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US using Qatar to counter Iran`s influence in Latin America – paper
BBC Monitoring Middle East
February 14, 2013

Qatar`s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (L) shakes hands with Colombia`s President Juan Manuel Santos at the presidential palace in Bogota February 15, 2013. REUTERS/Andres Piscov-Presidency/Handout

Text of commentary by Qasem Ghaffuri headlined: “New mission for Al Thani” by Iranian newspaper Siyasat-e Ruz on 13 February.

Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar has left for Latin America on a periodic trip. He will visit Colombia, Peru, and Ecuador and in view of the fact that Qatar does not have any particular activities in this region, the question that comes up is what is the root of this approach and what objectives is Qatar pursuing?

Several points must be taken into account in response to this question. First, by exploiting the wealth generated by oil, Qatar is trying to play a role throughout the world. To play a role in West Asia (Middle East), Africa, Europe, and now Latin America, is within the framework of Qatar`s activities. This approach is being implemented by initiating crisis (such as the in case of Syria, Libya, and Tunisia), and through economic investment (such as Europe and several African countries). Accordingly, the trip by the emir of Qatar to Latin America can be assessed as the continuation of this trend.

Second, as a US ally, Qatar has begun a proxy game on the global scene. The United States is facing an economic challenge and it is also seeking to repair its global image, therefore it cannot openly be engaged in any activity. Qatar has colossal wealth but no global status. The United States has now given Qatar an open hand to play a role throughout the world; a trend that can be seen in many parts of the world. By traveling to Latin America, the emir of Qatar is now carrying out this mission and the selection of the countries of Peru, Colombia and Ecuador as the destinations for his trip is testament to this trend. Qatar is pursuing several parallel objectives on its agenda. The strengthening of US allies and creating division among its opponents, and maybe even their removal from the scene, is Qatar`s priority in Latin America. Colombia and Peru are US allies that Qatar is strengthening using its wealth, but Ecuador is on the threshold of elections and the United States is seeking to overthrow Correa`s government. Qatar is now following two scenarios in this country. If it is able, it will provide financial assistance to the opposition and gradually implement the overthrow of Correa, and should it be unable to do so, it will try to create division among Latin American countries through its approach toward Ecuador. All these developments will ultimately secure US interests in the region.

Third, the United States is seeking to confront the presence of other countries in Latin America including Iran, China, and Russia. By bringing Qatar`s capital to this region, it is trying to implement this scenario and the report by the US Congress over the necessity of dealing with Iran`s presence in Latin America is testament to this approach.

In an overall summary of the above-mentioned points, we can say that the trip by the emir of Qatar to Latin America not only stems from this country`s ambitions on the global scene, it is also a mission by the United States to spread its influence in this region, particularly to deal with the presence of countries such as Iran, China, and Russia. In view of Qatar`s history in Africa and the Middle East, this approach can bring about coup d`etats in Latin America.

Source: Siyasat-e Ruz, Tehran, in Persian 13 Feb 13

© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Is Iran`s presence in Latin America a threat? The White House says yes
Sara Miller Llana
The Christian Science Monitor
January 07, 2013

When the United states government signed into law the Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act, the US was quickly criticized for being stuck in the past.

The law was the White Houses most public strategy to date to counter Iran`s influence in the Americas, and gives the State Department 180 days to draw up a plan to address Iran`s growing hostile presence and activity. The US received prompt criticism from Iran who said the US still lives in the cold war era and considers Latin America as its back yard.

It is an overt intervention in Latin America[n] affairs, said Iran`s foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, quoted in Al Jazeera.

Iran is increasingly isolated as it forges ahead with a nuclear program that has raised alarm across the globe. Iran says its nuclear development is for civilian purposes, like energy, while many international observers believe it is working toward creating a nuclear weapon. In the same time period, Iran`s growing influence in Latin America, especially within Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador, has generated suspicion among those who worry that, at worst, Lebanon-based Hezbollah and supporters in Iran seek to attack the US from south of the American border. Many have called on the US to prioritize this new international threat.

But Gary Sick, an Iran expert at Columbia University in New York, does see some parallels with the 1950s, when many American politicians saw a communist under every bed, he says. Now they see an Iranian under every bed.

Mr. Sick says the signing of the act does not mean that the US has ramped up its view of Iran`s capabilities in Latin America, but that, as in the cold war, to vote against security is politically untenable.

I don`t think the Obama administration is lying awake at night worrying if Iranians are going to attack from the south. But how can you possibly vote against increased alertness to our south? Sick says.

The new law, which was passed by lawmakers in Washington late last year, calls upon the US to create a comprehensive government- wide strategy to counter Iran`s growing hostile presence and activity in the Western Hemisphere by working together with United States allies and partners in the region, according to the bill.

In Latin America that includes a multi-agency action plan which calls for the US and partners in the region to create a counterterrorism and counter-radicalization plan to isolate Iran. In Mexico and Canada, specifically, the US aims to tighten border control with its counterparts with an eye toward evading an Iranian security threat.

Iran in the Americas

Iran, under international sanctions for its nuclear program, has bolstered its relationship with leaders in Latin America in recent years. Iran has built 17 cultural centers in the region and increased its number of embassies from 6 in 2005 to 11 today. Perhaps most worrisome has been the blossoming friendship between Iran`s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. President Chavez has led a regional group of anti-American leaders who have also developed stronger ties with Iran.

Many view those relations as a diplomatic effort to gain friends at a time when Iran needs legitimacy. They say that anything more sinister is unrealistic, since Iran has neither the military might nor GDP to pose a substantial threat to the US.

Most of Iran`s promises in Latin America in fact have been just that promises. From factories to infrastructure deals, they have not amounted to more than paper pledges.

But Washington has expressed caution. When news emerged in October 2011 that two agents tied to Iran allegedly attempted to hire a Mexican drug trafficker to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the Associated Press that the plot “creates a potential for international reaction that will further isolate Iran, that will raise questions about what they`re up to, not only in the United States and Mexico.

The same page

Stephen Johnson, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, says the new act is a response to legitimate concerns. As the act is really a call to formally study the issue and develop a plan to deal with any threats, it responds to a history of heightened activity in the hemisphere on the part of Iran since the mid-1990s, Mr. Johnson says. The legislation has been in the works for a year and comes at a time of heightened concern over Irans nuclear program.

The act is an effort to put the region on the same page in viewing Iran as a potential threat, says Daniel Brumberg, an Iran specialist at the United States Institute of Peace, though he considers it symbolic since the US already has plenty on the books to deal with this challenge, Mr. Brumberg says. Still, this represents, from what I can see, the first effort to encourage a more public or articulated strategy vis-a-vis Iran and South America.

Brumberg says the US risks backlash from leaders such as Chavez, who will invoke the law as another example of the US trying to dictate the diplomacy of the region. But Brumberg says, the US views this kind of reaction as a small price to pay.

But, says Sick, the year 2013 looks very different than the 1950s and 1960s. If Chavez survives, then he might indeed use it as ammunition against the big boy to the north. But my guess is that [Latin America] will see [the new law] as a pretty minor thing too, he says. I don`t think it will cause much of a ripple.

When the White House signed a law countering Iran in Latin America recently, it was the most public strategy to date against Iran`s influence in the region.

© 2013 Christian Science Monitor. All Rights Reserved.

Iran challenges US monopoly in Latin America – MP
BBC Monitoring Middle East
January 07, 2013

The US law which seeks to limit Iran`s ties with Latin America proves effectiveness of the Islamic Revolution`s soft power and the challenge it poses to the arrogant powers` global monopoly, an Iranian lawmaker says.

“Latin American countries are well-aware of Iran`s capabilities and capacities in various fields and this is the reason why they are ready to improve all-out relations with Iran,” member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Mohammad Hasan Asafari said on Monday [7 Monday].

On 28 December 2012, US President Barack Obama enacted the law to counter Iran`s growing relations with the Latin American countries. The so-called Countering Iran in Western Hemisphere Act requires the US Department of State to develop a strategy within 180 days to “address Iran`s growing hostile presence and activity” in Latin America.

The Iranian legislator added that promoting Islamophobia in the world reveals the arrogant nature of the US statesmen, saying Islamophobic scenarios have always been among major plans implemented by the global arrogance and the West against the Islamic Revolution.

The Islamic Revolution has always emphasized on the establishment of sustainable peace and justice in the world and prosperity and equality for all nations, Asafari noted, saying that Iran has a lofty status in political and international relations.

The lawmaker stated that the US government considers Iran`s embassies in Latin America as a threat due to its arrogant nature, which also proves the weakness of the White House.

Iran has been seeking to expand relations with Latin American countries over the past few years, describing the endeavour as one of its major foreign policy strategies.

Major Latin American nations have also enhanced their diplomatic and trade ties with Iran in recent years, while their relations with Washington have been downgraded amid popular demands for an end to dependence on the United States.

Source: Press TV, Tehran, in English 1657 gmt 7 Jan 13

© 2013 The British Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Qatar`s ties with Latin America `growing stronger`
By Ramesh Mathew/Staff Reporter
Gulf Times
October 05, 2012

That Qatar has a special place among the South American countries is increasingly reflected these days with the frequency at which delegations are received in Doha and the South American capitals in recent months.

“The Arab Latin American summits that Qatar hosted in the last three years and this country`s keen interest in building good relations with the South Americans has gone a long way in bringing the two sides closer than ever before these days,” said Uruguayan Ambassador to Qatar , while speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the Universal Postal Union`s (UPU) World Congress at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) yesterday.

Uruguay is among the 11 Latin countries which have their embassies in Qatar. Significantly most of the South American embassies started functioning in Doha in the last few years.

Remedi was seen yesterday at the venue of the Postal Congress, along with a team of postal officials from his country who were busy seeking votes for Uruguay`s candidate - Dr Serrana Bassini Casco - in the elections to the post of director general of UPU.

The new UPU director general will be elected on October 10.

Acknowledging that Qatar has given a lot of local visibility to all South American nations, including Uruguay, ever since it started its embassy in Doha about three years ago, the envoy said the Latin American festival held at Katara earlier this year was greatly appreciated by the locals and other residents.

“We could introduce some of our best known artistes to the local art and culture lovers in the well-attended festival,” the ambassador recalled.

Remedi also referred to a series of MoUs that his country signed with Qatar in art, sport, and business fields.

“Delegations from both the countries visited the capitals and held important discussions covering the areas where MoUs were signed,” said Remedi

The ambassador said the Qatari delegation that visited Lima, the capital of Peru, recently for the Arab Latin American summit had the participation of more than 100 representatives of the Qatari business houses. “This is a clear reflection of the enormous interest of Qatar in expanding bi-lateral co-operation with South American countries, including Uruguay.

Moreover, one of the main players in the Qatar national football team is an Uruguayan.

The envoy said the Uruguayan president is expected to visit Qatar either towards the end of November or at the beginning of December.

A business delegation is also expected to accompany him.

“Ours is an economy propelled by agricultural activities and Uruguay produces large quantities of rice, fruits and vegetables. Though not many large scale industrial ventures are operating in Uruguay, the country has a number of small and medium scale business enterprises who mainly work within the Mercosur, the common market of the South American countries,” he said.

The ambassador hoped there would be some developments in bilateral trade between Uruguay and Qatar in coming years as his country is making efforts to highlight its small and medium industries and such strong areas as cattle farming.

© Gulf Times Newspaper 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Bolivia: Iran`s Newest Friend in Latin America
Thai News Service
May 25, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (l.) is welcomed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez at Miraflores Palace in Caracas in January 2012. Iran has bolstered its relationship with leaders in Latin America in recent years, perhaps most worrisome has been the blossoming friendship between Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Chávez. Reuters, Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela`s Hugo Chavez has long been Iran`s greatest ally in the Western Hemisphere, but Iran is now finding a new best friend in Latin America - and fast, a commentary said.

Since Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad first visited Bolivia in 2007, the relationship between Ahmadinejad and Bolivian President Evo Morales has grown. The two even played soccer together in Tehran not too long ago. But Morales and Ahmadinejad`s fancy footwork aside, it`s clear that the relationship between Bolivia and Iran is deepening, Jessica Zuckerman said in a commentary.

Last May, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi visited the city of Warnes, Bolivia, for the inauguration of the new College for Defense of the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA). ALBA, the eight-member economic and geopolitical bloc founded by Chavez and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has long had close relations with Iran. But this time around, Iran seems to have taken on more than a mere observer role, as it is believed to have put up at least a portion of the money to establish the new ALBA school.

And if the financial support weren`t enough, experts also believe that Iran has sent anywhere from 50 to 300 trainers to the school in Bolivia.

But that`s not the half of it. As American Foreign Policy Council Vice President Ilan Berman explains, “Iran`s involvement in the ALBA school serves as a microcosm of the Iranian-Bolivian relationship writ large.” Berman goes on to explain, “Indeed, regional experts now estimate that Bolivia could end up becoming as significant as Venezuela in Iran”.

Poised to offer Iran diplomatic cover and international support, it seems no question that Bolivia stands ready and waiting as a friend to Iran.

Iran has in recent years expanded friendly ties with Latin America, specially in economic, trade and industrial fields.

Since taking office in 2005, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has expanded Iran`s cooperation with many Latin American states, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Cuba.

The strong and rapidly growing ties between Iran and Latin America have raised eyebrows in the US and its western allies since Tehran and Latin nations have forged an alliance against the imperialist and colonialist powers and are striving hard to reinvigorate their relations with the other independent countries which pursue a line of policy independent from the US.

© 2012 Thai News Service




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