THE WORLD NEWS IN BRIEF
CHINA : The Pentagon is growing increasingly concerned about what they claim is a strategic build-up by China of new missiles and naval weapons designed to take out US aircraft carriers and block American forces out of the Asia-Pacific region. This strategic build-up is also said to include weapons that will ""deny the United States the use of the commons -- the sea, the air, cyber and space."
IRAQ : Claims are emerging that Saudi civilians are privately finding the Sunni insurgency.
The sums involved are said to be in the millions of dollars and the money is being used to buy weapons like shoulder launched anti-aicraft missiles. The claims have been made by "key Iraqi officials". Saudi government officials have denied the reports, naturally, even though in recent days Saudi government officials have said they would send in operatives to protect Sunnis in the event of a US pullout. The controversial Iraq Study Group report also noted that Sunni Arab insurgents are scoring funds from private civilians living in Saudi Arabia. The cash is boxed up and trucked into Iraq.
Also in Iraq, 32 American Marines and soldiers have been killed since the start of December. 18 of those fatalities occured in the Anbar province. So much for the fighting being contained with a short radius of Baghdad, as the American spin machine claims....1000 British and Danish soldiers staged a massive raid in Basra, the largest raid in the city since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Shiite tribal leaders were rounded up and detained, infuriating locals. More dead women and children...More than 30 civilians were killed by US troops during raids north-west of Baghdad...
And here's something barely mentioned at all during the extensive coverage of reaction to the controversial report from the Iraq Study Group : the reactions from Iraqis.
CENTRAL ASIA : The Shanghai CoOperation Organisation (SCO), for those of us in the West at least, is the power bloc we never hear about. Non-aggressive, barely focusing on military, but instead working together on financial, developmental and cultural agreements, programs and exchanges, the SCO causes the United States (and its allies) far more worry than it should.
By the combined land mass and populations of the countries involved - China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, Mongolia and Iran - the SCO is the largest regional group in the world. But the United States, England, Israel and Australia do not get a look in, and they are rarely, if ever, invited to sit in on meetings as observers.
So why is the US worried about the SCO? Yo Bin in the Asia Times gives some concise background here.
RUSSIA : Vladimir Putin is beginning to express concerns over the nuclear program in Iran, after refusing to back US/Israel-backed UN sanctions, as did China. Putin said there are valid concerns not only about Iran's current nuclear research, but unanswered questions remain about its past experimental nuclear energy program....Russia claims it will sell some $6 billion worth of military arms in the 2006 period, including sales to China worth $1.5 billion...
ISRAEL : The Israeli government has flatout refused to enter into "peace talks" with Syria, despite the recommendations of a key US report, and offers of "open talks" from Syria. The chief point of contention remains the Golan Heights, which Syria has demanded Israel must hand back....Israel has decided to keep pretending it doesn't have hundreds of nuclear weapons
...Olmert says that Israel-Syria should not be linked to Iraq War....Hamas has announced it will never recognise Israel
SOMALIA : The United Nations has voted to send 8000 peacekeepers to the troubled state in the Horn Of Africa. The Council of Islamic Courts has vowed to fight "the invaders"....."Heavy fighting" is being reported between Somalian government troops, backed by Ethiopian fighters, and Islamist fighters. The involvement of Ethopia could unleash a broader, more brutal war in the region....
AFHGANISTAN : Talks between Afghanistan and Pakistan over insurgent attacks that Afghanistan claim are originating inside their neighbour's territory are on the verge of breaking down. Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai is "loosing patience"....Suicide bombings continue to kill civilians and NATO troops in Kandahar...Public optimism is starting to fade as Taliban continue to hit raid towns and villages and kill civilians and NATO troops...