Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for March 27th, 2007

The Quandaries of a Secure Middle East? Egypt’s Proposed Constitutional Reforms Run Into Stiff Resistance

Posted by K.E. White on March 27, 2007

Numerous news-outlets are reporting on the bind Egypt’s moderate, democratic government has found itself in after trying to push religious parties out of the government. 

From Al Jazeera: 

Egypt‘s judges have vowed to boycott the supervision of future polls after rejecting the results of a referendum that approved a series of changes to the constitution.

“The judges wash their hands of the referendum results,” Ahmed Sabr, a spokesman for the body that represents the country’s judges, said on Tuesday. 

“We will no longer be a fig leaf to cover something shameful.”

The changes, which will help the government exclude religious parties from the political system, were backed by 75.9 per cent of people who voted but human rights groups estimated that turnout was less than 10 per cent.

The Egyptian justice ministry said 27.1 per cent of registered voters took part. 

The Economist caught the cynicism of the constitutional amendments:

Finally, in an Assembly where the Muslim Brotherhood, with less than a quarter of parliamentary seats, is still the only thing even remotely resembling an effective opposition grouping, further attempts to keep it out of political life are certain to be seen as anti-democratic. This is especially the case given the continuing stringent constraints on the formation of other opposition parties. If the Egyptian government were really serious about opening up the political arena to a secular alternative, it would abolish the stranglehold on the formation of new parties exercised by its highly restrictive Political Parties Committee.

The Middle East Times gives more details: 

The regime has defended the move as a boost to democracy and security, but the opposition and rights groups have described the changes, especially new anti-terrorism measures, as a major setback for basic freedoms.

“I affirm again that democracy will not be achieved only by constitution and legal texts but also by broadening participation,” Mubarak said in a televised address.

However, officially only 27.1 percent of the 35-million-strong electorate turned out, compared with 53 percent in a referendum two years earlier that paved the way for Egypt’s first contested presidential election.

The official American response? Take a look at these accommodating words from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

“We have had a discussion. I have made my concerns known as well as my hopes for continued reform here in Egypt,” Rice told a news conference after meeting with Mubarak.

“The process of reform is one that is difficult. It’s going to have its ups and downs. We always discuss these matters in a way that is respectful, mutually respectful. But I have made my concerns known, and we have had a good discussion,” she said.

Protesters seem to have had enough of “being mutually respectful.”

 

Posted in Condoleezza Rice, Constitution, Egypt, protesters, reforms | Leave a Comment »

Is America Losing Pakistan to China?

Posted by K.E. White on March 27, 2007

Syed Mohammad Ali’s take on India and Pakistan’s place on the geo-strategic chess board:
 

Pakistan is thus keen on developing even closer ties with China. Ignored by the US, Pakistan is now undertaking nuclear energy cooperation with China. There are plans to build six more nuclear reactors, besides the one already built with Chinese help in Chasma. China has helped Pakistan build the Gawadar deep-sea port as well. For Pakistan, Gwadar’s distance from India is of strategic importance. Gwadar also provides China a foothold in the Arabian Sea, which heightens India’s feeling of encirclement by China. But China is currently more interested in getting a strategic foothold near the Persian Gulf region, vis-à-vis the US. China is in fact on a path of rapprochement with India, but unlike the US it remains more cautious about not sidelining Pakistan in this process.

There are internal compulsions requiring greater cooperation despite the lingering tensions between previously hostile neighbours. Cooperation in the energy sector to fuel economic growth is one such example, although this example is not free of contentions either. One of the proposed projects is a gas pipeline between Pakistan, Iran and India, and Turkmenistan, India and Afghanistan, respectively. Many experts have opined that there is no evidence of huge quantities of gas in Turkmenistan to justify the laying of a pipeline. Besides, the government in Kabul is in no position to guarantee the security of such a pipeline. Moreover, it would be difficult to raise finances for such a risky project in Western financial markets, even though the US is more in favour of this pipeline than one going through Iran.

 

Besides an escalation of violence in Afghanistan and creating more turmoil in Pakistan, another immediate consequence of a strike on Iran as part of a broadening of the US ‘war against terror’ would be a humanitarian crisis in terms of the movement of refugees into the Herat, Farah and Nimruz provinces of Afghanistan, and towards Balochistan in Pakistan. An influx of Irani refugees into Afghanistan would no doubt destablise an already fragile Afghan government. Already, Pakistan has announced that all 2.4 million Afghan refugees must return home by 2009, despite the Afghan government’s inability to ensure their adequate resettlement.

Posted in China, India, Pakistan, Syed Mohammad Ali, US | Leave a Comment »

Israel’s Successful Anti-Missile Test

Posted by K.E. White on March 27, 2007

Israel might just be showing the world how to live in a world of nuclear anarchy.

While no where near Reagan’s epic aim of a world-wide missile shield, Israel’s slimmed down Arrow system that just counter a nuclear-weaponized Iranian state:

Turgeman told The Jerusalem Post that the improvements to the missile not only reduced manufacturing costs – by some 20 percent – but also improved its ability to intercept incoming ballistic threats.

The Arrow missile has proven its capabilities time after time,” Arieh Herzog, head of the Homa missile defense agency, said. “The Arrow protects Israel from all ballistic missiles in the region,” he said.

Defense Minister Amir Peretz praised the successful launch, calling it “another stage” in the development of Israel’s missile defense system that provided protection against long-range threats to Israel.

This success builds on past successes for Israel, one that reflects the profound worry over Iran’s perceived nuclear ambitions.

And recent reports on Iran’s decision to limit cooperation with the IAEA have no doubt added to Israeli concerns.

Here more information on Israel’s ARROW anti-missile system.

Posted in anti-missile, ARROW, Iran, Israel, WMD | Leave a Comment »