George J. Mitchell, the Obama administration's special Middle East envoy, traveled to Israel from Cairo on January 28 for a meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, then on to Ramallah,West Bank, the next day to meet with Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian leaders. However, Mitchell had no plans to meet with representatives of Hamas. The United States, Israel, and the European Union classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.
In an announcement made to reporters in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on January 20, General David Petraeus, the U.S. Central Command chief, stated that the United States has reached agreements with several Central Asian countries and Russia for opening new supply routes through their territories for the U.S. and NATO forces stationed in Afghanistan.
The world's attention remained focused on the Middle East during the week of January 25, as President Barack Obama met with his special envoy to the region, former Senator George J. Mitchell, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the White House on Monday. Obama also taped his first interview with an Arab television station, directed to the Islamic world, that day. The interview, taped in the White House map room, was broadcast on Tuesday on Al Arabiya, a 24-hour Arabic-language news channel in Dubai. As the interview was aired in the Muslim world, Mitchell arrived in Egypt to begin an eight-day foreign tour that will continue with Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, before moving on to France and the United Kingdom.
General David Petraeus, commander of the U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) in the Middle East, met Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the presidential palace in Kabul on the night of January 20-21, after announcing that arrangements had been made to establish new transport routes into Afghanistan from Central Asia.
On January 18, the militant Hamas regime that rules Gaza agreed to a one-week cease-fire with Israel. With three weeks of military action by Israel against Hamas brought to a halt, observers are taking stock of the devastating conditions in Gaza and trying to determine if Israel has accomplished its objective of neutralizing Hamas, which is categorized as a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada, the European Union, Israel, and Japan.
Khaled Meshaal, a Hamas leader, told the attendees at an emergency Arab summit on the Gaza crisis being held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, on January 16: "I assure you: despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel's conditions for a cease-fire."
As the Israeli military intensified its ongoing assault against the Hamas terrorist organization in densely populated Gaza City on January 15, artillery shells struck the compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), drawing immediate criticism from UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon, who called the attack an "outrage."
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrived in Cairo on January 14, beginning a Middle East tour aimed at ending Israel's offensive against the Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip. The secretary-general put on full display his view that the United Nations is a global authority empowered to dictate how "peace" is achieved — that is, that the UN's dicates, as expressed by Security Council resolutions, must be obeyed by the world's nations, including Israel.
The crisis in Gaza continued on January 9, as Israeli aircraft struck more than 30 Hamas targets before dawn. Hamas militants responded by firing rockets against targets near southern Israel's largest cities, Beersheba and Ashkelon. During the two-week-old conflict that began with Israel's aerial bombardment of Gaza on December 27 — in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks on Israel — more than 750 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been killed. The fighting ignored a United Nations Security Council resolution passed on January 8, calling for an immediate, durable, and fully respected cease-fire. The United States, which holds veto power on the Security Council, abstained from the vote on the resolution.
China is finally being forced to curb her appetite for U.S. government debt, according to the New York Times. China, which last September overtook Japan as the largest international holder of U.S. Treasuries, now holds more than $1 trillion in U.S. government debt. Its willingness to buy IOUs from the U.S. government is the major reason that the Fed's reckless creation of money out of thin air over the past several years has not resulted in hyperinflation at home. Newly printed money, in the form of government debt issues, can always be exported when there are willing purchasers overseas, and the removal of that money from circulation here at home helps buoy up the purchasing power of the dollar.
On January 1, the day after the UN mandate for foreign troops expired and the new Status of Forces security agreement between Iraq and the United States took effect, the U.S. military turned over security control of the Green Zone in central Baghdad to the Iraqi military. The Green Zone is a heavily fortified area of Baghdad containing many Iraqi government and foreign diplomatic structures. Under the new agreement, U.S. troops will withdraw from the streets of Iraqi towns and cities by June 30, and the remaining 150,000 will leave Iraq by December 31, 2011.