The Envoy
  • shahramamiriRemember the strange case of the Iranian nuclear scientist who allegedly defected to the United States -- only to decide to return to Iran last summer, claiming that he had been kidnapped and missed his family?

    U.S. officials said at the time that they would not prevent Shahram Amiri from returning to Iran if he wished, but suggested that authorities back home may not treat him very well.

    Now, the Times of London's Hugh Tomlinson reports, despite initially giving him a hero's welcome, Iranian authorities have arrested Amiri and are investigating him for possible treason:

    Shahram Amiri, who returned to Iran in July after apparently defecting to the US, is under investigation for divulging secrets about Iran's clandestine uranium-enrichment program, The Times has learnt.

    Sources inside Iran have confirmed Mr Amiri's arrest. [...] The arrest adds a twist to this mysterious tale of claim and counterclaim. Mr Amiri, 33, was given a hero's welcome when he returned to Iran last year, with the regime claiming he had been a double agent leaking false information to the U.S.

    Read More »from Report: Iran arrests scientist who re-defected from U.S
  • libyanrebeltraining

    Not long into the enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya, a military stalemate appears to be taking shape. Forces loyal to Muammar Gadhafi continue to hold key towns against incursions by Libyan rebels--and the fragile international coalition that has been carrying out airstrikes over the past 11 days in order to protect Libyan civilians from attack is now at odds over whether the Libyan rebels require more direct military assistance.

    Coalition members are discussing a range of options, including increased NATO close air support to aid the rebels engaged in direct combat with Gadhafi's forces and efforts--in all likelihood carried out covertly--to arm and train the rebels. In an exclusive report for Reuters, Mark Hosenball writes that Obama has issued a secret presidential finding authorizing covert U.S. support for the Libyan rebels--a move that will almost certainly raise the stakes in Libya for the United States and its coalition partners, while making it harder to assure the ambivalent U.S. public that the conflict in Libya will produce a quick resolution.

    Despite the reported finding, the White House, for its part, insisted that "no decision" on arming the rebels had yet been made.

    "We're not ruling it out or ruling it in," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement Wednesday. "We're assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people," in consultation, Carney added, with "international partners."

    And talk of direct military assistance to the rebels has some Washington lawmakers and policymakers uneasy. They are leery of wading directly into a Libyan civil war, as opposed to the more limited kind of humanitarian intervention that President Barack Obama outlined in his speech to the nation on Monday. Then, the president stressed that the United States was intervening in order to avert a massacre of Libyan civilians that would have "stained the conscience of the world."

    But now statements from the administration seem to signal a shift in thinking. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at a conference on Libya in London Tuesday, said her reading of the UN Security Council resolution 1973 on Libya allowed for the arming of the Libyan rebels. At the same time, she insisted that the United States had not yet made any decision to do so.

    A senior European diplomat, who spoke anonymously due to the sensitive nature of the ongoing discussions, said Wednesday that his country endorses a similar interpretation of the UN resolution--but added that his government favors "tipping the balance" decisively in favor of the Libyan opposition.

    Former U.S. officials who have worked on Libya said they suspect that any plan to arm and train the rebels would be carried out covertly. Such initiatives would likely take shape via neighboring Egypt, the officials said—thereby bypassing the consensus-driven command structure of the NATO-led coalition that assumed command of Libya military operations Wednesday.

    Read More »from Questions loom about possibility of arming Libyan rebels
  • State Department shuffle

    officialAmbBurns_2002Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg is leaving his post as Hillary Clinton's second-in-command to become the dean of the Maxwell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University, Obama administration officials announced Wednesday.

    Veteran U.S. diplomat and current Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Bill Burns will be nominated to succeed Steinberg as Deputy Secretary of State, officials said.

    Burns—a former U.S envoy to Russia and Jordan who speaks Russian, Arabic, and French—is one of the State Department's most highly respected and well-liked diplomats. For the past four years, he has led U.S. diplomatic efforts in concert with the members of the so-called P5+1 group that's been seeking to curtail Iran's nuclear program. (P5+1 stands for the "permanent five" members of the UN Security Council—the United States, the UK, France, Russia and China—plus Germany.) Burns has also been the State Department's key liaison in managing U.S. strategic relationships with countries such as India.

    As deputy secretary of state, Burns would represent the State Department and Secretary Clinton at the key deputies committee meetings at the White House—the inter-agency meetings held several times a week at the National Security Council where the U.S. government weighs and executes its most crucial policy decisions.

    State Department officials said the fact Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promoted the well-liked career diplomat Burns to the key deputy spot "is a huge crowd-pleasing move," as one official put it. "Burns has managed to be both loved and respected for his savvy, intelligence, etc. Couldn't have happened to a better guy."

    With Burns moving up the State hierarchy, the big speculative question within the diplomatic community is who will succeed Burns. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs—or "P," as it's known in State bureaucrat-ese -- is the top professional diplomatic post in the U.S. government. 

    Read More »from State Department shuffle


(679 Stories)
  • Israel’s “Iron Dome” Could Prolong Gaza Conflict
    Israel’s “Iron Dome” Could Prolong Gaza Conflict

    In an unusual bit of drama on the Sunday talk shows, an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was punctuated by air raid warnings, as the conflict between his country’s military and members of the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip continued to blaze. As Netanyahu prepared to speak via satellite with CBS News anchor Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation, Schieffer reported that warning sirens had just gone off in Tel Aviv, alerting residents that rockets targeting the city had been fired from Gaza, where members of the militant anti-Israel group Hamas have a stronghold. “When we began this interview we were under bomb alert,” Netanyahu explained as he listened to the announcement. Netanyahu’s interview with Schieffer took place hours after Israeli commandos raided several sites in Gaza, engaging in a firefight with Hamas members and destroying some of the launchers that have been used to fire hundreds of rockets into Israel over the past few days. 

  • Britain bars Russian delegation from Farnborough air show
    Britain bars Russian delegation from Farnborough air show

    Britain said Saturday it had barred a Russian delegation from attending the Farnborough air show because of the Ukraine crisis, sparking an angry reaction from Russia. The Russian embassy in London expressed "regret" that Britain had not issued visas to a large part of its delegation and demanded an urgent explanation. The Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) is a key event in the aviation sector calendar, with Russia usually sending a sizeable contingent as it seeks foreign sales. Britain has been a strong backer of EU asset bans and travel freezes against Moscow over what it says is Russian interference in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine.

  • Michelle Knight says fame comes with complications
    Michelle Knight says fame comes with complications

    CLEVELAND (AP) — Michelle Knight has discovered that the fame that followed her escape from Ariel Castro's house of horrors cuts both ways.

  • US warns of 'widespread conflict' in Libya
    US warns of 'widespread conflict' in Libya

    The United States warned Saturday that the conflict in Libya could become "widespread," urging that a new parliament be quickly seated after contested elections. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki also called for work on drafting Libya's new constitution to take place unhindered, amid increasing lawlessness and unrest in the country. "The United States is deeply concerned by the ongoing violence in Libya and dangerous posturing that could lead to widespread conflict there," Psaki said in a statement. "We affirm our support for Libya's democratic transition and urge the seating of the new Council of Representatives as soon as possible."

  • Mixed-race 'Rola' changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture
    Mixed-race 'Rola' changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture

    In celebrity-obsessed Japan with its conveyor belt of 15-minute stars, fashion icon 'Rola' is blazing a meteoric trail at the forefront of a galaxy of mixed-race stars changing the DNA of Japanese pop culture. A marketing gold mine, Rola smiles down celestially from giant billboards, her wide eyes and girlie pout grace magazine covers and she even greets you at vending machines. Japan's largely mono-ethnic society -- a culture where skin whitening creams are still huge business -- has long been mirrored by its entertainment industry. Rola and host of others are beginning to change that.

  • Katherine Heigl returns to TV with new NBC series
    Katherine Heigl returns to TV with new NBC series

    BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Katherine Heigl is returning to television, with her mother in tow.

  • Heads up! Supermoon is here
    Heads up! Supermoon is here

    Look! Up in the sky! It's supermoon!

  • Heavy fighting breaks out near Libya's Tripoli airport, seven dead
    Heavy fighting breaks out near Libya's Tripoli airport, seven dead

    By Feras Bosalum and Ulf Laessing TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Heavy fighting broke out between rival militias vying for control of Libya's main airport on Sunday, killing at least seven people and forcing a halt of all flights in the worst fighting in the capital for six months. Residents said that militiamen from the northwestern region of Zintan who had controlled the airport came under fire, and local TV footage suggested that the attacking rebels were from the western city of Misrata. The fighting is part of growing turmoil in the North African oil producer, where the government is unable to control battle-hardened militias that helped to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but continue to defy state authority. Zintan forces, which have controlled the airport since Gaddafi's ousting, and Misratis had been put on the state payroll in an unsuccessful attempt by the government to secure their cooperation and try to bolster the rule of law.

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