Top of the Agenda: Israel's Netanyahu Addresses AIPAC
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Iran is working to develop nuclear weapons, while defending Israel's unilateral right to launch an attack (Haaretz) on Iran's nuclear facilities. During a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday in Washington, Netanyahu warned the international community that a nuclear-armed Iran would provide a "nuclear umbrella" for terrorist organizations. The prime minister's AIPAC address followed a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama, during which Obama pushed the case for combating the Iranian nuclear issue with sanctions and diplomacy. However, he said Iranian containment was not a policy option, and maintained that he would not take military action "off the table."
"There's no doubt in any quarter that Israel is reluctant to act alone in starting a potentially disastrous war in the Middle East. And at a tactical level at least, Israel has become isolated by the many months of saber rattling in the form of statements, leaks and military exercises designed to signal that it might be about to launch air strikes on Iran," notes TIME's Tony Karon.
The central fact of this past week, which seems to have escaped everyone's attention (which itself boggles my mind), is that Barack Obama, in his speech to AIPAC Sunday, as in his interview with Jeff Goldberg before it, all but made war someday inevitable. How? By saying that containment of a nuclear Iran was not an option," writes Newsweek's Michael Tomasky.
CHINA: A Tibetan teenager died after setting himself on fire in southwest Sichuan province in protest of Beijing's Tibet policy, the third such self-immolation (BBC) to occur this week.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Afghan, U.S. Officials in Deadlock Over Detainees
Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Monday with U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker and Gen. John R. Allen, NATO's chief in Afghanistan, but failed to reach an agreement on putting U.S.-run detention centers under Afghan control (NYT). Meanwhile, a Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside the U.S.-run Bagram Air Base, killing two children and wounding six others.
The Syrian regime is set to allow Valerie Amos, the UN's undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, to visit the country for three days starting Wednesday, while Kofi Annan, the newly appointed special representative to Syria for the UN and the Arab League, will visit Damascus on Saturday. Meanwhile, Syrian security forces launched an assault on the opposition (NYT) in the southern town of Dara'a.
SOUTH AFRICA: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe insisted the African National Congress-controlled government would not move to nationalize the country's lucrative mining sector (BBC), a policy championed by ousted ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.
Thousands of Russians gathered in Moscow and St. Petersburg on Monday to protest against Vladimir Putin's victory (LAT) in the country's presidential election, which was allegedly marred with irregularities. Hundreds were detained by riot police in both cities, including prominent opposition leaders.
GERMANY: Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko responded to German criticism of his human rights record by saying of Germany's openly gay Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, "Better to be a dictator than gay" (DerSpiegel). The comment prompted a sharp backlash from Berlin.
In Mexico Visit, Biden Opposes Drugs Legalization
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. reiterated U.S. opposition to legalizing illicit drugs (NYT) as an approach to combating drug violence in Latin American countries, following a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Biden is a on a two-day visit to Mexico and Honduras.
Under President Raúl Castro, Cuba has begun economic and political reforms while bolstering ties with Brazil and the Vatican. But Washington has failed to seize on opportunities for expanding relations, says CFR's Julia E. Sweig in this CFR Interview.