Mexicans raise questions over CIA role in drug war



Forensic personnel check a vehicle attacked with gunfire in the Tres Marias-Huitzilac highway in Morelos, Mexico (AFP/File, Nuvia Reyes)

Mexicans raise questions over CIA role in drug war

By Laurent Thomet (AFP)

MEXICO CITY — Mexican politicians demanded answers from their government on Wednesday after reports that two Americans wounded when federal police opened fire on a US embassy car were working for the CIA.

The US and Mexican governments have said little about the victims’ work since last week’s shooting, a silence that has put a spotlight on the growing but often secretive US role in Mexico’s brutal drug war.

The left-wing opposition Democratic Revolution Party said it would summon government officials to a Senate hearing in order to clarify the murky role of the US Central Intelligence Agency in Mexico.

“We will ask for a hearing with the public security minister, the foreign minister and the navy to find out what CIA agents are doing in Mexico and why they are fighting each other,” Senator Mario Delgo told MVS radio.

Washington works closely with President Felipe Calderon’s government against drug smuggling under the $1.6 billion Merida Initiative, providing training for law enforcement officials and equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters.

After days of feverish speculation here about who the wounded Americans were working for, the New York Times reported Wednesday that the pair were employed by the CIA as part of an anti-drug task force.

But Mexican daily El Universal, citing a confidential official report, said they were CIA agents who supervise instructors at a navy shooting range.

The CIA and Mexican foreign ministry declined to comment. Calderon voiced regret over the incident on Tuesday and pledged an exhaustive investigation.

A US State Department spokesman would only say on Tuesday that the two were US government employees working on “law enforcement cooperation.” The pair were repatriated to the United States over the weekend.

According to official accounts, the two were driving with a Mexican navy captain to a military training facility south of Mexico City on Friday when federal police shot at their armored US embassy car.

Authorities are holding 12 police officers over the shooting as prosecutors mull charges against them.

Unnamed US officials told the Times that there was no evidence so far that the unidentified Americans were targeted because of their affiliation.

Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, had already raised questions about the CIA’s presence on Tuesday.

“The Mexican government must give a complete report on what the CIA is doing here, with whom it is working and what is the extent of its work,” Ebrard said. “Everything is in the dark.”

Calderon’s government has been forced in the past to defend the presence of US agents or the use of US drones over Mexican territory in the fight against drug cartels.

Analysts say the number of US security officials in Mexico has soared since Calderon launched an anti-drug offensive in 2006. More than 50,000 people have died since Mexican troops were deployed against the cartels.

But Calderon has refused to disclose the number of US law enforcement agents in Mexico. Under Mexican law, foreign agents or soldiers are forbidden from taking part in operations or carrying weapons in the country.

“Of course many of these operations are taking place, and of course they are bypassing the legal framework in doing so,” Edgardo Buscaglia, a security expert and senior research scholar at New York’s Columbia University, told AFP.

Americans have shed blood before in Mexico’s drug war. A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent was killed and another wounded last year when Zetas cartel gunmen shot their car between Mexico City and Monterrey.

“The expansion of the US presence within Mexican soil is unprecedented,” Buscaglia said. “We are reaching levels — not in terms of soldiers but in terms of American intelligence — that are close to Afghanistan.”

West’s worry is Kurdish unity, not Syrian division


West’s worry is Kurdish unity, not Syrian division

Saddam Hussein tried to annihilate them, but the Kurds are suddenly the unlikely beneficiaries of the Syrian conflict, says Patrick Cockburn


A favourite line of defence of embattled dictatorships is that, if their rule is relaxed, their country will be torn apart by ethnic, religious, or social strife.

Opponents of autocracy commonly respond that these fears are exaggerated and self-serving and it is dictators themselves who foment such divisions.

Both these arguments contain elements of truth and self-deception. In Iraq, under Saddam Hussein, many of his opponents genuinely believed that the divisions between Sunni, Shia and Kurd were primarily the result of his machinations.

Likewise, in Syria today, Bashar al-Assad has sought with some success to persuade the Alawites, Christians and other minorities, that they face oppression, if not slaughter, at the hands of Sunni insurgents.

A degree of self-deception about the extent of their own divisions is common to most cities and countries where different communities live side-by-side.

So how far do this apply to Syria after a year-and-a-half of escalating conflict?

Politicians, diplomats and journalists are aware of the dangers of communal strife in Syria.

There is also the knowledge that it is much in the interests of the Syrian insurgents to play up the example of Libya, where Nato intervention appeared to succeed, and downplay Iraq when looking for foreign support.

At this stage, most people who see news of fresh fighting and atrocities in Syria pay less and less attention to what is happening there. Syria comes across as one more murderous imbroglio, like Iraq, Somalia, eastern Congo or Lebanon used to be or remain today.

Television pictures of extreme violence in such places no longer shock because they are part of the expected landscape.

These expectations have numbed the outside world and most Syrians into paying too little attention to a crucial recent development in the Syrian crisis. It is an event likely to have immense impact not just on Syria, but on several of its neighbours. This is the withdrawal of almost all of the Syrian army in the north of the country along the Syrian border.

The Syrian Kurds (whose total numbers are about 2.5 million, or 10% of the Syrian population) have achieved de facto autonomy.

Both Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian rebels are vying for Kurdish support and have to accept, at least for now, the establishment of a Kurdish enclave.

The significance of what has happened is not immediately obvious until it is recalled that Kurdish nationalism is one of the great forces in Middle East politics.

The position of the Kurdish minorities in Iraq and Turkey is crucially important for their stability.

In Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) enjoys autonomy from Baghdad. If the Syrian Kurds achieve the same status of autonomy, close to independence, as in Iraq, how will Turkey be able to deny similar status to its own Kurdish minority in the south-east of the country?

In the years since the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) started guerrilla war against the Turkish state in 1984, Ankara has failed to crush the insurgents politically or militarily.

In the past couple of years, the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has short-sightedly opted for repression rather than concessions.

Turkey may come to regret its intervention in Syria. Turkey threatens to invade northern Syria if the PKK gains control there, but since it has failed to eliminate the movement at home, it is unlikely to do so abroad.

In Washington, Ankara, Baghdad and elsewhere, there is alarm that the political chessboard of the Middle East has suddenly changed in an unexpected way.

“The real fear isn’t that Syria will be divided,” says Aliza Marcus, an expert on the Turkish Kurds. “It’s that the Kurds are uniting.”

Ethnic Russian Woman Suspected as Suicide Bomber

The Moscow Times

Doesn’t look like a suicide bomber, does she?

An ethnic Russian woman, who was both wife and widow of Islamist militants, was named on Wednesday as the suicide bomber who killed a moderate Muslim cleric in Dagestan just as President Vladimir Putin was pleading for national unity.

Police said Aminat Kurbanova, a resident of Makhachkala, had posed as a pilgrim to the home of Said Atsayev, 74, in Chirkei and detonated an explosive belt packed with nails and ball bearings, killing Atsayev, herself and six others, including an 11-year-old boy visiting with his parents.

A security official said the woman, aged 29 or 30, was born with the ethnic Russian surname Saprykina but converted to Islam and was married to an Islamist militant. Two previous husbands, also militants, had been killed, the official added.

The bombing came as Putin made a rousing call for religious and ethnic concord to counter extremism.

“We will not allow anyone to tear our country apart by exploiting ethnic and religious differences,” Putin said in Tatarstan, where the senior officially backed Muslim cleric was wounded last month and one of his former deputies killed.

Atsayev’s killing follows a string of attacks on moderate Muslim leaders in the Caucasus who have publicly denounced the spread of radical Islamic groups known as Salafis, whose followers advocate an independent state, or emirate, that would include Caucasus and parts of southern Russia that contain a significant Muslim population.

Atsayev, the powerful leader of a Sufi Muslim brotherhood, had recently initiated peace talks between Sufis and Salafis.

The mystical Muslim orders of Sufis have for centuries been popular in Dagestan and neighboring provinces, and their leaders and adherents survived decades of Communist persecution. The Sufi brotherhoods are fiercely opposed to the radical and militant Salafis that have mushroomed across the region. The Sufis often pray over the tombs of revered saints, and Salafi puritans condemn worshipping over graves as idolatry.

Tens of thousands of people attended Atsayev’s funeral Tuesday, and thousands more flocked to his grave Wednesday to pray as Dagestan’s secular authorities declared a day of mourning.

The killing of the white-bearded cleric, who appeared in public wearing a traditional hat made of astrakhan lamb fur, could lead to more violence in Dagestan and the Caucasus, analysts said.

“These are attempts to abort peacekeeping efforts in the region and to escalate the situation in southern Russia,” Ruslan Gereyev of the Center of Islamic Studies in Makhachkala, told the Kavkazsky Uzel online publication.

If the killing goes unpunished, the authority of Atsayev’s influential followers will be questioned, said Alexei Malashenko of the Carnegie Moscow Center. “If the main figure is killed and his followers are silent, this will lead to a major reappraisal of values” in Dagestan, he said.

(Reuters, AP)

The Moscow Times

Devastating Harvard Report On the Destabilizing Effects of Uncontrolled Weapons In Libya

[Excellent contribution to the effort to stop the arming of “Islamists” and assorted criminals under the authority of the government of the United States. You can read the complete report by clicking the title, or go to the Harvard site HERE.]

Explosive Situation Qaddafi’s Abandoned Weapons and the Threat to Libya’s Civilians

Col. Mohammed Torgman of the Misrata Military Council
points to some of the weapons collected by international
deminers at the Misrata ASA, which was under the Council’s
jurisdiction in March 2012. Coordination at the local, national,
and international levels is crucial for dealing effectively with
the threat of abandoned ordnance.
Photograph by Nicolette Boehland.


Deminers gathered and marked off these weapons found at the Zintan ASA. Deminers across the
country said they often could not destroy the munitions they collected due to a lack of explosives.
Photograph by Nicolette Boehland.

NATO-Empowered “Islamists” Mutiny Against NATO-installed Government, Attack Libyan School, Mosques

[That’s the big problem in arming terrorists and criminals, and then empowering them with a false religion, one which compels believers to become killers of “kafir” in the Name of God–only Wahabbis can uphold such a lofty, false standard.  A “true believer” of this false “Islam” has to see every other human being (who DOES NOT believe that it is right to kill all those who believe differently) as the enemies of God.  That is the mechanism that works the devious magic of Wahabbism, the power of suggestion, the “hook” which creates true believers, and then turns them into mass-murderers.  The rabble of Libya, which destroys culture, history and life itself, under the banner of “doing God’s will,” has no more sense of True Islam than does modern Christians have of the original messages of Jesus Christ, PBUH.  God did not bring us here to kill the unbelievers; the unbelievers all have a way of killing themselves.  God sent us here as His emissaries of Goodness in a world corrupted by evil and by human nature itself.  The ways of Sufi Islam are the ways of God/Allah.  The ways of contemporary Sunni Islam fall short of the sacred mark.  In every Muslim country where the corrosive mechanism of Wahabbism is eating away at Sunni faith, the uneducated, as well as the over-educated, fall prey to the false belief which is sold to the masses under the brand name “Shariah.”  It is this faith which is common to ALL of America’s “Islamists,” they are ALL men on a mission, a mission to kill the infidels.] 

Othman Pasha Madrasa 

Islamists attack Libyan school, mosques in challenge to NATO-installed government


McClatchy Newspapers

TRIPOLI, Libya — An estimated 200 heavily armed Islamists destroyed 30 graves at a historic Turkish school in Tripoli’s old city early Wednesday and an unspecified number of other mosques also were attacked, further signs that Libya’s NATO-installed government is facing a major challenge from extremists less than a month after the first elections in this country in 50 years.

Details of the destruction at the Othman Pasha Madrassa, a boarding school, were sparse, but school staff said the attackers also damaged as many as 1,000 books they found on the premises and destroyed a tree that the attackers said people had been worshipping in contravention of Islamic teachings.

The attack at the school, which was founded in the 19th century by a Turkish official who is now buried there along with members of his family, was another in a string of assaults that have targeted mosques and other sites associated with Sufism, a mystical brand of Islam that some conservative Muslims consider heretical.

On Tuesday, Libya’s interior minister, Fawzi Abdel Al, said that heavily armed Islamists posed a serious threat to Libya’s security. He said he was withdrawing the resignation that he’d tendered after the General National Congress, the elected assembly that now rules Libya, criticized him for failing to protect several Sufi shrines and mosques that were destroyed over the weekend.

Members of the police and the Supreme Security Committee, an amalgamation of militias that is the country’s military, stood guard and watched as armed Salafists, followers of a fundamentalist strain of Islam, razed Tripoli’s Sidi Shaab Mosque and the Abdel Salam al Asmar shrine in Zlitan, 100 miles east of Tripoli, over the weekend. Some of the attackers were reported to be serving members of the Supreme Security Committee.

“If we deal with this using security we will be forced to use weapons, and these groups have huge amounts of weapons,” Abdel Al said. “They are large in power and number in Libya. I can’t enter a losing battle to kill people over a grave.”

Who exactly is behind the attacks is unclear. The IHS global information company, which specializes in geopolitical risk and security issues, tied the rise of armed Salafist groups in Libya to a broader trend of radical Islamism in the region.

Suspected jihadi groups also have been accused of being behind recent attacks on foreign interests and Libyan security bases, as well as the assassination of dozens of former high-ranking supporters of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi, who was forced from power a year ago after a five-month NATO bombing campaign.

There is little doubt, however, that fundamentalist militia groups, and the other militias making up the Supreme Security Committee, have become a significant threat to Libya’s security and future since Gadhafi fell a year ago.

Militia groups still control large swaths of Libya, and while they are all supposedly overseen by the Supreme Security Committee, they have varying loyalties and competing ideologies.

Libya’s interim National Transitional Council, which governed Libya after the revolution until it handed control to the General National Congress after July’s elections, formed the Supreme Security Committee in November in an unsuccessful attempt to bring the militias under a central authority. Similarly, the General National Congress’ Interior Ministry under Abdel Al appears also to have failed in subsuming the militias into Libya’s other security forces.

The Supreme Security Committee’s authority also is being challenged by the Libyan National Shield, a group made up of militia members from the eastern part of the country.

Analysts say the militias control the lion’s share of weapons in the country and that they operate independently of the Libyan government and Libya’s weak military and police forces.

“Libya is awash in weapons, ranging from bullets and mortars to torpedoes and surface-to-air missiles,” said a recent report by the Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic.

Concern has been expressed internationally about Libya’s heavy armaments falling into the hands of Islamists fighting in regional conflicts.

Libyan weapons also are reaching other Islamist militants in Africa. Nigeria’s defense minister, Olusola Obada, said that weapons traced to Libya have been captured from militants belonging to that country’s Boko Haram terrorist group, and news reports have said that a key leader of al-Qaida in the Mahgreb, the North Africa affiliate of the group founded by Osama bin Laden, was recently seen buying weapons in Libya.

Libyan weapons also have been reported in the Sinai, where Egyptian forces recently battled extremists after an attack that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead, and have been tied to the takeover of northern Mali by Tuareg rebels and Islamic extremists.

(Frykberg is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

Imperial America Will Fare No Better At Redrawing the Map of the Middle East Than Did the British Crown


What Syria means

Jaswant Singh

Syria’s agony has generated a variety of unproductive responses: verbal condemnation of the excesses of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime; disagreements about the wisdom of armed intervention; and all-around confusion about the possibility of finding a viable long-term solution. Worse, in this sorry state of affairs, the world may be getting a glimpse of a very ugly future.

First, let us try to disentangle some of the cat’s cradle of ironies and contradictions that are bedeviling efforts to end the violence in Syria. Whereas Syria denies political freedom to its citizens, it tolerates significantly more social freedom than many other Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, which is leading the charge to oust Assad. Governed by minority Alawites (a Shia sect), Syria harbors a kaleidoscope of distinct groups: Arabs, Armenians, Christians, Kurds, Druze, Ismailis, and Bedouin.

It is this tolerance of cultural and religious diversity that could be endangered if the Sunni-inspired revolt sweeps the country. And that is why Syria simultaneously generates revulsion at the regime’s atrocities and fear of what might follow if the regime is defeated.

In an ancient land such as Syria, there can be no examination of the problems of the present without reflecting upon the past. History, after all, is always the mother of the present, and geography the progenitor.

In his history of the Arab world in the aftermath of World War I, A Peace to End all Peace, David Fromkin suggests that the Middle East today reflects the failure of the European powers to consolidate the political systems that they imposed. Britain and its allies “destroyed the old order,” smashing Turkish rule of the Arabic-speaking Middle East. But then they “created countries, nominated rulers, delineated frontiers, [and introduced] a state system” that would not work.

But, in the wake of the American-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the intervention in Libya, is not the same experiment being repeated almost a century later? That is the question that realistic policymakers should be asking themselves as they ponder what to do in Syria.

In August 1919, British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour summarized the essence of the problem that is now confronting policymakers. “The unhappy truth,” he wrote, “is that France, England, and America have got themselves…so inextricably confused that no…satisfactory answer is now possible.”

Does that not sound familiar? And is not an updated version of Syrian (and then Iraqi) King Faisal’s exhortation to Arabs – “Choose to be either slaves or masters of your own destiny” – echoed in the political pronouncements of new leaders in Egypt and elsewhere.

And let us examine the actions of the West in 1919 and the years that followed. The French, as Fromkin reminds us, “shrank Syria, so that they could control it,” rewarding their “Christian allies by swelling the borders of Mount Lebanon with the Bekaa valley, the Mediterranean ports of Tyre, Sidon, Beirut and Tripoli, and…land…north of Palestine. Thousands of Muslims [suddenly] belonged to a state dominated by Christians.”

So, as the Oxford historian Margaret Macmillan argues in her book The Peacemakers, Syria’s leaders, remembering these events when Westerners probably did not, “took the opportunity” presented by the Black September crisis of 1970 to send troops to their country’s lost lands.

The combination of ethnic and sectarian fears and rivalries, historical memories, and willful blindness among outside powers seems almost predestined to destabilize the entire Middle East again. Turkey is resurgent yet troubled; Iraq has been invaded and abandoned; Iran is isolated and threatened; Israel is anxious and belligerent; and Afghanistan and Pakistan are internally imbalanced and politically fragile.

Indeed, the great arc stretching from Cairo to the Hindu Kush threatens to become the locus of global disorder. Little wonder that Iranian envoy Saeed Jalili, after meeting Assad in Damascus recently, announced that “Iran will absolutely not allow the axis of resistance, of which it considers Syria to be a main pillar, to be broken in any way.”

For Turkey, Syria’s plight is a strategic nightmare, because any breakup of Syria implies the possible rise of a greater Kurdistan, which would raise claims to a great swath of Turkish territory.

Is there a solution to this grim impasse? Certainly, one will not be found in more United Nations resolutions, which is why US President Barack Obama is now believed to favor a “managed transition” in Syria that would not fatally erode the existing instruments of the Syrian state.

As Michael Ignatieff has wisely observed, Syria’s crisis has revealed that this is “the moment in which the West should see that the world has truly broken into two. A loose alliance of struggling capitalist democracies” is faced by Russia and China. Western countries’ national interests will no longer determine the moral and political impulses of today’s global community. Indeed, whatever the outcome, Syria’s agony has underscored a further irreversible weakening of the West’s dominant global role.

The Saudi Brotherhood President of Egypt Earns His Pay By Disrupting Tehran’s NAM Summit


In this July 11, photo, Egyptian President, Mohamed Morsi, center left, walks with Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, center right, at the al-Salam palace in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Morsi chose Saudi Arabia as his first destination abroad, a Mubarak ally that strongly disapproved of the uprising that ousted him.

HOPD/Egyptian Presidency/AP

Egyptian attack on ‘oppressive’ Syria sparks walkout

Egypt’s president has told a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (Nam) that the Syrian uprising is a “revolution against an oppressive regime”.

Mohammed Mursi, making the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian leader since 1979, said the movement had an “ethical duty” to support the uprising.

His comments sparked a walkout by the Syrian delegation.

The Nam summit, which represents 120 countries, will also discuss human rights and nuclear disarmament.

Mr Mursi used his speech to tell delegates: “Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, as it is a political and strategic necessity.”

“We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom.”

He compared the anti-government movement in Syrian to the Palestinians, saying they were both “actively seeking freedom, dignity and human justice”, and said Egypt was “ready to work with all to stop the bloodshed”.

Mr Mursi’s visit is the first by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Iran cut ties with President Anwar Sadat’s administration over its signing of a peace treaty with Israel.

Syria’s delegation to Nam walked out of the conference room when Mr Mursi began speaking about the conflict, Egyptian and Syrian media reported. Iranian media said they had simply left to conduct and interview.

The BBC’s Iran correspondent, James Reynolds, says Syria’s exit illustrates the strong divisions which could derail the summit.

But Egypt and Iran have also been competing for many years to be seen as the natural leader of the region, our correspondent adds, and that fight is likely to be played out in Tehran.

‘No more bullets’

Analysts believe Mr Mursi’s comments are likely to have infuriated both the Syrian government – which says it is fighting an armed terrorist insurgency – and the Iranians, who have been giving staunch backing to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The US has accused Iran of training militia in Syria to reinforce Mr Assad’s forces.

An advert for the summit in Tehran, Iran (29 Aug 2012) 
Iran hopes the summit will change the balance of international opinion

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is attending the summit, said Syria was facing a long-term civil war, and warned that “those who provide arms to either side in Syria are contributing to the misery”.

“The situation cannot be resolved with the blood and the bodies of more than 18,000 people and counting. There should be no more bullets and bombs. I urge all parties in the strongest possible terms to stop the violence now,” he said.

Mr Ban’s acceptance of Tehran’s invitation to the summit was described by the US State Department as “strange”, but the South Korean has not shied from drawing attention to the Iran’s human rights record.

At a press conference, seated next to the speaker of Iran’s parliament and one of the country’s most powerful politicians, he told reporters that he had “serious concerns” about human rights in Iran.

‘Overt dictatorship at UN’

Nuclear disarmament is also on the agenda of the talks and in his speech to delegates on Thursday, Ayatollah Khamenei said that, contrary to the view held in the West, Iran “is never seeking nuclear weapons”.

He said such weapons were “a major and unforgivable sin”, but that Iran would “never give up the right to peaceful nuclear energy”.

The ayatollah also criticised the “illogical” structure of the United Nations Security Council, saying it enabled the US to impose its “bullying manner” on the world, Reuters reports.

“The UN Security Council has an irrational, unjust and utterly undemocratic structure, and this is an overt dictatorship,” he said.

Mr Ban responded to the ayatollah’s statement by calling on Iran to build confidence in its nuclear ambitions by co-operating fully with the Security Council over its nuclear programme.

He also rebuked Tehran for its hostilty towards Israel, saying: “I strongly reject threats by any member states to destroy another or outrageous attempt to deny historical facts such as the Holocaust , claiming that another state, Israel, does not have the right to exist or describing it in racist terms.”

Iran’s unconventional world convention

Schram: Iran’s unconventional world convention

By MARTIN SCHRAM, Scripps Howard News Service

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi delivers his

Photo credit: Getty Images | Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi delivers his speech during the opening session of the expert-level meeting of XVI summit of the Non-Alligned Movement (NAM) in Tehran. (Aug. 26, 2012)

Historians may someday call this week’s convention-hall events — the speech-making and backroom decision-making — the beginning of a change that reordered the way the world works.

Indeed, many delegates may have already concluded just that. Partly because so many world-famous political figures showed up. And partly because of the most unconventional art the delegates had to walk past to enter the convention hall: three clumps of twisted metal, formerly automobiles driven by three Iranian nuclear scientists, blown up by perpetrators officially unknown. Beside each wreck were large photos of the scientists and their children.


No, we aren’t talking about a convention hall in Tampa — but one in Tehran.


Halfway around the world from where the U.S. political media’s big eye was focusing on theRepublican National Convention and hanging on the words of presidential standard-bearer Mitt Romney, much of the rest of the world was focusing on a coincidentally parallel weeklong meeting of an organization called the Nonaligned Movement.

This is no small fringe gathering that opened Sunday in Tehran. Delegates from 120 nations were reportedly attending. The United States mounted a significant back-channel effort to dissuade world leaders from attending the summit. The Obama administration’s effort met with little noticeable success.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh brought a delegation of 250 and reportedly planned to meet separately with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and also with the summit’s hosts, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi, changed his plans at the last minute and flew to the summit — a significant policy shift because Egypt ended its diplomatic relations with Iran after recognizing Israel in 1980.

And perhaps most significantly, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon brushed aside the objections of the United States and Israel and decided to attend the summit as well. He showed the world he is strangely unperturbed by the fact that Iran has for years ignored UN Security Council resolutions and obstructed UN nuclear inspectors.

“We, frankly, don’t think that Iran is deserving of these high-level presences that are going there,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.