December 2008 Archives

December 30, 2008

Is Israel Seeking a Diplomatic Exit out of ‘Operation Cast Lead’?

“Three days into Operation Cast Lead, Israel is proposing a diplomatic exit,” reports Haaretz correspondents Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff in a December 30, 2008, post headlined “ANALYSIS / Hamas is hoping for an IDF ground operation in Gaza.”

The correspondents said, “A ground operation likely looms in an effort to increase the pressure on Hamas. At the same time, however, others argue that the air force is close to exhausting its target bank, so if Hamas can be brought to accept a cease-fire on terms convenient to Israel in the near future it would be better to do so.”

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Recommended: ‘George Washington's warnings and U.S. policy towards Israel’

Recommended: Glenn Greenwald’s December 30, 2008, Unclaimed Territory column at headlined “George Washington's warnings and U.S. policy towards Israel.” He highlights  prominent U.S. congressional leaders views on “Operation Cast Lead”, Israel’s ongoing attacks on Gaza City to destroy the Islamic Resistance Movement ( (Ḥarakat al-Muqāwamat al-Islāmiyyah) known as Hamas.

Mr. Greenwald also has a recommendation:

If someone asked me to recommend just one must-read article on the Israeli-Gaza conflict, I would select this column from yesterday in The Guardian by Israeli-American journalist Nir Rosen.
The attorney, book author and prominent blogger adds: “I disagree with several of his points, particularly some of the specific ones about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but his generalized explanation about how the concept of "terrorism" is distorted and exploited by stronger countries can't be emphasized enough.”

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December 29, 2008

Recommended: ‘African Coup D’etat: The Sequel – And The Rule Of Law’

“One would get the impression from reading the headlines of the Western press these days that Americans and Europeans have an appetite for news about coup d’états in African Nations that is as great as their appetite for James Bond thrillers,” opines Oscar. H Blayton, a “U.S based practicing Attorney, in a December 28, 2008, post at AfricanLoft headlined “African Coup D’etat: The Sequel – And The Rule Of Law.” I recommend it. Mr. Blayton adds:

And the taste for news about the violence that often accompanies these coups is similar to the obvious taste for the flavor of violence that Agent 007 metes out the enemies of Western governments. The headlines about the recent coup in Guinea have shoved even the U.S. president elect Barack Obama’s Hawaii Christmas vacation from the front pages.
For the most part, the Guinea coup has been replaced by Israel’s attacks on Gaza to annihilate the Palestinian group Hamas. See “Israel bombs Gaza in 'all-out war' on Hamas.”

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Ghana’s Presidential Contenders ‘Running Neck-and-Neck’ reported December 29, 2008, that, “With more than half the results counted in the second round of Ghana's presidential election, the two candidates,” John Atta Mills of the  National Democratic Congress’ and Nana Akufo-Addo, the ruling New Patriotic Party’s candidate, “are running neck-and-neck.” See “Ghana: Presidential Election Too Close to Call.”

With coup fever gripping West Africa, I hope the army stays in its barracks regardless of the election outcome. But anything could happen in a country that has seen several coups since independence from Britain in 1957.

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December 28, 2008

PNN Comments on World Reaction to Israel’s Attacks on Gaza

The Palestine News Network (PNN) says, “Official international reactions have been mixed to the deadly Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip which have killed 285 Palestinians as of early Sunday evening [December 28, 2008]. See “Arab League and UN meetings, mixed international reactions”.

“Before and after Arab League and United Nations emergency sessions, many have been tripping over themselves to draw parallels between the projectiles of the armed resistance and the strength of the world’s fourth largest military, when issuing their condemnations,” PNN said.

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Israeli Views On War in Gaza Are Not Monolithic

Haaretz Correspondent Bradley Burston asserts in “Wartime in Gaza: The worst anti-Israel charges you'll hear,” a December 28, 2008, commentary in response to Israel’s current attacks on Hamas in Gaza:

It is, abruptly and again, wartime. Across the globe, the selective pacifists of the left and the recliner Rambos of the right are spoiling for their next battle, the war in Gaza. They will fight one another in letters to Congress, in cable news sound bites, in raucous talk-radio phone-ins, in the virtual mega-heroics of the online battlefield of the talkback.

They will fight one another in the United Nations as well, unashamedly one-sided in their concern for human life.’s Aluf Benn reported December 29, 2008, that,

The current "Gaza War" is being waged in the shadow of the tense relations between Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.” See “The First Gaza War / Olmert and Barak go head to head.

Meanwhile, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy writes in a December 29, 2008, post headlined : “The neighborhood bully strikes again.

Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!" Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.

Haarez’s Amira Hess also has a December 29, 2008, post  worth reading. See “Amira Hass / 'Gaza strike is not against Hamas, it's against all Palestinians'

By the way, Haaretz and other Israeli publications are providing diverse and interesting commentary on Israel’s effort to destroy Hamas.

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The Jerusalem Post: “IAF Uses New US-supplied Smart Bomb’ in Gaza City

The Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Katz reported December 24, 2008, that, “The Israel Air Force used a new bunker-buster missile that it received recently from the United States in strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip on Saturday [December 27, 2008], The Jerusalem Post learned on Sunday,” December 28, 2008. See “IAF uses new US-supplied smart bomb.”

Mr. Katz said, “The missile, called GBU-39, was developed in recent years by the US as a small-diameter bomb for low-cost, high-precision and low collateral damage strikes.”

“Israel received approval from Congress to purchase 1,000 units in September [2008] and defense officials said on Sunday that the first shipment had arrived earlier this month and was used successfully in penetrating underground Kassam launchers in the Gaza Strip during the heavy aerial bombardment of Hamas infrastructure on Saturday [December 27, 2008]. It was also used in Sunday's [December 28, 2008] bombing of tunnels in Rafah,” Mr. Katz reported.

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Israel Doing to Hamas What Palestinian Authority Couldn’t Do

While reading Khaled Abu Toameh’s December 29, 2008, article in The Jerusalem Post headlined “Analysis: A viable successor to Hamas is hard to find,” the following stood out:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah loyalists are dying to return to the Gaza Strip after being kicked out by Hamas in the summer of 2007 [See “Battle of Gaza (2007)”] .

On Sunday, senior Fatah officials in the West Bank relayed a message to Israel to the effect that they would like to see the IDF (Israel Defense Force "finish off the job" in the Gaza Strip by removing Hamas from power.

The officials made it clear that they were ready to assume control over the Gaza Strip as soon as the IDF eliminated the Hamas regime. Abbas, who held talks with the Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians over the past 48 hours, is also reported to have expressed his readiness and desire to return to Gaza.

Abu Toameh said, “Judging from the reactions of the Palestinian and Arab masses, it's highly unlikely that Abbas and his forces would be allowed to regain control under the current circumstances.”

He said, “Ramadan Shallah, secretary-general of the Islamic Jihad organization, warned that any Palestinian "who dares to return to the Gaza Strip aboard an Israeli tank would be condemned as a traitor."

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Who Will Replace Hamas?

Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, writing in the December 29, 2008, edition of The Jerusalem Post, reports that, "Hamas's top leaders in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud Zahar and Said Siam, have all gone underground out of fear of being targeted by Israel. See "Analysis: A viable successor to Hamas is hard to find."

Israel is currently engaged in an operation to destroy Hamas. See "Six months of secret planning - then Israel moves against Hamas."

"Just a few days ago," he writes, "the three had proudly announced that they were not afraid of death and would be "honored" to join the bandwagon of Palestinian "martyrs." [See Hamas: Our leaders do not fear death] The general feeling on the streets of the Gaza Strip on Sunday night [December 28, 2008] was that the countdown to the collapse of the Hamas regime had begun. As one local journalist put it:

We don't know who's in control of the Gaza Strip. The feeling is that the Hamas regime is crumbling.

"But," Abu Toameh added, "it's not clear at this stage whether there is any Palestinian party that would be able to fill the vacuum in the aftermath of the downfall of the Hamas government."

Abu Toameh contends: "Even if Hamas is totally crushed, there is no reason to believe that those who would succeed the Islamist movement would be any better or less radical. These are days when only the voices of the extremists in the Arab and Islamic world are being heard. Or as a Hamas-affiliated academic put it on Sunday night, "If you bring down Hamas, you will get either Islamic Jihad or al-Qaida. Then the Israelis will miss Hamas."


December 27, 2008

Zvi Barel Sees Israeli ‘Delusions of Victory in Gaza’

“As of yesterday, politicians and the public at large have been enthralled by a new prospect: that of a wide-scale military operation in the Gaza Strip,” contends Zvi Barel in a December 28, 2008, post in Haaretz headlined “Delusions of victory in Gaza.”

Mr. Barel said, “Such a prospect answers all their heart's secret wishes: Avenging the rocket fire by Gazan militants, reclaiming Israel's prestige, delivering a fatal blow to Hamas, providing payback for Israel's 2005 pullout from Gaza, sending a strong message to Iran, an implicit one to Hezbollah, and also showing the government's concern for its citizens and scoring some points with the electorate ahead of the elections.”

It’s worth reading along with Yaakov Katz’s December 28, 2008, article in The Jerusalem Post headlined “Analysis: Shock, awe... and deception.”  .

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Where is the Middle Ground in Struggle Between Israel and Hamas?

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Hundreds of Israelis Protest Attacks on Gaza

Haaretz: “Hundreds of left-wing and human rights activists marched in the streets of Tel Aviv [Israel] on Saturday night [December 27, 2008] to protest the massive Israel Air Force offensive in Gaza that left at least 230 dead and hundreds more wounded.” See “Hundreds of activists in Tel Aviv protest IAF strike in Gaza.”

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Israel’s Ceasefire With Hamas Was Part of a Deception Plan

Hamas and the inhabitants of Gaza were going to be bombed and invaded by Israel even if Hamas rockets had not been fired into Israel as a result of Israeli provocation. According to a December 28, 2008, background report by Haaretz Correspondent Barak Ravid:

Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public - all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces "Cast Lead" operation against imageHamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning [December 28, 20080]. See “Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about.

The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

Mr. Ravid adds:

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. According to the sources, Barak maintained that although the lull would allow  Hamas to prepare for a showdown with Israel, the Israeli army needed time to prepare, as well.

“Barak gave orders to carry out a comprehensive intelligence-gathering drive which sought to map out Hamas' security infrastructure, along with that of other militant organizations operating in the Strip.

In addition to destroying Hamas, another goal is to increase pressure on Hamas’ supporters and force them into the camp of Palestinian National Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. I think the opposite will happen. Don’t be surprised if the suicide bomber returns to Israel.

By the way, it comes as no surprise that the Bush Administration put the onus on Hamas to end the conflict. See “US urges Hamas to cease rocket attacks on Israel.” The Administration has stepped up its activities against Hamas when the organization won the majority of seats for Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. They were certain the Palestinian Authority would win. However, Hamas won 74 seats and the ruling Fatah party won 45 seats, which meant that, Hamas had won the right to form a government. See Hamas Triumphant: Implications for Security, Politics, Economy, and Strategy. This angered the Israelis and the Bush Administration, whose money was on Fatah as the lesser evil.

To punish the Palestinians, especially Gazans, for voting for Hamas, which was declared a terrorist organization,  a devastating economic embargo was imposed on Gaza City in an effort to oust Hamas.  See “U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster.”

It's called "collective punishment" and violates "the laws of war and the Geneva Conventions."

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December 26, 2008

Will Africa Experience More Military Coups?

“Military incursions into power on the African continent once thought to be a receding aberration is now assuming renewed vigour and frequency much like it did after the 1963 coup that overthrew Sylvanus Olympio’s government in Togo and then spread across many countries,” notes a December 26, 2008, editorial in the Daily Trust of Nigeria. According to the publication:

This year alone Mauritania, Guinea Bissau and lately Guinea Conakry have all fell under the jackboot of brass button boys. The Guinea Conakry coup occurred a few days ago in the aftermath of the death of Lansana Conte, its strongman who has been in power since 1984 on the death of the former president Sekou Toure.
The Daily Trust said, “These coups are occurring in spite of the African Union’s decision not to have anything to do anymore with military governments on the continent. But so far once they come to power the AU has been unable to convince them to relinquish power and return to their traditional role.”

To read more, see “The coup in Guinea.”

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December 25, 2008

Guinean Coup Leader Makes Prime Minister an Offer He Can’t Refuse

Guinean coup leader Moussa Camara has balls and a lot of guns. For the moment, that makes him an African Big Man Guinean leaders such as Prime Minister Ahmed Tidiane Souare can’t afford to aggravate, if they want to live, stay out of prison or avoid being sent into exile. In fact, according to news reports, the prime minister told Mr. Camara: "We are at your complete disposal." Indeed, they are. And they are acutely aware of it.

For example,  Agence France Presse (AFP) reported December 25, 2008, that after Mr. Souare “and his cabinet turned imagethemselves in,” Mr. Camara “said they could stay and help him run the country but left them with no illusions about who was now in charge.” See ”’It’s our turn for power': Guinea coup leader tightens grip.” Also see “Guinea prime minister 'surrenders'.”

Mr. Camara's coup has been widely condemned. See “Does Isolation Await Guinea’s Coup Leaders?

AFP quoted Mr. Camara, an army captain who reportedly was “the officer in charge of the military's fuel supplies unit” prior to the December 22, 2008, announcement of the death of President Lansana Conte, as saying:

"Yesterday, you were in power, today it's our turn. You can go back to business, let us just avoid armed conflict which would drag our country into fratricidal war."

"We helped you, you must help us." he added in a meeting witnessed by journalists at a military camp near the international airport.

Mr. Souare, the prime minister, capitulated. "We are at your complete disposal," AFP quoted him as saying in a meeting witnessed by journalist.

"We thank you once again for your wisdom, Mr President," the prime minister reportedly told Mr. Camara.

Government leaders had been given 24-hours to turn themselves in to military authorities. I guess you have no choice if you have a gun pointed at your head and want to live.

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December 24, 2008

Does Isolation Await Guinea’s Coup Leaders?

By Munir Umrani

The African Union (AU) has rightly condemned the December 23, 2008, coup in the West African nation of Guinea. See “AU warns Guinea's renegade troops of 'stern measures'.” Hopefully, no nation will recognize the military government that installed itself after the December 22, 2008, death of Guinean President Lansana Conte, who came to power in a coup on April 3, 1984. 

The U. S. State Department and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have called for a peaceful, democratic transfer of power. So has Canada. The European Union has also condemned the coup and called for a peaceful transfer of power. See “Guinean coup meets with int'l condemnations.”  Every government on the African continent should do the same in their individual capacities and not just under the cover of the AU or the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has condemned the coup.

As Jean Ping, chairman of the African Union Commission (AUC) stated in a December 23, 2008, press release:

This seizure of power constitutes a flagrant violation of the Guinean Constitution, which, in such an instance, provides that the Speaker of the National Assembly assumes the interim. It constitutes also a violation of the Lome Declaration of July 2000, the Constitutive Act of the AU and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

By the way, according to Agence France Press (AFP):

The coup bid in Guinea is sowing fears of destabilising its fragile west African neighbours -- notably former war-torn Liberia and Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire), still gripped by political crisis.

All three nations are on heightened alert as coup leaders tighten their grip in Guinea, declaring a nationwide curfew on Wednesday [December 24, 2008] and ruling out elections for the next two years.

See “Liberia & Sierra Leone Take Border Precautions as...:Coup in Guinea” for more on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast’s concerns. Also see Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s December 23, 2008, “statement On Guinea as head of the Mano River Union.”

If the current coup, led by Captain Mussa Dadis Camara, succeeds, the danger is that, military officials in other African countries may get the notion that they can go back to changing governments through coups. That should not be allowed. African nations will not prosper under military dictatorships or corrupt civilian leaders, as we’ve already witnessed.

Here’s how Mr. Camara, who is not supported by all generals in the Guinean military, tries to justify the coup:

Dear fellow countrymen,

At the time of celebrating the 50th anniversary of its independence on 2 October, Guinea was ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world despite its abundant natural resources.

Guinea could have been more prosperous. Unfortunately, history and men have decided otherwise.

Embezzlement of public funds, general corruption, impunity established as a method of government and anarchy in the management of state affairs have eventually plunged our country into a catastrophic economic situation which is particularly tragic for the overwhelming majority of Guineans.

The members of the current cabinet are mainly responsible for such unprecedented social and economic crises.

Similarly, the republican institutions' failure to commit themselves to the search for solutions to the crisis and implement the provisions of the constitution confirms the dysfunction of the government.

Indeed, we have noted a lack of political will from the so-called broad-based government to initiate the necessary reforms to solve such a serious and permanent crisis that affects all sectors of the country, namely:

  • The government's obvious failure to provide basic social services such as water and electricity
  • The marginalization of youths and women in the decision-making process
  • The worsening insecurity in the entire country and the general corruption in the administration
  • A fresh upsurge of drug trafficking throughout the country
  • The image government's flat refusal to further review mining agreements for fear of harming the personal and selfish interests of some government officials, lobby groups and Mafia-like clans
  • The failure to prosecute people involved in embezzlement of public funds
  • Arbitrary appointments to key government positions
  • The government's lack of political will to hold free and transparent elections for a year now
  • The fact that some lobby groups have taken the government to ransom, preventing the government from initiating the necessary customs, fiscal, and monetary reforms that are necessary for an economic recovery of the country.

    All these woes have been worrying the population for a long time and have caused deep despair for the future of the entire Guinea people in general and especially for the Guinean youth.

    'Peaceful transition'

    For all these reasons, a National Council for Democracy and Development, (CNDD), has decided to end the agony of the Guinea people.

    In order to preserve national unity, ensure the economic development of our country, and lay the foundations of a true democracy based on the rule of law in which all the citizens are prosperous, equal and enjoy free movement in all security and at all times, as from today, the constitution is suspended.

    All political and trade union activities are also suspended.

    Similarly, the government and the republican institutions are dissolved.

    In the coming days, a National Transitional Consultative Council made up of soldiers and civilians will be set up, taking into account the ethnic balance.

    It will be chaired by a president.

    The council will be in charge of leading and supervising the transition to enable the restoration of state authority, the fight against corruption, and the holding of transparent elections.

    A prime minister - head of government - vested with all the constitutional powers will be appointed.

    His mission will be, among others:

  • To fight corruption
  • To restore state authority and public administration
  • To ensure the actual liberalization of airwaves throughout the national territory
  • To initiate a constitutional amendment
  • To provide basic services of water, electricity, and health care to the people.

    These measures will guarantee a peaceful transition in the highest interest of the Guinean nation.

    Dear compatriots, to reach our objectives and set our country on the path of a rebirth, we will need courage, patriotism, and a lot of sacrifice.

    Let us be proud as on 2 Oct 1958 [Guinea's Independence day] and let us show the rest of the world that, once more, Guinea can set an example of a successful democracy and an enviable country on the path of development.

    We are all in a competition to attain the same goal: to achieve the well-being of the Guinean people.

    We call on all the military and paramilitary forces to ensure the security of citizens and their property.

    We also call on the people to back its army that has always heeded its calls.

    Long live the people of Guinea!

    Long live national unity!

    Long live the republic!

  • (Source: BBC News Africa)

  • By the way, If the coup is not crushed, I predict that it is just a matter of time before the 32-member national council named to run the country starts killing Guinean citizens and each other. Some Guineans reportedly have welcomed the coup.

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    December 23, 2008

    Joshua Landis: ‘Syria is the Only Game in Town’

    Joshua Landis, co-director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, USA, emphatically asserts in a December 22, 2008, analysis  at Syria Comment:Syria is the only game in town for those wishing to advance peace between Arabs and Israel.” Mr. Landis, an Arabic speaker whose wife is from Syria, contends:

    This has the Jewish right apoplectic. Danielle Pletka who worked under John Bolton in the State Department tries sarcasm and insults in her “The Syrian Strategy“ to embarrass those who would advance this strategy.

    Barry Rubin, publisher of MERIA journal and author of The Truth About Syria gathered several Washington Institute types such as Patrick Clawson and David Schenker and other likeminded policy types to tell Americans that they are foolish to negotiate with Syria and Iran. Equally foolish is to try to make peace between Arabs and Jews or to withdraw from Iraq anytime soon.

    Mr. Landis, who was “brought up in Lebanon and has lived in various countries of the Middle East, such as Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, “ according to Wikipedia, said, “Rubin knowingly asserts that Obama’s “belief, that [America] can make friends with Iran and Syria, soothe grievances that have caused Islamism and terrorism, and solve the Arab-Israeli conflict …. is a miscalculation about the Middle East.”

    I hope we see a vigorous, national debate during President-Elect Barack Obama’s administration about ending the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hopefully, we will see a reassessment of the U.S. relationship with all countries in the Middle East, including Israel. There should be no sacred cows. It has cost the U.S. too much money and disproportionate diplomatic attention over the years to let the status quo continue. Now, reviving the U.S. economy, not the Middle East conflict, has to be the top priority for the U.S., if the U.S. is to survive, economically

    By the way, if you want to read more of Mr. Landis’ analysis, please see “Syria is the Only Game in Town.”

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    December 22, 2008

    Will It Be More of the Same for the Palestinians in 2009?

    British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, writing in the December 18, 2008, edition of Dar Al Hayat opined:

    Next year needs to be an important year for the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Unless we make real progress, the prospect of a two-state solution will slowly - or perhaps fast - slip away.  The situation on the ground leaves too many people insecure, in poverty and despair, and is rapidly undermining the political process.  While both sides are tiring of the conflict, they are also tiring, faster, of efforts to resolve it.
    If you want to read Mr. Miliband’s entire perspective on the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict, please see “A Comprehensive Approach to the Middle East Peace Process.”

    By the way, I don’t think 2009 will be any different than 2008 for the Palestinians. If the United States and Europe really wanted to resolved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they would do so. In fact, they could have done so years ago. All European and American leaders  had to do was impose their will the way they did in Iraq and there is nothing the Israelis and the Palestinians could have done about it except whine.

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    Obama’s Africa Policy

    Recommended: Stephanie Hanson’s December 22, 2008, “Daily Analysis” post at the Council on Foreign Relations website headlined “Imagining Obama’s Africa Policy.” I found it thought-provoking and sobering.

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    Under Obama, Will Negotiating Become Main Foreign Policy Approach?

    “Negotiating with America's adversaries is a tricky business, and with President-elect Barack Obama on the way in, most observers of US foreign policy are confident that negotiating is about to become the predominant foreign policy approach - for better or worse. They are mistaken, however, if they think this approach will be a drastic change,” according to David H. Young, in a December 16, 2008, post at Just Wars.  See “Obama, Bush find common ground on foreign policy,”

    I think he’s trying to say that Mr. Obama is not much different from President George W. Bush when it comes the United States’ national interest.

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    December 17, 2008

    ‘Team of Rivals’ is a Fascinating Book

    USA Today notes in a December 17, 2008, Book Buzz post: “In spring 2007, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin got a call from presidential candidate Barack Obama wanting to discuss her 2005 book Team of Rivals, about Abraham Lincoln's Cabinet. Today, Team of Rivals has become shorthand for Obama's own administration, particularly after he named Hillary Clinton secretary of State,” contends Book Buzz.

    I’m currently reading the book and find it fascinating. The passion and personalities of Abraham Lincoln, Salmon P. Chase, William Henry Seward and Edward Bates – rivals for the U.S. presidency in the 1860 election -- come through in Team of Rivals as if I were watching them discuss politics during a debate.  That’s just how good Ms. Kearns is as writer. She truly knows how to paint a vivid portrait with words.

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    Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year 2008’

    Time magazine’s selection of President-Elect Barack Obama as its Person of the Year 2008 was a no brainer. Who else was it going be? Sarah Louise Palin?

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    U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down More Obama Not a Citizen Appeals

    During the past six weeks, “individual justices and the entire” Supreme Court of the United States “have turned down emergency appeals” challenging President-Elect Barack Obama's “eligibility” to serve as President of the United States. According to The Associated Press, the justices have done so  “at least seven times.” See “Justice Kennedy rejects 2 more challenges to Obama.”

    According to the AP, “Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has rejected two more efforts to get the court to consider whether President-elect Barack Obama is eligible to take office.”

    In 2000, the court selected the disastrous President George W. Bush to be president following an election challenge by Democratic Presidential Candidate Albert Gore. See Bush v. Gore.

    By the way, I’m glad the justices are doing the right thing this time and staying out of presidential politics. And what’s the right thing? Refusing to grant a hearing for this nonsense.

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    December 7, 2008

    On Meet The Press, Obama Offers Views On Several International Issues

    CHICAGO, USA --During a December 7, 2008, appearance on Meet The Press, which was taped on December 6, 2008, in Chicago,  U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama discussed the state of U.S. and global economies, culture, U.S. political affairs and international affairs. The interview was conducted  by former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw, whose stint as an interim moderator on Meet The Press ended with the Obama interview.  NBC' Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory takes over as permanent host on December 14, 2008. He succeeds Tim Russert, who died on June 13, 2008.

    Below The Diplomatic Times Review highlights the foreign affairs section of the Meet The Press transcript of Mr. Brokaw's interview with Mr. Obama.


    MR. BROKAW:  I want to move now to international affairs, the war on terror. Obviously, we have all been stunned by what happened in India at Mumbai.  It is still playing out in that part of the world.  You have said that the United States reserves the right to go after terrorists in Pakistan if you have targets of opportunity.  Does India now also have that right of hot pursuit?

    PRES.-ELECT OBAMA:  Well, I'm not going to comment on that.  What, what I'm going to restate is a basic principle.image   Number one, if a country is attacked, it has the right to defend itself.  I think that's universally acknowledged. The second thing is that we need a strategic partnership with all the parties in the region--Pakistan and India and the Afghan government--to stamp out the kind of militant, violent, terrorist extremists that have set up base camps and that are operating in ways that threaten the security of everybody in the international community.  And, as I've said before, we can't continue to look at Afghanistan in isolation.  We have to see it as a part of a regional problem that includes Pakistan, includes India, includes Kashmir, includes Iran.  And part of the kind of foreign policy I want to shape is one in which we have tough, direct diplomacy combined with more effective military operations, focused on what is the number one threat against U.S. interests and U.S. lives.  And that's al-Qaeda and, and, and their various affiliates, and we are going to go after them fiercely in the years to come.


    MR. BROKAW:  President Zardari of Pakistan has said that he expects you to re-examine the American policy of using unmanned missiles for attacks on terrorist camps in Pakistan; and there have been civilian casualties in those attacks as well.  Are you re-examining that policy?

    PRES.-ELECT OBAMA:  Well, I--what I want to do is to create the kind of effective, strategic partnership with Pakistan that allows us, in concert, to assure that terrorists are not setting up safe havens in some of these border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  So far President Zardari has sent the right signals.  He's indicated that he recognizes this is not just a threat to the United States, but it is a threat to Pakistan as well.  There was a bombing in Pakistan just yesterday that killed scores of people, and so you're seeing greater and greater terrorist activity inside of Pakistan.  I think this democratically-elected government understands that threat, and I hope that in the coming months that we're going to be able to establish the kind of close, effective, working relationship that makes both countries safer.

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    Mugabe Should Liberate Zimbabweans From His Rule

    The Daily Nation of Kenya reported December 7, 2008, that, Kenyan "Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday petitioned the African Union to summon an urgent Heads of States summit to authorise the deployment of AU troops to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis," which has led some world leaders and news outlets to call for the immediate ouster of 84-year old President Robert Mugabe. See "Raila asks AU to send troops to Zimbabwe."

    Also see Al-Jazeera's December 7, 2008, article headlined "Calls grow for Mugabe to step down."

    As Ray Hartley, Editor of The Times of South Africa notes in a December 7, 2008, post headlined South Africa must lead the final assault on Mugabe:

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu, US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown and the Archbishop of York have all publicly called for the tyrant to be removed from office.

    But none of them suggests how this should be done. Regime change can look good on paper, but it can be a messy and dangerously destructive process in reality.

    According to The Associated Press (AP), Mr. Odinga said, "If no troops are available [for Zimbabwe], then the AU mustimage allow the U.N. to send its forces into Zimbabwe with immediate effect, to take over control of the country and ensure urgent humanitarian assistance to the people dying of cholera." See "Kenya PM says foreign troops must go to Zimbabwe."

    Notes the AP: Mr. "Odinga slammed other African leaders for being slow to criticize Zimbabwe, saying they had shamed the continent by treating Mugabe with "kid gloves" because Mugabe had supported their liberation struggles." According to Mr. Odinga:

    We refuse to accept the idea that African countries should be judged by lesser standards than other countries in the world. Participation in the liberation struggle is no license for anyone to own a country.

    Reuters reported December 7, 2008, that "Zimbabwe's government has accused former colonial ruler Britain of using a cholera epidemic to rally Western support for an invasion of the collapsing southern African nation, a state-run newspaper said on Sunday, December 7, 2008. See "UK plotting against Zimbabwe: Mugabe spokesman."

    According to The Sunday Mail of Zimbabwe: "Britain has no moral right to criticise Zim[babwe]":

    Not to be outdone, yesterday, British Prime Minister Mr Gordon Brown was mooting the idea of once again bringing Zimbabwe to the Security Council over the cholera epidemic.
    This is the unashamed view of the leader of a country that once colonised Zimbabwe and is responsible for the present collapsing water infrastructure designed for black residential areas.
    We would have expected Mr Brown to fight Zimbabwe’s cause at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to have its former colony assisted with development aid to update this water infrastructure.
    Paradoxically, this aid has been frozen at the instigation of Britain and her allies through the illegal sanctions they have imposed on Zimbabwe.

    Meanwhile, Mr. Mugabe continues to hold on to power as a cholera epidemic spreads, food supplies continue to dwindle and the Zimbabwean economy, like the global economy, is in shambles. See "UNICEF fears 60,000 possible cholera cases in Zimbabwe." Even some soldiers have begun to take to the streets in protest over a lack of pay. See "Army cracks down on dissent after anti-Mugabe rampage." The Zimbabwe government says Western sanctions are responsible for the cholera outbreak and the escalating food crisis.

    It probably would be wise for Mr. Mugabe to leave now before soldiers comes after him with guns blazing. Zimbabwe needs young blood, not an octogenarian who is only thinking about his own political survival. Mr. Mugabe helped liberate Zimbabwe from British colonial  and Rhodesian rule. Now he should liberate Zimbabweans from his rule.

    Note: The photo of Kenya Prime Minister Raila Odinga is from the World Economic Forum on Africa 2008. It is copyrighted by WEC under a Creative Commons under a share and share alike license and was posted in the World Economic Forum's Photo Stream on Flickr.

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