Showing posts tagged as "obama"

Showing posts tagged obama

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

20 Sep
Obama-Rohani Handshake at UN Holds Promise Amid Danger | Indira A.R. Lakshmanan & Kambiz Foroohar
Next week’s United Nations gathering in New York offers Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rohani the chance to take a symbolic step beyond the hostility and distrust that have infused three decades of U.S.-Iran relations.
A breakthrough in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and U.S.-backed economic sanctions is possible because of the new Iranian leader’s campaign to make over Iran’s image, marked by moves including the release of political prisoners and an exchange of letters with Obama.
Even a handshake between Obama and Rohani during the opening week of the UN General Assembly would be a milestone as the first direct encounter between the two nations’ leaders since relations ruptured during the 1979 Iranian revolution and U.S. embassy hostage crisis. It also would present risks and rewards for both sides.
FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg)
Photo: Rob Young/Flickr

Obama-Rohani Handshake at UN Holds Promise Amid Danger | Indira A.R. Lakshmanan & Kambiz Foroohar

Next week’s United Nations gathering in New York offers Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rohani the chance to take a symbolic step beyond the hostility and distrust that have infused three decades of U.S.-Iran relations.

A breakthrough in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and U.S.-backed economic sanctions is possible because of the new Iranian leader’s campaign to make over Iran’s image, marked by moves including the release of political prisoners and an exchange of letters with Obama.

Even a handshake between Obama and Rohani during the opening week of the UN General Assembly would be a milestone as the first direct encounter between the two nations’ leaders since relations ruptured during the 1979 Iranian revolution and U.S. embassy hostage crisis. It also would present risks and rewards for both sides.

FULL ARTICLE (Bloomberg)

Photo: Rob Young/Flickr

30 Aug
With Britain Out, Allies Abandon Obama on Syria | Nico Hines
If President Obama orders a military strike against Syria in the next few days, America will almost certainly be forced to act in isolation. The battle to secure a broad international coalition has collapsed in disarray as a swath of regular allies sought postponements or rejected the idea of firing missiles toward Damascus.
The drumbeats of war appeared to be strengthening in Washington, but recent partners from conflicts in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been backing away from direct involvement in the proposed military action against President Bashar al-Assad.
FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast) 
Photo: The Prime Minister’s Office/Flickr

With Britain Out, Allies Abandon Obama on Syria | Nico Hines

If President Obama orders a military strike against Syria in the next few days, America will almost certainly be forced to act in isolation. The battle to secure a broad international coalition has collapsed in disarray as a swath of regular allies sought postponements or rejected the idea of firing missiles toward Damascus.

The drumbeats of war appeared to be strengthening in Washington, but recent partners from conflicts in Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan have been backing away from direct involvement in the proposed military action against President Bashar al-Assad.

FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Beast) 

Photo: The Prime Minister’s Office/Flickr

16 Jul
US must not miss new opportunity to engage with Iran
by Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst
Squandering any opportunity for détente has been the norm in US-Iran relations during the past three decades. Iranians missed a major opening when President Obama came to power in 2009. Americans – especially as they meet with their allies in Brussels today to discuss next steps in nuclear negotiations with Tehran – should avoid a redux with Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani.
FULL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)
Photo: Mojtaba Salimi / Wikimedia Commons

US must not miss new opportunity to engage with Iran

by Ali Vaez, Senior Iran Analyst

Squandering any opportunity for détente has been the norm in US-Iran relations during the past three decades. Iranians missed a major opening when President Obama came to power in 2009. Americans – especially as they meet with their allies in Brussels today to discuss next steps in nuclear negotiations with Tehran – should avoid a redux with Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rouhani.

FULL ARTICLE (Christian Science Monitor)

Photo: Mojtaba Salimi / Wikimedia Commons

10 Jun
Next Up After U.S.-China Talks: The Details | Wall Street Journal
By Thomas Catan, Colleen McCain Nelson, and Jeremy Page
"There are a lot of broad statements and lofty hopes but the devil is always in the details," said Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Northeast Asia project director and China adviser for the International Crisis Group. "We’ll have to see what comes out of the strategic and economic dialogue and what changes we see on the ground in terms of China’s relationship with North Korea."
FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)
Photo: US Army MWR/Flickr

Next Up After U.S.-China Talks: The Details | Wall Street Journal

By Thomas Catan, Colleen McCain Nelson, and Jeremy Page

"There are a lot of broad statements and lofty hopes but the devil is always in the details," said Stephanie T. Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Northeast Asia project director and China adviser for the International Crisis Group. "We’ll have to see what comes out of the strategic and economic dialogue and what changes we see on the ground in terms of China’s relationship with North Korea."

FULL ARTICLE (Wall Street Journal)

Photo: US Army MWR/Flickr

6 Jun

Listen to Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s Senior Asia Advisor, discuss the US drone policy on The Kojo Nnamdi Show’s “Drones Divide US And Pakistan.”

21 May

President Obama is scheduled to deliver a speech on U.S. drone policy this Thursday. If you’d like to read up in advance, check out today’s report, Drones: Myths And Reality In Pakistan, which digs down into what the CIA-run program has truly achieved in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Photos: Flickr/Todd Huffman/Argonne National Laboratory

30 Apr

The Broader International Question: What To Do About Syria? | NPR Morning Edition

The Obama administration acknowledged last week that there’s evidence the Syrian government had used chemical weapons. President Obama warned Syria not to cross that “red line,” and now some Washington lawmakers are urging the president to take forceful action — including military intervention. Renee Montagne talks with Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa program director at the International Crisis Group, about Obama’s options in Syria.

NPR Morning Edition

Photo: Maggie Osama/Flickr

9 plays
Album Art
20 Nov
"The message is clear: Hey North Korea, see Burma emerging from international isolation to growing foreign investment, declining foreign military threats and perhaps even improving political stability? This could be you, if you would only, for example, “demonstrate a seriousness of purpose” on winding down the nuclear weapons program, as National Security Adviser Tom Donilon put it in a speech last week."

Obama’s message for North Korea in visiting Burma: Let’s make up | The Washington Post
By Max Fisher

19 Nov
Myanmar Facing Unfolding Crisis | CNN GPS 
Louise Arbour, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group
When U.S. President Barack Obama visits Myanmar in the next few days, he will encounter a country undergoing one of the most dramatic – and positive – transitions in recent memory, but one which also now faces an unfolding crisis of deeply disturbing proportions. The flare-up of mass violence in the western region of Rakhine State, in part a by-product of the country’s ongoing transformation, represents a backward step that hands the Southeast Asian nation’s government and its opposition leaders their toughest challenge yet.
Since March 2011, Myanmar has been enjoying a remarkable political transition. The country’s leaders have demonstrated the political will and the vision to move the country decisively away from the past.
President Thein Sein has declared the changes irreversible and worked to build a durable partnership with the opposition, in particular Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. While the process remains incomplete, much has been achieved: many political prisoners have been released, blacklists trimmed, freedom of assembly laws implemented, and media censorship abolished, not to mention last year’s by-elections, which saw Suu Kyi and her party enter parliament.
Even the country’s multiple internal ethnic conflicts seemed to be on a generally positive path. With ten major ceasefires signed, only a deal with the Kachin armed group remains elusive. While addressing the grievances underpinning these conflicts on the periphery remains the core goal, clearly securing ceasefires is a vital first step.
Then, in June, ethnic violence in Rakhine State disrupted this encouraging narrative. The alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by Muslim men was the trigger that led long simmering tensions between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya to explode. Dozens were killed, hundreds of houses were burned, and 75,000 mostly Rohingya were displaced by subsequent intercommunal violence in northern Rakhine State.
Widespread violence erupted again on October 21 in new areas of Rakhine State, bringing the number killed to about 140 and the total displaced to some 110,000. This latest round of violence consisted of attacks against not just Rohingya but also non-Rohingya Muslim communities, with indications that they were organized in advance by extremist elements.
Thus far, the government has been unable to fully contain the situation. Local authorities and security forces have in some cases acted in a partisan manner. Neither the authorities nor the national opposition have adequately challenged the extremist rhetoric fuelling the ethnic violence. It should be noted that the Rohingya for too long have been the pariah people of the region, enduring fierce discrimination in Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh, and scant support elsewhere, though the recent violence has triggered soundings of displeasure from a number of Asia’s Muslim-majority countries.
In part, tensions such as these are to be expected in a country emerging from authoritarian rule. Social friction can increase as more freedom allows long unaddressed issues to resurface. In Myanmar one can also see grassroots protests over land grabs and abuses by local authorities, as well as environmental and social concerns over foreign-backed infrastructure and mining projects.
Still, the mounting problem in Rakhine State is the primary concern. It is an extremely dangerous situation for a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Myanmar. Indeed, any further rupturing of intercommunal relations could threaten national stability.
Experience shows communal tensions can be exploited and inflamed for political gain. In particular, there is a real risk that the violence in Rakhine State will take on a more explicitly Buddhist-Muslim character, with the possibility of clashes spreading to the many other areas where there are minority Muslim populations.
The emergence of a “Buddhist solidarity” lobby around the Rakhine issue – with Buddhist monks and a segment of the Burman elite demonstrating in support of Rakhine Buddhists – does not augur well.
President Thein Sein has established an investigation commission with a broad mandate to examine the causes of the violence and the official response, and provide suggestions on how to resolve the situation and for reconciliation and the socioeconomic development of the area. Its work could be very important to define a way forward for Rakhine State and catalyze national reflection on the issue of identity and diversity in this multi-religious country.
If, however, the commission’s final report, expected in the coming months, is a diluted text that avoids controversial issues, or if it ends up reflecting a majority view that is seen as partisan and not conducive to reconciliation, the exercise will have done little to further the cause of peace.
The violence in Rakhine State represents a major test for the government as it seeks to maintain law and order without rekindling memories of the recent authoritarian past. It also represents a challenge for Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy to demonstrate a greater commitment, publicly and privately, to the fundamental rights of all those who live in Myanmar.
Above all, both government and opposition need to show moral leadership to calm the tensions and work for durable solutions to a problem that could threaten Myanmar’s reform process and the stability of the country.
Louise Arbour is President of the International Crisis Group.
(CNN GPS)
Photo: thaigov/Wikimedia Commons

Myanmar Facing Unfolding Crisis | CNN GPS 

Louise Arbour, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group

When U.S. President Barack Obama visits Myanmar in the next few days, he will encounter a country undergoing one of the most dramatic – and positive – transitions in recent memory, but one which also now faces an unfolding crisis of deeply disturbing proportions. The flare-up of mass violence in the western region of Rakhine State, in part a by-product of the country’s ongoing transformation, represents a backward step that hands the Southeast Asian nation’s government and its opposition leaders their toughest challenge yet.

Since March 2011, Myanmar has been enjoying a remarkable political transition. The country’s leaders have demonstrated the political will and the vision to move the country decisively away from the past.

President Thein Sein has declared the changes irreversible and worked to build a durable partnership with the opposition, in particular Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. While the process remains incomplete, much has been achieved: many political prisoners have been released, blacklists trimmed, freedom of assembly laws implemented, and media censorship abolished, not to mention last year’s by-elections, which saw Suu Kyi and her party enter parliament.

Even the country’s multiple internal ethnic conflicts seemed to be on a generally positive path. With ten major ceasefires signed, only a deal with the Kachin armed group remains elusive. While addressing the grievances underpinning these conflicts on the periphery remains the core goal, clearly securing ceasefires is a vital first step.

Then, in June, ethnic violence in Rakhine State disrupted this encouraging narrative. The alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by Muslim men was the trigger that led long simmering tensions between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya to explode. Dozens were killed, hundreds of houses were burned, and 75,000 mostly Rohingya were displaced by subsequent intercommunal violence in northern Rakhine State.

Widespread violence erupted again on October 21 in new areas of Rakhine State, bringing the number killed to about 140 and the total displaced to some 110,000. This latest round of violence consisted of attacks against not just Rohingya but also non-Rohingya Muslim communities, with indications that they were organized in advance by extremist elements.

Thus far, the government has been unable to fully contain the situation. Local authorities and security forces have in some cases acted in a partisan manner. Neither the authorities nor the national opposition have adequately challenged the extremist rhetoric fuelling the ethnic violence. It should be noted that the Rohingya for too long have been the pariah people of the region, enduring fierce discrimination in Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh, and scant support elsewhere, though the recent violence has triggered soundings of displeasure from a number of Asia’s Muslim-majority countries.

In part, tensions such as these are to be expected in a country emerging from authoritarian rule. Social friction can increase as more freedom allows long unaddressed issues to resurface. In Myanmar one can also see grassroots protests over land grabs and abuses by local authorities, as well as environmental and social concerns over foreign-backed infrastructure and mining projects.

Still, the mounting problem in Rakhine State is the primary concern. It is an extremely dangerous situation for a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Myanmar. Indeed, any further rupturing of intercommunal relations could threaten national stability.

Experience shows communal tensions can be exploited and inflamed for political gain. In particular, there is a real risk that the violence in Rakhine State will take on a more explicitly Buddhist-Muslim character, with the possibility of clashes spreading to the many other areas where there are minority Muslim populations.

The emergence of a “Buddhist solidarity” lobby around the Rakhine issue – with Buddhist monks and a segment of the Burman elite demonstrating in support of Rakhine Buddhists – does not augur well.

President Thein Sein has established an investigation commission with a broad mandate to examine the causes of the violence and the official response, and provide suggestions on how to resolve the situation and for reconciliation and the socioeconomic development of the area. Its work could be very important to define a way forward for Rakhine State and catalyze national reflection on the issue of identity and diversity in this multi-religious country.

If, however, the commission’s final report, expected in the coming months, is a diluted text that avoids controversial issues, or if it ends up reflecting a majority view that is seen as partisan and not conducive to reconciliation, the exercise will have done little to further the cause of peace.

The violence in Rakhine State represents a major test for the government as it seeks to maintain law and order without rekindling memories of the recent authoritarian past. It also represents a challenge for Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy to demonstrate a greater commitment, publicly and privately, to the fundamental rights of all those who live in Myanmar.

Above all, both government and opposition need to show moral leadership to calm the tensions and work for durable solutions to a problem that could threaten Myanmar’s reform process and the stability of the country.

Louise Arbour is President of the International Crisis Group.

(CNN GPS)

Photo: thaigov/Wikimedia Commons