December 2009 Archives

December 31, 2009

Pakistan: ‘Coalition Forces Shouldn’t Leave Afghanistan in Haste’

Abdul Basit, Pakistan’s Foreign Office (FO) spokesman, told journalist on December 30, 2009, that “The decision to leave Afghanistan should be taken when the country is able to look after itself effectively.” See “Coalition should not leave Afghanistan in haste, says FO.” According to Pakistan Daily Times reporter Sajjad Malik, Mr. Basit said:

Stability and peace in Afghanistan is in our strategic interest. We are therefore engaged with the US in ensuring that the new US Afghan policy delivers. Coalition forces should not leave Afghanistan in haste. There are some concerns and we are in talks with the US over these concerns.

Mr. Basit also said, according to Mr. Mailk: “We hope that our concerns (regarding Indian interference) will be taken seriously because we do not want this region to destabilise. Should this interference continue, I am afraid things will not improve.”

Basit said “these concerns had been discussed with Kabul and other relevant countries several times,” according to the Daily Times report.

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CIA Deaths a Successful Taliban Intelligence Operation

Tom Coghlan, Times Online, January 1, 2010: “The Taleban have infinitely smaller resources. But their successful strike within a CIA base indicates that their own intelligence operation can also hit its mark.” See “CIA caught in dirty and secretive war against al-Qaeda on Afghan border.”

Links On This Topic

President Obama's Letter to CIA EmployeesABC White House News Team, Political Punch, ABC Blog, USA

CIA's darkest day: Eight killed in Afghanistan -- Toby Harnden, The Telegraph, UK

CIA agents killed in Afghanistan were in Taliban's backyard – Mark Sappenfield, The Christian Science Monitor, USA

How Will the Killing of 7 Agents Affect the CIA? – Benjamin F. Carlson, The Atlantic Wire (blog), USA

For CIA, Afghan attack a historic blow -- Shaun Tandon, Agence France Presse, France

Assassinated CIA agents worked for "contractor" active in Venezuela – Eva Golinger, VHeadline.com, Venezuela

Terror and the west: A decade of misjudgment – Editorial, The Guardian, UK

The CIA Takes a Big Hit in the Afghan War - – Bobby Ghosh, Time, USA

Panetta on CIA losses –- Ben Smith, Politico, USA

Taliban infiltrator who killed 7 from CIA wore Afghan uniform –- Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Washington Bureau, USA

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December 30, 2009

The Question Israelis Don’t Want To Ask

Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner raises an important question for Israelis in a December 30, 2009, post headlined “Rattling the Cage: A taboo question for Israelis.” He writes:

There's a question we Israelis won't ask ourselves about the Palestinians, especially not about Gaza. The question is taboo. Not only won't anyone ask it out loud, but very, very few people will dare ask it in the privacy of their own minds.

However, I think it's time we start asking it, privately and in public. If we don't, I think there's going to be Operation Cast Lead II, then Operation Cast Lead III, and each one is going to be worse than the last, and the consequences for Palestinians and Israelis are going to be unimaginable.

The question we have to ask ourselves is this: If anybody treated us like we're treating the people in Gaza, what would we do?

“We don't want to go there, do we?” Mr. Derfner asks. “And because we don't, we make it our business not to see, hear or think about how, indeed, we are treating the people in Gaza.”

It’s an article I think everyone should read regardless of one’s opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian question. The question could just as well apply to the U.S. role in Iraq. For example, what would we do if another country invaded the U.S. the way the U.S. invaded Iraq, without provocation or just cause. What we do if an occupier caused the deaths of thousands of Americans? Would we accept the humiliation of being occupied? I doubt it.

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Angela Merkel’s ‘Wild Boys’

“Seasoned German foreign policy experts, such as the head of the Bundestag's foreign affairs committee, Ruprecht Polenz, are beginning to worry about Chancellor Angela Merkel's ”wild boys,” reports the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (German Wave) on its an online news site.

"If there are differences in opinion, successful diplomacy consists of not making them worse by using a rough tone”, Polenz told the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger daily, according to Deutsche Welle.

The publication said, Mr. Polenz “was first and foremost referring to the German foreign, defense  and environment ministers, all relatively young and seemingly unruly cabinet members who've chosen to fire some broadsides at the US administration in recent days and weeks.”

If you wan to read more, please see “Berlin cabinet ministers ruffle US feathers.”

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Will 2010 See A Major Shift In U.S.-Cuba Relations?

“Relations between Cuba and the United States are still bogged down in longstanding political and ideological differences, in spite of the signals of greater openness and opportunities for dialogue when Democratic U.S. President Barack Obama arrived at the White House,” writes Patricia Grogg in a December 29, 2009, post at Inter Press Service (IPS) headlined “CUBA-US: Stuck at a Standstill.”

Grogg list several moves the Obama Administration has made to improve ties with Cuba but noted that, “initial perceptions that Obama could be the president to bring about a shift in Cuba policy appear to have changed, only a few weeks before the first anniversary of his inauguration in January.”

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December 28, 2009

Lee Hamilton: Tensions Between U.S., Japan Won’t Alter Relationship

“Despite recent tension, the U.S.-Japanese security alliance is, and will remain, a fixture of the international order, American foreign policy, and Japanese foreign policy,” maintains former U.S. Representative Lee H. Hamilton, currently the director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington and director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University.

Mr. Hamilton said, “Changes in the relationship's dynamics now taking place should not be mistaken for its implosion or even deterioration, but rather viewed in their historical and political context.”

He makes a compelling argument. See “A new U.S.-Japan order,” published December 28, 2009, in The Indianapolis Star.

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When Did The U.S. Become Involved In Afghanistan?

Former New York Times reporter and prolific author Stephen Kinzer reports in a December 28, 2009, article in the Guardian’s informative Comment is Free blog that, “This week marks the 30th anniversary of the fateful decision, little noted at the time, that drew the US into its Afghanistan quagmire. If the current Afghan crisis can be said to have begun at any single moment, it was in the last week of 1979,” Mr. Kinzer contends.

He explains how and why at “The moment that changed Afghanistan.”

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For Obama, Afghanistan ‘Adds Up to a Pretty Ominous Picture in 2010’

While Denis Staunton, foreign editor of The Irish Times, thinks “much disillusionment” with U.S. President Barack Obama’s foreign policy “is born of unrealistic expectations,” Irish Times Foreign Affairs Correspondent Mary Fitzgerald thinks the U.S. military involvement in in Afghanistan and Pakistan “all adds up to a pretty ominous picture for 2010 – a year few doubt will prove a defining moment for the now firmly entwined fortunes of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and one newly garlanded Nobel Peace laureate.” See Fitzgerald’s December 29, 2009, post headlined “Ghosts of failed empires could emerge from 'graveyard' to haunt US president.”

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Should U.S. Afghan Strategy Focus on Quality of Life?

Stanley A. Weiss, founding chairman of Washington, D.C-based Business Executives for National Security, writing in the December 28, 2009, Los Angeles Times:

The Obama administration has outlined a three-pronged strategy in Afghanistan, focusing on security, governance and economic development. But the implementation of those elements has been woefully lopsided. Since 2002, 93% of the $170 billion the United States has committed to Afghanistan has gone to military operations.
Weiss said, “As the country prepares to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, we also need to focus on providing a surge in the quality of life for the Afghan people.”

If you want to read the entire post, please see “Afghanistan strategy should also focus on improving quality of life.”

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‘The West Is Never Tired Of Hurling Threats’ at Muslim Nations

image “Whether it is Pakistan, Iran or any other Muslim country, the West is never tired of hurling threats to them,” argues Ashraf Javed in the December 28, 2009, post in the Pakistan publication The Nation headlined “Brazen threats: An instrument of US foreign policy.”

Does he have a point? What do you think? Is there a double standard when it comes to Israel and Muslim nations?

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Do You Remember Eugene Hasenfus?

I highly recommend a December 27, 2009, post at Daily Kos headlined “Blast from the Past. Gene Hasenfus: December 1986.” It is about an event I’d forgotten about but readily recalled once I read the article, which notes that:

Twenty-three years ago, a complete unknown sprang into the international lime-light. His name was  Eugene Hasenfus. Shot down Oct. 5, 1986, while kicking crated cargo to anti-government terrorists from a CIA plane over the back-country of Nicaragua, his capture by Sandinista militiamen led to the exposure of what would become known as the Iran-contra affair. Three other crewmen died in the crash, but Hasenfus, against orders, had borrowed his skydiver brother’s parachute and, luckily for him – his name in German means "rabbit’s foot" – it opened. He landed in a jungle where he would manage to evade a Sandinista militia patrol for less than 24 hours. Upon his arrival at the Managua airport, a Sandinista soldier smiled and asked the sunburned, grime-caked Hasenfus, "What now, Rambo?" With this auspicious event began what should have been the complete unraveling of the Reagan administration.

Meteor Blade, writer of the article, adds: “When it came to Central America, that administration, with its ex-CIA Vice President and neo-conservative hatchlings making their early moves to dominate U.S. foreign policy, no deceit was spared the American people. Whether it was Guatemala, El Salvador or Nicaragua, we had your bold-faced lies, crafty lies, lies of the I-don’t-recall variety, revised memorandum lies, exaggerations, omissions, official misstatements, prevarications, phony redefinitions and historical revisions. Not to mention perjury.”

By the way, Hasenfus sued Richard Secord, Albert Hakim, Southern Air Transport (SAT) and Corporate Air Services (CAS)his employers and handlers in the Nicaraguan affair.” He lost but appealed the verdict.

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December 27, 2009

Obama's Foreign Policy Decisions Loom Large Outside U.S.

“To those examining [U.S. President Barack] Obama's performance from outside the United States, it is understandably the foreign policy-related decisions which loom largest in his first-year record,” according to an editorial in the December 26, 2009, Sydney Morning Herald of Australia. The publication adds:

The decision to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay - though drawn out and delayed - has ended a stain on the US human rights record. Washington's re-engagement with the rest of the world and its renewed acceptance of the multilateral architecture of diplomacy, ending George W. Bush's unilateralism, has been welcomed in Western countries with almost childlike eagerness. The premature award of the Nobel Peace Prize is a measure of that. In his acceptance speech Obama conceded as much, and acknowledged the irony of being a recipient who had just ordered more troops to war in Afghanistan.
The Herald said, “Equally significant, though, was his reassertion of the United States' renewed desire to lead not only by authority and power, but by example.”

If you want to read the entire editorial, please see “After Obama's first year, things can only get better.”

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Was Copenhagen Really a Disaster?

Freelance writer Mark Lynas’ December 22, 2009, post in the Guardian headlined “How do I know China wrecked the Copenhagen deal? I was in the room” continues to reverberate as evidenced by expert commentary in the December 28, 2009 edition of the Guardian under the headline “Copenhagen: time to stop the finger-pointing.” The accusation that’s generating commentary reads:

Copenhagen was a disaster. That much is agreed. But the truth about what actually happened is in danger of being lost amid the spin and inevitable mutual recriminations. The truth is this: China wrecked the talks, intentionally humiliated Barack Obama, and insisted on an awful "deal" so western leaders would walk away carrying the blame. How do I know this? Because I was in the room and saw it happen.
The Guardian published contrary, expert, opinion on the same day Lynas’ opinion appeared. This commentary was under the heading “Copenhagen climate deal: Spectacular failure - or a few important steps?

On December 28, 2009, the Guardian published additional opinion by notables who disagree with Lynas. Among them were John Prescott, Council of Europe climate change rapporteur; Dr. Simon Lewis, Earth and Biosphere Institute, University of Leeds; and Professor Graham Martin, University of Birmingham. There is more opinion here.

I think the climate debate will go on for years. But that’s ok as long as efforts to address global warming aren’t stymied by endless talk.

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The French Government Must Get a Grip on Reality

“It seems that the targeting of Muslims and Islam has become a kind of national theatre in France,” asserts Palestinian-American journalist Ramzy Baroud, editor of Palestine Chronicle.com, in a post in the December 24-30, 2009 Al Ahram Weekly. “Unlike theatre, however, the disturbing trend can and will turn ugly -- in fact to a degree it already has -- if the image French government doesn't get a grip on reality.”

Mr. Baroud contends that, “The world, including France, is a complex, multifaceted and fascinatingly diverse place; it cannot be co-opted to fit national specificities determined by a group of irritable far right racists with distorted interpretations of themselves and others.”

If you want to read more of Mr. Baroud’s argument, please see “Paying for Europe's identity crisis.”

By the way, I’ve often wondered did former European colonial powers foresee the day that the descendants of those they once colonized would flock their shores the way the colonials did in Algeria, Morocco, India, etc. Will those former colonial powers one day be less European and more more African, Arab, Caribbean and Muslim?

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Operation Cast Lead One Year Later

Jeremy R. Hammond, “an independent journalist and editor of Foreign Policy Journal, notes in a December 27, 2009, article in The Palestine  Chronicle that, “One year ago today, Israel launched 'Operation Cast Lead', a murderous full-scale military assault on the small, densely populated, and defenseless Gaza Strip. The operation resulted in the massacre of over 1,300 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, including hundreds of children.”

For more of Hammond’s opinion, see “War on Gaza: Operation Cast Lead One Year Later.”

Additional Commentary

Was Israel's Gaza offensive worth it? – Gideon Levy, Ha'aretz, Israel

Operation Cast Lead: Verdict – Uri Avnery, Arab News, Saudi Arabia

The anniversary of the Operation Cast Lead - Maria Velikanova, Ukrainian Globalist, Ukraine

One Year On, Gaza -  Siun, FiredogLake, USA

Life-Saving Weaponry - Jonatan Urich, Israel Defense Forces, Israel

Gaza's civilians still unable to rebuild one year after 'Operation Cast Lead'Amnesty International, UK

The Gaza I Know – Nancy Murray, The Nation, USA

IDF, Foreign Ministry hold seminar to boost Israel's image – Yaakov Katz, The Jerusalem Post, Israel

Gaza Freedom March: The Siege Has to End - Bianca Zammit, The Palestine Chronicle, Gaza

Technorati Tags:
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Negotiations Have to Start With Respect

Aviad Glickman, writing at ynetnews.com, December 27, 2009 -- “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been calling on the Palestinians now and again to return to the negotiating table, but Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman views them as "terrorists who are not mature enough to sign a peace agreement which will end the conflict."

For details, please see “Lieberman: No Turkish mediation as long as I'm in office.”

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Japan Speaking Out On Israeli Settlements

“Japan has been speaking out recently on the matter of Israeli settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank Palestinian territory,” asserts John McGlynn, “a Tokyo-based independent foreign policy and financial analyst and an Asia-Pacific Journal associate in an article in Japan Focus. “At almost the same time,” he adds, “a senior official of the Palestinian Authority was in Tokyo seeking support from the Japanese government for a possible change in Palestinians tactics in their struggle for self-determination and statehood.”

If you want to read more, please see “Japan, Israeli Settlements, and the Future of a Palestinian State.” John McGlynn, "Japan, Israeli Settlements, and the Future of a Palestinian State," The Asia-Pacific Journal, 52-1-09, December 28, 2009.

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Abdul-Mutallab’s Father: ‘I Am Really Disturbed’

This Day of Nigeria has a informative, December 27, 2009,  article that offers background on Abdulfarouk Umar Abdulmutallab, the 23-year old Nigerian who reportedly tried to blow up NorthWest Airlines Flight 253 arriving in Michigan, USA, from Amsterdam on December 25, 2009. See “Mutallab's Son Charged With Attempted Bombing in U.S.”

Also see “Umaru Mutallab's Son Identified As Delta Airline Attempted Bomber.”

Addition Links to This Development

Nigerian plotter used same explosive as shoe bomberThe Telegraph, UK

Why did US let Abdulmutallab get on a plane to Detroit?The Christian Science Monitor, USA

Detroit attack: terrorist once again confounds airport securityThe Christian Science Monitor, USA

Gibbs: Potus has asked for review of watch listsPolitico, USA

Abdulmutallab: 'Good-looking, bright and heading for the top. What a waste'The Independent, UK

Nigerian in aircraft attack linked to London mosque - The Independent, UK

Suspect's Privileged Existence Took a Radical TurnThe Wall Street Journal, USA

Nigeria bomber's home town blames foreign schooling Reuters, Australia

Yemen, UAE links in Detroit Terrorism AttackInformed Comment, USA

Salon Radio Transcript: Gregory JohnsenSalon, USA   

A new normal in flying?Spector Vision Blog, Canada

Security Problems Appear To Increase Everywhere But AfghanistanThe Huffington Post, USA

Airline bomb plot: At war with the worldGuardian, UK

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FPA Blogs Offers Insightful Year in Review Briefings

The Foreign Policy Association (FPA), which has been around since 1918, produces some of the best foreign policy and world affairs blogs around. They  are written by seasoned bloggers and experts such as Chicago’s Brandon Henander, who writes the War Crimes blog, and Patrick Frost who explores Afghan domestic and international politics in a blog called Afghanistan

image if you didn’t keep up with international affairs and diplomacy during the year, just reading the “Year in Review” for FPA network blogs such as Bangladesh, Central Asia, Climate Change, Cuba, Energy and Natural Resources, Global Engagement, Global Food Security, Human Rights, India, Iran, Israel, Latin America, Law and Security Strategy, MexicoMigration, Pakistan, Philanthropy, Public Diplomacy, Rising Powers, Russia, The Arctic, Transitional States, U.S. Defense and Venezuela, will allow you to hold a decent conversation in any salon or gathering of students and experts on international affairs.

The blogs also offer a prediction on what will be hot in 2010. My prediction is that blogs such as the above and sites such as GlobalPost, Just Foreign Policy, Just World News and The Diplomatic Times Review will become go to sites as global conflicts and efforts to find solutions to those conflicts drive Americans to blogs and aggregators such as the previously referenced.

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December 2, 2009

Obama’s Fears About the Cost of the Afghan War

The Los Angeles Times’ Doyle McManus, writing in a December 2, 2009, analysis of President Barack Obama’s December 1, 2009, address to the world about the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, makes this revelation:

Over lunch in the White House library a few hours before the speech, Obama spoke passionately to a small group of journalists about his fears that the cost of the war could obstruct his ambitious domestic agenda the way the Vietnam War wrecked Lyndon Johnson's programs.


"I am painfully clear that this is politically unpopular, precisely because the American people are rightly focused on how do we rebuild America," he said. "I would prefer not having to deal with two wars right now, because we've got a lot of other business we've got to do.”

“I'm interested in nation-building here in the United States right now," he said. "We cannot afford another trillion dollars" in war spending.”

Mr. McManus added: “And he sounded understandably frustrated by his choices in Afghanistan. "None of this is easy," he said. "We are choosing from a menu of options that are less than ideal."

For more, please see “Obama's Afghanistan strategy counts on time as an ally.”

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