World News Brief, Friday September 18

US opts out of European missile shield (+ analysis); Intelligence sources say Iran isn't developing nuclear weapons; Burmese political prisoner numbers double; China-Venezuela oil deal; and more

Top of the Agenda: Missile Shield Reportedly Scrapped

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer confirmed US President Barack Obama is shelving plans (Krakow Post) for an anti-ballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe. Fischer said Obama called him to inform him of the change overnight. The Obama administration is expected to announce the reversal of direction (NYT) today.

The plan, developed under George W. Bush's presidency, would have built the missile shield (AP) in Poland and the Czech Republic, purportedly to protect US soil against a potential attack from Iran or elsewhere in the Mideast.

Russia welcomed the report (RIA Novosti) that the missile shield would be scrapped. Russia strongly objected to the proposed shield, saying it could interfere with its own intercontinental ballistic missiles (WSJ).


In an interview with CFR, Russian defense analyst Pavel Felgenhauer discusses Russia's wariness toward the shield.

The Wall Street Journal's New Europe blog looks at the effect of the missile shield on Poland's 2010 presidential elections, and says political relations between the United States and Poland "have not been colder since the end of communism."

Clifford May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, writes that current missile defense efforts are "not nearly adequate (Scripps Howard News Service) to the evolving threat," and says US enemies are investing in advanced weapons technologies "in the belief that, at a time of their choosing, they will be able to overwhelm our outdated system."


A CFR Backgrounder looks at the state of US missile defense.


PACIFIC RIM: China Foils Bomb Plot

China authorities said they disrupted a bomb-making plot (Xinhua) in the western region of Xinjiang. Police did not identify the ethnic background of the six suspects arrested, but their names suggested they were Uighurs (NYT). Tensions between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the region led to riots in July that killed nearly two hundred people.

A CFR Backgrounder looks at the Uighur population in Xinjiang.

Burma: New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch launched a campaign calling on Burma to release its 2,100 political prisoners before the country's 2010 general elections. The group said Burma has doubled its number of political prisoners in the last two years.



US intelligence sources say Iran has not continued to develop nuclear weapons.

Venezuela, China agree to $16 billion oil deal.

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