Features
Associated Press/Photo by Vahid Salemi

Belligerents

News of the Yeaer

Issue: "News of the Year," Jan. 2, 2010

In June, Iranians took to the streets decrying a government-rigged election that declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Iranian president. The government fought back with arrests, at least 36 killings, and reportedly rape and torture. A student named Neda, whose name meant "voice," became the face of a movement when a camera captured her violent death. But Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's arrogance has grown, despite his own people's repudiation of his leadership. While insisting that it is merely producing nuclear energy, Iran continues to test-fire missiles and ignore a proposal to move most of its enriched uranium to Russia for conversion to reactor fuel. In November, Iran announced it would open 10 new uranium enrichment sites-a direct response, said an official, to the International Atomic Energy Agency's resolution against Iran for hiding the existence of a nuclear enrichment plant. In a standoff with Israel, Iran has promised that if Israel targets its nuclear facilities, it will fight back.

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Iran

In June, Iranians took to the streets decrying a government-rigged election that declared Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the Iranian president. The government fought back with arrests, at least 36 killings, and reportedly rape and torture. A student named Neda, whose name meant "voice," became the face of a movement when a camera captured her violent death. But Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's arrogance has grown, despite his own people's repudiation of his ­leadership. While insisting that it is merely producing nuclear energy, Iran continues to test-fire ­missiles and ignore a proposal to move most of its enriched uranium to Russia for conversion to reactor fuel. In November, Iran announced it would open 10 new uranium enrichment sites-a direct response, said an official, to the International Atomic Energy Agency's resolution against Iran for hiding the existence of a nuclear enrichment plant. In a standoff with Israel, Iran has promised that if Israel targets its nuclear facilities, it will fight back.

Sudan

A gang of soldiers stormed a Catholic church in South Sudan, dragging away 17 people and later tying a kidnapped young man to a tree, mutilating him, and leaving him for dead. South Sudanese Christians plead for help as soldier-gangs kidnap and kill, and the UN reports that the rate of violent deaths in South Sudan now surpasses that in Darfur. However, international attention stays ineffectually focused on Darfur. After the International Criminal Court indicted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for orchestrating a campaign of mass murder, rape, and torture toward citizens in Darfur, Bashir responded with more cruelty. In March he expelled 13 of the largest aid groups delivering at least half of the aid given to millions of people in Darfur, where at least 300,000 have died and 3 million have fled their homes since 2003. In Bashir's 20 years in power, at least 2 million have died and 4 million fled their homes as Khartoum has tried to force Islamic law on the predominantly Christian South. Despite the international warrant for his arrest, Bashir ­continues to travel freely.

Pirates

When Somali pirates seized the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama, Captain Richard Phillips offered himself as a hostage to save his crew. When United States Navy SEALS came to rescue Phillips, one of the four pirates pointed an AK-47 at Phillips' head and the Navy snipers fired first, killing three pirates as a fourth surrendered. In May, a federal grand jury indicted the fourth pirate, teenager Abdiwali Abdiqadir Musehe. Despite Somali President Sharif Ahmed's assurances that Somalia would pursue pirates "not only on the high seas, but also on terra firma," the anarchic ­government has failed to stop the pillaging. In November, pirates said a kidnapped British couple would be "punished" if German warships didn't release seven fellow pirates. Pirates also hijacked a U.S.-bound ship holding crude oil worth $20 million.

North Korea

Vice President Joe Biden may have been spot-on when he assessed North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il: "God only knows what he wants." North Korea defied international outrage this May when it conducted a second nuclear test and said it no longer recognized the truce between North and South Korea. In June the UN Security Council voted unanimously to step up sanctions on North Korea but the government scoffed, saying it would treat any attempt to enforce the sanctions an act of war. In another ploy for control, North Korea sentenced two U.S. journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, to 12 years of hard labor for allegedly crossing the border illegally. In August, former President Bill Clinton secured their release. Despite declaring the six-party talks "dead," North Korea announced in October that it would return to the six-party framework, and U.S. envoys have arrived to see if North Korea will follow through. The nation has missiles that could reach Japan and South Korea, and is reportedly developing a missile that could reach Hawaii, Australia, and Eastern Europe.

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