Showing posts tagged as "United States"

Showing posts tagged United States

14 Aug
Engaging the enemy | The Economist
IN JUNE, when extremists from the Islamic State (IS) took over the Iraqi city of Mosul and hurtled south towards Baghdad, the Kurds in the north reacted with glee. They had no love for IS, a group which grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, later re-emerged in Syria and now operates in both countries. Indeed IS is sufficiently vile and disobedient, not to mention power hungry, that not even al-Qaeda likes it any more. But the Kurds saw its success as a deserved kick in the teeth for Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister. And if the fight with IS broke Iraq into sectarian pieces, semi-autonomous Kurdistan would achieve long-dreamed-of independence.
That sentiment disappeared at the beginning of August when, possibly as a result of resistance to the south, IS pivoted to take on the Peshmerga, the Kurdish armed forces. The Peshmerga number at least 120,000 and are reputed to be Iraq’s best-trained force. Before June IS was reckoned to have barely more than 10,000 fighters all told, though “they have doubled or tripled since this started,” according to Helgurd Hikmet of the Peshmerga. But the IS onslaught was brutal and well equipped, thanks to American hardware provided to the Iraqi government and then captured. Suicide-bombers were dispatched ahead of high-speed convoys; the troops showed an eagerness to die in battle rather than duck bullets. The Peshmerga admit that without American air strikes against IS, which started on August 8th, the fighting would have reached Erbil, their capital.
FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)
Photo: UK Department for International Development(DFID)/flickr

Engaging the enemy | The Economist

IN JUNE, when extremists from the Islamic State (IS) took over the Iraqi city of Mosul and hurtled south towards Baghdad, the Kurds in the north reacted with glee. They had no love for IS, a group which grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, later re-emerged in Syria and now operates in both countries. Indeed IS is sufficiently vile and disobedient, not to mention power hungry, that not even al-Qaeda likes it any more. But the Kurds saw its success as a deserved kick in the teeth for Nuri al-Maliki, the Shia prime minister. And if the fight with IS broke Iraq into sectarian pieces, semi-autonomous Kurdistan would achieve long-dreamed-of independence.

That sentiment disappeared at the beginning of August when, possibly as a result of resistance to the south, IS pivoted to take on the Peshmerga, the Kurdish armed forces. The Peshmerga number at least 120,000 and are reputed to be Iraq’s best-trained force. Before June IS was reckoned to have barely more than 10,000 fighters all told, though “they have doubled or tripled since this started,” according to Helgurd Hikmet of the Peshmerga. But the IS onslaught was brutal and well equipped, thanks to American hardware provided to the Iraqi government and then captured. Suicide-bombers were dispatched ahead of high-speed convoys; the troops showed an eagerness to die in battle rather than duck bullets. The Peshmerga admit that without American air strikes against IS, which started on August 8th, the fighting would have reached Erbil, their capital.

FULL ARTICLE (The Economist)

Photo: UK Department for International Development(DFID)/flickr

11 Aug
Amnesty slams US’ ‘poor record’ of probing civilian killings in Afghanistan | Gabriel Domínguez
"Three days after the attack, the commander invited us to the base and said please forgive us … We said we won’t forgive you. We told him we don’t need your money; we want the perpetrators to be put on trial. We want to bring you to court." These are the words of Mohammed Nabi, whose 20-year-old brother Gul was killed, together with four youths, in a helicopter strike near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on October 4, 2013.
Mohammed is one of the 125 Afghan victims, family members and eyewitnesses to attacks which resulted in civilian casualties. He was interviewed by the rights group Amnesty international (AI) for its report Left in the Dark. The document, released on Monday, August 11 in Kabul, examines the record of accountability for civilian deaths caused by international military operations between 2009 and 2013.
FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)
Photo: The U.S. Army/flickr

Amnesty slams US’ ‘poor record’ of probing civilian killings in Afghanistan | Gabriel Domínguez

"Three days after the attack, the commander invited us to the base and said please forgive us … We said we won’t forgive you. We told him we don’t need your money; we want the perpetrators to be put on trial. We want to bring you to court." These are the words of Mohammed Nabi, whose 20-year-old brother Gul was killed, together with four youths, in a helicopter strike near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on October 4, 2013.

Mohammed is one of the 125 Afghan victims, family members and eyewitnesses to attacks which resulted in civilian casualties. He was interviewed by the rights group Amnesty international (AI) for its report Left in the Dark. The document, released on Monday, August 11 in Kabul, examines the record of accountability for civilian deaths caused by international military operations between 2009 and 2013.

FULL ARTICLE (Deutsche Welle)

Photo: The U.S. Army/flickr

7 Aug
U.S.-Iran Seek Fresh Momentum in Extra-Time Nuclear Talks | Jonathan Tirone
U.S. and Iranian diplomats are meeting to inject fresh momentum into nuclear negotiations after differences over the Persian Gulf nation’s future uranium enrichment forced negotiators to seek extra time.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the No. 2 ranked U.S. diplomat, will lead talks with his Iranian counterparts in Geneva today, the State Department said late yesterday. Iran and world powers pledged to keep talking after they failed to clinch a long-term deal following 16 days of negotiations in Vienna last month.
“After a 2 1/2-week break it’s time for the negotiations to get back on track,” Ellie Geranmayeh, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview. The sides “made it clear that during the extension period they would meet in different formations.”
FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg Businessweek)
Photo: European External Action Service/flickr

U.S.-Iran Seek Fresh Momentum in Extra-Time Nuclear Talks | Jonathan Tirone

U.S. and Iranian diplomats are meeting to inject fresh momentum into nuclear negotiations after differences over the Persian Gulf nation’s future uranium enrichment forced negotiators to seek extra time.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, the No. 2 ranked U.S. diplomat, will lead talks with his Iranian counterparts in Geneva today, the State Department said late yesterday. Iran and world powers pledged to keep talking after they failed to clinch a long-term deal following 16 days of negotiations in Vienna last month.

“After a 2 1/2-week break it’s time for the negotiations to get back on track,” Ellie Geranmayeh, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said in an interview. The sides “made it clear that during the extension period they would meet in different formations.”

FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Photo: European External Action Service/flickr

5 Aug
Pentagon confronts militant dilemma in Africa | William Wallis in Washington and Katrina Manson in Nairobi
The hum of US drones is becoming more familiar over African skies.
From Nigeria to Somalia, US military presence on the continent is a creeping reality. US troops may be thin on the ground, with the Pentagon preferring to rely on training and financial support to allied forces, but special forces are now operating at any given moment.
The trend has its most recent roots in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks on the US, when US officials scoured the globe for “ungoverned spaces” with the potential, like Afghanistan, to foster anti-American extremists. Several African countries cropped up on the radar, notably Somalia. In the semi-desert underbelly of the Sahara, Mali was identified among other weak states vulnerable to jihadi influence spreading south from the Maghreb. Nigeria, too, soon featured in assessments of threats.
These were either prescient musings by US spies or a self-fulfilling prophecy coaxed partly into reality by US meddling – there are subscribers to both camps. Either way, Islamist extremism in Africa has metastasised just as the Pentagon and the CIA assessments predicted.
FULL ARTICLE (Financial Times)
Photo: United States Marine Corps/flickr

Pentagon confronts militant dilemma in Africa | William Wallis in Washington and Katrina Manson in Nairobi

The hum of US drones is becoming more familiar over African skies.

From Nigeria to Somalia, US military presence on the continent is a creeping reality. US troops may be thin on the ground, with the Pentagon preferring to rely on training and financial support to allied forces, but special forces are now operating at any given moment.

The trend has its most recent roots in the aftermath of the September 2001 attacks on the US, when US officials scoured the globe for “ungoverned spaces” with the potential, like Afghanistan, to foster anti-American extremists. Several African countries cropped up on the radar, notably Somalia. In the semi-desert underbelly of the Sahara, Mali was identified among other weak states vulnerable to jihadi influence spreading south from the Maghreb. Nigeria, too, soon featured in assessments of threats.

These were either prescient musings by US spies or a self-fulfilling prophecy coaxed partly into reality by US meddling – there are subscribers to both camps. Either way, Islamist extremism in Africa has metastasised just as the Pentagon and the CIA assessments predicted.

FULL ARTICLE (Financial Times)

Photo: United States Marine Corps/flickr

29 Jul
American aid to Israel doesn’t seem to buy any leverage. Why? | Zack Beauchamp 
It’s been a bad year for US diplomacy in Israel-Palestine. Both major pushes by Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate some kind of deal — first the Palestinian Authority-Israel peace framework negotiations in mid-2014, then a Hamas-Israel ceasefire this weekend — have failed. About 24 hours after Kerry’s proposed cease fire fell apart, Kerry was still defending his approach from fierce Israeli and Palestinian criticism.
The US, it turns out, does not have quite as much ability to nudge its Israeli allies as you might think. The United States failed to get a permanent settlement freeze in 2009, couldn’t get Israelis to agree to a framework for peace negotiations the Palestinians would accept (and vice versa), and hasn’t made any headway on the “immediate ceasefire" in Gaza that President Obama has repeatedly called for. This all seems strange on the surface: the US is a superpower, provides about $3 billion in aid to Israel every year, and uses its veto to protect Israel at the United Nations when no one else will. So why hasn’t the US been able to force Israel to see things its way? Why does it appear to have so little leverage?
FULL ARTICLE (VOX)
Photo: Matty Ster/flickr

American aid to Israel doesn’t seem to buy any leverage. Why? | Zack Beauchamp 

It’s been a bad year for US diplomacy in Israel-Palestine. Both major pushes by Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate some kind of deal — first the Palestinian Authority-Israel peace framework negotiations in mid-2014, then a Hamas-Israel ceasefire this weekend — have failed. About 24 hours after Kerry’s proposed cease fire fell apart, Kerry was still defending his approach from fierce Israeli and Palestinian criticism.

The US, it turns out, does not have quite as much ability to nudge its Israeli allies as you might think. The United States failed to get a permanent settlement freeze in 2009, couldn’t get Israelis to agree to a framework for peace negotiations the Palestinians would accept (and vice versa), and hasn’t made any headway on the “immediate ceasefire" in Gaza that President Obama has repeatedly called for. This all seems strange on the surface: the US is a superpower, provides about $3 billion in aid to Israel every year, and uses its veto to protect Israel at the United Nations when no one else will. So why hasn’t the US been able to force Israel to see things its way? Why does it appear to have so little leverage?

FULL ARTICLE (VOX)

Photo: Matty Ster/flickr

24 Apr
Analyst Q&A: Obama’s Agenda for Asia Visit | Daniel Schearf
President Obama is in Japan Thursday at the start of a four-country visit in East Asia reassuring U.S. allies of its commitment to security and stability in the region as part of the so-called “Asia pivot” or “re-balance.” The trip was delayed last year because of U.S. political fighting over budget issues. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are expected to dominate talks in Japan and South Korea as there are indications Pyongyang is preparing its fourth nuclear test. China’s increasingly assertive moves on disputed territory are also expected to be discussed as some worry Beijing may follow Russia’s lead in Crimea by using force to take back historic claims. VOA spoke with the Deputy Director for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, Daniel Pinkston, on these issues via Skype.
FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of America)

Analyst Q&A: Obama’s Agenda for Asia Visit | Daniel Schearf

President Obama is in Japan Thursday at the start of a four-country visit in East Asia reassuring U.S. allies of its commitment to security and stability in the region as part of the so-called “Asia pivot” or “re-balance.” The trip was delayed last year because of U.S. political fighting over budget issues. North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are expected to dominate talks in Japan and South Korea as there are indications Pyongyang is preparing its fourth nuclear test. China’s increasingly assertive moves on disputed territory are also expected to be discussed as some worry Beijing may follow Russia’s lead in Crimea by using force to take back historic claims. VOA spoke with the Deputy Director for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, Daniel Pinkston, on these issues via Skype.

FULL INTERVIEW (Voice of America)

25 Feb
Central African Republic: Making the Mission Work | Thierry Vircoulon and Thibaud Lesueur
By failing to engage when Crisis Group and others warned that the Central African Republic had become a phantom state, the international community has now had to become much more heavily involved, at much greater expense, after horrifying loss of life and massive displacement, with much greater odds of failure. The new CAR government (the third in one in a year) looks promising and the capital, Bangui, enjoys slightly more security. Yet the international response continues to be riven by divisions, most notoriously between the African Union and the UN. CAR’s new president has called for a UN peacekeeping mission and Chad, an important regional player which initially opposed this option, now agrees. The Security Council has itself approved a European Union mission, soon to be deployed. But peacekeepers (EU and otherwise) must be guided by a stabilisation strategy that is coherent, comprehensive and meets the needs of CAR not just in the short-term but over the long haul.
crisisgroupblogs.org
PHOTO:REUTERS/Camille Lepage

Central African Republic: Making the Mission Work | Thierry Vircoulon and Thibaud Lesueur

By failing to engage when Crisis Group and others warned that the Central African Republic had become a phantom state, the international community has now had to become much more heavily involved, at much greater expense, after horrifying loss of life and massive displacement, with much greater odds of failure. The new CAR government (the third in one in a year) looks promising and the capital, Bangui, enjoys slightly more security. Yet the international response continues to be riven by divisions, most notoriously between the African Union and the UN. CAR’s new president has called for a UN peacekeeping mission and Chad, an important regional player which initially opposed this option, now agrees. The Security Council has itself approved a European Union mission, soon to be deployed. But peacekeepers (EU and otherwise) must be guided by a stabilisation strategy that is coherent, comprehensive and meets the needs of CAR not just in the short-term but over the long haul.

crisisgroupblogs.org

PHOTO:REUTERS/Camille Lepage

1 Nov
UN Should Mandate Unhindered Humanitarian Access To and Within Syria
The U.S.-Russian agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal has led many observers to hope for a political breakthrough.  A more immediate and realistic objective,  as well as a more reliable yardstick by which to measure various parties’ good-will, should be on the humanitarian front, where the situation is deteriorating rapidly and relentlessly.  As the conflict’s third winter fast approaches, it is past time for this to become a priority and for all involved – the Syrian authorities, but also the rebels and the two sides’ respective sponsors – to take steps to relieve the civilian population’s intolerable and entirely man-made suffering. 
There is more than one paradox.  Even as chemical weapons inspectors enjoy unhindered access to some of the country’s most sensitive locations, UN humanitarian aid cannot reach civilians in besieged areas.  This is true even only a few miles from the international organisation’s offices in Damascus, where the regime deliberately and systematically starves people in a new tactic of modern war. Regime troops that are holding on to pockets of territory in remote parts of the country suffer a similar fate at rebel hands. 
Likewise, even as borders remain wide open to foreign fighters, weapons deliveries and cash transfers – whether in support of the opposition or the regime – the flow of humanitarian aid routinely is inhibited or blocked.  Reasons abound: UN unwillingness to circumvent the regime, which in turn prohibits cross-border assistance to rebel-held areas; the regime’s cynical use of aid, incompetence and red-tape in handling foreign assistance; Western ambivalence at working with the regime; opposition radicalisation and fragmentation; the reluctance of neighbouring states to have their territory serve as a logistical base for international NGOs; the global economic slowdown which reduces available funds; and the behaviour of countries most deeply involved in the conflict – notably Iran, Russia, and Gulf Arab states – whose enthusiasm in backing the war effort is not matched on the humanitarian front. Europe, which has every reason to fear that Syrians fleeing violence and poverty will ultimately wash up on its shores, has been unimaginative in finding ways of helping them before they depart the region.
The need for outside assistance is all the greater insofar as the parties in conflict have done so little on their own to care for the civilians they at one point purported to be protecting.  This is particularly true of the regime which, despite emphasising the state’s sovereignty and integrity, has abdicated most state responsibilities.  It focuses exclusively on a struggle for survival and treats large segments of its population as if they no longer were civilians and citizens but rather enemies to be destroyed at any cost and by all means. For its part, the exiled opposition – although it claims the right to replace the regime – essentially has ignored the urgent task of providing humanitarian aid and basic services to so-called liberated zones.  This in turn has contributed to the disruption of their social fabric, weakening of activist networks and empowerment of radical armed groups more focused on accruing resources for themselves than providing for civilians around them.
All this must end. If, as some claim, the diplomatic and political climate has changed sufficiently to make compromise even remotely possible, the first gauge of such a shift must be swift and tangible progress on the humanitarian front. 
A first priority must be adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution calling on all parties to guarantee safe, full and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including through cross-border operations if and when provision of urgent humanitarian aid proves impossible from within Syria. The resolution should include establishment of a monitoring mechanism to name and – optimally – sanction any party that resorts to starvation as a war tactic or hinders, steals or diverts humanitarian assistance.    
There is much else that can and should be done.  But this action is long overdue.  All it requires is for the Security Council to demonstrate the same unity of purpose with which it addressed Syria’s chemical arsenal and for Russia in particular to implement in practice the commitment it repeatedly voices to the well-being of Syria’s citizens.
crisisgroup.org

UN Should Mandate Unhindered Humanitarian Access To and Within Syria

The U.S.-Russian agreement to remove Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal has led many observers to hope for a political breakthrough.  A more immediate and realistic objective,  as well as a more reliable yardstick by which to measure various parties’ good-will, should be on the humanitarian front, where the situation is deteriorating rapidly and relentlessly.  As the conflict’s third winter fast approaches, it is past time for this to become a priority and for all involved – the Syrian authorities, but also the rebels and the two sides’ respective sponsors – to take steps to relieve the civilian population’s intolerable and entirely man-made suffering. 

There is more than one paradox.  Even as chemical weapons inspectors enjoy unhindered access to some of the country’s most sensitive locations, UN humanitarian aid cannot reach civilians in besieged areas.  This is true even only a few miles from the international organisation’s offices in Damascus, where the regime deliberately and systematically starves people in a new tactic of modern war. Regime troops that are holding on to pockets of territory in remote parts of the country suffer a similar fate at rebel hands. 

Likewise, even as borders remain wide open to foreign fighters, weapons deliveries and cash transfers – whether in support of the opposition or the regime – the flow of humanitarian aid routinely is inhibited or blocked.  Reasons abound: UN unwillingness to circumvent the regime, which in turn prohibits cross-border assistance to rebel-held areas; the regime’s cynical use of aid, incompetence and red-tape in handling foreign assistance; Western ambivalence at working with the regime; opposition radicalisation and fragmentation; the reluctance of neighbouring states to have their territory serve as a logistical base for international NGOs; the global economic slowdown which reduces available funds; and the behaviour of countries most deeply involved in the conflict – notably Iran, Russia, and Gulf Arab states – whose enthusiasm in backing the war effort is not matched on the humanitarian front. Europe, which has every reason to fear that Syrians fleeing violence and poverty will ultimately wash up on its shores, has been unimaginative in finding ways of helping them before they depart the region.

The need for outside assistance is all the greater insofar as the parties in conflict have done so little on their own to care for the civilians they at one point purported to be protecting.  This is particularly true of the regime which, despite emphasising the state’s sovereignty and integrity, has abdicated most state responsibilities.  It focuses exclusively on a struggle for survival and treats large segments of its population as if they no longer were civilians and citizens but rather enemies to be destroyed at any cost and by all means. For its part, the exiled opposition – although it claims the right to replace the regime – essentially has ignored the urgent task of providing humanitarian aid and basic services to so-called liberated zones.  This in turn has contributed to the disruption of their social fabric, weakening of activist networks and empowerment of radical armed groups more focused on accruing resources for themselves than providing for civilians around them.

All this must end. If, as some claim, the diplomatic and political climate has changed sufficiently to make compromise even remotely possible, the first gauge of such a shift must be swift and tangible progress on the humanitarian front. 

A first priority must be adoption by the UN Security Council of a resolution calling on all parties to guarantee safe, full and unhindered access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including through cross-border operations if and when provision of urgent humanitarian aid proves impossible from within Syria. The resolution should include establishment of a monitoring mechanism to name and – optimally – sanction any party that resorts to starvation as a war tactic or hinders, steals or diverts humanitarian assistance.    

There is much else that can and should be done.  But this action is long overdue.  All it requires is for the Security Council to demonstrate the same unity of purpose with which it addressed Syria’s chemical arsenal and for Russia in particular to implement in practice the commitment it repeatedly voices to the well-being of Syria’s citizens.

crisisgroup.org

19 Jul
Govt says in process of appointing envoys to US, UK | Mariana Baabar
“We will see these two posts fill up very soon,” says one official who also confesses that he is clueless about the choices of the government. The Foreign Office too is in the dark and so far no consultations have taken place, nor recommendations requested.
FULL ARTICLE (The International News)
Photo: US Department of State/Wikimedia Commons

Govt says in process of appointing envoys to US, UK | Mariana Baabar

“We will see these two posts fill up very soon,” says one official who also confesses that he is clueless about the choices of the government. The Foreign Office too is in the dark and so far no consultations have taken place, nor recommendations requested.

FULL ARTICLE (The International News)

Photo: US Department of State/Wikimedia Commons

2 Dec
U.S. Challenges in a Changed Middle East | Council on Foreign Relations
by Bernard Gwertzman
The events in the Middle East continue to rapidly unfold, providing difficulties for U.S. policy in the region, whether it is the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine, the rise of Islamists, the conflict in Syria, or tensions with Iran. Middle East expert Robert Malley says, “With Islamists in power in Egypt, with Hamas more powerful than it was the last time it was at war with Israel [2008-09], the United States is trying to figure out its place in a region that is no longer the one it was accustomed to.” And in Syria, although a negotiated end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime is preferable, “unfortunately, it almost certainly is not the most likely” way the conflict will end. He says the United States is conflicted over accepting Egyptian help in ending the recent Israel-Hamas attacks while it is also uncomfortable with the domestic policies of the Muslim Brotherhood.
FULL ARTICLE (Council on Foreign Relations)
Photo: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr

U.S. Challenges in a Changed Middle East | Council on Foreign Relations

by Bernard Gwertzman

The events in the Middle East continue to rapidly unfold, providing difficulties for U.S. policy in the region, whether it is the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine, the rise of Islamists, the conflict in Syria, or tensions with Iran. Middle East expert Robert Malley says, “With Islamists in power in Egypt, with Hamas more powerful than it was the last time it was at war with Israel [2008-09], the United States is trying to figure out its place in a region that is no longer the one it was accustomed to.” And in Syria, although a negotiated end to Bashar al-Assad’s regime is preferable, “unfortunately, it almost certainly is not the most likely” way the conflict will end. He says the United States is conflicted over accepting Egyptian help in ending the recent Israel-Hamas attacks while it is also uncomfortable with the domestic policies of the Muslim Brotherhood.

FULL ARTICLE (Council on Foreign Relations)

Photo: Talk Radio News Service/Flickr