• Iraq has agreed to award $1.1 billion in contracts to Iranian and Chinese companies to build a pair of enormous power plants, the Iraqi electricity minister said Tuesday...

  • President Putin forged an alliance with Iran yesterday against any military action by the West and pledged to complete the controversial Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr...

  • At least 108 people have been killed including police and 100 wounded after two bombs hit crowds greeting returning Pakistani ex-PM Benazir Bhutto. Ms Bhutto was being driven in a convoy through crowded streets from Karachi airport to a rally to mark her homecoming after eight years in exile...

    UPDATE via Juan Cole:

    Late reports say 136 are dead and over 500 wounded in a bombing aimed at assassinating former prime minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto on her return after years of exile. She was unharmed.

    Benazir's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, charged that elements within the government of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, fearful that Benazir will displace them in the January elections, were behind the blast. Benazir herself blamed it on Muslim fundamentalists opposed to a woman coming to power...

    from The Guardian:

    Thousands of protesters, including many school students, took to the streets of Iraqi Kurdistan yesterday to denounce Turkey's decision to allow its generals to cross into northern Iraq to hunt down fighters of the Kurdistan Workers party (PKK), which it accuses of carrying out attacks in Turkey from bases in Iraq.

    The rallies in the cities of Dohuk and the regional capital Irbil came as Kurdish leaders urged direct talks with Ankara over the PKK issue, to try to stave off a military operation in their region which, they warned, "would be detrimental to all Iraq, to Turkey and the Middle East".

    In the bustling northern city of Dohuk, 50 miles from the Turkish border, about 2,000 protesters marched through the provincial capital, calling for peace and appealing to the US and the UN for protection.

    from The Guardian:

    The wider issue in the crisis is the question of cross-border sanctuary for guerrilla groups, and the role of foreign governments in supporting them. Turkey's action in threatening an invasion of northern Iraq highlights the double standards of other governments. Although Turkey's preparations for war were denounced by George Bush this week, how does Ankara's sabre-rattling differ from Washington's threats to attack Iran because of Tehran's alleged military support for anti-American insurgents inside Iraq?

    What of the fact that another Kurdish guerrilla outfit, an anti-Tehran group that operates in north-western Iran, uses rear bases inside Iraqi Kurdistan just like the PKK? Some of its leaders have been received by Bush administration officials in Washington, and are believed to get CIA and, perhaps, Israeli support.

    The simplistic "war on terror" has been used by too many governments to obscure the fact that in many parts of the world minorities still suffer severe repression. Whether these minorities are justified in saying that all avenues of non-violent protest have been closed, and they must take up arms, requires careful analysis of local conditions. Whether, if they do resort to force, they mainly target unarmed civilians, and thereby become terrorists, also needs to be examined before demonising them.

    A Turkish invasion of Iraq would be a highly dangerous move, but it would not be a catastrophe. The aims would be limited, and no one seriously believes that Turkish troops would be trying to occupy the whole of northern Iraq. The invasion that has dealt the biggest blow to stability remains the American and British attack on Iraq in 2003.

    from Think Progress:

    The Iraqi government has “put the U.S. on notice” that they do not want permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. The message was “delivered directly to Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House” by Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak Al-Rubaie:

    "The people of Iraq, the parliament, the council of representatives and the government of Iraq, they all say no, big fat no, N-O for the bases in Iraq. No military bases for Iraq because we believe that is in direct encroachment to our sovereignty, and we don’t need it."

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