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Friday, February 20

Things to Watch

There's a lot of news today that should have sensible people watching and right-wing pundits exploding, and all of it out of Asia. So let's go over the ground and take a peek.

Israel wrapped up their elections to the Knesset last week, leaving the centrist Kadima Party (headed by Tzipi Livni) only one seat ahead of the right-center Likud Party (headed by Binyamin Netanyahu). Neither party has a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, so the rush was on to find acceptable coalition partners.

When the third-place finisher Avigdor Lieberman of a far-right anti-Arab party endorsed Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres had no choice but to invite 'Bibi' to form a government. This will be the second time Netanyahu's been PM, and he's going to find his freedom of action regarding the Palestinians severely curtailed by the far right and ultra-religious parties that are posturing to join the coalition. Lieberman's list of cabinet ministries is mind-blowing (among them, Public Security and the Foreign Ministry). Part of Lieberman's platform included requiring all Israeli Arabs to either take a loyalty oath or forfeit Israeli citizenship. Stay tuned to this one, folks; it's gonna get nuts.

Moving east, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has disclosed that Iran enriched a lot more uranium that it had first estimated. By itself, that's not a big thing - but if Iran runs what it has through the centrifuges a while longer it will have enough oralloy (HEU, or highly enriched uranium) for at least one device.

By 'device,' read 'atomic bomb.'

Now, just because you have the ability to make something does not mean you are going to - witness South Africa, which became the first country to have the capacity to build the bomb and instead walked away from it, dismantling all its facilities under international surveillance and destroying all documentation. But Iran wants to recapture a bit of its former greatness as a world player, and the Bomb guarantees them a seat at the table if they play things right.

Lurking in the wings, however, is Israel, the Israeli lobby in the US and the US itself, which time and again has shown itself to be the Jewish State's bottom bitch. How will the incoming Netanyahu Government react to this?

Predictably, of course. We must remind ourselves that, official denials to the contrary, the Federation of American Scientists estimates that Israel has an arsenal of some 100 weapons of variable yields, all air-deliverable.

Now let's take a peek at the next troublesome little nuclear power in the continent. This will be number three, Pakistan. The Pakistani Government recently signed off on a cease-fire agreement with the Taliban in the Swat Valley, and the Taliban have stated that one of the terms of the agreement will include the imposition of Islamic law in the area.

Pakistan has a nuclear arsenal (although most of the attention in that area is directed toward India), and with the rise of Islamic extremism, the Taliban, the Lashkar e-Toyba and al-Qaeda all in the country, the civilian government's looking a bit weak around the ankles. And, we must remind ourselves, the nuclear weapons and their release authority is vested in the military - civilian command and control is rather shaky.

Which leads one inexorably to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Little Kim set off a pony bomb back in 2006, which made me laugh out loud when I heard the estimated yield (500 tons, not kilotons or megatons, but tons). North Korea might have enough oralloy or plutonium for two to five weapons, but if they're prone to fizzle like the 2006 test, they might not get used. North Korea is also dead-set on testing its Taepodong-2 missile again. This thing has the range to hit Alaska, but is prone to blowing up.

And while we're in the Worker's Paradise, let's talk a bit about Little Kim. It's widely rumored that he's had a stroke and "isn't all there," and he recently sacked his Defense Minister. Speculation is centering around his third son, Kim Jong Un, taking over when Daddy retires or dies (the latter is far more likely, in my estimation).

Of course, how the two older sons will react is an open question.

North Korea has recently started rattling its saber again in the direction of South Korea, which has Seoul rather edgy and Tokyo and Beijing worried.

Remember: The DPRK has about the second-largest army in the region. The US forces along the demilitarized zone aren't sanguine about their chances of holding off a million-strong avalanche, and they may not get much help as the US forces are stretched thin and tired out after spending nearly eight years at war.

So! Lots of stuff to watch. Get out the popcorn and have the remote handy. The Slave Media will probably devote all of its coverage to a missing twenty-year-old white girl.

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