Archive for April, 2012

The Egyptian House of Cards Continues to Collapse

Yet again, the Egyptian military continues to prove me wrong: it has demonstrated once more that it has no interest in democracy, just when we all thought it could not get any worse. This week, just after refusing to allow several candidates to run in the upcoming presidential elections, the SCAF decided to reject applications by pro-democracy NGOs that wanted to operate in Egypt. The applications became much more relevant in the wake of the military’s crackdown on many of those same NGOs in late December.


The obvious question to raise is why the SCAF made such a decision: did they fear continued foreign (read as: American) involvement in the Egyptian democratic transition? This would be persuasive before one looks at the type of groups that the SCAF rejected. These were not anti-corruption groups. These were not “purge the military” groups. These groups were barely pro-democratic. Most of the groups were hoping to monitor the presidential election next month. This “foreign intervention” amounts to ensuring that there are ballots at voting stations and that voting occurs without intimidation by any political groups.


Egypt’s military led transition to democracy is bordering on laughable. The SCAF has, to its credit, used the international perception of its ineptness to its advantage, and now holds all the cards in Egypt, which (to continue the metaphor) the military is using to stack the deck against democracy.  The ruling council is now in a position where it can likely ride out the storm and wait for all the other parties to fold. All in all, the only casino left in Egypt is run by the military, and just like they say in Vegas, the house always wins.



Pentagon official signals possible Army layoffs to meet projected cut in force

A Pentagon official has indicated that there are going to be major layoffs to enlisted personnel and officers.  The numbers are 24,000 for enlisted personnel and 5,000 for officers.  These cuts will be done over 5 years in response to budget cuts.  As two wars are coming to an end the army is trying to shrink the size of forces.  President Obama and congressional Republicans have agreed to cut 500 billion over 10 years in projected spending.

Another problem that can arise from this is the laying off of troops in a completely voluntary army.  Telling soldiers who have done a fine job during their multiple tours that they are being laid off could have a psychological negative effect.

– Ben

Iran’s Democrats

Iran seems to be portrayed often these days in newspapers and on certain news networks as a state solely represented by President Ahmadinejad, or the Ayatollah Khomeini, or their nuclear program; but there are more complex internal politics at work too that can be affected by any actions that the United States towards Iran in the coming future concerning their nuclear program. An article in Foreign Policy magazine discusses how a deal that the Obama Administration would make with government officials in the Iranian regime within the current talks could hurt groups within Iran advocating against human rights abuses and calling for democracy.

Some Iranians in opposition to the regime fear that a nuclear agreement between the U.S. and Iran, from talks that have just started to commence again, would stipulate that the U.S. would put less pressure on Iran’s regime if they, in turn, halted their nuclear program or adhered to certain U.S. demands regarding it. Even if there wasn’t such an agreement, the U.S. may stay silent on issues about the regime so as not to affect the current talks and diplomatic efforts. The article argues that this would not be the right path to take. First, Iran is unlikely to abandon its nuclear program, especially for less pressure on their regime, which hasn’t deterred them in the past. Secondly, the Ayatollah Khomeini could use U.S. silence by saying that the West does not care about the opposition movement. Lastly, if U.S. policy-makers are thinking in terms of security strategy towards a nuclear program, a political movement in Iran could be a way of hindering it. If Iran is adamant about continuing with their nuclear program, ignoring Iran’s opposition may not be the best idea.,1

-Anna D.

Gallup Poll of Israel, Palestine trust in America


Gallup did some polling of both Israeli and Palestinian people to see where they stand on a number of issues in the peace process.  Some of the results were ambiguous and did not give a solid answer but there was always majority from both the Israelis and the Palestinians, though sometimes a small one, in favor of the peace process. To write about all of these would take a very long time so I am going to focus on one that I think is the most interesting.

This is a polling of the amount that each people group trusts the US president to help Israel and Palestine in peace treaty negotiations that are fair to both sides.  What is seen is that when Bust left office, the security that Israel had in America significantly decreased.  It increased slightly again at the end but was still a lot lower.  Part of this is due to that nature of a democrat as opposed to a republican in the office in general.  Mostly, I believe that this is due to the fact that Obama has not put the emphasis on the pro-Israeli policy that past presidents have and in fact has sometimes leaned away from being pro-Israel in some of his rhetoric.  It is not good that Israel has decreased faith in America, its biggest ally.  At the same time, the fact that Israeli citizen’s faith in American leadership increased slightly in 2011 is promising.  It will be interesting to see more of these numbers in the future to see where the trend is heading.


52 al-Qaeda dead and high ranking al-Qaeda leader killed in Yemen

The fourth-most wanted al Qaeda leader in Yemen was killed Tuesday in an airstrike in the northeastern province of Mareb, the Yemeni government announced. In recent strikes at least an additional 52 al-Qaeda members were killed as well. “This is a success for the war on terror. Al-Umda has been on the run for years and his absence will help in limiting the terror network’s operation in Yemen,” a senior Defense Ministry official told CNN on condition of anonymity.

“It’s not a secret that al Qaeda is stronger today than a year ago. Yemen needs support if it seeks to defeat this enemy,” an aid in the Yemeni government commented. The situation in Yemen is rapidly deteriorating and al-Qaeda is rapidly gaining influence in Yemen. While this is a victory for both Yemeni and American forces in fighting al-Qaeda, the situation is still very vulnerable. The US needs to continue to apply pressure in Yemen and continue to dismantle al-Qaeda strong holds in Yemen and throughout the Arabian Peninsula.



A New Threat From North Korea

On Monday, North Korea announced that it (North Korea) would soon initiate “special actions” which would be aimed at destroying the South Korean government and its president, Lee Myung-bak. The North Korean news agency reported that North Korea would use “unprecedented peculiar means and methods of our own style” to carry out these actions. Apparently this operation would only take three to four minutes at most. It did not specify what those actions would involve. Adding on to the strange announcement, the North Korean news agency broadcasted images of people throwing rocks at a caricature of Lee Myung-bak. It seems that one of the main motivations for the  dire threats appears to have been the announcement last week by the South Korean military that it had deployed a missile that is capable of striking any target in North Korean territory. According to North Korea, that move showed that Lee’s government “has long lost its reasoning power”.
This should be taken as an extremely dire threat to South Korea. This isn’t normal rhetoric for North Korea. North Korea did not state that they would do these measures IF something happened. North Korea stated they are already initiating these special actions, which have the intent of destroying South Korea’s government. If North Korea is moving this plans into place, and these plans intend to get rid of South Korea’s government, then this statement should be taken very seriously. As for a plan of action, I am not sure what South Korea or its regional actors should do. Depending on North Korea’s next moves, there should be some sort of defense plan ready, in the case of a nuclear attack or ground assault, and so forth. I can only hope that these “special actions” don’t come to fruition.


-JD Schuler

I Grew Up Next to a Cornfield

A new study shows that global warming could cause corn prices to quadruple in coming years. The proposed solution is to increase the crop's heat tolerance by 6 F or more.

I was born and raised in the Midwest, something I’ve tried to keep under the radar from my colleagues here on the sophisticated East Coast. I spent most of my childhood years in a two-story blue house with white shutters. We lived next to a cornfield in rural Indiana.

Based on a new study released in Nature Climate Change, very few kids in the future will have that opportunity. The study found that global warming will cause corn prices over the next few years to more than quadruple. Heat waves and other harsh environmental conditions are projected to cause farmers to have lower yields while also facing severe “price volatility.”

The corn industry has already been put under stress from the US government due to subsidies for biofuels. Corn grown for cars rather than humans has caused the markets to become pretty “inelastic.” Couple that with the prospect of lower yields and higher prices and you have the makings of a dire situation on our nation’s heartland.

However, this problem will stretch far beyond the farming states in the Midwest. Corn is a central ingredient in so many products  used here and around the world that it is hard to imagine a nation that will not be effected by a quadruple in the price of the crop. This is not just an issue of domestic economic security, it’s an issue of national and international food and human security as well.

What’s being proposed to fix the problem? Further genetically modifying corn so that its “heat tolerance” is increased by about 6 F. This would drive up the cost of corn even more, as the seeds would be re-patented and farmers would have to buy this new “ulta corn” or else face the lower yields of the “mid-grade.”

While this may look like a great alternative to Monsanto, it doesn’t seem to solve any problems the farmers in the Midwest or the consumers across the world will face if this new study’s projections are correct.

~ Chapin ~


For more on the study in Nature Climate Change please go to:

Wait, What about India?

Last week India tested a missile that could potentially reach Beijing or any target within about a 3000 mile radius. Although this missile has the potential to carry nuclear weapons, which India is already known to have, the international community has given little to no criticism in comparison to the way the world responded to North Korea’s failed launch attempt, which received condemnation from the UN.

So what about India? It’s not a member of the CTBT or the NPT but apparently it’s special. Why? Because it has a nuclear waiver? From what I’ve read it’s not that big of a deal for two reasons: India has a good track record (including its policy of no first use) and because, unlike North Korea, India was clear that it would be testing a nuclear capable missile.

How is China going to see this? Better yet, how is Pakistan going to view this? Is the international community setting a bad precedent by not rebuking India?

What happens when Pakistan does a similar test? Will the international community turn its back as they have done with India? Hell no! People are going to freak out, it’s going to be all over the news and the US is going to be pressured to somehow smack Pakistan without leaving too much of a mark.  Well that’s my opinion anyway, but I guess if the International Business Times is correct then I guess will find out between today (April 24) and the 29th when Pakistan may or may not launch its own long range missile, Shaheen.


Dan Meridor on Iran

New sources and political officials, including Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, have alleged that Iranian leaders “vowed to wipe Israel off the map.” This rhetoric has led many to believe that this proves Iran’s existential threat to Israel. These quotes are under examination in this video, in which Al Jazeera spokesman Teymoor Nabili interviews Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor on his views of Iran.

Nabili questions whether rhetoric from Iran’s leaders are necessarily legitimate threats, saying that there is no evidence that President Ahmadinejad or the Ayatollah Khomeini has ever said that they wanted to “wipe out” the state of Israel. Meridor says that Iran may have never made a direct threat that their intentions were to annihilate the state of Israel, but that again and again, Iran’s leaders have said that the “state of Israel will not survive” and that it is a “cancerous tumor that must be removed.” These statements, to Meridor, are statements that cannot be taken lightly and prove to be existential threats. In his words, one country within the UN would never tell a country it “should not exist” and not be taken seriously. Many question whether rhetoric equates to action, and whether they should be taken as threats or political statements. To Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Netanyahu, they have legitimacy.

Nabili goes on to question Meridor on the nuclear issue, who does not seem very content with Nabili’s discussion. Nabili says that many countries in the world would not have an issue with an Iranian nuclear program, and that only a select few are opposed. Also, he says that Iran is still years away from having the ability to produce nuclear weapons. Meridor believes that Iran is aiming at a nuclear warhead, building its program at a “remarkable pace,” and this could lead to the possibility of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East with other countries following, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Nabili objects to this view, saying that the IAEA, the UN, and U.S. policy officials still do not have evidence that Iran is even building a nuclear weapons program.

Finally, Nabili asks, that if Iran commits to a nuclear Middle East, will Israel give up its nuclear arsenal? Could there be a nuclear free Middle East? Meridor calls him a minimalist, saying that he would rather have a nuclear free world. Also, that Israel will continue to stick to its policy (which has been declining to discuss its nuclear weapons capabilities.)

Meridor’s sentiments were very different than Nabili’s in the interview. Meridor obviously sees Iran’s threat to Israel as much more siginificant and immediate than Nabili, who seems to allude that Iran’s threat and rhetoric is being played up by Israeli policy officials. The interview was interesting in portraying two opposing viewpoints on Iran’s threat to Israel and their nuclear program.

“Dan Meridor: We Misquoted Ahmadinejad”, Al Jazeera, April 16, 2012


US Ambassador Affirms US-Israel Relationship

The Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren visited the campus of Northeastern this week and talked to the students about the relationship between Israel and America.  He explained the importance of the two being allies and told them about the history of the strong bond.  “In the Old Testament, Puritans found a god who spoke directly to his people in Hebrew and made promises to rescue them from exile and restore them to the Promised Land,” Oren said.  He also explained the importance of this bond continuing in any possible upcoming situations.

He also talked about what the US position regarding Israel and Iran in light of Iran’s nuclear program.  He talked about how it is the responsibility of Israel to do whatever it is that they need to protect themselves from any enemies in the Middle East.  He said that the main question is the cost of inaction against a nuclear Iran.

I think it is good that he is out talking to the young population about the relationship between the countries.  It is reassuring to me that we will continue to back Israel, as there have been some moments in this administration that our support can be questioned.  The next generation needs to understand this because they are the future of diplomacy and we need to ensure that in the future we will not waver from our promise to Israel.


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