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Indian rebels on the move in Myanmar

New Delhi has called on Naypyidaw to take decisive action against separatists operating from camps on Myanmar's northwestern fringes. Yet as the border with the restive Indian region of Manipur opens up, promises of security sweeps have come to nothing and the rebel fighters are being allowed to move into deeper cover. Inaction speaks to Myanmar's desire to maintain a buffer with its giant neighbor. - Subir Bhaumik (Aug 9, '12)

American (jihadi) Idol
Syria is now the ultimate Sex Pistol-inspired Holiday in the Sun (the jihadi remix); a magnet to Libyans, Jordanians, Saudis, Algerians, Chechens, Af-Pakis, plus some enthusiastic young Brits. If anyone doubts this, the US establishment's Council of Foreign Relations is prepared to put them right.
- Pepe Escobar (Aug 9, '12)

Syrian forces launch
ground assault in Aleppo

Some of the fiercest clashes in the Syrian uprising are being reported as the Syrian army, using Russian tanks to sweep through the northern city of Aleppo, attempts to push opposition fighters from a key stronghold. As shells rain down and the killing mounts, the ground assault that has been months in the making is in full force. (Aug 9, '12)

Taiwan pours cement on maritime dispute
His hands tied by Taiwan's international isolation, President Ma Ying-jeou has been looking for a way to fend off criticism that his stance on the regional South China Sea tussle is too wimpy. The answer, reportedly, is to extend a runway on Taiping, the largest of the Spratly Islands. While Taiwan has no actual illusions about starting a military confrontation, this could be a smart political move benefiting both Taipei and Beijing.
- Jens Kastner (Aug 9, '12)

Deadly flooding strikes the Philippines

A soaking wet child sits on a post on a flooded street in suburban Manila on Wednesday. More than one million people in and around the Philippine capital battled deadly floods amid relentless monsoon rains, with neck-deep waters trapping slum dwellers and the wealthy on roofs. At least 19 people have been killed, as a month's rain fell over two days.

Israel hampers nuclear diplomacy
Israel, concerned that an Iranian "breakout" capability would end the regional nuclear monopoly that's given Israel four decades of strategic impunity, has blocked diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear crisis through demonizing Tehran and through threats of unilateral intervention. As Jerusalem sleepwalks Washington into a Persian Gulf conflagration, President Barack Obama's room for maneuver is practically nil.
- Richard Javad Heydarian (Aug 9, '12)

Iran's new summit diplomacy
Iran is eyeing significant diplomatic dividends from conferences in Saudi Arabia and Tehran this month, with plans to repair ties with Riyadh as the Syrian crisis enters a crucial phase. As the fall of rebel forces in Aleppo delivers a rude awakening to Western countries funneling arms to the rebellion, Iran plans to position itself as the region's best hope for a mediated solution.
- Kaveh L Afrasiabi (Aug 9, '12)

Bahrainis' freedom
struggle comes to light

Shouting in the Dark,
by Al-Jazeera English

The world cheered during last year's Arab Spring as common people threw off the chains of their tyrants - except, that is, in Bahrain. There, the revolt against the royal family's autocratic rule was met with a harsh crackdown, backed by the neighboring, much bigger autocracy - and key US ally - Saudi Arabia, as Western media looked the other way. Finally, the courage and tragedy of that struggle can be seen in this documentary compiling Al-Jazeera footage.
- Nama Khalil (Aug 9, '12)

Speaking Freely is a Front Page feature for guest writers to have a say.

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Bitter memories, little hope for Syrians
Zaatri refugee camp in Jordan is a bleak landscape of hardship and sorrow, where children wet their pants at the memory of the horrors of the conflict back home in Syria. Such scenes are common in refugee camps anywhere; here, they also foreshadow the fate of Syria once these people return home - products of despair, deprivation, and disinformation. - Erin Banco and Sophia Jones (Aug 8, '12)

Taiwan jumps into South China Sea fray
Those hoping Taipei would join the regional conflict against Beijing on sovereignty of the South China Sea could be in for a bitter blow. While the mainland Communists and Taiwan's ruling KMT certainly disagree on who should run "one China", they are on the same page when it comes to China's hegemony over the sea, its islands, and its potentially rich resources. Formal cooperation on the dispute may be in the works.
- Brendan O'Reilly (Aug 8, '12)

Strategic US clean-up in Vietnam

Revitalized US efforts to decontaminate part of Vietnam affected by Agent Orange started this week at a former air base, with the US$49 million initiative coming amid strengthened bilateral ties linked to Washington's "pivot" towards Asia. A long-running source of Vietnamese anger at the US, the defoliant is estimated to have affected the health of more than 4 million Vietnamese.
- Richard S Ehrlich (Aug 8, '12)

Baloch insurgency faces uncertain future
A shift from systematic militancy to indiscriminate violence by insurgents from Pakistan's Balochistan reflects the separatist movement's desperation as the West prepares to leave Afghanistan. Should Afghan security crumble after the 2014 withdrawal, Indian spymasters on the AfPak border will find it increasingly hard to supply weapons, finances and training to the militants.
- Khuram Iqbal (Aug 8, '12)

Ahmadis lose hope this Ramadan

The fraternity that unites millions of Muslims around the world during Ramadan doesn't extend in Pakistan to the Ahmadi community. Seven of the four-million strong group, which was declared non-Muslim in 1974, have been murdered in targeted killings this year. As places to worship safely are destroyed, the persecution is intensifying.
- Zofeen Ebrahim (Aug 8, '12)

The hunger wars
in our future

As climate change wreaks agricultural havoc and the "Great Drought of 2012" in the United States, the social unrest and conflict to follow will bring the world closer to the dystopian, resource-scarce future envisioned in The Hunger Games. While that novel depicts gladiatorial designs to suppress a rebellion by the starving - in the real world they will number too many to defeat. - Michael T Klare (Aug 8, '12)

Tajikistan holds back on
cheering its huge oil, gas find

Newly found oil and gas reserves in Tajikistan, if confirmed, can make it a wealthy fossil-fuel exporter and transform its relations with neighbors upset by its large and numerous hydropower projects. The government is holding back on cheering the good news. - Fozil Mashrab (Aug 8, '12)

China, Africa show lessons
learnt with $20 bn pledge

China shows no indication of retreat from pouring money into African nations in the face of claims it represents a form of neo-imperialism. Even so, the latest US$20 billion loans pledge does come with signs of learning by both sides. - Gavin du Venage (Aug 8, '12)

Bomb Iran fever
Well-informed Israelis know striking Iran's nuclear program will only delay it by six months, while no solution exists to Israel's lack of fly-over rights, bunker-busters and intel. As the United States is also well aware of the risks, the only reasons behind the "bomb Iran" mantra seem to be Jerusalem's regional ambitions and Washington's desire to revive a Persian satrapy. - Pepe Escobar (Aug 7, '12)

US, India face Sri Lanka challenge
The Sri Lankan government's reluctance to secure reconciliation with the Tamil population and an increasing military role in the economy challenge the United States and India, whose economic leverage is countered by geopolitical concerns. - Anuradha Sharma and Vishal Arora

Istanbul Forum goals
look good on paper

Turkey is seeking through the Istanbul Forum to boost cooperation with Afghanistan and Pakistan to promote economic development and resolve political, social and security problems. The goals are laudable, the prospects of success poor. - Egemen Bezci and James Warhola

Mercosur senses dangers
of free trade with China

South America's Mercosur trade bloc, while welcoming improved commercial ties with China, is not at all keen on establishing a free-trade agreement with the Asian giant, as urged this summer by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao. - Marcela Valente

Wacky and wackier
The euro crisis can still produce wacky moments, such as European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi warning against shorting the currency or the Bank of Estonia claiming its vote matches that of the Bundesbank. At least the German bank knows better.
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

TONY ALLISON (1953-2012)
Asia Times Online's Editor-in-Chief Anthony Allison died on June 20 after a short illness. We extend our sympathy to Tony's family for their tragic and premature loss.



Chinese warships in the Mediterranean
With the Syrian situation hotting up, Beijing couldn’t have chosen a curiouser moment to show the flag in the Eastern Mediterranean...
- M K Bhadrakumar

If the average American were half has critical as the average Israeli, our country would be far better off.
Lester Ness
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. Taiwan jumps into South China Sea fray

2. The hunger wars in our future

3. Bitter memories, little hope for Syrian refugees

4. Bomb Iran fever

5. Where is Prince Bandar?

6. Baloch insurgency faces uncertain future

7. Tajikistan holds back on cheering huge oil, gas find

8. Strategic US clean-up in Vietnam

9. Ahmadis lose hope this Ramadan

10. China, Africa show lessons learnt with $20 bn pledge

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Aug 8, 2012)

Myanmar Forum


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