ryangoslingfrance | Ryan Gosling @ CANNES
PHOTO of the day | May 16, 2013 | Chris Brown’s neighbors in the Hollywood Hills are complaining that the images in street art-style murals that he had painted outside his home are too scary
Defense Diplomacy, Alive and Well -
The arms deal came after “intensive defense shuttle diplomacy” over many months and “is one of the most significant and complex and comprehensive that we’ve seen,” senior Pentagon officials said at a media briefing, according to a transcript. Its price tag makes it second only to the nearly USD 30 billion that Saudi Arabia agreed to pay in 2010 for eighty-four F-15 fighter jets, the New York Times noted.
Under the new agreement, all three countries will be allowed to purchase advanced US weaponry that will significantly enhance their fighting capabilities, although Israel’s military superiority relative to its Arab neighbors is maintained.
Israel will get advanced radar for its fighter jets, anti-radiation missiles, upgraded KC-135 refueling tanker planes, and V-22 Ospreys—a troop transport that lands and takes off like a helicopter but flies like a plane. It is the first time that Washington has sold Ospreys to a foreign country.
The Saudis and Emiratis will, for the first time, be able to buy so-called stand-off missiles that can precisely hit targets from long distances, according to Pentagon officials. In addition, the Emiratis plan to purchase twenty-five more F-16s.
The tripartite package is a “very clear signal” to Iran, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said during his first official trip to the Middle East shortly after the arms sale was announced on April 19.
Iran got the signal and its state-owned PressTV responded by saying that justifying the latest arms deal by citing “the so-called Iran threat” was another example of the Obama administration’s efforts “to incite regional conflicts in the Middle East.”
But certainly, this huge transfer of weaponry to the Middle East is meant to telegraph other things as well.
“To me, it’s a bigger signal to Saudi than to Iran,” said Gary Sick, executive director of the Gulf/2000 project at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Gulf countries, and Saudi Arabia in particular, have become increasingly disenchanted with the United States for a variety of reasons, Sick explained. Those reasons include the US occupation of Iraq, which allowed Iran to significantly increase its presence there; the declared “pivot” to Asia as a region of US attention; Washington’s willingness let Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak fall to a revolution, as well as its reluctance to get more involved in the Syrian civil war.
In addition, the Saudis fear that Washington wants to closely re-engage with Iran in a relationship similar to the one it had before Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, adversely affecting Riyadh’s alliance with the United States, Sick said.
So, with the latest arms deal, he added, “we’re sending them a clear signal that we trust them, that we intend to work with them in the future, that we share their views about Iran” and that “their fears are unfounded.”
For Israel, the arms deal was meant to once again demonstrate US commitment to Israel’s security. “This is a concrete thing that [President Obama] set out to do as part of [making] the US–Israel defense relationship stronger than ever,” one Pentagon official said, according to the media briefing transcript.
The officials were at pains to point out that Israel’s military edge over its neighbors was not affected by the new arms package. In fact, it was probably strengthened, and that was the sine qua non for selling more advanced weaponry to the Saudis and Emiratis. As one Pentagon official noted at the briefing: “Qualitatively, it really raises the level of Israel’s military superiority to a level it has not been before, and I think that has allowed us to provide a rise in the level of the Gulf partners, as well.”
And yet, this new arms package raises some significant and troubling questions.
For one, if the Obama administration is seeking to restrain Israel from militarily attacking Iran’s nuclear development facilities, then why does the new arms package allow it to purchase more advanced refueling tanker planes? These will enhance Israel’s ability to carry out long-distance aerial strikes.
Second, with international sanctions hurting Iran, its military capabilities and equipment are ever more decrepit relative to its neighbors. So why load up US allies with advanced weaponry that is unlikely to be needed defensively?
More broadly, one can ask whether the United States is being responsible by continuing to arm its Middle East allies with ever more sophisticated arms when the dire problems of this unstable region are not amenable to military solutions.
The Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the Syrian civil war, the implosion of Egypt’s economy, the sectarian violence in Iraq, the lack of political and civil rights in the Gulf and Iran’s ambitions to become a nuclear weapons power are what makes the region unstable.
None of them will be cured by V-22 Ospreys, F-15 fighter jets or precision-guided missiles.
Questioning Washington’s transfer of ever-more advanced weaponry to the Middle East is legitimate, Sick says. But this latest arms deal is just another instance of how the US has long approached the region.
“Arms are the coin of the realm,” he said. “It’s the way we conduct diplomacy in the Middle East … It’s an old game. It’s one that’s been played for the last 30, 40, 50 years. But it keeps getting escalated because the level of arms gets more sophisticated.
“Of course,” he added, “we’re making money at the same time.”
Minneapolis lit the I-35W bridge to celebrate the passage of marriage equality
powells | Vegetable Literacy | Deborah MADISON
There Will Be Blood
PHOTO of the day | May 15, 2013 | Brooklyn Bridge
yaleuniversity | Did you know that the Yale Center for British Art houses the largest collection of British art outside of the United Kingdom?
The YCBA’s current ongoing exhibition, Edwardian Opulence: British Art at the Dawn of the 20th Century, will be the first major international exhibition in more than a generation to survey visual and decorative arts in Britain during the reign of King Edward VII (1901-1910).
It’s about moments in life that are great but don’t last.
They don’t go on, but you always have the memory and they have an effect on you. That’s what I was thinking about. —
Sofia Coppola on Lost In Translation | via fuckyeahsofia-coppola
PHOTO of the day | May 14, 2013 | Lakefront CHICAGO
Breaking News: Brazilian judicial panel OKs same-sex marriage -
AFP | A top judicial panel cleared the way for same-sex marriage in Brazil Tuesday, ruling that gay couples could not be denied marriage licenses.
The National Council of Justice, which oversees the Brazilian judicial system and is headed by the chief justice of the Supreme Court, said government offices that issue marriage licenses had no standing to reject gay couples.
“This is the equivalent of authorizing homosexual marriage in Brazil,” said Raquel Pereira de Castro Araujo, head of the human rights committee of the Brazilian bar association.
The Brazilian Congress, where a strong religious faction opposes same sex marriage, has not yet approved a law legalizing gay marriages. And the council’s decisions are subject to appeal before the Supreme Court.
But Supreme Court Chief Justice Joaquim Barbosa said there was no reason for the government’s marriage licensing offices to wait for the Brazilian Congress to pass a law authorizing same-sex marriage before extending the right to gays.
He noted that the Supreme Court in 2011 recognized stable homosexual unions, ruling that the constitution guaranteed them the same rights as heterosexual couples.
“Are we going to require the approval of a new law by the Congress to put into effect the decision that was already taken by the Supreme Court? It makes no sense,” he said in comments quoted by the G1 news website.
The Supreme Court decision “is binding” and should be followed by the lower courts, he said.
Some offices have granted marriage licenses to gay couples and others have not. While some state courts have recognized same-sex marriages, the council’s decision was the first to set a national standard.
“Since the Congress is so slow, and doesn’t decide, the judicial branch took the lead,” said Luiz Kignet, a specialist in family law at PLKC Advogados in Sao Paulo.
“The law is necessary, the judicial branch is not suppressing the obligation to have a law,” he said.
But it is saying that same-sex marriage is constitutional, and the council’s decision should accelerate the approval of a law formally authorizing homosexual marriage.
“When there is a law, everything is easier. The law regulates concrete cases for everyone,” he said.
In theory, the council’s decision could be challenged by the Supreme Court, but it is not likely to, said Kignet, saying it had reached a point of no return.
PHOTO of the day | May 13, 2013 | One World Trade Center
Flipboard | Cleo’s Burn Book | Terriers Rule! About Cleo and the owner who disappoints her