Thousands of people gathered in Baghdad's Firdous Square on November 21 to protest against a pact letting U.S. forces stay in Iraq until 2011. The current UN mandate authorizing the U.S. troop presence expires on December 31. Under the proposed Status of Forces Agreement, U.S. troops will withdraw from the streets of Iraqi towns and cities by June 30, 2009, and the remaining 150,000 would leave Iraq by December 31, 2011.
Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on November 19, that Israel will not attend the UN's World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in Geneva in April. She also urged other nations to follow suit, stating: "We call upon the international community not to participate in this conference, which seeks to legitimize hatred and extremism under the banner of the fight against racism."
The UN Security Council voted unanimously on November 20 to send more than 3,000 additional personnel (2,785 troops and 300 police officers) to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in response to continued fighting and a humanitarian crisis in the African nation's eastern region. The increase will bring the total troop strength of the Mission of the United Nations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (known by its French acronym, MONUC), to a little over 20,000 troops. An estimated 250,000 people have fled their homes in recent months because of the conflict between the DRC government and rebel forces of the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) led by General Laurent Nkunda. Nkunda's troops withdrew from positions north of the city of Goma on November 19 to give aid workers access to the area. Goma is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi.
In December 1992, just weeks before lame-duck President George Bush left office, the United States invaded Somalia to attempt to stabilize and provide humanitarian aid to the famine-wracked nation. Ever since the ouster of Somali dictator Siad Barre the previous year, a bitter, multi-sided civil war featuring various warlords jockeying for control had torn apart the impoverished nation on the horn of East Africa. The U.S. (and UN) occupation of Somalia, as anyone who has seen the movie Black Hawk Down is well aware, was a total failure, costing the lives of many U.S. and foreign servicemen in a vain attempt to keep the peace in one of the world's most dangerous trouble spots.
Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported on November 12, that Iran had test-fired a new generation of surface-to-surface missile capable of much greater range than previous Iranian missiles. The nation's Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar said on state television that the Sajjil is a solid-fuel high-speed missile with a range of about 1,200 miles, enabling a strike against Israel or even southeastern Europe. Najjar said that the missile was part of a "defensive, deterrent strategy ... specifically with defensive objectives."
ITEM: In an article entitled "U.S. says North Korea stuck to nuclear promises," Reuters reported on October 17: "North Korea has kept its promise and reversed steps to restart its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon after an agreement last weekend between Washington and Pyongyang, the State Department said on Friday. 'The North Koreans have in their efforts reversed all their reversals in the reactor. All the seals are back on, the surveillance equipment is back, reinstalled. And the equipment that had been removed is back where it had been,' said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack."
A convoy of 13 trucks carrying supplies to U.S. and other Western military units in Afghanistan was hijacked in the famed Khyber Pass on November 10. The trucks were hijacked at four separate locations along a 20-mile stretch of the road through the pass between the mountains separating Afghanistan from Pakistan.
For many of us, memories of the Cold War and of Russia's predecessor Soviet government may have fostered a natural inclination to sympathize with Georgia during its recent conflict with Russia. But a report published by the New York Times for November 7 offers some additional food for thought. Not that Russia has escaped the grip of the old KGB-controlled nomenklatura; it hasn't. But Georgia has not become pristine either.
Reaction from foreign leaders and citizens to the winning of the U.S. presidency by Democrat Barack Obama has been largely favorable, judging from several overseas-based news sources. The BBC quoted French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said: "At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond." Sarkozy continued: "France and Europe ... will find a new energy to work with America to preserve peace and world prosperity."
The governments of the Republic of China on Taiwan and the communist regime on mainland China signed four agreements on November 4 that are aimed at facilitating trade and transportation routes between the estranged Chinas. According to BBC News, the agreements would triple the number of weekly direct passenger flights between the mainland and Taiwan, allow cargo shipments between ports in both nations, and also aim to improve the postal service and food safety.