Friday, December 15, 2006


Gaza and Palestine

BBC News:
Clashes have erupted between rival Palestinian factions after Hamas accused Fatah of trying to assassinate Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas.
Hamas accused Fatah's Mohammad Dahlan of organising an attack on Mr Haniya as he crossed into Gaza from Egypt.


Correspondents say the attack on Mr Haniya - and the open accusation against such a prominent opponent by Hamas - has dramatically raised the stakes in the tense political struggle in the Palestinian territories.

The violence in Ramallah on Friday came as Hamas supporters attempted to march towards the centre of town, reports said.
Elections in Iran

BBC News:
In theory, the Assembly of Experts is the most powerful body in Iran's complex network of religious institutions.

Its job is to elect, dismiss and supervise Iran's top political figure, the Supreme Leader - currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The reformists are barely present in the assembly race, because candidates must be passed by a conservative panel.

So analysts are watching to see whether the body will be dominated by conservatives aligned with Mr Ahmadinejad or pragmatists close to the former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, our correspondent adds.

The local council elections, in contrast, are likely to witness a higher turnout and will provide a clearer reflection of trends in public opinion, analysts believe.
The Boston Globe:
But at both the local and national levels, the races pit supporters of Ahmadinejad against members of the reformist movement, which pushes for democratization within Iran's Islamic government. And in some cases, traditional conservatives have banded together with reformists to oppose Ahmadinejad allies.

Reformist candidates are taking a page from Ahmadinejad's play book, emphasizing bread-and-butter issues like the need for better public transportation and more accountable city officials instead of the human rights and freedom of speech themes they've sounded in the past.

"We need to show the world that we are more practical," said Piruz Hanochi, an architect running on the reformist ticket for Tehran's city council. "After the election, people's lives have to become better."
Security in Iraq

The Los Angeles Times:
CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno assumed command as the new number two general in Iraq at a ceremony in the capital yesterday, vowing to use more than combat to resolve the conflict .

"This is not just a military solution only," he said to the crowd assembled outside one of Saddam Hussein's former palaces near the US military headquarters. "It is a combination of diplomatic, economic, and military programs."

But those who know Odierno say the hard-charging general, who plotted Hussein's capture and anti-insurgency combat operations, may put more effort toward securing, rather than rebuilding, Iraq.

Odierno gained a reputation as an aggressive commander while leading the Fourth Infantry Division in Sunni Arab-dominated parts of the country in 2003 and 2004. Some military analysts have contended that the region's continued unrest can be traced to Odierno's heavy handed methods.

Odierno took command of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq from Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, who, in contrast, emerged as a champion of more comprehensive strategies aimed at winning over local populations, including large-scale public works programs and restrained firepower in the face of sectarian warfare.

Despite sporadic violent uprisings against his forces, Chiarelli, a former West Point professor, eventually was able to stabilize the volatile Shi'ite Muslim slums of Sadr City by putting locals to work on a large sewage system and posting some of his top soldiers to nascent Iraqi security forces.

Chiarelli also is popular in Washington, where he is in contention to replace his commander, General George W. Casey Jr., who may leave before summer.

At yesterday's ceremony, Casey praised Chiarelli's approach to securing Iraq.

"I will always remember your personal passion for building a better life for the Iraqi people," Casey told the crowd, which included US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and several regional US military commanders.

Chiarelli spoke about working side-by-side with Iraqis the past year to rebuild the country, in a speech with quotes from President Theodore Roosevelt and 19th century liberal philosopher John Stuart Mill.


People close to Odierno maintain his characterization as an overly aggressive commander with a style antithetical to Chiarelli's is unwarranted. They say he's become more attuned to the importance of soft power during his last two years as an assistant to Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The Los Angeles Times:
WASHINGTON — President Bush and top aides have made the effort to build a new governing coalition in Iraq a top priority in their search for a new strategy, one of the country's two vice presidents said Thursday.

Tariq Hashimi, who leads the Iraqi parliament's most important Sunni Arab group, said that Bush and other senior officials told him at a White House meeting this week that they believe "for the present time, the only solution we have" is to create a new ruling alliance in hopes of strengthening a frail central government.


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