August 2007 Archives

August 27, 2007

'Many People Believe the [Iraqi] Prime Minister Ought to be Changed'

"France's foreign minister risked fracturing his country's new relationship with America yesterday [August 26, 2007], by calling for Nouri al-Maliki, theimage Iraqi prime minister, to be replaced," writes correspondent Peter Allen in an August 27, 2007, dispatch from Paris.

Mr. Allen noted that, "In an interview published in the American magazine Newsweek, Bernard Kouchner, who visited Baghdad last week, said:

I just had (Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State) on the phone 10 or 15 minutes ago, and I told her, 'Listen, he's got to be replaced'.

"Many people believe the prime minister ought to be changed. I don't know if that will go through though, because it seems President [George W] Bush is attached to Mr Maliki. But the government is not functioning.

"Last week," Mr. Allen recalled, [U.S.] President Bush defended the record of Mr Maliki, calling him "a good guy, a good man with a difficult job and I support him."

If were in Mr. al-Maliki's position I would take Mr. Bush's declaration of support with a grain of salt. He can't fix the mess the Americans created and now the Bush Administration is upset with him. In fact, no outsiders can fix it. However, the Iraqis will come to an accord once the Americans leave. They may fight among themselves for dominance but a stabilizing force, probably a strongman, will eventually emerge.

Iyad Allawi, reportedly the CIA's man in exile, fits the bill. Don't be surprised if Mr. al-Maliki is removed in a coup d'etat and Mr. Allawi reemerges in a pivotal role in Iraq.

By the way, the person to pay attention to when it comes to Mr. al-Maliki's political fate is Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, not Mr. Bush. He's the real ruler of Iraq. See "Crocker Disappointed With Progress."

To read more, please see "France calls for new Iraq prime minister." To read the Newsweek article on Mr. Kouchner, see "A Humanitarian-in-Chief."

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Is Canada's Stephen Harper Mimicking Australia's Foreign Policy?

Canadian "Prime Minister Stephen Harper's trip to Australia next month will offer Canada's leader a chance to look back at what worked and what didn't with the person experts say is the real influence behind his approach to Canadian foreign policy, Australian Prime Minister John Howard," reports Lee Berthiaume in an August 22, 2007 report in Embassy, Canada's Foreign Policy Weekly.

Berthiaume said, "Since the Conservatives took power last year, critics, especially those in the opposition benches, have accused Mr. Harper of mimicking or following in the footsteps of U.S. President George W. Bush when deciding Canadian foreign policy."

"Mr. Harper's handling of Afghanistan, Canada's muted involvement at the United Nations and other multilateral fora, harsh words directed towards Cuba, strong support for Israel, and others have all prompted accusations that where Mr. Bush's Washington goes, Ottawa under the Conservatives follows," Berthiaume noted, adding:

"Yet experts on Australia say those accusations are wrong and that, in fact, Mr. Harper took a page from Mr. Howard's book when he was elected to power last year."

To read more, please see "Harper, Howard Meeting a Chance to Take Stock."

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August 19, 2007

Spain's Shrinking International Profile

'A decade of soaring economic growth and corporate expansion overseas has put Spain in the big leagues, but the country's political profile is shrinking under the leadership" of Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, "a man deeply preoccupied with domestic reform and lacking in international experience," International Herald Tribune's correspondent Victoria Burnett reported in an August 17, 2007, dispatch. 

"He is not there," Ms. Burnett quotes José María de Areilza, a former foreign-policy adviser to Zapatero's predecessor José María Aznar, as saying. "It's as if he were not interested."

Maybe he's not. Not everyone wants to be a spectacle on the international stage. The Aznar government's vigorous support of the invasion of Iraq and Spain's participation in the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the consequences of that support may have convinced Mr. Zapatero that attending to domestic affairs is safer.  The  March 11, 2004, train bombing in Madrid suggest that the wrong type of involvement in international affairs can have disastrous consequences at home. The majority of Spaniards did not support the war.

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Why is Turkey Still Begging for Full Membership In the EU?

In an informative, August 20, 2007, interview published in Today's Zaman, Haluk Kabaalioğlu, "The new president of the Economic Development Foundation (İKV), a nongovernmental organization representing the Turkish private sector's interests regarding the European Union," says "There is no such thing as privileged membership [in the European Union]. This is in response to those advocating such a membership for Turkey in the entity, which is made of European Christian nations. Turkey has been begging for for full membership for years.

image According to Wikipedia, "There are currently three official candidate countries, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey." French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a strong opponent of Turkey's entry. See "Sarkozy blocks key part of EU entry talks on Turkey."

Nevertheless, Mr. Kabaalioğlu contends that, "Turkey has achieved the customs union. The treaty establishing the European Community, the Treaty of Rome, says that the European Community is based on a customs union. The only and the natural result of the Turkey-EU relationship must be accession, and anything less than that would not be acceptable for Turkey," he declared in the Zaman interview.

It seems that Turkey still doesn't know when it's not wanted. No matter what the country does to gain acceptance, it will never be enough.

To read the entire interview, please see "‘Only full EU membership is acceptable'

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August 15, 2007

Rudolph W. Giuliani Offers Foreign Policy Ideas in 'Towards a Realistic Peace'

Rudolph W. Giuliani, former Mayor of New York City, and a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in the United States, has published his foreign policy ideas in the September/October 2007 edition of Foreign Affairs. It's called "Toward a Realistic Peace."

Thanks to Cernig over at The NewsHoggers for the tip. Also Cernig's August 14, 2007, post headlined "Rudy And the American Hegemony."

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David Miliband Wants Foreign Policy Ideas

Pickled Politics, which bills itself as "current affairs for a progressive generation," reported August 14, 2007, that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband wants your foreign policy ideas."

Presumably he is seeking them only from inhabitants from the United Kingdom. Even if you don't live in the UK, add your two cents worth anyway.

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August 13, 2007

China, Taiwan and Latin America

Writes Daniel P. Erikson and Janice Chen ["a joint degree candidate at the Georgetown University Law Center and the Fletcher School for Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University" ] in an August 12, 2007, article in  Latin Business Chronicle (LBC):

China’s economic engagement with Latin America responds to the requirements of a booming Chinese economy that has been growing at nearly 10 percent per year for the past quarter century. The economic figures are impressive: in the past six years, Chinese imports from Latin America have grown more than six-fold, at a pace of some 60 percent a year, to an estimated $60 billion in 2006. China has become a major consumer of food, mineral, and other primary products from Latin America, benefiting principally the commodity-producing countries of South America—particularly Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Chile.

If you're interested in reading more, see "China, Taiwan and the Battle for Latin America." The article, according to LBC, is "an excerpt of a longer article that appeared in The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs."

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August 12, 2007

ICU: Ethiopia, Somali Government Responsible for Killing Journalists

Mohamed Abdi Farah, a reporter with SomaliNet, reported August 12, 2007, that, " The defeated Islamic Courts Union [of Somalia] accused the transitional government and the Ethiopian troops in the country of being responsible for the killings of Horn Afrik media managers and other violations against the free press." See "Somalia: Government accused of journalists killings."

According to Mr. Abdi Farah, "Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, the exiled leader of ICU who now lives in Asmara, Eritrea, blamed what he called ‘the occupation forces of Ethiopia and its puppet Somali government’ for the assassinations on the media officials in Mogadishu."

He quotes Sheik Ahmed as saying:“The government in Mogadishu and Ethiopia have masterminded the killings of the owner of Horn Afrik Media Ali Iman Sharmarke and the head of Capital Voice Mahad Ahmed Elmi and they will be held into accountable.” 

Mr. Abdi Farah also reported that, "In statement posed on the Internet, the Young Islamic Movement said they were not involved in the acts that killed the journalists."

“The intention of the young martyrs is not to kill the civilian people but our goal is to hunt down anyone belonging or has contact with the government,” the movement was quoted as saying.

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August 11, 2007

U.N. Expands 'Political Role in Iraq'

On August 10, 2007, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) approved "a 12-month mandate extension for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)." According to UNSC, this expands "the world body’s political role in Iraq, aimed at bringing together the strife-torn country’s rival factions, gaining broader support from neighboring countries, and tackling the deepening humanitarian crisis."

I would think the U.N. would want to eschew any political role for a purely humanitarian role. I guess the August 19, 2003, truck bomb that exploded outside the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad wasn't enough of a warning to remain neutral in Iraq.  Sergio Vieira de Mello, the U.N envoy in Iraq, was killed along with 21 staff members during a bombing  at  the Canal Hotel in Iraq. As Wikipedia notes, the UN imposed sanctions on Iraq "in 1990 following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990." They "continued until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. They were perhaps the toughest, most comprehensive sanctions in history, and have caused much controversy over the humanitarian impact, culminating with two senior UN representatives in Iraq resigning in protest of the sanctions," according to Wikipedia. See "Iraq sanctions." Some observers say the sanctions led to thousands of Iraqi deaths and a lot of anger. Some observers even think the bombing of U.N. headquarters was payback for the sanctions.

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States before he took the U.N. post in July 2004, is the current U.N. envoy. According to the August 3, 2007, edition of the New York Sun:

Although it is being urged to overhaul its mission in Iraq, the United Nations plans to extend the contract of its long-term envoy to Baghdad, Ashraf Qazi, by at least three months, several U.N. sources said. Mr. Qazi, a Pakistani national, will remain in Baghdad while a decision is being made about his replacement. For months, American and U.N. officials said Mr. Qazi would be replaced when his current contract expires this month, but Secretary-General Ban has yet to choose a new envoy.
To read the Security Council press release on the expansion of the U.N. political role in Iraq and the resolution extending UNAMI's mission, please see "Security Council expands United Nations role in Iraq as part of efforts to end strife, win regional support, tackle humanitarian crisis."

For some background on the Security Council and Iraq, see the Wikipedia article titled  "The UN Security Council and the Iraq war.

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August 9, 2007

ICG's Middle East Report No 68

On August 2, 2007, the International Crisis Group (ICG) issued Middle East Report N°68 . In the executive Summary and Recommendations, ICG opines:

image Hamas’s [June 2007] takeover of Gaza and [Palestinian National Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ dismissal of the national unity government and appointment of one led by Salam Fayyad amount to a watershed in the Palestinian national movement’s history. Some paint a positive picture, seeing the new government as one with which Israel can make peace. They hope that, with progress in the West Bank, stagnation in Gaza and growing pressure from ordinary Palestinians, a discredited Hamas will be forced out or forced to surrender. They are mistaken.

ICG said, "The Ramallah-based government is adopting overdue decisions to reorganise security forces and control armed militants; Israel has reciprocated in some ways; and Hamas is struggling with its victory. But as long as the Palestinian schism endures, progress is on shaky ground." I recommend the report.

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August 7, 2007

Despite Pakistani Debate on U.S-Pakistan Ties, Things Will Remain the Same

Raja Asghar, a correspondent with the authoritative Pakistani newspaper Dawn, reported  August 6, 2007 that "the government told the National Assembly on Monday [August 6, 2007] any American military operations inside Pakistan to hunt militants, as suggested by a prospective US presidential candidate [Senator Barack Obama, Democrat, Illinois, USA], would be regarded as aggression." See "The War We Need To Win" to read exactly what Mr. Obama said about Pakistan

According to Dawn's correspondent, Pakistan opened "a three-day foreign policy debate" August 6, 2007, "designed to focus on Pakistan-US relations." During the discussion, "Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Khan Niazi demanded a halt to such threats [coming from Mr. Obama's and the Bush Administration] and urged the United States to review its new US law that conditions aid to Pakistan with performance in the so-called “war against terrorism” and offer a similar civilian nuclear deal to Pakistan as agreed with India."

Dawn also reported that,, "Opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman accused the government of following a US-dictated foreign policy despite what he called Washington’s mistrust of Islamabad and suggested Pakistan’s withdrawal from the US-led coalition."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri will address the assembly on August 8, 2007, the last day of the debate.

By the way, when the debate is over, the status quo will remain for sometime to come. The Pakistani Government, especially under President Pervez Musharraf, doesn't have the will or the inclination to go beyond rhetoric in defying the Bush Administration.

To read more, please see "US strikes will be deemed aggression, NA told.

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August 5, 2007

Foreign Policy Debate in Pakistan to Focus on U.S. Ties

According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn, The [Pakistani] government on Friday [August 3, 2007] set a foreign policy debate in the National Assembly for Monday [August 6, 2007 to focus on Pakistan-US ties in a move that seemed designed to demonstrate Islamabad’s unease at some latest developments and also deflect opposition attacks over both internal and external situations."

Dawn said, "The move came at the end of a prolonged law and order debate wound up by Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, who rejected charges mainly from religious parties that the government’s deadly military operations against militants, whether in the tribal areas or one at Lal Masjid last month [July 10, 2007], served only American interests."

Of course he was going to reject the charge. It's not healthy to be seen as a lackey of the Americans. Besides, people have long memories and there might be a reckoning  one days.

To read more, please see "Foreign policy debate to focus on ties with US.

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The Hall Mark of U.S. Relations With Pakistan is Expediency

Ahmad Faruqui, an American economist, defense analyst and  author of “Rethinking the National Security of Pakistan,” notes in a Op-Ed piece in the August 5, edition of the Daily Times of Pakistan that, "From 1947 onwards, US policy toward Pakistan has focused on engaging with the military leadership in Pakistan and shunning the civilian leadership."

" All the bonding moments have occurred when a Republican administration has been in power in Washington, a military administration in Islamabad and a war has been taking place in the background," he opines. Mr. Faruqui said, "The hallmark of the relationship has been expediency, not sustainability. Thus, it has failed to evolve into people-to-people contacts."

To read the entire piece, please see "Op-ed: US should rethink Pakistan policy

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A Diplomatic History Lesson For U.S. Presidential Candidates

When 87-year old American correspondent Helen Thomas, who has served as a White House correspondent since 1960,  writes about politics and diplomacy from a historical perspective, U.S.   presidential candidates should take time to read her opinions, if they don't already.  Mrs. Thomas, currently a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, "served for fifty-seven years as a correspondent and White House bureau chief for United Press International (UPI)." She gave U.S. Presidential Candidate Hilary Rodham Clinton, Democrat  of New York, USA, a valuable diplomatic  history lesson in an informative column I read in the August 3, 2007, edition of The Seattle (Washington, USA) Post-Intelligencer. See "Obama has the right idea about diplomacy.

The commentary was prompted by Ms. Clinton's accusation that Democratic Presidential contender Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, USA, was being naive and irresponsible when he declared during a a July 24, 2007, Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina  he would be willing to meet without preconditions the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Venezuela during his first year as president. See "Obama Debate Comments Set Off Firestorm."

After noting that, "During the Cold War, [U.S. Republican] President [Dwight David] Eisenhower often said he would go anywhere, any time, any place in pursuit of peace." Ms. Thomas, whose latest book is "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public, recalled:

Ike promoted co-existence with the former Soviet Union and invited Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to visit the United States.

Conservative Republicans were unhappy when President [Richard Milhous] Nixon made his surprise journey to hard-line communist China in 1972. But the move was mostly applauded as a diplomatic breakthrough, leading to better relations between the two nations.

The American people rejoiced at those peacemaking gestures and didn't think that Eisenhower, a World War II hero, was naïve to talk to the Soviets with the goal of easing tensions between the two superpowers, particularly as each had doomsday nuclear arsenals.

imageMs. Thomas, who has interviewed or covered every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, said, "There were some hints and hopes -- among liberals at least -- that President [William Jefferson "Bill"] Clinton would open a dialogue with Cuba during his years in the White House. But he was not willing to take the risk and pay the political price -- especially in Florida, traditional hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment."

"So," Ms. Thomas told her readers, "it is disturbing for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D.N Y, to ridicule Sen. Barack Obama, D. Ill -- her main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination -- for saying he would be willing to meet with the reviled leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and North Korea, if he's elected president.

"And why not?" Thomas asks. "What's wrong with diplomacy? "

Ms. Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, said, "It may shock Clinton, but we often deal with dictators and others who espouse policies that are distinctly at odds with U.S. goals."

"Clinton is wrong and Obama is right," Ms. Thomas contends, adding: "Both should be emphasizing the need for a more peaceful world and an end to the daily slaughter in Iraq that has shamed this country's world image. The first order of business for the new president in 2009 should be to repair the damage inflicted by President Bush's disastrous unilateralism."

Not many White House correspondents have the balls to say that. Unfortunately, in recent years, with the exception of a few, American reporters covering the White House, The Pentagon and the State Department, have acted more like stenographers currying favor with those they cover rather than curious spectators analyzing and reporting on what really goes on in the corridors of power. The serious reporting and analysis is usually done by outsiders. 

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Tony Blair and Michael Williams: Two Middle East Envoys From Britain raises a relevant point in its August 3, 2007, report on British Prime Minister James Gordon Brown's appointment of UN assistant secretary-general Michael Williams as a special representative to the Middle East. Mr. Williams replaces  Michael Abraham Levy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blairs' man in the Middle East. The Foreign Office made the announcement on August 3, 2007. See  "PM appoints personal Mid East envoy

So where does that leave Mr.Blair, who is also masquerading as a Middle East envoy? As notes, Mr. William's "appointment is expected to raise questions over whether the role will overlap with that now being performed by Tony Blair. "The former prime minister is now the international envoy to the region of the [Middle East] Quartet, which comprises the US, UN, EU and Russia, having been strongly backed for the position by the White House."

So, does that suggest that  Mr. Blair will report to U.S.  President George W. Bush and the quartet, while Mr. Williams reports to Prime Minister Brown and foreign secretary David Miliband?

What if Mr. Blair and Mr. William's views conflict on the Israeli-Palestinian issue? How will Mr. Brown and Mr. Miliband reconcile them? Will Mr. Blair's views be rejected in favor of Mr. Williams? Just asking. 

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So Far, Gordon Brown 'Looks Good in a Crisis and In the Polls...'

The Observer of London's Andrew Rawnsley, made the following observation about British Prime Minister James Gordon Brown in an August 5, 2007, column"

Gordon Brown has always been known as a great planner. And yet it is the unplanned that has worked out to his advantage. Harold Macmillan [link added] was only half-right when he talked about 'events, dear boy, events'. It is not the events themselves that define a leader; it is how he responds to those events. Mr Brown's performance in a crisis was one of the apprehensions about him before he moved into Number 10. Tony Blair's fear on that score was one of the reasons he was doubtful about his successor. The general judgment is that Mr Brown has responded well in an emergency.

Overall, Mr. Rawnsley adds, "he has had a better start at Number 10 than either his enemies - or indeed many of his friends - anticipated. So much so that it is exciting speculation that he might be tempted to call an early election."

To read Mr. Rawnsley's column, please see "You can rely on Gordon for loos, but for an election?

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Is Hillary Clinton Gordon Brown's Choice for U.S. President?

Toby HarndenThe Daily Telegraph of London's U.S. Editor and observer of things diplomatic and political, posted an item August 2, 2007, in the blog Toby Harnden in imageWashington, D.C, that suggests that British Prime Minister James Gordon Brown may be showing a preference in the U.S. Presidential election, which will be held in November 2008. Writes Mr. Harnden:

 "So Gordon Brown took the opportunity to meet Bill Clinton at the Waldorf Astoria in New York on Monday night [July 30, 2007]. It was a hush hush affair. I asked a Downing Street official that very morning on Capitol Hill whether Brown had any extra meetings planned in the Big Apple and, specifically, whether he would call on Clinton - I was told no."
"What did it signify?" Harden asks rhetorically. "Pretty obvious really - that Bush is only one of the Americans Brown will deal with and that he views the Democrats, and specifically the Clintons, are the power in waiting," Harden opined, adding: "On the basis that it is never good for British PM's to meddle in internal US politics (as John Major will attest), this was not a clever move."

So, does this mean that Mr. Brown is hedging his bets? Of course he is. His predecessor, Mr. Tony Blair, was one of Mr. Clinton's darlings during the latter's eight-years in power and easily became a little political and diplomatic lapdog for U.S. President George W. Bush, even to the point of helping him invade and occupy Iraq. My guess is that as long as the U.S. is the major military and economic power in world, every British prime minister, conservative, labor or liberal, will pay homage to Washington.

To read the entire post, please see "Brown's secret meeting with Clinton."

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August 2, 2007

Efraim Halevy Says It's Time For Israel to Negotiate With Hamas

The Belgravia Dispatch's Gregory Djejerian writes in an August 2, 2007, post: "Efraim Halevy [link added], former head of Mossad [link added], recommends Israel directly engage Hamas. Doubtless he'll be tarred an enemy of the state of Israel soon by varied notables," opines Mr. Djereijan. See "Jaw Jaw, Mossad Edition."

I concur. And look for some of Israel's allies in the U.S. to condemn Mr. Halevy louder than many Israelis.

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Turkey: U.S. Should Help Curtail PKK Threat

"Egemen Bagis, foreign policy advisor to [Turkish Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said Turkish forces were prepared to mount [military] operations against Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) fighters who had taken refuge in Iraq, because the US had failed to intervene," Gethin Chamberlain of the Sunday Telegraph of London reported July 29, 2007. See "Turkey set to defy US and hunt Kurdish rebels."

"We are hoping we will not have to do it," Mr. Bagis was quoted as saying. "We are hoping that our allies will start doing something, but if they don't we don't have many options," he said," according to the Telegraph.

"Our allies should help us with the threat, which is clear and present. If an ally is not helping you, you either question their integrity or their ability," Mr. Bagis said.

This begs the question: Does the U.S. intend to use the Kurds as a proxy in its dispute with Iran? Commentary is welcome.

For some background on the conflict, please see Wikipedia's "Turkish-Kurdish conflict.

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Syria and the West's 'Good Pretend Policy'

"Syria's new policy on Lebanon, begun with president's speech two weeks ago, is to stop public pronouncements on Lebanon, tell Western diplomats what they want to hear - that Syria will do what it can in Lebanon - yet, at the same time, explain that the West must go to Lebanon to find answers," contends Joshua Landis, Co-director, Centre of Peace Studies University of Oklahoma and editor of Syria Comment.

Mr. Landis, who wrote his July 29, 2007, analysis from Syria, where he was visiting his in-laws, reported that, "The public stand is that Lebanon's problems are her own and Syria cannot do much about it. This is, of course, posturing and fits the Western insistence that Syria must not play a role, which Syria refuses. The result is that Syria and the West will both pretend that no one is influencing Lebanon. It is a good pretend policy." To read more, please see "Syria’s Policy of Sitting on its Hands."

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