Xinhua, April 26, 2011
The Iraqi government is preparing to accept the presence of more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen in Iraq to protect the U.S. interests after the deadline of U.S. troops’ pullout by the end of 2011, an Iraqi newspaper reported on Tuesday.
“The Iraqi government will arrange a special status that would allow more than 15,000 U.S. servicemen to stay in Iraq beyond the end of this year,” al-Mashriq newspaper quoted well-informed sources as saying.
It also said that thousands of employees working for foreign security firms will stay in the country to protect the U.S. embassy staff, American civil contractors, engineers and investors.
“The full U.S. troops withdrawal will be announced as scheduled (by the end of 2011) and the remaining of thousands of U.S. troops will be attributed to protect the embassy staff, foreign diplomatic corps and international companies in the country,” the newspaper said.
Maliki is planning to send a delegation headed by Abdul-Haleem al-Zheiri, a leading figure in Maliki’s Dawa part, to the neighboring Iran to explain his move and to give assurances to Tehran that the remaining U.S. troops will not be used against Iran, it added.
“The delegation will also ask Tehran to put pressure on Moqtada al-Sadr to accept the new arrangements and not to unleash his Mahdi Army militiamen,” the paper said.
On April 9, anti-U.S. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threatened to resume activities of his Mahdi Army militia against the American troops if they stay in the country after the end of 2011.
Earlier, Maliki ruled out signing a new security pact with the United States to extend the presence of its troops in the country.
“The Prime Minister ruled out possibility for any new security agreement to prolong the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, because the (current) document of the strategic agreement (SOFA) is clear in this respect,” Maliki said in a statement.
However, Maliki noted that not signing another security agreement doesn’t mean that Iraq will not cooperate and coordinate with the United States in the fields of training and arming Iraqi troops, the statement said.
In mid 2010, U.S. troops in Iraq had been reduced to below 50, 000 soldiers. Washington said that the remaining U.S. troops in Iraq are conducting support and training missions.
U.S. military forces are to pull out completely from Iraq by the end of 2011 according to the security pact named (Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA) signed late in 2008 between Baghdad and Washington.
Brett Arends, MarketWatch, April 25, 2011
The International Monetary Fund has just dropped a bombshell, and nobody noticed.
For the first time, the international organization has set a date for the moment when the “Age of America” will end and the U.S. economy will be overtaken by that of China.
And it’s a lot closer than you may think.
According to the latest IMF official forecasts, China’s economy will surpass that of America in real terms in 2016 — just five years from now.
Put that in your calendar.
It provides a painful context for the budget wrangling taking place in Washington, D.C., right now. It raises enormous questions about what the international security system is going to look like in just a handful of years. And it casts a deepening cloud over both the U.S. dollar and the giant Treasury market, which have been propped up for decades by their privileged status as the liabilities of the world’s hegemonic power.
According to the IMF forecast, whomever is elected U.S. president next year — Obama? Mitt Romney? Donald Trump? — will be the last to preside over the world’s largest economy.
Most people aren’t prepared for this. They aren’t even aware it’s that close. Listen to experts of various stripes, and they will tell you this moment is decades away. The most bearish will put the figure in the mid-2020s.
But they’re miscounting. They’re only comparing the gross domestic products of the two countries using current exchange rates.
That’s a largely meaningless comparison in real terms. Exchange rates change quickly. And China’s exchange rates are phony. China artificially undervalues its currency, the renminbi, through massive intervention in the markets.
The comparison that really matters
The IMF in its analysis looks beyond exchange rates to the true, real terms picture of the economies using “purchasing power parities.” That compares what people earn and spend in real terms in their domestic economies.
Under PPP, the Chinese economy will expand from $11.2 trillion this year to $19 trillion in 2016. Meanwhile the size of the U.S. economy will rise from $15.2 trillion to $18.8 trillion. That would take America’s share of the world output down to 17.7%, the lowest in modern times. China’s would reach 18%, and rising.
Just 10 years ago, the U.S. economy was three times the size of China’s.
Naturally, all forecasts are fallible. Time and chance happen to them all. The actual date when China surpasses the U.S. might come even earlier than the IMF predicts, or somewhat later. If the great Chinese juggernaut blows a tire, as a growing number fear it might, it could even delay things by several years. But the outcome is scarcely in doubt.
This is more than a statistical story. It is the end of the Age of America. As a bond strategist in Europe told me two weeks ago, “We are witnessing the end of America’s economic hegemony.”
We have lived in a world dominated by the U.S. for so long that there is no longer anyone alive who remembers anything else. America overtook Great Britain as the world’s leading economic power in the 1890s and never looked back.
The Washington Times, April 24, 2011
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and three other former leaders arrived in Beijing on Sunday en route to North Korea to discuss the revival of nuclear disarmament talks.
Mr. Carter and the group of veteran statesmen known as “the Elders” are to travel to Pyongyang on Tuesday as part of international efforts to restart the negotiations on ending North Korea’s nuclear program.
The group, which includes former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson, said it also plans to discuss North Korea’s chronic food shortages.
International disarmament talks with North Korea have been stalled for the past two years amid growing concerns over its nuclear programs.
“At a time when official dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea appears to be at a standstill, we aim to see how we may be of assistance in reducing tensions and help the parties address key issues including denuclearization,” Mr. Carter was quoted as saying in a statement.
Mr. Carter, a Democrat from Georgia who was president from 1977 to 1981, is well regarded in North Korea despite its longtime animosity toward the United States. He has visited several times in a private capacity, most recently last August to secure the release of an imprisoned American.
Mr. Carter told reporters earlier this month that he would “try to induce the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons” and help the country work out a peace treaty with South Korea and the United States. No peace treaty was ever signed after the 1950-53 Korean War.
Aswat Al Iraq, April 24, 2011
Iraq’s Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has informed the visiting U.S. Chief of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, Admiral Mike Mullen, that the remaining American troops were to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, according to the Security Agreement, signed between the two countries in 2011, an Iraqi Legislature said on Sunday.
“There is an Agreement, concluded between Iraq and the United States, reiterating that the U.S. forces must leave Iraq by the end of 2011,” National Coalition MP, Ali al-Allaq, told Aswat al-Iraq news agency, adding that “the Prime Minister had informed the U.S. Chief of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, Admiral Mike Mullen, that the American forces must leave, according to the said Agreement, because there is no need for their presence, as the Iraqi forces are able to execute the security dossier.”
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British FM Says Assassination Depends on Gadhafi’s Behavior
Jason Ditz, Antiwar.com, April 24, 2011
Citing the lingering stalemate in Libya, a number of top Western officials are raising the prospect of assassinating Moammar Gadhafi as a means of either winning the war or escalating it, depending on which they were advocating.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) said assassinating Gadhafi would be the “quickest” way to end the stalemate, while John McCain (R – AZ) said it should be the first step toward increasing the number of US air strikes in Libya. Graham in particular had been calling for the assassination for weeks.
Officials have speculated that the assassination would be much easier now that the US has added Predator drones to the war. The first such strike was reported over the weekend.
The New York Times/Reuters, April 22, 2011
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is likely to achieve a sweeping victory in a referendum next month that calls for an overhaul of the justice system, a poll by Ecuadorean pollster Cedatos showed on Friday.
In the May 7 vote, Ecuadoreans will endorse or reject 10 proposals socialist Correa says will modernize the Andean nation but critics fear are intended to strengthen his power and curb judicial independence.
The Cedatos poll gives two reforms calling for a judicial shake-up 62.2 percent and 64.1 percent support, respectively.
The proposals call for the creation of a panel that would overhaul the judiciary and appoint top judges. The temporary panel would be replaced by a five-member council with a six-year mandate.
Correa argues the changes will allow the state to stamp out corruption and inefficiency in courts and thus help police to better fight rising crime, but his critics say his real aim is to win power over judicial appointments.
The Cedatos poll shows the whole package of 10 reforms, including new rules banning bull fighting, would be endorsed by an average of 61.7 percent of voters.
The US military praises Iraqi security forces as they crack down on press freedom.
Nick Turse, Al Jazeera, April 23, 2011
The first months of this year have been grim for free speech in Iraq.
As revolts swept across the Middle East and North Africa, they spread to Iraqi cities and towns, but took on a very different cast.
In February, in places like Baghdad, Fallujah, Mosul and Tikrit, protesters took to the streets, intent on reform – focused on ending corruption and the chronic shortages of food, water, electricity and jobs – but not toppling the government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The response by government security forces, who have arrested, beaten, and shot protesters, leaving hundreds dead or wounded, however, was similar to that of other autocratic rulers around the region.
Attacks by Iraqi forces on freedom of the press, in the form of harassment, detention, and assaults on individual journalists, raids of radio stations, the offices of newspapers and press freedom groups have also shown the dark side of Maliki’s regime.
Many journalists have been prevented from covering protests or have curtailed their reporting in response to brutality, raising the spectre of a return to the days of Saddam Hussein’s regime when press freedom was a fiction.
Maliki’s US allies, however, have turned a blind eye to the violence and repression, with the top spokesman for the US military in Iraq praising the same Iraqi units which eyewitnesses have identified as key players in the crackdown while ignoring the outrages attributed to them.
In addition to providing training to these units, the US military is currently focused on upgrading the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, including the creation a national intelligence and operations centre and more sophisticated use and understanding of social media, which some fear may further increase state repression.