissions were causing global warming.

The Information Commissioner’s Office decided that UEA failed in its duties under the Act but said that it could not prosecute those involved because the complaint was made too late, The Times has learnt. The ICO is now seeking to change the law to allow prosecutions if a complaint is made more than six months after a breach.

The stolen e-mails , revealed on the eve of the Copenhagen summit, showed how the university’s Climatic Research Unit attempted to thwart requests for scientific data and other information, and suggest that senior figures at the university were involved in decisions to refuse the requests. It is not known who stole the e-mails.

Professor Phil Jones, the unit’s director, stood down while an inquiry took place. The ICO’s decision could make it difficult for him to resume his post.

Details of the breach emerged the day after John Beddington, the Chief Scientific Adviser, warned that there was an urgent need for more honesty about the uncertainty of some predictions. His intervention followed admissions from scientists that the rate of glacial melt in the Himalayas had been grossly exaggerated.

In one e-mail, Professor Jones asked a colleague to delete e-mails relating to the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He also told a colleague that he had persuaded the university authorities to ignore information requests under the act from people linked to a website run by climate sceptics.

A spokesman for the ICO said: “The legislation prevents us from taking any action but from looking at the emails it’s clear to us a breach has occurred.” Breaches of the act are punishable by an unlimited fine.

The complaint to the ICO was made by David Holland, a retired engineer from Northampton. He had been seeking information to support his theory that the unit broke the IPCC’s rules to discredit sceptic scientists.

In a statement, Graham Smith, Deputy Commissioner at the ICO, said: “The e-mails which are now public reveal that Mr Holland’s requests under the Freedom of Information Act were not dealt with as they should have been under the legislation. Section 77 of the Act makes it an offence for public authorities to act so as to prevent intentionally the disclosure of requested information.”

He added: “The ICO is gathering evidence from this and other time-barred cases to support the case for a change in the law. We will be advising the university about the importance of effective records management and their legal obligations in respect of future requests for information.”

Mr Holland said: “There is an apparent Catch-22 here. The prosecution has to be initiated within six months but you have to exhaust the university’s complaints procedure before the commission will look at your complaint. That process can take longer than six months.”

The university said: “The way freedom of information requests have been handled is one of the main areas being explored by Sir Muir Russell’s independent review. The findings will be made public and we will act as appropriate on its recommendations.”


janeiro 27, 2010

‘União Europeia vê os seus sonhos de poder desvanecerem-se com a ascensão do «G2»‘ in Wall Street Journal

This year, the 27-nation European Union was supposed to come of age as an actor on the world stage, bolstered by the Lisbon Treaty, which streamlines the EU's cumbersome institutions. Instead, Europe is starting to look like the loser in a new geopolitical order dominated by the U.S. and emerging powers led by China.

When the world's policy and economic elite gather Wednesday in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum, much of the talk will be about the rise of a "G-2" world where the U.S. and China are the most important players.

A growing number of European policymakers and analysts say the EU's international influence may have peaked thanks to a combination of political divisions and poor long-term prospects for its economy.

"The EU's attempts to be a coherent international actor seem to be decreasingly effective," says Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, a pro-EU London think tank.

Europe's hope of playing a leading role in a multipolar world got a cold shower in Copenhagen last month, at the United Nations-sponsored talks on climate change. EU countries view themselves as leaders on the issue.

But no Europeans were invited when U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao held the make-or-break meeting on Dec. 18 that brokered the modest Copenhagen accord. The Chinese invited the leaders of India, Brazil and South Africa.

That meeting and Europe's absence was "the seminal image of 2009," says a senior European diplomat. "It was a signal that we are becoming more and more marginalized and peripheral" in the new balance of global power, he says.

EU countries haven't helped their own cause lately. The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force in December after eight years of struggle, was meant to make the EU a more coherent actor, in part by creating two new jobs—a president to lead EU summits and a high representative to present a united foreign policy.

Last fall, however, national leaders decided they didn't want powerful figures overshadowing them. They appointed Belgium's low-key premier, Herman Van Rompuy, to chair summits, and a previously obscure U.K. official, Catherine Ashton, to lead a common foreign policy.

Europe, of course, remains a major global player. Its $16 trillion economy accounts for 28% of global output, more than the U.S. The EU's integrated consumer market is the top destination for Chinese goods. Its industrial engine, Germany, remains the world's fourth-largest national economy and exports nearly as much merchandise as China.

Britain and France can still deploy significant military power abroad, and have permanent U.N. Security Council seats. Europeans are well represented in global institutions and committees, including the International Monetary Fund and the Financial Stability Forum, where EU officials are influential in negotiating new banking rules.

Europe also has "soft power," in its ability to attract and co-opt others by offering EU membership to neighbors, and in representing a model of welfare capitalism to people around the world who dislike the more-individualistic American version.

Yet many of those measures of influence may have peaked, say foreign-affairs scholars.

"Europe has undersold its soft power because of its own confusion: Should it project its economic model, or should it adopt the one from across the Atlantic," says Rajeev Kumar, director of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations.

The EU suffered a deeper economic contraction than the U.S. in 2009, even though the U.S. was the epicenter of the economic crisis. It faces a slower recovery thanks partly to onerous public debt in many countries.

Europe's longer-term economic prospects are dimming: Ageing and, in some countries, shrinking populations will compound budget strains, while a growing retiree vote could entrench resistance to economic overhauls.

Economists at Goldman Sachs—who coined the term "BRIC" for Brazil, Russia, India and China—project the leading emerging economies will steadily overtake Western Europe's leading nations in coming decades, and that the U.S., Chinese and Indian economies will dwarf all others by mid-century.

Europe's strong representation in international forums is under fire. Critics from developing countries say Europeans still have too many votes at the IMF and U.N. Security Council, reflecting post-World War II reality rather than today's.

G-8 summits, where Europeans were in the majority, have already given way to the G-20 as the leading forum for discussing the world economy.

Many Europeans have long dreamt of a multipolar world, in which diplomacy and international law replace American dominance and military muscle-flexing. But EU-style soft power is turning out to be less useful than expected in dealing with China and other rising powers.

"China and Russia see the world in totally realist, zero-sum terms," says Mr. Grant, adding: "If we want China to take us seriously we have to have hard power," or the ability to twist arms through economic, military or other means.

The EU is inherently unsuited to wielding hard power "because it is not a state," says Francois Heisbourg, special adviser at the Foundation for Strategic Research, a Paris think tank.

EU members such as Germany, Britain and France retain their own foreign and security policies, which are often at cross purposes, analysts say. China and Russia have each exploited such divisions to play off EU members against each other on issues such as human rights and energy supplies.

Last fall, U.K. Foreign Minister David Miliband called on EU countries to drop their foreign-policy differences in a widely noted speech, saying that "the choice for Europe is simple: Get our act together and make the EU a leader on the world stage, or become spectators in a G-2 world shaped by the U.S. and China."

Greater unity would help the EU to deal more effectively with China, Russia and others, but the EU's rapid expansion in recent years has also made unity harder to achieve. That hasn't gone unnoticed in other regions.

When India's foreign ministry commissioned Mr. Kumar and other scholars to identify India's strategic interests for coming decades, the experts concluded India could ignore the EU's pretensions to be a world player.

"A more diverse and divergent Europe will remain quite involved with itself, rather than being able to project power," says Mr. Kumar.

The EU has one "silver bullet" that could boost its external influence, Mr. Kumar says: Admitting Turkey. "That would change the EU's demography, make it seem like less of a Christian bloc, and raise its acceptance" in Asia and the Middle East, he says.

However, Turkey's EU membership talks have stalled amid growing mistrust on both sides.


janeiro 24, 2010

‘Um século asiático? Não será para já‘ por Guy Sorman in City Journal

Pundits are proclaiming the beginning of an Asian century. Many think that the next G20 meeting, which will take place in Seoul this autumn, represents a transfer of power from West to East, a decline of Western influence, and a geopolitical tectonic shift. Such a hyperbolic vision of history seems justified, at least on the surface, by a series of recent events. China, for instance, is said to have surpassed Germany’s exports and should thus be considered the leading global economic power.

Actually, the statistic is irrelevant, because it considers as exports products that are merely assembled in China: the imports that make possible the assembly—and eventual exporting—should be deducted from the measure. Other observers have pointed to the South Korean company Korean Electric, which recently outbid Électricité de France to build three nuclear reactors in Abu Dhabi. Like the Chinese exports, though, this success should not be overstated. The South Koreans will build and manage American-made reactors, using technology from . . . Westinghouse.

Recent Asian breakthroughs do make for a contrast with the pervasive gloom in the West, where the economic crisis is far from over. Governments in the U.S. and Europe seem unable to understand why huge public expenses have failed to stimulate their economies. Neither the Obama administration nor the Nicolas Sarkozy and Gordon Brown governments grasp the fact that public spending and welfare statism may have broken the backs of would-be entrepreneurs. Asian governments didn’t make the same mistake. South Korea, for example, has simultaneously helped its poor and deregulated its labor market. Asia has used the crisis to reinforce free-market mechanisms.

But proclaiming the end of the West and the advent of the Asian century would be premature, to say the least. First, what do we mean by Asia? Perhaps South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and the Eastern China seaboard share some common cultural characteristics. Central and Western China, however, remain mired in the medieval era; Indonesia belongs to an entirely different world; India, too, is wholly different from the rest of Asia. Asia knows no political unity: parts of it are democratic, other parts ruled by despots. There is no Asian economic system as such: China’s state-run capitalism doesn’t belong to the same category as Japanese and Korean private capitalism. India remains by and large an agricultural economy, dotted with an emerging small-business dynamism. Asia has no decision center, no coordinating institutions like NATO and the European Union.

For all its problems, moreover, the West is relatively at peace with itself; Asia is not. The continent is riddled with active conflicts around Pakistan and potential ones all around the China Sea. What guarantees border stability and open communication in Asia is NATO to the West and the Seventh American Fleet in the Pacific Ocean. If the U.S. Army and Navy were to leave, war would threaten the continent; at the very least, trade would suffer heavy disruptions. Asian economic dynamism would not survive the departure of the global cop. It’s hard to believe in an Asian century when Asian security depends on non-Asian security forces.

Another of Asia’s weaknesses has to do with its poor record on innovation. Chinese exports contain little added value beyond cheap manpower. China sells sophisticated objects like smartphones to the rest of the world, but these devices are invented in the West. Though Japan and South Korea are much more creative than China, they, too, mostly improve products and services initially conceived in the West. Asia’s lagging innovation is probably rooted in its brand of rote education: when they have the opportunity, Asian students flock to North American and European colleges. And the brain drain doesn’t run the other way: 80 percent of Chinese students in the United States never return to China.

Asia’s undoubted progress happens to be related to its conversion to Western values. Capitalism, democracy, individualism, equality of the sexes, and secularism are all Western notions, and they’ve been adopted in varying degrees in Asia. Reactions against Westernization have also set in, alongside efforts to promote so-called Asian values, both Buddhist and Confucian, such as the Harmony Principle. Such attempts are weakened, however, by their evident political intentions. It’s well known among Asia scholars that China and South Korea manipulate the Harmony Principle to prevent democracy and weaken workers’ rights, respectively. Such political mangling is regrettable: the classic Harmony Principle, which essentially tells us that personal happiness is rooted in a natural social order and that one cannot be happy alone, is a rich philosophical concept and deserves better than to reappear in Communist or despotic garb. One also regrets that not much is done in India to keep alive the philosophy and spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the very few twentieth-century universal thinkers who rose from Asia.

Though the prophecy of an Asian century is premature, that doesn’t mean that Western domination won’t eventually subside. Despite its universities, cultural values, entertainment industry, and strong military, the West may not maintain its edge forever. Still, we should note that whenever we compare the relative power of West versus East, we may be clinging to an obsolete vocabulary. Our criteria themselves may belong to the past. Today, geography is a poor framework: there is no such thing as a national economy any longer. All products and services are global. The more sophisticated a product or a service, the more its national identity tends to disappear. There are no Western or Eastern cell phones, to say nothing of financial derivatives. When China buys American Treasury bills, which nation is depending on which? Exchange generates interdependence. When Asia grows, the West doesn’t necessarily become poorer. From now on, we rise or fall together. There is no contradiction, either, between West and East when it comes to threats against our global security, like terrorism or nuclear rogue states. Barriers have broken down even in popular culture: Korean rock singers are all the rage in China. Are they Korean or American?

So forget the Asian century; we’re entering the first global century. Globalization is so new that we don’t yet fully understand what’s happening to us; we cling to old concepts and lack the language to describe an emerging new world. We can argue about whether it will be a better world; what’s certain is that it will be a very different one.


janeiro 20, 2010

Francis Fukuyama: ‘Obama enganou-se sobre o significado da sua eleição‘ in Le Figaro

LE FIGARO. - Quel bilan faites-vous de la première année de la présidence Obama ?

Francis FUKUYAMA. - Obama s'est sans doute trompé sur la signification de son élection. La grande majorité qu'il a rassemblée en 2008 voulait moins faire bouger les lignes de la politique américaine vers la gauche, comme cela avait été le cas sous Roosevelt, qu'exprimer un vote de protestation à l'encontre de George W. Bush. De nombreux électeurs indépendants, centristes, qui votaient habituellement républicain lui ont donné leur vote. Or, Obama a lancé immédiatement d'ambitieuses réformes sociales. Le plan de relance, le sauvetage de l'industrie automobile, puis le chantier de la santé ont poussé bien des gens à conclure qu'il ne pratiquait pas la politique «au-delà des partis» qu'il avait promise. C'est la raison pour laquelle il rencontre si rapidement tant de résistance.

Les analystes ont pourtant beaucoup souligné pendant la campagne ce désir de changement qui traversait la société américaine : or, vous dites que cette société n'est pas prête pour de grands chamboulements ?

Oui, c'est ce que je pense. Le vote de la jeunesse n'a pas été aussi large qu'on l'a dit. Une grande partie des électeurs d'Obama est en réalité venue du centre. Mais peut-être cette erreur d'analyse du président va-t-elle finalement permettre à notre pays d'opérer une transformation majeure. Si le président arrache la réforme de la santé au Congrès, il aura accompli une tâche majeure. Les gens réaliseront qu'elle apporte de vrais bénéfices et que leurs peurs sont infondées.

Les grandes réformes ne vont-elles pas souvent à contre-courant ?

C'est vrai. Mais on a tort de comparer le contexte dans lequel se situe Obama à celui de 1932. Roosevelt avait un vrai mandat pour un changement profond. Même chose pour Reagan, ce qui n'est pas le cas pour Obama.

N'y a-t-il aucune chance que la réforme Climat sur la réduction des émissions de CO2 passe cette année ?

Aucune, selon moi, avec ce Congrès. Même chose pour la réforme de l'immigration, qui est faisable, mais n'est pas possible actuellement. Arracher la réforme de la santé serait déjà un accomplissement formidable. Depuis cinquante ans, tous les présidents ont tenté de s'atteler à cette tâche.

Certains disent qu'Obama n'a pas le talent de Lyndon Johnson pour amadouer le Congrès…

Peut-être, mais il faut comprendre que le Congrès a beaucoup changé et que la vie politique est beaucoup plus polarisée aujourd'hui. Cette polarisation vient du fait que les différents électorats se nourrissent des chaînes d'information correspondant à leurs choix idéologiques. Elle s'explique aussi par la disparition des hommes de l'ère Reagan qui étaient des républicains centristes, moins extrémistes qu'aujourd'hui.

Qu'a accompli le président en politique étrangère ?

Il a fait ce qui était le plus facile à faire : changer le ton de la diplomatie américaine, montrer qu'elle ne compte pas sur la seule force militaire. Il a fait des ouvertures vers l'Iran et la Corée du Nord, dont il était prévisible qu'elles n'auraient pas grand succès. Mais cela va lui permettre de revenir à une politique plus dure. On ne peut pas parler pour l'instant de succès ou d'échecs. La politique afghane aurait pu être plus prudente mais elle n'est pas non plus déraisonnable. Personnellement, je ne suis pas pour un retrait d'Afghanistan mais je ne suis pas certain qu'il soit pertinent d'ajouter un grand nombre de troupes. Dans les années 1980, le fait que les démocrates aient réduit les effectifs de l'armée a poussé les militaires à être plus performants dans la formation de cadres locaux. Le risque de l'envoi de troupes supplémentaires est que les militaires américains ne ressentent pas clairement l'urgence sur place : nous avons dix-huit mois pour commencer à passer la main. S'il s'avère que c'est un échec, il faudra partir.

L'Afghanistan peut-il être le piège qui fasse échouer cette présidence ?

Pas à court terme. Le risque d'échec est grand sur l'Iran ou le Pakistan. Le risque d'une guerre dans le golfe Persique est une vraie possibilité, car il est probable que les Iraniens passeront ce que les Israéliens considèrent comme une ligne rouge. Une action militaire israélienne est une vraie option.

Les Américains n'ont-ils pas les moyens de dissuader Israël de frapper l'Iran ?

L'Administration Obama n'a certainement aucun intérêt à ce qu'une guerre avec l'Iran éclate, mais je ne pense pas qu'elle ait la capacité ni la volonté politique de stopper Israël. Cette Administration en est réduite à limiter les dégâts. Or, le dossier nord-coréen montre les limites des initiatives diplomatiques. Si l'Iran décide de poursuivre son programme nucléaire, nous aurons bien du mal à en gérer les conséquences militaires.

Cette impuissance ne révèle-t-elle pas le déclin de l'ordre américain et plus généralement occidental ?

Si la crise dégénère, c'est effectivement ce que cela démontrera. Mais si Obama n'est pas rattrapé par l'Iran ou le Pakistan, et passe sa réforme de la santé, il pourrait bien devenir un très grand président.


janeiro 19, 2010

‘Kabul atingida em pleno coração‘ in Courrier International

Un groupe d’extrémistes a lancé, le 18 janvier, une attaque spectaculaire contre le gouvernement afghan. Deux kamikazes ont fait exploser des bombes tandis que des affrontements se déroulaient à 50 mètres seulement des portes du palais présidentiel. Selon les autorités afghanes, 3 soldats, 2 civils et 7 assaillants ont trouvé la mort, et au moins 71 personnes ont été blessées.

Cette attaque était avant tout destinée à ébranler le calme de la capitale afghane. Les talibans sont un phénomène essentiellement rural dans un pays essentiellement rural. La grande majorité des troupes américaines est déployée dans les zones rurales, à l’extérieur des grandes villes. La plupart du temps, la guerre ne touche pas les centres urbains. Les talibans portent cependant de plus en plus la guerre au cœur des villes, ce qui démoralise les Afghans et donne l’impression qu’aucune partie du pays n’est épargnée. Les incidents du 18 janvier semblent destinés à semer la peur dans les quartiers habituellement tranquilles du centre de Kaboul et à montrer que les insurgés peuvent aisément frapper le gouvernement afghan soutenu par les Etats-Unis. A cet égard, l’attaque a été une réussite totale. Le marché Faroshga est en ruine, complètement dévasté. Les rues de Kaboul se sont vidées. Les commerçants ont fermé boutique et les Afghans ont quitté leur bureau. Même les gardes du président afghan ont participé aux combats. Selon Zabihullah Mujahid, porte-parole taliban, l’attaque était une réaction aux propositions américaine et afghane de “réconciliation” et de “réintégration” des combattants talibans dans la société, un projet qui est au cœur de la campagne américaine pour renverser le cours de la guerre et qui sera exposé par Hamid Karzai, le 28 janvier, lors d’une conférence internationale à Londres. “Nous sommes prêts à nous battre, nous avons la force de nous battre et personne chez les talibans ne veut d’un quelconque accord”, affirme-t-il.

Le raid du 18 janvier s’est déroulé selon un processus de plus en plus familier qui rappelle l’assaut contre le ministère de la Justice en février 2009 [qui avait fait 26 morts]. Un homme portant une ceinture d’explosifs s’est approché des portes de la banque centrale et a essayé de franchir le barrage des gardes. Ceux-ci l’ont abattu, mais l’homme a réussi à faire exploser sa charge dans la rue. En quelques minutes, des centaines de commandos, de soldats et de policiers afghans ont encerclé la place du Pachtounistan. Aucun soldat américain n’était sur place. Les seuls militaires occidentaux présents sur les lieux étaient un petit commando néo-zélandais. Un groupe de commandos afghans a déclaré être venu directement de l’entraînement. “On était en plein exercice quand on a eu le message”, explique Bawahudin, un jeune membre d’une unité antiterroriste. Au signal, les hommes se sont mis à courir. Les yeux de Bawahudin reflétaient la peur. Tandis que la bataille faisait rage, une onde de choc s’est répandue dans une autre partie de la ville. Un autre terroriste venait de faire exploser une camionnette arborant le nom de l’hôpital Maiwan. Les policiers ont tiré de la carcasse les restes d’un homme – trapu et à la peau foncée. Un Arabe, ont-ils affirmé. Mais personne ne semblait en être très sûr.


janeiro 15, 2010

‘Escritórios do Jyllands-Posten iam ser alvo de atentado terrorista com camião‘ in Politiken

U.S. prosecutors have released an extended indictment in the case against two men charged with conspiracy against the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, suggesting that the newspaper’s offices in Denmark were to have been the target of a truck bomb attack.

Jyllands-Posten was the Danish newspaper that originally commissioned and printed cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed which angered many Muslims. One of the cartoonists, Kurt Westegaard, has recently been the target of an attack on his life. A 28-year-old Somali is currently on remand in Denmark on attempted murder charges.

Two detained in U.S.
In the U.S. case involving the newspaper, two men are currently in custody in Chicago charged with having planned the attack – a Pakistani-American David Headley and a Pakistani-Canadian Rana Tahawwur. Headley, whose name was Daood Gilani before changing his name, is said to be helping U.S. agencies.

The extended case now also includes in absentia charges against the head of the al-Qaeda affiliated Pakistani terrorist group Harakat ul-Jihad-I-Islami, Ilyas Kashmiri. Kashmiri is currently believed to be in Waziristan, and is said to have been the bankroller and mastermind of the planned attack.

Central to the charges are scouting trips made by Headley to the newspaper’s offices in Copenhagen and Århus, as well as Headley’s alleged involvement in extended scouting trips to Mumbai in India to determine targets and locations for the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks in which more than 160 people died.

Video spying
The indictment describes how Kashmiri had closely studied video footage taken by Headley in January 2009, including sequences from the Jyllands-Posten offices in Copenhagen and Århus. At a meeting in February 2009 in Pakistan, Headley is alleged to have been told by Kashmiri that he had contacts in Europe who could provide funding, weapons and men in order to carry out the attacks.

At the same time, Kashmiri is reported to have suggested that the group should consider carrying out the attack using a lorry filled with explosives.

Armed with contact details to Kashmiri’s contacts, Headley is then said to have travelled from Chicago to various European destinations to meet contacts, and for a further visit to Denmark to scout the Jyllands-Posten locations.

The U.S. charges also include suggestions that Kashmiri had been urged to arrange an attack on Denmark by a senior al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Saeed al-Masri, aka Mustafa Abu al-Yazid and who is said to have been the financial head of al-Qaeda.

Following the Danish embassy bombing in Islamabad in June 2008, al-Masri appeared in a video in which he claimed the attack had been carried out by a Saudi al-Qaeda operative, and urged further attacks on Denmark in connection with the cartoon issue and Denmark's involvement in the international force in Afghanistan.

Kashmiri is said to have passed the task of scouting Denmark on to Headley, who was to carry out the same type of intelligence gathering as he is alleged to have done for the Mumbai attacks.

Not guilty
Tahawwur Rana, who is said to be a close friend of Headley from their time at a Pakistani academy, has denied all charges against him.

On his arrest, the FBI says that Headley initially admitted that he and Pakistani terrorist groups had been planning an attack on the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Recently, however, he denied all charges during his court appearance in Chicago.


janeiro 12, 2010

‘Política económica de Pequim põe em risco o barco global‘ in Der Spiegel

It was just over a year ago that Huang Fajing, 55, was struggling to keep his company afloat. The president of lighter manufacturer Wenzhou Rifeng Lighters Co., Huang was forced to send his roughly 500 workers home early as a result of the global economic crisis. He himself had little to do but watch television in his luxury apartment in the eastern Chinese industrial city of Wenzhou.

Now, a year later, business is back in full swing in Wenzhou's factories, which supply the world with inexpensive goods, from buttons to electric cables to, of course, lighters. At Rifeng, workers wearing gray uniforms press tiny metal parts into the lighter shells, which are then sold to smokers in Europe, the United States and Japan.

Given Huang's slim profit margins of no more than 5 percent, Huang has carefully fine-tuned the work performed by the young men and women in his factory to eliminate unnecessary movements. But the fact that he has survived the crisis at all is largely thanks to his government -- and the decision in the summer of 2008 to once again peg the exchange rate of the yuan to the US dollar.

The Crutch

Beijing uses this policy to ensure that the country's factories can continue to export their products at ever cheaper prices. Because the value of the dollar has declined sharply, the yuan has fallen along with it, losing up to 17 percent of its value against the euro in 2009. At the same time, this artificially low exchange rate serves as a crutch that enables the Chinese government to protect many of its export businesses against failure. It is the only reason why exports declined by only 1.2 percent in November 2009, relative to the same month a year earlier, allowing China to replace Germany as the world's top export economy.

Many in the West see the rising economic power as an enormous engine of growth that is helping to lift the rest of the world out of the crisis. The government in Beijing has jump-started the domestic economy with a gigantic economic stimulus package worth four trillion yuan, or about €400 billion ($580 billion), which has led to investments in road, railway and airport construction throughout the country. Generous tax rebates to stimulate consumption, particularly of big-ticket items like cars, were also part of the package.

But China, with its enormous export economy, has in fact expanded global imbalances with its aggressive exchange rate strategy -- the same kind of imbalances that were partly responsible for the most recent financial crisis and, as a result, ought to be corrected.

China also risks triggering new, long-term trade conflicts, particularly with its neighbors. Since the beginning of the economic crisis, China has been diverting some of its exports to neighboring countries and away from Europe and the US, where sales have declined.

Series of Dumping Complaints

Some of its neighbors have already taken defensive measures. Vietnam recently devalued its currency, the dong, by 5 percent, making imports more expensive and protecting the domestic industry from a flood of Chinese goods. India has submitted a series of dumping complaints to the World Trade Organization (WTO), including one involving cheap imported paper from China. And Indonesia has sought to protect itself against cheap Chinese nails by imposing protective tariffs.

Western companies, on the other hand, are still relatively unconcerned about Beijing's exchange rate policy -- with good reason. Manufacturers that produce inexpensive shoes, electric drills or computers in China for sale in their domestic markets have no reason to complain. And many German businesses, particularly machine manufacturers, can still sell their products in the realm of the cheap yuan, because their Chinese customers are often willing to pay higher prices for German quality.

Nevertheless, there is growing opposition in Europe and the United States to a policy whereby China is trying to export its way to economic health, essentially at the expense of the rest of the world. Throughout the country, Chinese provincial officials are vying to expand local state-owned factories and build new ones. The steel industry alone has increased its capacity by about a third in the space of only two years.

Duties on Chinese Tires

As a result, the world must brace itself for a new wave of cheap Chinese-made goods. "Unfortunately, we will see a lot more dumping complaints against China in the second half of 2010," predicts Jörg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Beijing.

In late December, the EU imposed a 64.3 percent anti-dumping tariff on Chinese metal wire used in the auto industry, and the US is likewise protecting itself by imposing new duties on cheap Chinese tires and steel pipes. Beijing threatens to retaliate by imposing symbolic tariffs on American chickens and cars.

Ironically, China, with its policy of keeping the yuan artificially undervalued will ultimately harm itself more than anyone -- not unlike a rehab patient reaching desperately for more drugs. In order to keep the yuan down, the Chinese central bank must constantly buy up dollars. As a result, the country has amassed the world's largest foreign currency reserves, worth $2.3 trillion. China invests about two-thirds of its reserves in American currency, primarily in US treasury bonds. But as the dollar continues to fall, the value of this investment declines along with it.

China, however, has so far refused to enter into a debate over their economy's chronic dependence on manipulated exchange rates. At a meeting with EU representatives in Nanjing, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao dismissed as "unfair" a politely worded request that he reduce the value of his currency against the dollar to rein in the flood of exports. Even US President Barack Obama, during his recent visit to China, was reluctant to be appropriately forceful in addressing the politically taboo subject.

Indefinite Exploitation

The issue seems to have become an embarrassment to Beijing's leaders, particularly given their declared goal of balancing China's current accounts with other countries by the end of 2010.

This aim was the work of men like Yu Yongding, 61. A former advisor to the Chinese central bank, Yu now has an office on the 15th floor of the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, a respected government think tank. Having been a leading visionary for a world power, Yu now finds himself having to defend his life's work.

He celebrated his greatest triumph on July 21, 2005, when the People's Bank of China, as the Chinese central bank is officially called, slightly appreciated the yuan against the dollar, while simultaneously removing the currency's dollar peg. From then on, instead of being firmly pegged to the dollar, the yuan fluctuated within fixed parameters against a currency basket made up of several different currencies.

This led to a 22-percent increase in the yuan's value against the dollar by November 2008. Reformers like Yu, imagining that China was on the verge of liberating itself from a dependency on low-wage industry, celebrated the course correction as a symbolic beginning. They also believed that a higher-valued yuan would reduce the cost of imports to China, stimulate private consumption and enable the People's Republic to join the ranks of high-tech nations in the long term. "We cannot allow the United States to indefinitely exploit us as a low-wage country," says Yu.

The Bubble Could Burst

During the course of the global crisis, though, the reformers soon found themselves on the defensive. One of those reformers is Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the central bank. Zhou sets the yuan's exchange rate, practically at the instruction of the cabinet, which is intent on doing whatever it can to boost exports to achieve its goal of increasing gross domestic product by 8 percent. Initial forecasts indicate that Chinese GDP actually grew even more in 2009 -- as much as 9 percent.

But with his rigid exchange rate regime, Zhou is also fueling China's enormous economic bubble. Some of the foreign currency he is forced to continually extract from the market to bolster the yuan is subsequently re-injected into the monetary cycle in the form of increased liquidity. Low interest loans from Chinese banks are indirectly fueling widespread speculation in stocks and real estate.

Were the US to suddenly raise interest rates, the bubble could burst. Indeed, by pegging the yuan to the dollar, China ultimately makes itself dependent on US monetary policy. "No one knows how much lower the dollar will go," says economist Lin Jiang of the Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, "or if the US will suddenly end its policy of easy money."

But many of his fellow Chinese, on the contrary, see the dollar peg as a symbol of national sovereignty instead of distasteful dependence. "The more the West urges China to appreciate the yuan, the less the government will respond," says former central bank advisor Yu.

Huang, the lighter manufacturer, is pinning his hopes on the yuan remaining undervalued. "If Beijing appreciates the currency by more than 1.5 percent," he says, "I will go out of business."


janeiro 04, 2010

‘Iémen: um imam estará ligado aos ataques de Fort Hood et do voo 253‘ in Le Monde

L´imam Anwar al-Aulaqi serait lié à la fusillade de la base militaire américaine de Fort Hood en novembre ainsi qu'à l'attentat raté contre le vol Amsterdam-Detroit du 25 décembre, a indiqué dimanche 3 janvier le conseiller anti-terroriste du président Barack Obama.

Anwar al-Aulaqi, un prédicateur musulman né aux Etats-Unis mais qui vit aujourd'hui au Yémen, "nous pose problème. Il essaie de fomenter des actes terroristes" a déclaré à la chaîne de télévision CNN ce conseiller, John Brennan. "Selon certains éléments, Aulaqi a été en contact direct avec [Abdul Farouk] Abdulmutallab", le Nigérian poursuivi pour avoir voulu faire sauter le vol 253 de la compagnie américaine Northwest Airlines, a-t-il ajouté.

Le nom de l'imam Anwar al-Aulaqi a déjà été cité dans la fusillade qui a fait 13 morts et 42 blessés le 5 novembre à Fort Hood (Texas, sud), la plus grande base de l'armée américaine. Le tireur, le psychiatre militaire Nidal Hasan, avait évoqué en 2008 le meurtre d'Américains avec l'imam, a raconté récemment ce dernier à la presse, soulignant qu'ils se connaissaient depuis neuf ans.

"Mon avis est que le major Hasan a réalisé tout seul cet attentat" mais qu'"il a été inspiré par le genre de discours de personnes comme Aulaqi", a ajouté le conseiller présidentiel. M. Brennan a toutefois refusé de qualifier la fusillade de Fort Hood d'attentat terroriste. "Nous continuons à enquêter là-dessus", a-t-il précisé.