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Monday Mess: Moar Dronz, Gen Killz, (Horse)Meatz, and Clownz

Photo: AR Drone 2.0 being tested near Kuwait Towers (by Cajie via Flickr)

Photo: AR Drone 2.0 being tested near Kuwait Towers (by Cajie via Flickr)

Happy Monday. Insert a picture of that cat here–you know which one. I resemblez it.

•  Good gravy, people. When National Geographic Magazine covers drones, it’s way past time for a national dialog about their use domestically. Crop dusting, my backside; there’s nothing except for the subhead in this article to genuinely suggest the designers, manufacturers, and potential buyers of drones are thinking about non-surveillance, non-policing applications for these unmanned aerial devices.

•  Of course it hasn’t helped our current condition that not one but at least two generations of military were shaped into the “Generation Kill” mold, about which Foreign Affairs learns from retired General Stanley McCrystal.

“People hear most about the targeting cycle, which we called F3EA — “find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze.” You understand who or what is a target, you locate it, you capture or kill it, you take what intelligence you can from people or equipment or documents, you analyze that, and then you go back and do the cycle again, smarter.”

Color me skeptical, but this doesn’t sound like appropriate training future civilians–those now serving in our military–will use for guiding crop dusting or weather monitoring drones.

•  “Generation Kill” has a shadow identity, as well; the legitimately uniformed forces have dark counterparts in crime, which is likely shaped by the same attitudes as the military and police who chase them. Thwarted in illegal weapons sales, the supply chain arms traffickers use may be put to use in purveying goods of a different kind of kill. The horsemeat contamination scandal in Europe appears to be built upon the infrastructure of criminal arms dealer Viktor Bout. Where once illegal weapons might have been hidden in dog food, now illegal dog food is hidden in, well, our food.

•  Of course, when this all gets too serious and we need to be distracted, somebody offers up a clown since bread and circuses always work to appease the masses. Today’s fool is Gérard Depardieu, savaged for his luxe lifestyle and his exile from his mother country. France’s current “supertax” policy–75 percent assessed against all income above one million euros, intended as a short-term fix to a national budget deficit–ostensibly drove Depardieu into the arms of the ever-execrable Russia. The actor whose work is synonymous with modern French cinema is now reviled as minable, pathetic. What seems incredibly pathetic to me is the strident ignorance of both policy makers and the French; only 3000 countrymen were subject to the tax, and it is too easily escaped. Was the problem really with these 3000 that the budget suffered, or were other structural problems at fault that might not yet be repaired? One can see readily how a similarly simplistic law enacted in the States could have similarly ridiculous and ineffective results. But Depardieu is an easy, large, and slow-moving target, not unlike the French royals who could not outrun the guillotine. Minable, indeed; how readily the populace is distracted by redirection to a clown.

Friday Day of Reckoning: Pakistan Declares Holiday to Protest Film; France Closes Outposts After Cartoon Published

What could possibly go wrong? From a Dawn article only an hour or two old:

The Pakistani government has announced a national holiday on Friday to protest against the American anti-Islam [sic] that has caused an outrage throughout the Muslim world.

The federal cabinet decided to make Friday an official “day of expression of love for the prophet” after discussing the “Innocence of Muslims” movie, which has triggered more than a week of violent protests across the Islamic world, a senior government official said.

The move came after religious parties called for a day of protest on Friday to denounce the film.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, while speaking to media representatives earlier today, said that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) would join protestors in their demonstrations.

The head of the Sunni Tehreek religious party on Monday urged people across the country to close their businesses and hold rallies against the film, which was made in the United States.

As if the furor over the video weren’t enough on its own, a French magazine is fanning the flames by publishing a new Mohammad cartoon, and in response France is closing a number of embassies and international schools on Friday:

A French magazine ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, threatening to fuel the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a film depicting him as a womanizing buffoon.

The French government, which had urged the magazine not to print the images, said it was temporarily shutting down premises including embassies and schools in 20 countries on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.

Riot police were deployed to protect the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo after it hit the news stands with a cover showing an Orthodox Jew pushing the turbaned figure of Mohammad in a wheelchair. On the inside pages, several caricatures of the Prophet showed him naked.

We are now well beyond the realm of “spontaneous” reaction to a single provocative and poorly produced video. When governments nearly half a world apart take actions two days in advance of anticipated demonstrations that seem virtually guaranteed to descend into violence, then somehow the actions of a few demented agitators in the West and a few demented religious zealots in Asia and the Middle East seem to have achieved their goals of bringing even more chaos to a troubled world.

Are the demented agitators in the West just a handful of losers working independently toward a shared goal, or are there hidden forces providing financial and logistic support? Sadly, Pakistan is showing by its actions that they are allowing religious zealots to have too much power over their government. This should serve as a warning to those who would decrease the separation of church and state in the US, but don’t look for that lesson to be learned any time soon.

Friday seems virtually guaranteed to be ugly.

Iran Putting Out Hopeful Signals Ahead of Amano Meeting in Tehran, Resumption of P5+1 Talks Wednesday

Although today’s meeting with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in Tehran  is still in process as of this writing, Iran has put out very hopeful signals ahead of both this meeting and the resumption on Wednesday of the P5+1 talks in Baghdad. Adding to the atmosphere that a deal could be in the works are some positive words from Amano himself:

Before his arrival in Tehran Amano told reporters, “I really think this is the right time to reach agreement. Nothing is certain but I stay positive.” Amano added “good progress” had already been made.

/snip/

“We need to keep up the momentum. There has been good progress during the recent round of discussions between Iran and the IAEA,” Reuters quoted Amano as saying.

The same Mehr News piece carried upbeat news from the Iranian side as well:

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had said he hoped an agreement would be reached to devise a “new modality” between Iran and the IAEA during Amano’s visit.

/snip/

“Iran had previously invited IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano to make a trip to Iran, but he decided to travel to Tehran and hold talks with our country’s officials before the Baghdad talks,” Salehi said.

“We regard the visit by the agency’s director general as a gesture of goodwill,” Salehi stated. “The focus will be on the issue of modality and a new working modality to help clear up the ambiguities and (answer) the agency’s questions. And we hope that an agreement will be reached between both sides to devise a new modality.”

Fars News has the details on who is taking part in today’s meeting:

Amano, accompanied by his chief inspector Herman Nackaerts and number two Rafael Mariano Grossi, was welcomed at the airport by Iran’s IAEA envoy, Ali Asqar Soltaniyeh, and a number of other officials.

During his one-day stay, Amano will hold talks with Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Fereidoun Abbassi Davani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Saeed Jalili and Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

The high levels of the participants on both sides of the talks do suggest that a deal could be imminent, and Fars collected a number of statements from diplomats agreeing: Read more

IAEA Iran Report Fallout Continues: France Leads Militancy, MEK Rumors, Iran Reconsiders Cooperation

Reaction to the leaked IAEA report on Iran’s nuclear technology continues.  In a remarkable article in the New York Times that reads more like an Op-Ed (h/t MadDog), we see the writer urging the US to join the more militant posturing coming from . . .France. [It appears that the world has now completely inverted from the days of Freedom Fries in 2003.]  In addition, the New York Times has joined in repeating the whispers that some sort of Mossad-MEK operation was involved in the blast in Iran that killed the head of their missile development program. Also, Iran is discussing changing the extent to which it cooperates with the IAEA. International intrigue surrounding Iran also is enhanced with conflicting reports on the cause of death of Ahmed Rezaei in Dubai. Rezaei is the son of  Mohsen Rezaei, who previously served as head of the Revolutionary Guards, ran for President of Iran and now heads the Expediency Council.  Dubai has termed the death a suicide but most Iranian sources are labeling it suspicious.

The Op-Ed piece in the New York Times masquerading as a news article is penned by John Vinocur who is based in Paris for the Times’ sister publication the International Herald Tribune.  Vinocur opens with a slap at US leadership:

If the Obama administration wants to lead from behind in imposing sanctions to halt Iran’s nuclear weapon drive, it shouldn’t look for France to play the convenient associate.

That’s not the way the French would describe their role in the world. Rather, the fact is that France, in many respects, led the United States into battle in Libya and provided much of the willpower leading to a victory over the Qaddafi regime that is shared by the Americans, British and others.

Vinocur then misrepresents the findings of the IAEA report, stating flatly that “the Iranians now have enough fuel on hand to produce four nuclear weapons”, leaving out the key piece of information that this fuel has not yet been enriched to weapons grade and that there is no evidence or even any suggestion that Iran is engaging in enrichment to weapons grade. Read more