Latest Developments, April 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Thatcher’s legacy
The Guardian reports on some of the ways that the news of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s death was met in South Africa, “a country where she found herself on the wrong side of history”:

“ ‘My gut reaction now is what it was at the time when she said my father was the leader of a terrorist organisation,’ [Dali Tambo, son of the African National Congress president Oliver Tambo] said. ‘I don’t think she ever got it that every day she opposed sanctions, more people were dying, and that the best thing for the assets she wanted to protect was democracy.’ ”

Publish what you pay
The Irish Times reports that the European Union has agreed on rules requiring “large companies and public-interest entities” in the extractive industries to report payments they make to governments around the world:

“The legislation, which is unlikely to enter into force before 2016, could have implications for companies such as Tullow Oil, which have a significant presence in Africa. The US introduced similar legislation last year. However, some NGOs had argued that telecommunication and construction companies should also be included in the directive.”

Arms for peace
The Associated Press reports that US President Barack Obama has issued a memo calling for the US to restart arms sales to Somalia in order to “promote world peace”:

“The move follows a decision by the U.N. Security Council, after an appeal from Somali officials, to partially suspend the arms embargo on Somalia for 12 months. The council preserved a ban on exports of a list of heavy military hardware, including surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank guided weapons and night-vision weapons.
The U.S. government has provided funds and training to African Union forces fighting al-Shabab in Somalia, and has also provided more than $133 million to Somalia since 2007 in security sector assistance, intended to help the country build up and professionalize its security forces. Obama’s memorandum on Friday opens the door for military-to-military relations, allowing the U.S. to provide equipment, training and other assistance directly to Somalia’s government and military.”

Word vs. deed
McClatchy has undertaken “the first independent evaluation of internal U.S. intelligence accounting of drone attacks,” which suggests the Obama administration is not doing what it says it is:

“Micah Zenko, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, who closely follows the target killing program, said McClatchy’s findings indicate that the administration is ‘misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.’
The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been ‘exceedingly rare.’

‘The United States has gone far beyond what the U.S. public – and perhaps even Congress – understands the government has been doing and claiming they have a legal right to do,’ said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Notre Dame Law School professor who contends that CIA drone operations in Pakistan violate international law.”

Going home
Reuters reports that France has taken a first, small step towards pulling its troops out of Mali, though it does not intend to withdraw all of them:

“Paris aims to complete the withdrawal of 3,000 soldiers this year and will keep a permanent 1,000-strong combat force in the former colony to support a U.N. peacekeeping mission of African forces.

‘It’s the start of the pullout,’ [army spokesman] Thierry Burkhard said. ‘The aim is to be down to 2,000 in July.’
Burkhard said that about 100 men from a parachute regiment that had been based in Tessalit, in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range, had now left Mali.”

New weapon
The New York Times reports the US Navy is deploying a prototype “laser attack weapon” to the Persian Gulf:

“The laser will not be operational until next year, but the announcement on Monday by Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the chief of naval operations, seemed meant as a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the gulf in the next few months if tensions increase because of sanctions and the impasse in negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. The Navy released video and still images of the laser weapon burning through a drone during a test firing.
The laser is designed to carry out a graduated scale of missions, from burning through a fast-attack boat or a drone to producing a nonlethal burst to ‘dazzle’ an adversary’s sensors and render them useless without causing any other physical damage.”

History lesson
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urges the international community not to take sides (or at any rate, not to supply arms to one faction or another) in the Syrian conflict:

“Accordingly, we oppose all transfers of weapons, to both the government and the opposition, and we are working to ensure that our airspace and territory are not used for such transfers.
Further militarization of the conflict will only increase the suffering of civilians and strengthen radical groups, including our common enemy, al-Qaeda. We have been mystified by what appears to be the widespread belief in the United States that any outcome in Syria that removes President Bashar al-Assad from power will be better than the status quo. A Syria controlled in whole or part by al-Qaeda and its affiliates — an outcome that grows more likely by the day — would be more dangerous to both our countries than anything we’ve seen up to now. Americans should remember that an unintended consequence of arming insurgents in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets was turning the country over to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

Unwanted help
The Telegraph reports that pop icon Madonna was stripped of her VIP status during her latest visit to Malawi, where she is involved in controversial charitable efforts:

“The country’s education minister accused Madonna of ‘exaggerating’ the extent of her charitable work in the country and a request by Madonna for an audience with President Joyce Banda was ignored.

‘She just came unannounced and proceeded to villages and made poor people dance for her. And immigration officials opened the VIP lounge for her just because previously she enjoyed the VIP status,’ the president told a journalist covering the visit.”

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