China's Xi to Launch 'Thorough
Clean-Up' of Communist Party
The London Telegraph
Pres. Xi Jinping is to launch a "thorough clean-up" of the ruling Communist Party, state media has reported, the latest strongly-worded anti-corruption drive to be enacted by China's new leader. The "upcoming year-long campaign" will target what the Xinhua news agency described as "undesirable work styles such as formalism, bureaucracy, laxity and extravagance." A broader, high-profile campaign against government waste and corruption was launched after Xi and others took over the party in November. Tuesday, the Politburo of the party's Central Committee – a top executive body – decided in April to launch the forthcoming campaign "to boost ties between party members and the public from the latter half of this year." Xi, speaking at a conference held on Tuesday to launch the campaign, said: "The main task of the campaign focuses on building work styles," according to Xinhua.
Israel Builds Sinai Border Fence;
Illegal Crossings Drop 99.9%
Earlier this month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu touted the success of a new border fence that Israel built along its boundary with Egypt to stop illegal infiltrators. In a statement posted at his government website, Netanyahu reported that illegal crossings had declined 99.9%, from 2,000 per month to only two. "The fence that we built in the south is achieving the result for which it was erected," Netanyahu said. "As opposed to the over 2,000 infiltrators who entered Israel exactly one year ago and dispersed to various cities, in May 2013 exactly two infiltrators crossed the border and were detained. Now we need to focus on repatriating the illegal infiltrators who are here, and we will meet this task as well." The main, 144-mile section of the fence was completed in early 2013, according to a January report by the Wall Street Journal.
Reformist-Backed Rowhani Winner
in Iran Presidential Vote
Moderate cleric Hasan Rowhani was declared the winner of Iran's presidential vote on Saturday after gaining support among many reform-minded Iranians looking to claw back a bit of ground after years of crackdowns. The powerful showing by the former nuclear negotiator allowed him to avoid a two-person runoff and demonstrated the strength of opposition sentiment even in a system that is gamed against it. The ruling clerics barred from the race reform candidates seen as too prominent, allowing a list of hopefuls who were mainly staunch loyalists of the supreme leader. But the opposition settled on Rowhani as the least objectionable of the bunch, making him the de facto reform candidate. While Iran's presidential elections offer a window into the political pecking orders the country's ruling clerics and their military guardians remain the ultimate powers.
Syria Chemical Weapons Use Confirmed;
Obama to Arm al Qaeda-Linked Rebels
The White House announced Thursday that the Obama administration has conclusive evidence that Syrian Pres. Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against his opposition, killing up to 150 people in the last year and crossing what Pres. Obama has called a "red line" that would lead to greater US involvement in the crisis. It was not immediately clear what the next US move would be, but a statement by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said that the use of chemical weapons by Syria has changed the President's "calculus." Pentagon officials said they did not expect immediate US military action. However, the Associated Press reported Thursday night that US officials had confirmed that Pres. Obama authorized sending weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time.
Iran Installs Hundreds More
Centrifuges for Uranium Enrichment
At a time when news headlines from the Middle East are dominated by battles in Syria, growing Sunni-Shi'ite conflict in Iraq and Lebanon, and mass disturbances in Turkey, it is easy to forget about Iran's nuclear program; but early warning indicators are signaling an impending, explosive crisis over Iran's refusal to halt its covert nuclear weapons program. At enrichment facilities in Natanz and Fordow, Iran is continuing to inch closer to the point of nuclear breakout, as a report by the UN's IAEA recently noted. The report confirmed what defense analysts had been saying for months: that Iran installed hundreds of additional centrifuges for uranium enrichment, enhancing its nuclear program, while continuing enrichment activities. Tehran has also taken steps to create a parallel path to nuclear weapons through its plutonium plant at Arak.
Turkey's Prime Minister to Meet
with Protesters After Clashes
Turkey's prime minister is preparing to meet with anti-government protesters occupying Istanbul's Taksim Square and adjacent Gezi Park after the rioters clashed into the early hours Wednesday with riot police firing tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Pres. Abdullah Gul, seen by many as a more moderate voice, said the government could not tolerate more of the unrest that has disrupted daily life for nearly two weeks, but authorities would listen to protesters' grievances. "I am hopeful that we will surmount this through democratic maturity," Gul said. "If they have objections, we need to hear them, enter into a dialogue. It is our duty to lend them an ear." It was unclear exactly who would be taking part in the meeting scheduled for 4pm at Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office in Ankara, and whether the meeting will have an impact in brokering an end to the protests.
Obama Considers Accepting Syrian Refugees
The Los Angeles Times
Two years into a civil war that shows no signs of ending, the Obama administration is considering resettling refugees who have fled Syria, part of an international effort that could bring thousands of Syrians to the US. A resettlement plan under discussion in Washington and other capitals is aimed at relieving pressure on Middle Eastern countries straining to support 1.6 million refugees, as well as assisting hard-hit Syrian families. The State Dept. is "ready to consider the idea," an official from the department said, if the administration receives a formal request from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, which is the usual procedure. The United States usually accepts about half the refugees that the UN agency proposes for resettlement. California has historically taken the largest share, but Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia are also popular destinations.
Russia Considers Offering
Whistleblower Snowden Asylum
The London Telegraph
Russia would consider granting asylum to US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden if he sought it. "If such a request is received, it will be considered," Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's spokesman, told the business daily Kommersant. Any attempt by the Kremlin to give refuge to Mr Snowden -- who last week revealed top secret US National Security Agency surveillance programs -- would likely infuriate the White House and spark a major diplomatic stand-off, as calls increase for him to be brought to justice on US soil. After Mr Peskov's comment, Alexei Pushkov, head of the Russian State Duma's international affairs committee, tweeted on Tuesday: "By promising asylum to Snowden, Moscow undertakes protection of those persecuted according to political motives. In the United States there will be hysteria. They only recognize their own right to do that."
Ahead of Vote, Iranian Opposition Under House Arrest
The Jerusalem Post
Four years after Iranians took to the streets to demonstrate against the results of a presidential election, the authorities are taking no chances this time, keeping opposition leaders confined under house arrest with doors and windows welded shut. When Iran elects a new president on Friday, authorities are determined to prevent a repeat of the street unrest that posed the biggest challenge to the Islamic Republic's ruling system since its birth in the 1979 revolution. Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, who as reformist candidates led the "Green Movement" that disputed the 2009 election result, have not been charged with crimes. But both men, former top officials now in their 70s, are being kept locked indoors, under constant surveillance and with little contact with families who fear for their health. "This is illegal even according to our laws," Karoubi's son said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan Warns ‘Patience Has a Limit’
The London Telegraph
Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that the patience of his Turkish government "has a limit", as protests continued for a 10th day in the country. Riot police clashed with anti-government protesters in several cities in the early hours of Sunday morning, Mr. Erdogan told thousands of cheering supporters in Ankara: "We remained patient, we are still patient but there's a limit to our patience." "Nobody should be pessimistic. Nobody should worry. Turkey went through many events in the past and will overcome this too." Mr. Erdogan toured the country on Sunday, urging his backers to show their strength by voting for his Justice & Development Party (AKP). "I want you to teach them a first lesson through democratic means at the ballot box," he told his backers in the southern city of Adana, referring to next year's local polls.
China Encircles US; Sails Warships
in US Waters, Arming Neighbors
Washington Free Beacon
China has been quietly taking steps to encircle the United States by arming western hemisphere states, seeking closer military, economic, and diplomatic ties to US neighbors, and sailing warships into US maritime zones. The strategy is a Chinese version of what Beijing has charged is a US strategy designed to encircle and "contain" China. It is also directed at countering the Obama administration's new strategy called the pivot to Asia. The pivot calls for closer economic, diplomatic, and military ties to Asian states that are increasingly concerned about Chinese encroachment throughout that region. "The Chinese are deftly parrying our 'Pivot to the Pacific' with their own elegant countermoves," said John Tkacik, a former State Dept. Asia hand. Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping is expected to question Pres. Barack Obama about the US pivot during the summit in California.