The current White House drive for intervention against Iran may actually have more to do with strategic control of oil and gas resources than Tehran's nuclear ambitions. Pakistan's Daily Times reports Feb. 11 that at the Third Asia Gas Buyers' Summit about to commence in New Delhi, India hopes conclude a deal with Iran to build a new pipeline to import natural gas. Tehran and Delhi are said to be waiting for approval from Islamabad for the pipeline to cross Pakistan's territory. Significantly, the article also said that India's Petroleum Ministry is "looking at the feasibility of bringing a pipeline from Turkmenistan to India through Afghanistan and Pakistan."
At a massive Tehran rally marking Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution Feb. 10, President Mohammad Khatami pledged that no Iranian government would abandon the country's program to devlop peaceful nuclear technology. (AP, Feb. 10) He promised a "burning hell" for any aggressor, to chants of "Death to Ameirca!" and "Death to Israel!" (CNN, Feb. 10)
Now isn't this interesting? A front-page headline in the Feb. 11 NY Times reads: "North Koreans Say They Hold Nuclear Arms; Assert They'll Refuse to Rejoin Negotiations." The article states this stance could "bolster" those in the US administration who favor "destabilizing the government of President Kim Jong Il."
The crushing of a rally for the restoration of democracy in Nepal Feb. 10 rated a tiny blurb of wire copy on page 10 of the next day's NY Times. Meanwhile, the crisis in the Himalayan kingdom rapidly deepens. Security forces are hunting down the 150 inmates liberated from a prison in an attack by Maoist rebels, and pledge to break up road blockades the guerillas intend to launch throughout the country to resist the state of emergency. Concerned about reports of detention of political leaders, rights activists and journalists, Amnesty International is sending a special high-level team to Kathmandu, led by the group's secretary general Irene Khan. (Indo-Asian News Service, Feb. 11)
The BBC reported a glimmer of hope Jan. 27 from Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, where Taliban-inspired movements have won local political control over the semi-autonomous Tribal Areas. Two local kids, Tariq Hussain Bacha and Zeeshan Khan (respectively 12 and 11), have formed a musical duo and are defying the ruling mullahs' ban by performing in public. They initially played secret gigs in back rooms, but since their album Joora Guloona ("two flowers" in the Pashtun language) has become a success they have become bolder. Stocked at first by a few shops in Peshawar's famous Choor Bazar (Thieves Bazaar), copies started flying off the shelves and soon there were orders from the US, Germany, the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan.
The Basque separatist group ETA reportedly claimed responsibility for a car bomb that exploded outside a Madrid convention center Feb. 9, injuring at least 40. The blast went off hours before Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were to arrive there to preside over the opening of an arts fair with Mexico's visiting President Vicente Fox. In the aftermath of the blast, police arrested 14 suspected ETA militants in coordinated raids across Spain. (Electric New Paper, Singapore, Feb. 11)
A front-page story in the Feb. 10 NY Times notes that Saudi Arabia is holding its first national election that day--albeit with an "asterisk": women are barred from the vote, and even men only get to elect half the members of municipal councils. The other half will remain appointees, and no national leaders will be elected.
The first public protest for restoration of democracy in Nepal since King Gyanendra suspended civil government Feb. 1 was predictably shut down by police Feb. 10, as 12 members of the Human Rights and Peace Society were arrested upon arriving at the gathering point. As the detainees were hustled into vans, police set up a cordon around the rally site to prevent other activists from gathering.