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Last year Syrian high school student Mahmoud Hallak moved to America to escape the conflict consuming his home country. War News Radio’s Collin Smith talked to Hallak about his experiences and his participation in the revolution–both in Syria and in the United States.
This week on War News Radio, negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program, sectarian violence in Iraq, terrorism in Nigeria, and more.
Host Introduction: While much of the focus of the conflict in Syria has been on violent tactics used by the opposition movement, armed resistance is not the only choice. Many highlight the success and strength of the nonviolent tactics used in the beginning months of the conflict. War News Radio’s Sabrina Merold spoke to Dr. Stephen Zunes an expert on US Middle East policy and strategic nonviolent action. Read More→
This week on War News Radio, negotiations over the United States drone program, an Indo-China border agreement, pirates, and more.
Luke Arnone: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Luke Arnone.
Ashley Hong: And I’m Ashley Hong. The controversy surrounding United States drone strikes continued this week as Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif urged President Barack Obama to end the drone program. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said, quote, “we regard such strikes as a violation of our sovereignty as well as international law.” The release of Central Intelligence Agency documents that reveal the complicity of the Pakistani government in drone strikes, however, cast doubt on the sincerity of Pakistan’s requests.
The leaked documents suggest that Pakistan has secretly supported and even requested certain attacks. The reports come in the wake of allegations by human rights groups that the United States has downplayed the number of civilians killed in drone strikes and violated international laws regarding civilian casualties. The United States has admitted to killing citizens, though White House Press Secretary Jay Carney denied the illegality of the attacks, stating, quote, “U.S. counterterrorism actions are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective.”
Arnone: The United States has recently encountered opposition from a number of its allies–including France, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia–over the way it has handled the Syrian civil war and the nuclear negotiations in Iran. According to anonymous sources, Prince Bandar bin Sultan al-Saud of Saudi Arabia has warned of a, quote, “major shift” or “scaling back” in Saudi interactions with the US. These changes in the Saudi-US relationship have already begun to take shape. Saudi Arabia turned down a seat on the United Nations Security Council this week, citing the Council’s failure to protect Syrian civilians and to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. US Secretary of State John Kerry has worked to reduce tensions with Saudi Arabia and other key allies, with varying degrees of success.
Hong: United States Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met for seven hours this week to discuss Middle Eastern diplomacy. The exchange primarily centered on Iran’s nuclear program, though Kerry and Netanyahu were unable to agree on how best to compromise with Iran. While Netanyahu called on the US to renew its economic sanctions against Iran and encourage the dismantling of Iran’s nuclear program, Kerry resisted. He affirmed the willingness of the US to allow the continuation of Iran’s civilian nuclear program on the condition that Iran comply with international nuclear standards. The United States, along with China; France; Germany; Russia; and the United Kingdom, have attempted to negotiate with Iran, and discussions about the parameters for Iran’s nuclear program will continue next month. In addition to their conversation about Iran, Kerry and Netanyahu discussed further US involvement in peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine.
Arnone: India and China negotiated a deal this week to ease tensions surrounding a disputed border between the two nations. Though China has long claimed ownership of over 35,000 square miles of territory in the eastern Himalayas, India has maintained that China unlawfully occupies almost 15,000 miles of its land in the west. This border disagreement has sparked violence in the past; following a brief war in 1962, the two countries often clashed over alleged border violations by the Chinese army. Strained Indo-Chinese relations came to a head after the Chinese army set up camp in the Ladakh region in April of this year. Both nations, however, are optimistic that the agreement’s mandated communication between soldiers at overlapping borders will preclude future conflict. The border pact was one of nine agreements signed at the meeting between the two countries.
Hong: Police in Greece conducted a raid for drugs and weapons on the Farsala Roma community earlier this week. They became suspicious when they saw a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl named Maria in the care of darker-skinned parents. Officers took Maria into custody and arrested the parents. DNA tests verified that there was no biological relation between Maria and her supposed parents. This story follows a similar instance of a Roma child taken into custody outside of Dublin, Ireland after police were not persuaded by the birth certificate and passport the family presented. Unlike in the Greek case, DNA tests confirmed that the girl was, in fact, living with her biological parents.
Arnone: Human rights groups have cited these incidents as examples of the mistreatment of Roma communities across Europe. The head of the European Roma Rights Centre expressed concerns that the coverage of child trafficking cases could stir old prejudices and stated, quote, “It’s true the Roma are a vulnerable group because of extreme poverty, low income, and low levels of education. But it’s not related to cultural factors or to do with the Roma community, let’s say, getting involved in trafficking.” Europe’s total Roma population is thought to be as high as 10-12 million, making the Roma community the largest ethnic minority group in Europe.
Hong: The United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization came to a security agreement earlier this week to keep limited troops in Afghanistan after the combat mission ends in late 2014. The NATO coalition currently has 86,000 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, most of whom are Americans. While the vast majority of these individuals will return to their home countries at the end of 2014, the agreement authorized limited military forces to stay past that deadline to train and advise Afghan forces in fighting the Taliban insurgency. Afghan leaders have yet to approve the measure, though both Afghan Defense Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have expressed optimism that a bilateral security deal will be signed in the coming months.
Arnone: Two United States mariners were kidnapped this week after pirates boarded their ship off the coast of southern Nigeria. Though the captain and chief engineer of the offshore supply vessel were taken captive, the remaining 11 crew members were left unharmed. The pirates have yet to articulate any ransom demands publicly. Though a representative of the Nigerian navy claimed that the US navy has begun a search-and-rescue mission, a spokesperson for the Pentagon stated that no orders have been issued to intervene in the, quote “maritime criminal act.” Though piracy dwindled in West Africa following the negotiation of an amnesty deal in 2009, attacks on oil servicing vessels in the region have skyrocketed in recent months.
Hong: North Korea announced this week that it would release six South Koreans detained for illegal entry into the country. A letter by the North Korean Red Cross articulated plans for the detainees to return to South Korea through the demilitarized border village of Panmunjom in the next week. South Korea has publicized few details about the identities of the detainees, though sources speculated that four of the men have been detained in North Korea since 2010. Relations between the two countries have been historically fraught; South Korea has alleged that over 500 of its citizens have been unjustly kidnapped and detained since the end of the Korean War. The South Korean Unification Ministry, however, expressed hope that the liberation of the South Koreans represented the first step in conciliation between the two countries and praised the, quote, “humanitarian measure” taken by North Korea.
Arnone: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Nora Bailin, Caroline Batten, Amy DiPierro, Ashley Hong, Allison Hrabar, Collin Smith, Will Sullivan, Aaron True, Tyler Welsh, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Luke Arnone .
Hong: And I’m Ashley Hong. Until next time, thanks for listening.