World Wrap: October 2, 2013
t Rouhani gets thumbs up from parliament, Obama cuts short Asia trip, and Nigeria’s economy is in danger ahead of presidential elections. Today is Wednesday, October 2, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.
Iranian parliament backs Rouhani’s push for dialogue, Israel remains wary
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani takes questions from journalists during a news conference in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Stamp of approval. The Iranian Parliament supported President Hassan Rouhani’s diplomatic push for open dialogue with the U.S. over his country’s disputed nuclear program during the U.N. General Assembly talks in New York. Of 290 parliamentarians, 230 signed a statement of supportfor the leader, lauding Rouhani’s portrayal of a “powerful and peace-seeking Iran which seeks talks and interaction for the settlement of regional and international issues”:
The backing from the assembly, controlled by political factions deeply loyal to Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is a further sign that Rouhani has the support of the Iranian establishment, though there are some rumblings from hardliners. Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, has yet to publicly comment on Rouhani’s trip… Inside Iran, even as conservatives fall in line behind Rouhani who secured a landslide election win in June with promises of moderation in foreign policy, there were signs that some feared the president was going too fast, too soon.
Last week, Presidents Obama and Rouhani spoke on the phone in a historic instance of direct communication. On Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency met with Iran over their nuclear plan. Though both sides said the talks were constructive, diplomats reported no real progress in resolving the standoff. The U.S. and Israel fear that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear arms, a charge Iran strongly denies. During his speech to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated concerns over Rouhani’s sincerity:
“Rouhani doesn’t sound like Ahmadinejad,” Netanyahu said, referring to Rouhani’s hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose annual U.N. addresses were stridently anti-Western and anti-Israel. “But when it comes to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the only difference between them is this: Ahmadinejad was a wolf in wolf’s clothing, Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a wolf who thinks he can pull the wool over the eyes of the international community,” Netanyahu said.
The U.S. Senate it likely won’t impose new sanctions on Iran until after another round of nuclear talks in mid-October.
U.S. President Barack Obama finishes a statement to the media about the government shutdown in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, September 30, 2013. REUTERS/Larry Downing
Pivot pullback. President Obama will truncate a scheduled trip to Asia in light of the U.S. government shutdown, cutting meetings with the presidents of Malaysia and the Philippines and calling into question visits to Indonesia and Brunei:
“We will continue to evaluate those trips based on how events develop throughout the course of the week,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. Obama was originally due to leave the United States on Saturday and return a week later. Not only must the president deal with the budget impasse and its effects, but he faces an even bigger crunch in Congress, which will put the United States at risk of defaulting on its debts if it does not raise the U.S. public debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the United States will exhaust its borrowing authority no later than October 17.
The Asia trip was designed to signal Washington’s continuing commitment to the region. Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel warned that the shutdown, which started early on Tuesday and remains in effect, could harm U.S. credibility abroad.
A sign advertising the sale of a house is pasted on a wall in the Victoria Island district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Akintunde Akinleye
Economy on the line. As campaigning heats up ahead of Nigeria’s 2015 presidential elections, the country anticipates an economic hit:
Nigerian elections always cost the country billions of dollars and, often, many hundreds of lives, especially when they ignite ethnic rivalries or regional tensions between the largely Muslim north and mostly Christian south. This cycle could be especially costly, in terms of blood and treasure. A feud is bubbling between President Goodluck Jonathan and rivals in his ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) over his assumed intention to run for another term, which is distracting from vital economic reforms. A bill to reform the oil industry, which feeds 80 percent of government revenue, is stuck in parliament and unlikely to pass before the elections. Thanks largely to the feud, unofficial campaigning has begun almost two years early, so politicians will need to sustain spending on patronage for longer.
Central bank governor Lamido Sanusi said he suspects an increase in dollar demand means politicians are money laundering to cover financial trails ahead of what looks to be an intense race.
Nota Bene: Russian authorities charge Greenpeace activists with piracy.
Foreshadowing war - Months of sectarian strife in Iraq could lead to civil war. (Time)
Killer kitties - House cats are the number one killers of birds in Canada. (Quartz)
Fighter fish - Tilapia help Pakistan battle Dengue virus. (The Guardian)
Elephant graveyard - Poachers in Zimbabwe poison 19 elephants. (Associated Press)
Operation: Jellyfish - A jellyfish attack forces Swedish nuclear plant to shut down. (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Internat-Americans - Former Americans say why they gave up their citizenship. (BBC)
Check out more from World Wrap at Reuters dot com.
Radio broadcasts in English from the BBC World Service are being jammed in China, the British broadcaster said on Monday, suggesting the Chinese authorities were behind the disruption.
"The BBC strongly condemns this action which is designed to disrupt audiences’ free access to news and information," the BBC said in a statement.
China, which enforces strict restrictions on its domestic media, has been accused by several prominent foreign media of seeking to stop their news reports reaching Chinese audiences.
"The BBC has received reports that World Service English shortwave frequencies are being jammed in China," said the London-based public service broadcaster.
North Korea has told its key ally, China, that it is prepared to stage one or even two more nuclear tests this year in an effort to force the United States into diplomatic talks with Pyongyang, said a source with direct knowledge of the message.
Further tests could also be accompanied this year by another rocket launch, said the source who has direct access to the top levels of government in both Beijing and Pyongyang.
The isolated regime conducted its third nuclear test on Tuesday, drawing global condemnation and a stern warning from the United States that it was a threat and a provocation.
"It’s all ready. A fourth and fifth nuclear test and a rocket launch could be conducted soon, possibly this year," the source said, adding that the fourth nuclear test would be much larger than the third at an equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT.
China unveiled tighter Internet controls on Friday, legalizing the deletion of posts or pages which are deemed to contain “illegal” information and requiring service providers to hand over such information to the authorities for punishment.
The rules signal that the new leadership headed by Communist Party chief Xi Jinping will continue muzzling the often scathing, raucous online chatter in a country where the Internet offers a rare opportunity for debate.
The new regulations, announced by the official Xinhua news agency, also require Internet users to register with their real names when signing up with network providers, though, in reality, this already happens.
Chinese authorities and Internet companies such as Sina Corp have long since closely monitored and censored what people say online, but the government has now put measures such as deleting posts into law.”
Service providers are required to instantly stop the transmission of illegal information once it is spotted and take relevant measures, including removing the information and saving records, before reporting to supervisory authorities,” the rules state.
The restrictions follow a series of corruption scandals amongst lower-level officials exposed by Internet users, something the government has said it is trying to encourage.
Residents in the southern Philippines buried their dead on Friday even as rescue workers continued scouring remote areas for survivors of Typhoon Bopha, the nation’s strongest storm this year, which killed 418 people and left nearly as many missing.
Officials in Compostela Valley, one of the worst hit provinces on the resource-rich island of Mindanao, were considering mass graves for unclaimed bodies killed by the typhoon which hit two days ago.
Bopha cut a swath of destruction in the valley, flooding farming and mining towns and burying many people in mudslides.
"We are thinking of burying the unclaimed bodies on health concerns," Major General Ariel Bernardo, an army division commander in the southern Philippines, told Reuters.
"The foul smell is becoming strong."
Blocked roads and severed communications in the southern Philippines frustrated rescuers on Wednesday as teams searched for hundreds of people missing after the strongest typhoon this year killed at least 283 people.
Typhoon Bopha, with central winds of 120 kph (75 mph) and gusts of up to 150 kph (93 mph), battered beach resorts and dive spots on Palawan island on Wednesday but it was weakening as it moved west.
Hardest hit was the southern island of Mindanao, where Bopha made landfall on Tuesday. It triggered landslides and floods along the coast and in farming and mining towns inland.
Interior Minister Manuel Roxas said 300 people were missing.
"Entire families were washed away," Roxas, who inspected the disaster zone, told reporters.
It may have sounded good on paper: Win re-election, fly to Asia, soak up the adulation of fellow world leaders, then go home with at least a few tangible rewards to show for a legacy-shaping U.S. strategic shift eastwards.
But U.S. President Barack Obama’s first post-election trip abroad did not work out exactly according to plan.
To be sure, he had a chance to tout a foreign policy success with a landmark visit to the former pariah state of Myanmar, demonstrate he was serious about improved U.S. ties with nations in China’s backyard and take in a travelogue’s worth of iconic religious and cultural sights.
But even as Obama sought to strengthen his administration’s “Asia pivot,” he came face-to-face with the tough realities of what it will take to counter China’s influence in the region.
At the same time, he found his attention constantly diverted back to the world’s biggest hotspot, the Middle East, where a Gaza crisis raged on.
A police officer uses his baton to hit an activist from the National Committee to protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports during a protest against the government in Dhaka September 30, 2012.
Demonstrators demanding the government withdraw the recent power tariff hike marched towards the city’s energy ministry on Sunday, but were dispersed by local authorities using batons and tear gas, according to local media. [REUTERS/Andrew Biraj]
The Indian government faced an angry backlash from Twitter users on Thursday after ordering Internet service providers to block about 20 accounts that officials said had spread scare-mongering material that threatened national security.
The backlash came as New Delhi turned up the heat on Twitter, threatening “appropriate and suitable action” if it failed to remove the accounts as soon as possible. Several Indian newspapers said this could mean a total ban on access to Twitter in India but government officials would not confirm to Reuters that such a drastic step was being considered.
There was no immediate response from Twitter, which does not have an office in India. There are about 16 million Twitter users in the South Asian country.
India blocked access to more than 300 Web pages after threatening mobile phone text messages and doctored website images fuelled rumors that Muslims, a large minority in the predominantly Hindu country, were planning revenge attacks for violence in the northeastern state of Assam, where 80 people have been killed and 300,000 have been displaced since July.
Japan on Tuesday flagged the Chinese army’s growing role in shaping the country’s foreign policy as a security risk, saying a sense of caution exists across East Asia about Beijing’s apparent military expansion in the region.
In its annual defense white paper, Tokyo said some believe that relations between the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Communist Party leadership were “getting complex” and said this was a matter of concern.
There is a possibility that the degree of military influence on foreign policy decisions has been changing, the paper said, without elaborating.
"This situation calls for attention as a risk management issue," it added.