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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hopeless Situation in Syria Might Lead to Ceasefire

President Bashar al-Assad referenced the UN plan that has halted a possible attack on his country, saying that Syria would destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, but it would take one year and $1 billion to do so.  President Vladimir Putin, however, said he was not sure that all of Syria’s chemical weapons would be destroyed. Assad also slightly undermined his own trustworthiness by denying that his country is in a state of civil war, claiming instead that it had been infiltrated by foreign jihadists.

 

Sadly, that claim holds a grain of truth, as northern and eastern Syria are devolving into a war within a war that pits moderate fighters and Kurdish militiamen against al-Qaeda-backed extremists, leaving hundreds dead on both sides. Today, Al-Qaeda militants tightened their grip on a town they seized yesterday near the Turkish border, forcing Turkey closed the nearby border crossing to prevent the fighting from spilling over.

In a dark silver lining, Syria’s prime minister said that the civil war had reached a stalemate in which neither side is strong enough to win the conflict and claimed that as a result, Assad would call for a ceasefire at the upcoming Geneva conference.

Japan’s PM Orders All Fukushima Reactors Scrapped

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced that Tepco would be required to scrap all six reactors at Fukushima (not just the four previously slated for decommission) and focus on tackling the leaks of radioactive water. He claimed, however, that radioactive water had been contained at the complex and pledged that the 2020 Summer Olympics would be safe.

The announcement threatens the turnaround plan that Tepco presented to its creditors, in which it listed reactors 5 and 6 as assets. Two months after the accident that crippled the plant, experts had urged Tepco to take immediate action to prevent groundwater contamination. The company successfully lobbied against building a barrier to block groundwater because it might have caused speculation Tepco would go bankrupt, undermining investor confidence. The barrier is now being built.

Inquiry Finds South African Police Lied over Shootings

The Marikana Commission of Inquiry investigating the killing of 34 striking miners by police released a damning statement today saying that the police version of the events “is in material respects not the truth.” The commission has only had access to police hard drives and documents for 10 days so far, and has adjourned until Wednesday to search through tens of thousands of other documents. Thus far, it has proof that police gave false accounts and falsified or withheld documents.

After the shootings on August 16, 2012, the police claimed they had acted in self defense when attacked by hundreds of striking miners. Evidence presented to the commission, however, indicated that some miners were shot in the back as they tried to flee while others were killed when they were already wounded and posed no threat. The killings, the cover-up and the months of delay on this inquiry are likely to further deepen the public’s mistrust of the police and government, in a country with a terrible history of mass murders by police.

Iranian President Seeks Diplomatic Thaw

Hours after releasing 11 prominent political prisoners, Iran’s newly-elected president Hassan Rouhani went on NBC to announce that he had full authority to negotiate with the West over Iran’s nuclear program and insisted that the country would never “seek any weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.”

The recent diplomatic barrage of good-will gestures comes ahead of Rouhani’s trip to New York for the annual gathering of the United Nations. It also suggests that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has given the new president the room to make meaningful overtures to Washington and repair its relations with the West. At the core of this possible rapprochement is a series of letters exchanged between President Barack Obama and Rouhani, which the Iranian president has called “positive and constructive.”

 

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