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U.S.-China relations to face strains, experts say
Obama’s looming Dalai Lama meeting, Taiwan weapons sale could sour ties

By John Pomfret
Jan. 3, 2010

WASHINGTON - The United States and China are headed for a rough patch in the early months of the new year as the White House appears set to sell a package of weapons to Taiwan and as President Obama plans to meet the Dalai Lama, U.S. officials and analysts said.

The Obama administration is expected to approve the sale of several billion dollars in Black Hawk helicopters and anti-missile batteries to Taiwan early this year, possibly accompanied by a plan gauging design and manufacturing capacity for diesel-powered submarines for the island, which China claims as its territory. The president is also preparing to meet the spiritual leader of Tibet, who is considered a separatist by Beijing. Obama made headlines last year when the White House, in an effort to generate goodwill from China, declined to meet the Dalai Lama, marking the first time in more than a decade that a U.S. president did not meet the religious leader during his occasional visits to Washington.

The expected downturn with Beijing comes despite a concerted effort by the Obama administration for closer ties. U.S. officials have held more high-level meetings with their Chinese counterparts — including a summit in Beijing in November — in the first year of this administration compared with the inaugural years of the four previous presidencies since relations were normalized with Beijing in 1979, records show.

"I think it's going to be nasty," said David M. Lampton, director of China studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and author of "The Three Faces of Chinese Power: Might, Money and Minds." That said, he added, "the U.S. and China need each other."

Sensitive time
The White House is hopeful, too, that the damage will be limited. "The U.S.-China relationship is now far broader and deeper than any one issue alone," said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. "We will have disagreements . . . but we have demonstrated that we will work together on critical global and regional issues, such as economic recovery, nuclear proliferation and climate change, because doing so is in our mutual interest."

Still, the impending tension comes at a sensitive time. After hammering out a wobbly political deal with China on climate change in Copenhagen, the United States still needs China's help on three pressing international issues: Iran, North Korea and restructuring its economy so that its people consume more and export less. China recently backed a toughly worded statement on Iran by the International Atomic Energy Agency but continues to oppose enhanced sanctions, which the Obama administration has signaled it will pursue in 2010. The United States also seeks China's continued support in enforcing sanctions against North Korea and in pushing Pyongyang to return to nuclear disarmament talks.

Administration officials said they are sure China will react negatively to the arms sales and the meeting with the Dalai Lama. At a minimum, U.S. officials expect that President Hu Jintao will not attend a planned nuclear security summit scheduled for April. China could also halt the resumed U.S. dialogue with China's military, which had been one of the central goals of this White House's China policy. Any hopes for China's cooperation in Afghanistan are also in question.

One hint that China will limit the scope of its reaction came during Obama's meeting with Hu in November, analysts said. Hu used the formulation "sophisticated weapons" when speaking about any possible U.S. arms sale to Taiwan. U.S. officials took that to be a reference to a tranche of F-16 fighters that Taiwan has requested but that, according to U.S. sources, will not be on Taipei's shopping list this time.

"We hope that he [Obama] will not do that," said Zhou Wenzhong, China's ambassador to the United States, when asked about the possibility of the arms sales and the meeting with the Dalai Lama. "We have just had a very successful visit."

New assertiveness
Still, U.S. officials and analysts have noticed a new assertiveness — what one senior U.S. official called a "sense of triumphalism" — on the part of officials and the public in China. This stems from a sense in Beijing that the global economic crisis proves the superiority of China's controlled economy and its authoritarian political system — and that the West, and in particular the United States, is in decline.

This triumphalism was on display during the recently concluded climate talks in Copenhagen. China only sent a deputy foreign minister to meetings set for the level of heads of state; its representatives publicly clashed with their American counterparts. And during the climax of the conference, China's security team tried to block Obama and the rest of his entourage from entering a meeting chaired by China's prime minister, Wen Jiabao.

That type of swagger is new for China and it could make for a stronger reaction from Beijing.

"If they really believe the United States is in decline and that China will soon emerge as a superpower, they may seek to take on the U.S. in ways that will cause real problems," said Bonnie S. Glaser, an expert on China with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Complicating this picture is the view of some American analysts that the Obama administration — with its intensive outreach to Beijing — tried too hard in its first year to cultivate ties with China. Playing hard to get might have helped smooth out China's swagger, they suggest.

"Somehow the administration signaled to the Chinese that we need them more than they need us," Lampton said. "We're in the role of the supplicant."

The downturn would also occur at a time when China's long-established ally in the United States — the business community — is not as willing to argue on China's behalf as it was during rough patches in the past. China's government has made a series of moves to slow or reverse its market-oriented economic reforms over the last year that have prompted concern among many Western businesses. Although China has accused Washington of protectionist measures — on Wednesday, the United States imposed new duties on Chinese steel-piping imports — it also has moved aggressively to shut its markets to goods manufactured by Western companies in China. Now groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which traditionally backed ties with China, find themselves in the unusual position of organizing a public letter-writing campaign to pressure China to change its policies.

"If they continue on this particular path in a strong and inflexible way, there will be a significant political backlash not just in the United States," said a senior U.S. trade official. "China needs to be aware of that."


Blue moon

Blue moons are--rare. Blue moons on New Year's Eve--really rare. A lunar eclipse of a Blue Moon on New Year's Eve--well, that's just ridiculously rare.

Yet that's exactly what happened on Dec. 31st in Europe, Asia, Africa and parts of Alaska. The Blue moon on New Year's Eve passed through the outskirts of Earth's shadow, producing this 8% lunar eclipse:


1040 Forms and Instructions Book

The Nerve can you say Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!

No the above photo is not a David Dees Photo, this is the actual IRS tax book cover for 2009 income tax. What nerve to put the Constitution of the United States of America on the front cover. If you don't know why am so angry go to the taxes and money page by clicking the photo and review the info. Talk about rubbing it in your face America!! Please watch the video below, all Americans need to know the information presented in this video!.


Freed Iraq hostage Peter Moore denies Iranian involvement in kidnapping

(Note: Read this story and then the story below it and then you can "see the spin.")

Peter Moore

Peter Moore, the British hostage freed this week, has named two locations in Iraq where he was held during his two and a half years in captivity. During an initial debriefing the 36-year-old computer consultant, who is due to fly home today, has told officials that he last saw his fellow hostages about 18 months ago.

The bodies of three Britons who were his bodyguards — Alec MacLachlan, Jason Swindlehurst and Jason Creswell — were passed to the British authorities last year. Mr Moore has said nothing to change the Government’s view that Alan McMenemy, the fourth bodyguard kidnapped, has also been killed, according to officials.

Mr Moore’s testimony strenghtened the Foreign Office’s insistence that it had no evidence that Tehran was directly involved in the kidnap and that the hostages had been held in Iran.

An unnamed member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard told The Guardian that the kidnapping in Baghdad was masterminded by the organisation and the men were taken within a day of their capture to prison camps run by its external wing, the al-Quds Brigade, within Iran.

The BBC reported that the former US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, was “90 per cent certain” that the hostages were held in Iran for at least part of their time in captivity.

In addition, a British source in Baghdad at the time of the kidnapping said that the embassy received information that the kidnappers planned to take their hostages to Iran. “There was information that said they were going to be taken to Iran. There is probably a little degree of fact. It was always a possibility, but there was never any proof,” the source told The Times.

But a Foreign Office spokesman said: “Iran of course has an influence in Iraq, but we have no evidence to substantiate claims of direct involvement in the kidnapping. We have no evidence that the British hostages, including Peter Moore, were held in Iran. We are not in a position to say with any certainty where they were held during each and every single day of their two and a half years in captivity.”

Sheikh Jassim al-Saidi, a senior member of Asaib al-Haq (AAH, Arabic for “League of the Righteous”) — the Shia insurgents responsible for the kidnap — also denied that Mr Moore had been taken to Iran. “He was not held in Iran, and you can ask the hostage,” he said. “He knew where he was. He hadn’t been in Iran a single day.”

A Whitehall official said while MI6 believed that the AAH had been funded, trained, equipped and possibly set up by the Revolutionary Guard, it did not believe that the Iranian regime had “tactical control” over the group.

One reason for scepticism over claims that Iran masterminded the kidnap was that at no time during any of the negotiations leading up to Mr Moore’s release did the AAH ask for the return of five Iranians seized by US forces in Iraq in January 2007 and released in July last year. Officials also point out that there was little need to take the hostages to Iran since there was no shortage of hideouts in Iraq. They acknowledge, however, that they cannot be sure.

“The AAH is like a stick of rock — it’s an Iraqi organisation, made up of Iraqis operating, in the main, in Iraq but yes, there is an element of Iran running right through it,” a senior official said.

In Tehran, reports of the country’s involvement in the kidnap and murder of British citizens were dismissed as “part of a psychological war against Iran”.

“They emanate from the British anger towards the rallies in which millions of Iranians took part to condemn British interference in [Iran’s] internal affairs,” a foreign ministry spokesmanwas quoted as saying by the state-controlled news channel al-Alam.

Mr Moore spent yesterday undergoing a second, thorough medical examination and speaking to embassy staff and his family.

The hostage has said that he managed to build a rapport with some of his guards, a group that did not change during most of his captivity. There is no evidence that he has been tortured.

An official said that Mr Moore had wanted to “get stuff off his chest” and had told embassy staff how much he was enjoying speaking English again. He has made clear that he wants a low-key return to Britain.

Jane Allen, partner of Jason Creswell, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Peter has been released alive and well and wish him all the very very best in what is most likely to be a very difficult period of readjustment. I am praying that Alan is also immediately freed.”

Below is what Americans have been told, spin, spin, spin!

General Petraeus says he was held in Iran:

British hostage held in Iran after Iraq kidnapping

BAGHDAD – A British computer programmer seized in Iraq was held in Iran for at least part of his captivity, the U.S. general who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan said on Friday.

General Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus said, however, that it was difficult to tell whether Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard or the Quds force — an arm of the Guard involved in foreign operations — had a role in Peter Moore's capture.

U.S. officials have accused Iran of funneling money and arms to Shiite militias in Iraq through the Quds force and of seeking to exert a negative influence over the neighboring country and its Shiite-dominated government.

The assertion that Moore, who was taken by a Shiite extremist group in Iraq, had been moved to Iran at some stage pointed to the possibility of continued Iranian involvement in its neighbor's affairs. Petraeus warned Friday that Iranian-backed militias still to pose a threat to Iraq's stability.

"It is difficult to say what role the Revolutionary Guards Corps and in particular the Quds force element played in that. I am on the record as having said that our intelligence assessment is that he certainly spent at least part of the time in Iran, part of the time that he was a hostage," Petraeus said.

Moore was freed Wednesday after spending more than two years in captivity. He and four of his bodyguards were kidnapped in a brazen daytime attack in front of the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in 2007. The bodies of three of his companions have been returned and a fourth is believed to be dead.

He returned to Britain Friday, the British government said.

Around the same time Moore was freed, the U.S. military transferred a militant whose group was involved in the abduction over to Iraqi custody.

Petraeus said Qais al-Khazali was handed over in accordance with an agreement with the Iraqi government to transfer detainees in American custody or release them.

Al-Khazali, leader of Shiite extremist group Asaib Ahl al-Haq, was held in U.S. custody over accusations he aided an attack in the southern city of Karbala that left five U.S. soldiers dead in 2007.

The militant group had been pushing for al-Khazali's release along with the release of other militants in U.S. custody. U.S. and British authorities have said there was no deal to trade al-Khazali for Moore, although the timing of al-Khazali's transfer from U.S. to Iraqi custody — said by the British government to have happened the same day Moore was released — has raised questions.

A representative of al-Khazali's group and an Iraqi member of the negotiating team that helped secure Moore's release told The Associated Press that the militant group did not release Moore until it got confirmation its leader was transferred.

Gen. Petraeus, who used to be the top American commander in Iraq, also warned during his visit to Baghdad that al-Qaida in Iraq as well as Iranian-backed militias will continue to be a threat as insurgents target government facilities in order to undermine Iraqis' confidence.

"Iraq will continue to be tested throughout the course of this year," Petraeus said.

Iraq is preparing to hold nationwide elections on March 7, and military commanders have warned that attacks could spike before the vote.

Petraeus said the elections, which will determine who will lead Iraq as American forces go home, are of "enormous importance" to the country's future.

Under a plan by President Barack Obama, U.S. forces currently at about 110,000 will drop to about 50,000 by the end of August, and those remaining will be focused on noncombat missions such as training. They in turn, will leave by 2011.

U.S. forces in Iraq held a ceremony Friday marking a name change from what had formerly been called Multi-National Force-Iraq to United States Force-Iraq.

Structurally the U.S. forces in Iraq will remain largely the same for the time being, but the name change symbolizes the evolving nature of the U.S. mission in Iraq and acknowledges that a coalition that used to have troops from 32 countries now has forces from just one.

Petraeus called the ceremony a "milestone in the continued drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq."