Is South Sudan Really a State?

Editorial, the Guardian: “South Sudan: not yet a state.” Publication says “Control of the bureaucracy and armed forces is a matter of constant contention for different tribal groups and their leaders.”

Technorati Tags: ,,
| No Comments | No TrackBacks

The Political Conflict in South Sudan

allAfrica has aggregated many informative articles on the escalating conflict in the newly formed African nation of South Sudan, between political and ethnic rivals. There is a lot of oil in South Sudan, and when there’s oil there is conflict. Highly recommended.

Technorati Tags: ,
| No Comments | No TrackBacks

GCHQ, NSA Spying on EU, Israel and Germany

Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark, writing in the December 20, 2013, edition of Der Spiegel Online, explains how how Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy agency “monitors Germany, Israel and the European Union.”

The Journalists write: “Documents from the archive of whistleblower and former NSA (National Security Agency) worker Edward Snowden show that Britain's GCHQ signals intelligence agency has targeted European, German and Israeli politicians for surveillance.”

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

President Obama’s Statement on Framework for Removing Chemical Weapons Out of Syria

In a statement issued September 14, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “I welcome the progress made between the United States and Russia through our talks in Geneva, which represents an important, concrete step toward the goal of moving Syria's chemical weapons under international control so that they may ultimately be destroyed.” Mr. Obama added:

This framework provides the opportunity for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons in a transparent, expeditious, and verifiable manner, which could end the threat these weapons pose not only to the Syrian people but to the region and the world. The international community expects the Assad regime to live up to its public commitments.

president_official_portrait_hiresWhile we have made important progress, much more work remains to be done. The United States will continue working with Russia, the United Kingdom, France, the United Nations and others to ensure that this process is verifiable, and that there are consequences should the Assad regime not comply with the framework agreed today. And, if diplomacy fails, the United States remains prepared to act.

Following the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons to kill more than 1,000 men, women, and children on August 21, I decided that the United States must take action to deter the Syrian regime from using chemical weapons, degrade their ability to use them, and make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military force, we now have the opportunity to achieve our objectives through diplomacy. I spoke to Secretary Kerry earlier today and thanked him for his tireless and effective efforts on behalf of our nation. I also spoke to Ambassador Samantha Power who will ably lead our follow-on negotiations at the UN Security Council in New York.

Mr. Obama reiterated his oft-repeated statement that, “The use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world is an affront to human dignity and a threat to the security of people everywhere. We have a duty to preserve a world free from the fear of chemical weapons for our children,” he said. “Today marks an important step towards achieving this goal.”

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced in Geneva, Switzerland, on September 14, 2013, that a framework for the elimination of Syrian chemical weapons had been agreed on. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to give up all chemical weapons in an effort prevent a U.S. attack on Syria for what Mr. Kerry on August 30, 2013, called "the chemical weapons attack the Assad regime inflicted on the opposition and on opposition-controlled or contested neighborhoods in the Damascus suburbs on the early morning of August 21st."    See "

Bashar al-Assad: Syria will give up control of chemical weapons ...

According to Mr. Kerry, "The United States Government now knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack, including at least 426 children." The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons against forces trying to overthrow Mr.al-Assad.

For more background on the Obama Administration's position on Syria, see President Barack Obama's September 10, 2013, address to the Nation on Syria.

FRAMEWORK FOR ELIMINATION OF SYRIAN CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Taking into account the decision of the Syrian Arab Republic to accede to the Chemical
Weapons Convention and the commitment of the Syrian authorities to provisionally apply the Convention prior to its entry into force, the United States and the Russian Federation express their joint determination to ensure the destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program (CW) in the soonest and safest manner.

For this purpose, the United States and the Russian Federation have committed to prepare and submit in the next few days to the Executive Council of the OPCW a draft decision setting down special procedures for expeditious destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons program and stringent verification thereof. The principles on which this decision should be based, in the view of both sides, are set forth in Annex A. The United States and the Russian Federation believe that these extraordinary procedures are necessitated by the prior use of these weapons in Syria and the volatility of the Syrian civil war.

The United States and the Russian Federation commit to work together towards prompt adoption of a UN Security Council resolution that reinforces the decision of the OPCW Executive Council. This resolution will also contain steps to ensure its verification and effective implementation and will request that the UN Secretary-General, in consultation with the OPCW, submit recommendations to the UN Security Council on an expedited basis regarding the UN's role in eliminating the Syrian chemical weapons program.

The United States and the Russian Federation concur that this UN Security Council resolution should provide for review on a regular basis the implementation in Syria of the decision of the Executive Council of the OPCW, and in the event of non-compliance, including unauthorized transfer, or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

The proposed joint US-Russian OPCW draft decision supports the application of Article VIII of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which provides for the referral of any cases of noncompliance to the United Nations General Assembly and the United Nations Security Council.

In furtherance of the objective to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons program, the United States and the Russian Federation have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons involved, and are committed to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in Syria. The United States and the Russian Federation expect Syria to submit, within a week, a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Syrian Diplomat Thinks U.S. Congress Will Show Wisdom on Syria

On September 2, 2013,  CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer interviewed Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, about President Barack Obama’s August 31, 2013, decision to seek debate in the U.S. Congress before launching an attack on Syria, to punish Syria President Bashar al-Assad for reportedly attacking Syrian civilians with chemical agents on August 21, 2013.

"The Middle East is already on fire now," Mr. Mekdad told Ms. Palmer. "And we think any wisdom in the United States -- and we hope the Congress will exercise this wisdom -- will not allow the United States to tarnish its image once again in wars in the Middle East."

Mr. Mekdad’s statement is in stark a contrast to that of a “Syrian state-run newspaper  who on September 1, 2012, 2013, mocked Mr. Obama’s decision to consult Congress as "the start of the historic American retreat.”

For more, see “Putting Plans Russian Delegation to Sway Congress on Syria Strike.” Mr. Mekdad is quoted in it.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Afghanistan’s Neighbors Making Post U.S. Plans

Recommended: Vanderbilt University doctoral student Jaideep Prabhu’s August 28, 2013, post in  India’s Daily News & Analysis headlined “A tangled web of diplomacy - India, Iran, US and Afghanistan.” According to Mr. Prabhu:
As the United States winds down its role in Afghanistan, its neighbors are busy with plans to deal with the blow back and shore up their interests. India and China have taken the lead in Afghanistan's infrastructural and economic development, and Kabul has been promised military support too. However, prosperity may be denied the resource-rich Central Asian country just yet.
Mr. Prabhu noted that, “Normalization needs stability, which is premised upon economic development, which in turn is affected by Kabul's success against the Taliban. For all the assurances given, that may be easier said than done.”

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Will Syria Define John Kerry’s Legacy?

The Wall Street Journal’s  Jay Solomon seems to think U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s legacy will be determined by how well he garners support for President Barack Obama’s plan to militarily punish Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons against Syrians on August 21, 2013, and how it affects the outcome of the Syrian civil war.

“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has been on the international stage for nearly four decades,” he wrote in “Kerry's Syria Campaign Likely to Define His Legacy,” which was published September 1, 2013.  “ But his campaign against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad likely will define his diplomatic legacy.”

Does that mean that Syria is Mr. Kerry will concentrate on during his tenure as U.S.  Secretary of State. I doubt it, Mr. Solomon.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Obama Heads to G20 Summit Amid Debate Over Syria

McClatchy’s Washington, D. C. Bureau correspondent Hannah Allam notes that, President Barack Obama is due in St. Petersburg, Russia on September 4, 2013, “to take part in the Group of 20 summit, where his Syria plans are sure to be hotly debated. Host country Russia has blocked previous attempts to censure the Assad regime at the U.N. Security Council, and it’s unclear whether Obama would be willing or able to negotiate a breakthrough with an in-person appeal during his visit. For more, see “Obama opens narrow window for diplomatic action in Syria.”
| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Peter Maass’ revealing and thought-provoking profile of documentary filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras (in photo below), which was published in the August 13, 2013, edition of The New York Times magazine under the headline “How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets,” should be required reading Laura_Poitras_at_PopTech_2010in all journalism classes. In fact, all editors should required their reporters to read it. It’s a great story of how investigative journalism must be done in the digital age, especially that dealing with national security issues, such as the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive, global collection of all internet and telephone communications, including that of Americans.

Mr. Maas’ article is about how Ms. Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer and a columnist for The Guardian, a London-based publication with offices in the U.S., brought to light how they became the journalist former CIA agent Edward Snowden, a former system administrator at Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA subcontractor, contacted about the NSA’s global spying operation. Mr. Maas concludes, and I concur, that:

Poitras and Greenwald are an especially dramatic example of what outsider reporting looks like in 2013. They do not work in a newsroom, and they personally want to be in control of what gets published and when. When The Guardian didn’t move as quickly as they wanted with the first article on Verizon, Greenwald discussed taking it elsewhere, sending an encrypted draft to a colleague at another publication. He also considered creating a Web site on which they would publish everything, which he planned to call NSADisclosures.
Mr. Maas said, “In the end, The Guardian moved ahead with their articles. But Poitras and Greenwald have created their own publishing network as well, placing articles with other outlets in Germany and Brazil and planning more for the future. They have not shared the full set of documents with anyone.

Conclusion: In the 1970’s, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein inspired a generation of aspiring journalists with their reporting on the Watergate Scandal, which forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign. Now, in 2013, it’s Poitras and Greenwald. Hopefully, young journalist will follow their lead. 

Note: Laura Poitras photo by Kris Krug . Licensed under Creative Commons share and share alike.

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Archives