Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 11:38:47 AM EST
Fleeing Drug Violence, Mexicans Pour Into U.S. - NYTimes.com

FORT HANCOCK, Tex. -- The giant rusty fence of metal bars along the border here, built in recent years to keep illegal immigrants from crossing into the United States, has a new nickname among local residents: Jurassic Park Gate, a nod to the barrier in a 1993 movie that kept dangerous dinosaurs at bay in a theme park.

On the other side, a brutal war between drug gangs has forced dozens of fearful families from the Mexican town of El Porvenir to come to the border seeking political asylum, and scores of other Mexicans have used special visas known as border-crossing cards to flee into the United States. They say drug gangs have laid waste to their town, burning down houses and killing people in the street.

Americans are taking in their Mexican relatives, and the local schools have swelled with traumatized children, many of whom have witnessed gangland violence, school officials say.

"It's very hard over there," said Vicente Burciaga, 23, who fled El Porvenir a month ago with his wife, Mayra, and their infant son after gang members burned down five homes in their neighborhood and killed a neighbor. "They are killing people over there who have nothing to do with drug trafficking," he said. "They kill you just for having seen what they are doing."

The story of Fort Hancock, 57 miles southeast of El Paso on the Rio Grande, is echoed along the Texas border with Mexico, from Brownsville to El Paso. As the violence among drug gangs continues to spiral out of control in Mexico, more Mexican citizens are seeking refuge in the United States.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 12:27:04 PM EST
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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (Reuters) - Caribbean leaders told U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Friday that Mexico's U.S.-backed crackdown on drugs was pushing cartels to step up smuggling through their island nations.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 08:31:12 PM EST
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Gates Says U.S. Lacks a Policy to Thwart Iran - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has warned in a secret three-page memorandum to top White House officials that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran's steady progress toward nuclear capability, according to government officials familiar with the document.

Several officials said the highly classified analysis, written in January to President Obama's national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, came in the midst of an intensifying effort inside the Pentagon, the White House and the intelligence agencies to develop new options for Mr. Obama. They include a set of military alternatives, still under development, to be considered should diplomacy and sanctions fail to force Iran to change course.

Officials familiar with the memo's contents would describe only portions dealing with strategy and policy, and not sections that apparently dealt with secret operations against Iran, or how to deal with Persian Gulf allies.

One senior official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the memo, described the document as "a wake-up call." But White House officials dispute that view, insisting that for 15 months they had been conducting detailed planning for many possible outcomes regarding Iran's nuclear program.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 01:13:43 PM EST
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Informed Comment | Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

David Sanger of the New York Times gets the scoop- that US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates sent the White House a memo last January observing that the US has no real developed policy for dealing with Iran should Tehran achieve `nuclear latency' (where a country has the ability to construct a nuclear weapon but stops short of doing so, in order to avoid international sanctions and disapproval.

Ironically, the take-away from this article is that Gates concurs with those analysts (such as Juan Cole) that Iran does not intend actually to build a bomb, but wants the technical know-how to do so as a way of deterring foreign invasions and attacks.

Gates also worries about how we would know it if Iran suddenly decided to move from latency to actually constructing a warhead. Actually, I think that is not so hard to know. They can't make a weapon at Natanz or Fardo as long as they are being inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency. So one sign would be (as with North Korea) that they kick out the inspectors and decline further international scrutiny. If they tried to develop a weapons program elsewhere, it would need a lot of water and electricity and materiel, which should show up on satellite or other surveillance instruments. Moreover, the US program to entice defectors from among Iran's nuclear scientists appears to be having some success, and these insiders should be able to clarify things.

Anyway, short of a land invasion and forcible regime change, I doubt there is anything practical the US can do about Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Economic sanctions will not stop it, and even a bombing raid would only set it back. As long as Tehran does not in fact go for broke in trying to get a bomb, moreover, it is mysterious to me why Washington is consumed with this issue.

Meanwhile, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, gave a speech on Saturday in which he lambasted the United States for having been the only nation to deploy a nuclear weapon, and that against hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, something he said Islamic law would have forbidden. [The full text in USG translation is below- scroll down). He also challenged the US credentials to serve as a policeman against proliferation, given US complicity in or complaisance toward the Israeli development of a nuclear arsenal.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 01:14:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
David Sanger
As long as Tehran does not in fact go for broke in trying to get a bomb, moreover, it is mysterious to me why Washington is consumed with this issue.

I am sure he is most concerned about how mysteriously his paycheck might stop were he to understand why Washington is consumed by this issue.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 10:14:06 PM EST
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Iran was a jewel of the empire that threw us off with impunity and had the audacity to invent a new kind of government.  Our job is to keep them down.

I honestly believe that what is really feared is a fully energy-independent Iran.  Iran isn't building nuclear reactors for just its own sake, after all.  The US is simply fighting one of the few levers of control they have.

I, for one, enjoy the spectacle.  The best approach against nuclear weapons, as the Ayatollah even agrees, is to stop the hypocrisy.  The Russia/US agreement is the kind of thing that will actually discourage nuclear weapons from spreading.  Nobody wants to waste a billion dollars building useless weapons, they do so because they fear they have to.  

by paving on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 04:00:58 PM EST
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Who's behind the Gates memo leak?

To say that the US lacks a strategy here, is itself a statement so vague as to be meaningless. (...) There is no indication in this account that the New York Times reporters saw the memo (...), so as is so often the case, it's likely that the most significant detail in this story is the one that will not be revealed: the identity of the senior official who is the primary source of the narrative.  Was it Dennis Ross? He'd certainly fit the profile of someone in the administration who probably feels like it's time to change the subject and shift attention away from Israel and back to Iran.

"Beware of the man who does not talk, and the dog that does not bark." Cheyenne
by maracatu on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 08:54:30 PM EST
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3 Italian aid workers freed in Afghanistan | AP via Yahoo

KABUL - Afghan authorities released on Sunday three Italian medical workers who had been detained for a week, clearing them of allegations they were part of a Taliban plot to kill a provincial governor, Italian and Afghan officials said.

The Afghan intelligence service said the three Italian as well as five Afghan employees of the Italian aid group Emergency were freed because they were no longer believed to be part of the plot. A sixth Afghan employee remained in custody.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sun Apr 18th, 2010 at 03:37:53 PM EST
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BBC: Thai army moves into Bangkok business district
The Thai army has moved hundreds of soldiers into the business district of Bangkok to prevent anti-government protesters entering the area.

The protest by the "red-shirts", now in their fifth week, are currently focused in a shopping district nearby.

They are trying to force Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to step down and call an election.

The red-shirts had said they might move to Bangkok's financial district but later said they would not do so.

Government figures said the intent was not to attack the protesters, but simply to block any attempt they might make to enter the business district.

by IdiotSavant on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 12:17:15 AM EST
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The source actually uses the word "non-employment", perhaps to suggest that some is voluntary, or perhaps because of translation problems.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 02:22:22 PM EST
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from reading around I'd got the impression that the UOs were increasingly opting out; indulging in "religious" studies and militia work.

they are exempt from military service and I guess they've just gone the whole 9 yards of opting out entirely whilst still expecting the rest of the population to support their barbarity militarily.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Mon Apr 19th, 2010 at 03:00:09 PM EST
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