Showing posts tagged as "post conflict reconstruction"

Showing posts tagged post conflict reconstruction

29 May
Arbour: NATO’s disturbing reliance on drones | Newsday 
By Louise Arbour
NATO leaders meeting in Chicago Sunday and Monday unveiled a program to expand the use of unmanned aerial vehicles — drones — to confront the security threats of the future and make better use of tighter budgets.
Used first for surveillance, and increasingly for strikes, drones have considerable operational attraction. But killing with these stealth weapons stretches legal boundaries to the breaking point, and alienates people in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, countries in which neither NATO nor the United States are actually fighting wars — unless we count the “war on terror” as having opened the entire world as a battlefield.
NATO’s attraction to drones is understandable. They are relatively cheap, can be deployed quickly in inhospitable terrain over vast distances, and help keep troops out of harm’s way. But this push-button solution to warfare poses very real risks to civilians, especially as targeting criteria deteriorate to the point where a special rapporteur to the United Nations has described them as a “vaguely defined license to kill.”
Louise Arbour is president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group, an independent organization committed to resolving deadly conflict.
FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy via Newsday) 
Photo: Enemenemu/ Wikimedia Commons

Arbour: NATO’s disturbing reliance on drones | Newsday 

By Louise Arbour

NATO leaders meeting in Chicago Sunday and Monday unveiled a program to expand the use of unmanned aerial vehicles — drones — to confront the security threats of the future and make better use of tighter budgets.

Used first for surveillance, and increasingly for strikes, drones have considerable operational attraction. But killing with these stealth weapons stretches legal boundaries to the breaking point, and alienates people in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, countries in which neither NATO nor the United States are actually fighting wars — unless we count the “war on terror” as having opened the entire world as a battlefield.

NATO’s attraction to drones is understandable. They are relatively cheap, can be deployed quickly in inhospitable terrain over vast distances, and help keep troops out of harm’s way. But this push-button solution to warfare poses very real risks to civilians, especially as targeting criteria deteriorate to the point where a special rapporteur to the United Nations has described them as a “vaguely defined license to kill.”

Louise Arbour is president and chief executive of the International Crisis Group, an independent organization committed to resolving deadly conflict.

FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy via Newsday) 

Photo: Enemenemu/ Wikimedia Commons

4 May
Foreign Policy | The Accidental Peacemaker
China did something very unusual in the United Nations this week: It did not abstain from, much less veto, a resolution threatening to impose sanctions unless Sudan stopped killing civilians in South Sudan. China has long treated Sudan as a client state, and it stood by Khartoum during the long years when Western powers tried to stop the atrocities the regime was committing in Darfur. Yet, after a discussion that a Security Council diplomat described as “substantive but not acrimonious,” China voted for Resolution 2046, which demands that both Sudan and South Sudan put an end to cross-border attacks and return to negotiations.
China has not, of course, become a convert to human rights, as the current standoff over activist Chen Guangcheng proves all too vividly. Nor is it having second thoughts about its foundational foreign-policy doctrine of “nonintervention,” which has made China the defender of authoritarian regimes the world over. A recent report on Chinese foreign policy by the British group Saferworld concludes that “At least for now, non-interference, stable regimes and stable relations that are conducive to maintaining China’s global economic engagement, will retain precedence in guiding Beijing’s diplomatic relations with conflict-affected states.”
But something important has happened: Facing a situation in which the principle of nonintervention doesn’t tell it what to do, China has been forced to join the United States and other countries, as well as the African Union, in actively trying to end a brutal conflict. China has supported Sudan over the last decade because Sudan supplied China with oil. Last year, however, when South Sudan became independent, Khartoum lost most of its oil-producing territory. China immediately began courting the new country with visits from senior officials and a blizzard of proposed investment deals. Only last week, while South Sudanese President Salva Kiir was in Beijing, China announced an $8 billion loan to the new country to build major infrastructure projects. But though South Sudan has most of the oil, Sudan has the pipelines and the refining equipment. So China needs both countries — and the rising spiral of violence between them, provoked largely though not wholly by Khartoum, has forced China to get off the sidelines.
FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy)

Foreign Policy | The Accidental Peacemaker

China did something very unusual in the United Nations this week: It did not abstain from, much less veto, a resolution threatening to impose sanctions unless Sudan stopped killing civilians in South Sudan. China has long treated Sudan as a client state, and it stood by Khartoum during the long years when Western powers tried to stop the atrocities the regime was committing in Darfur. Yet, after a discussion that a Security Council diplomat described as “substantive but not acrimonious,” China voted for Resolution 2046, which demands that both Sudan and South Sudan put an end to cross-border attacks and return to negotiations.

China has not, of course, become a convert to human rights, as the current standoff over activist Chen Guangcheng proves all too vividly. Nor is it having second thoughts about its foundational foreign-policy doctrine of “nonintervention,” which has made China the defender of authoritarian regimes the world over. A recent report on Chinese foreign policy by the British group Saferworld concludes that “At least for now, non-interference, stable regimes and stable relations that are conducive to maintaining China’s global economic engagement, will retain precedence in guiding Beijing’s diplomatic relations with conflict-affected states.”

But something important has happened: Facing a situation in which the principle of nonintervention doesn’t tell it what to do, China has been forced to join the United States and other countries, as well as the African Union, in actively trying to end a brutal conflict. China has supported Sudan over the last decade because Sudan supplied China with oil. Last year, however, when South Sudan became independent, Khartoum lost most of its oil-producing territory. China immediately began courting the new country with visits from senior officials and a blizzard of proposed investment deals. Only last week, while South Sudanese President Salva Kiir was in Beijing, China announced an $8 billion loan to the new country to build major infrastructure projects. But though South Sudan has most of the oil, Sudan has the pipelines and the refining equipment. So China needs both countries — and the rising spiral of violence between them, provoked largely though not wholly by Khartoum, has forced China to get off the sidelines.

FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy)

The New York Times | Bosnia Still Needs Fixing
IN the Bosnian city of Mostar, a beautiful Ottoman-era limestone bridge called the Stari Most arched over the Neretva River for 427 years, surviving earthquakes and two world wars. After a barrage of shelling in 1993, during the Bosnian civil war, the bridge collapsed. Citizens were stranded on opposite sides of the riverbank. Ethnic strain wasn’t the cause. It was the effect. Across the country, the war itself was dividing citizens into three ethno-nationalist clusters: Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks). Twenty years after the war began, and 17 years after the Dayton accords brought the fighting to an end, the bridge stands again, and a shallow peace prevails.
But now, the compromises we made to end the killing increasingly look inadequate, and it’s time to begin fixing them.
Mostar is still split: the west bank is primarily Croat, the east Bosniak. It is one city, but it has separate universities, postal services, health care systems and phone networks — and it can’t agree on how to elect a city council. Political institutions that were supposed to reconcile a divided society are ineffective; ethnic quotas at all levels of government breed nepotism; children study in classes divided according to their parentage; economic development has stagnated. And the populace feels angry and hopeless about the future.
Meanwhile, the international community has mostly turned its back on its own handiwork.
The 1995 Dayton agreement ended the worst bloodletting in Europe since World War II. The warring factions were brought together only with enormous pressures and incentives from the outside, including military strikes and the promise that other countries would continue to enforce the peace and extend economic assistance. The agreement provided for early elections and set up an unusual political structure, but it was imperfect. We knew that then.
Still, it was the best we could achieve, and, as the late Richard C. Holbrooke said at the time, the most important thing was to stop the killing.
In retrospect, we can see how some of Bosnia’s difficulties are our own fault. Early on, we had too simply labeled the violence as a clash of ethnic groups, roughly equal in their responsibilities to reconcile, when in fact they had been manipulated toward war primarily by Serbian nationalist leaders. We had ignored Bosnia’s experience before 1992, when its citizens from different ethnic groups were very often friends, colleagues, neighbors and spouses — and even during the war, when there were immeasurable acts of generosity across the ethnic divides. Had we outsiders realized that the violence was not inevitable, and had we been willing to name Serbs as the primary aggressors early in the war, NATOforces could have intervened much earlier and saved tens of thousands of lives.
But we came in late, and by the time we did, hatred and fighting had shaped the political and military balances we had to work with. That produced an agreement that institutionalized ethnicity as the deciding factor in political and social identity. It divided power and representation according to whether citizens were Bosniaks, Serbs or Croats, leaving little room to organize along other lines — for example, gender and level of urbanization.
Today, as set out at Dayton, Bosnia’s presidency is a triumvirate; each of the three members must be identified with one of the so-called constituent peoples. This slows down decision making and excludes minorities, as well as the large number of Bosnians who don’t identify with one of the major groups. In fact, two would-be presidential contenders, a Roma and a Jew, won a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in 2009 that required constitutional revisions that would give neglected minorities equal opportunities to serve in government. Three years later, that reform is still being debated by Bosnian political leaders, who owe their positions to the status quo.
Dayton also divided the country itself into two separate statelets — a Bosniak-Croat federation and a Serb republic — governed by the same legislature and presidency. At the time, many Bosnian women’s groups, religious leaders, civil society activists and students warned that the arrangement wouldn’t work because the country historically had been integrated. But they weren’t at the negotiating table; only those with the power to fight or to lay down their weapons were invited.
In retrospect, perhaps we could have done better to engage politically unrepresented groups who craved stability, so that they could sit alongside those who knew how to fight.
The compromises at Dayton stopped the killing, but also helped perpetuate the ethnic chauvinism, fear and greed that had set it off. And now, the international community bears some responsibility to keep Bosnia from ever relapsing into violence. We also must help Bosnians fashion a better political system, one that promotes national unity, effective decision making and democratic participation.
Three moves would make a huge difference.
First, the American and European governments must help Bosnia change the Constitution we helped create.
Second, after the Constitution has been revised, the European Union should reward Bosnia by granting it membership. Serbia, after all, was given candidate status — a critical step toward full membership — in March, and Croatia is scheduled to become a full member next year. Europe should also extend more financial and technical assistance to implement the reforms needed to re-establish a pluralistic society and secure candidate status for Bosnia (which the European Union treats as a “potential candidate” for membership).
Third, NATO needs to offer the country a clear path for joining the alliance; it will have an opportunity to do so later this month when NATO holds a summit meeting in Chicago. Many Bosnians of all ethnicities look at membership in NATO as a guarantee of security, prosperity and stability. In addition, the military is the one Bosnian institution in which ethnic differences have mattered least; recently, when Serbian veterans’ benefits were cut, Bosniak veterans raised money to give to the people who once fought against them.
We also need to encourage and support the kind of moderate high-level and grass-roots leaders we overlooked during the negotiations 20 years ago. They are the real heroes of the war — and of the peace.
One such person is Kada Hotic, a leader of Bosnian Muslim survivors of the war. Only last June, she was finally able to bury three small bones — the only remains that could be identified of her son, who died in the infamous massacre of Muslims by Serbian fighters in 1995.
Yet Ms. Hotic offers: “Maybe one day we can close the story of war and move toward genuine reconciliation. Everyone has suffered. When those men killed my son, they killed themselves. I forgive them, and so I live.”
 Co-written by Wesley K. Clark, a retired Army general and former supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe, a board member at the International Crisis Group. 
ARTICLE (The New York Times) 
Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev/ Wikimedia Commons

The New York Times | Bosnia Still Needs Fixing

IN the Bosnian city of Mostar, a beautiful Ottoman-era limestone bridge called the Stari Most arched over the Neretva River for 427 years, surviving earthquakes and two world wars. After a barrage of shelling in 1993, during the Bosnian civil war, the bridge collapsed. Citizens were stranded on opposite sides of the riverbank. Ethnic strain wasn’t the cause. It was the effect. Across the country, the war itself was dividing citizens into three ethno-nationalist clusters: Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks). Twenty years after the war began, and 17 years after the Dayton accords brought the fighting to an end, the bridge stands again, and a shallow peace prevails.

But now, the compromises we made to end the killing increasingly look inadequate, and it’s time to begin fixing them.

Mostar is still split: the west bank is primarily Croat, the east Bosniak. It is one city, but it has separate universities, postal services, health care systems and phone networks — and it can’t agree on how to elect a city council. Political institutions that were supposed to reconcile a divided society are ineffective; ethnic quotas at all levels of government breed nepotism; children study in classes divided according to their parentage; economic development has stagnated. And the populace feels angry and hopeless about the future.

Meanwhile, the international community has mostly turned its back on its own handiwork.

The 1995 Dayton agreement ended the worst bloodletting in Europe since World War II. The warring factions were brought together only with enormous pressures and incentives from the outside, including military strikes and the promise that other countries would continue to enforce the peace and extend economic assistance. The agreement provided for early elections and set up an unusual political structure, but it was imperfect. We knew that then.

Still, it was the best we could achieve, and, as the late Richard C. Holbrooke said at the time, the most important thing was to stop the killing.

In retrospect, we can see how some of Bosnia’s difficulties are our own fault. Early on, we had too simply labeled the violence as a clash of ethnic groups, roughly equal in their responsibilities to reconcile, when in fact they had been manipulated toward war primarily by Serbian nationalist leaders. We had ignored Bosnia’s experience before 1992, when its citizens from different ethnic groups were very often friends, colleagues, neighbors and spouses — and even during the war, when there were immeasurable acts of generosity across the ethnic divides. Had we outsiders realized that the violence was not inevitable, and had we been willing to name Serbs as the primary aggressors early in the war, NATOforces could have intervened much earlier and saved tens of thousands of lives.

But we came in late, and by the time we did, hatred and fighting had shaped the political and military balances we had to work with. That produced an agreement that institutionalized ethnicity as the deciding factor in political and social identity. It divided power and representation according to whether citizens were Bosniaks, Serbs or Croats, leaving little room to organize along other lines — for example, gender and level of urbanization.

Today, as set out at Dayton, Bosnia’s presidency is a triumvirate; each of the three members must be identified with one of the so-called constituent peoples. This slows down decision making and excludes minorities, as well as the large number of Bosnians who don’t identify with one of the major groups. In fact, two would-be presidential contenders, a Roma and a Jew, won a ruling in the European Court of Human Rights in 2009 that required constitutional revisions that would give neglected minorities equal opportunities to serve in government. Three years later, that reform is still being debated by Bosnian political leaders, who owe their positions to the status quo.

Dayton also divided the country itself into two separate statelets — a Bosniak-Croat federation and a Serb republic — governed by the same legislature and presidency. At the time, many Bosnian women’s groups, religious leaders, civil society activists and students warned that the arrangement wouldn’t work because the country historically had been integrated. But they weren’t at the negotiating table; only those with the power to fight or to lay down their weapons were invited.

In retrospect, perhaps we could have done better to engage politically unrepresented groups who craved stability, so that they could sit alongside those who knew how to fight.

The compromises at Dayton stopped the killing, but also helped perpetuate the ethnic chauvinism, fear and greed that had set it off. And now, the international community bears some responsibility to keep Bosnia from ever relapsing into violence. We also must help Bosnians fashion a better political system, one that promotes national unity, effective decision making and democratic participation.

Three moves would make a huge difference.

First, the American and European governments must help Bosnia change the Constitution we helped create.

Second, after the Constitution has been revised, the European Union should reward Bosnia by granting it membership. Serbia, after all, was given candidate status — a critical step toward full membership — in March, and Croatia is scheduled to become a full member next year. Europe should also extend more financial and technical assistance to implement the reforms needed to re-establish a pluralistic society and secure candidate status for Bosnia (which the European Union treats as a “potential candidate” for membership).

Third, NATO needs to offer the country a clear path for joining the alliance; it will have an opportunity to do so later this month when NATO holds a summit meeting in Chicago. Many Bosnians of all ethnicities look at membership in NATO as a guarantee of security, prosperity and stability. In addition, the military is the one Bosnian institution in which ethnic differences have mattered least; recently, when Serbian veterans’ benefits were cut, Bosniak veterans raised money to give to the people who once fought against them.

We also need to encourage and support the kind of moderate high-level and grass-roots leaders we overlooked during the negotiations 20 years ago. They are the real heroes of the war — and of the peace.

One such person is Kada Hotic, a leader of Bosnian Muslim survivors of the war. Only last June, she was finally able to bury three small bones — the only remains that could be identified of her son, who died in the infamous massacre of Muslims by Serbian fighters in 1995.

Yet Ms. Hotic offers: “Maybe one day we can close the story of war and move toward genuine reconciliation. Everyone has suffered. When those men killed my son, they killed themselves. I forgive them, and so I live.”

 Co-written by Wesley K. Clark, a retired Army general and former supreme allied commander of NATO in Europe, a board member at the International Crisis Group. 

ARTICLE (The New York Times) 

Photo: Mikhail Evstafiev/ Wikimedia Commons

30 Apr
The Daily Mirror | UK Concerned over HR in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was named as a country of concern in the UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2011, which was launched by the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague today.The report said that the human rights picture in Sri Lanka in 2011 was mixed. The Sri Lankan government continued to focus on post-conflict reconstruction, including the resettlement of civilians displaced during the 30-year civil war, and has made progress reintegrating former LTTE fighters back into society. Commenting on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) report, the report stated that, it made wide-ranging recommendations including on ongoing human rights issues, which the Sri Lankan government committed to consider.  In December, the Sri Lankan Cabinet approved the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (NHRAP).  Human rights nonetheless remained a serious concern.  At year end, significant progress was still needed to address the institutional weaknesses that allow for frequent human rights violations.  Terrorist suspects continued to be held without charge for long periods.  There were restrictions on freedom of expression, political violence, reports of torture in custody, further cases of disappearances and almost no progress in investigating past disappearances.  No concrete progress was made in holding accountable those alleged to be responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the war.
FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Mirror) 
Photo: lkmal/Flickr

The Daily Mirror | UK Concerned over HR in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka was named as a country of concern in the UK Foreign Office Human Rights Report for 2011, which was launched by the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague today.

The report said that the human rights picture in Sri Lanka in 2011 was mixed. The Sri Lankan government continued to focus on post-conflict reconstruction, including the resettlement of civilians displaced during the 30-year civil war, and has made progress reintegrating former LTTE fighters back into society. 

Commenting on the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) report, the report stated that, it made wide-ranging recommendations including on ongoing human rights issues, which the Sri Lankan government committed to consider.  In December, the Sri Lankan Cabinet approved the National Action Plan for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights (NHRAP).  Human rights nonetheless remained a serious concern.  At year end, significant progress was still needed to address the institutional weaknesses that allow for frequent human rights violations.  Terrorist suspects continued to be held without charge for long periods.  There were restrictions on freedom of expression, political violence, reports of torture in custody, further cases of disappearances and almost no progress in investigating past disappearances.  No concrete progress was made in holding accountable those alleged to be responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the war.

FULL ARTICLE (The Daily Mirror

Photo: lkmal/Flickr

VOA | Mali Youth Group Warns Against Inaction Against Rebels in North
Nearly one month after northern Mali fell to Tuareg rebels and Islamic groups, youth activists say the country’s failure to act combined with a push by the armed groups to win people’s favor is creating a dangerous and irreversible situation. They say beyond the physical division of Mali, the continued occupation threatens to permanently divide a people.Members of a new youth coalition say unless the Malian state takes concrete steps immediately to show people in the north that they have not been forgotten, the fallout from the occupation will be dangerous and long-lasting.Feelings of abandonment
It’s just short of a month since Tuareg rebels and allied Islamic groups took over Mali’s three northern regions - Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.  While political leaders and the military junta have said that no job is more urgent than resolving the situation in the north, this resident of Timbuktu said even if leaders are working on the problem behind the scenes, the people are seeing no concrete signs, so they are left to conclude that they have been abandoned.
FULL ARTICLE (VOA)

VOA | Mali Youth Group Warns Against Inaction Against Rebels in North

Nearly one month after northern Mali fell to Tuareg rebels and Islamic groups, youth activists say the country’s failure to act combined with a push by the armed groups to win people’s favor is creating a dangerous and irreversible situation. They say beyond the physical division of Mali, the continued occupation threatens to permanently divide a people.

Members of a new youth coalition say unless the Malian state takes concrete steps immediately to show people in the north that they have not been forgotten, the fallout from the occupation will be dangerous and long-lasting.

Feelings of abandonment

It’s just short of a month since Tuareg rebels and allied Islamic groups took over Mali’s three northern regions - Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu.  While political leaders and the military junta have said that no job is more urgent than resolving the situation in the north, this resident of Timbuktu said even if leaders are working on the problem behind the scenes, the people are seeing no concrete signs, so they are left to conclude that they have been abandoned.

FULL ARTICLE (VOA)

Reuters | Mali junta rejects West African troop deployment
Mali’s junta said on Friday it would resist any deployment of West African soldiers in the country and treat foreign forces sent there under a regional plan as “the enemy”.
The comments came a day after regional bloc ECOWAS said it would send troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau to tackle the aftermath of coups that, in the case of Mali, has left more than half the country in rebel hands.
"We will not accept any ECOWAS soldiers on our territory. This is non-negotiable. Any soldier who comes will be seen as the enemy," Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for Mali’s CNRDRE junta, told Reuters by telephone.
FULL ARTICLE (Reuters) 
Photo: Magharebia/Flickr

Reuters | Mali junta rejects West African troop deployment

Mali’s junta said on Friday it would resist any deployment of West African soldiers in the country and treat foreign forces sent there under a regional plan as “the enemy”.

The comments came a day after regional bloc ECOWAS said it would send troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau to tackle the aftermath of coups that, in the case of Mali, has left more than half the country in rebel hands.

"We will not accept any ECOWAS soldiers on our territory. This is non-negotiable. Any soldier who comes will be seen as the enemy," Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for Mali’s CNRDRE junta, told Reuters by telephone.

FULL ARTICLE (Reuters) 

Photo: Magharebia/Flickr

Foreign Policy | Our Man in Baghdad
Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, has a remarkable ability to make enemies. As Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group puts it, “Personal relations between everyone and Maliki are terrible.” This gift was vividly displayed in March, when the annual meeting of the Arab League was held in Baghdad. Although the event was meant to signal Iraq’s re-emergence as a respectable country after decades of tyranny and bloodshed, leaders of 10 of the 22 states, including virtually the entire Gulf, refused to attend out of pique at Maliki’s perceived hostility to Sunnis both at home and abroad, turning the summit into a vapid ritual. The only friend Iraq has left in the neighborhood is Shiite Iran, which seems intent on reducing its neighbor to a state of subservience.
It’s true that Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbors, as it was under Saddam Hussein. In that narrow respect, the U.S. invasion has made the Middle East a safer place, though at an unspeakable cost in Iraqi and American lives. But the hopes that Bush administration officials once entertained — that a post-Saddam Iraq, perhaps guided by a secular figure like the émigré opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi, would serve as a stabilizing, pro-American force for the region — now look patently absurd. Maliki never had much interest in being a friend of the United States, and the departure of U.S. troops has allowed him to forget about it altogether.
What Iraq looks like today is an Iranian cat’s paw. At the Arab League meeting, Iraqi diplomats blocked any effort to take robust action against Syria or even use tough language, thus advancing Iran’s agenda at the expense of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which advocate arming the rebels seeking to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Immediately after the meeting ended, Maliki dashed to Tehran to confer with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Almost every Iraq expert I’ve ever talked to agrees that Maliki is an Iraqi nationalist who squirms under the Iranian thumb. But that’s where he finds himself today. The question is why.
FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy) 

Foreign Policy | Our Man in Baghdad

Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister of Iraq, has a remarkable ability to make enemies. As Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group puts it, “Personal relations between everyone and Maliki are terrible.” This gift was vividly displayed in March, when the annual meeting of the Arab League was held in Baghdad. Although the event was meant to signal Iraq’s re-emergence as a respectable country after decades of tyranny and bloodshed, leaders of 10 of the 22 states, including virtually the entire Gulf, refused to attend out of pique at Maliki’s perceived hostility to Sunnis both at home and abroad, turning the summit into a vapid ritual. The only friend Iraq has left in the neighborhood is Shiite Iran, which seems intent on reducing its neighbor to a state of subservience.

It’s true that Iraq is no longer a threat to its neighbors, as it was under Saddam Hussein. In that narrow respect, the U.S. invasion has made the Middle East a safer place, though at an unspeakable cost in Iraqi and American lives. But the hopes that Bush administration officials once entertained — that a post-Saddam Iraq, perhaps guided by a secular figure like the émigré opposition leader Ahmad Chalabi, would serve as a stabilizing, pro-American force for the region — now look patently absurd. Maliki never had much interest in being a friend of the United States, and the departure of U.S. troops has allowed him to forget about it altogether.

What Iraq looks like today is an Iranian cat’s paw. At the Arab League meeting, Iraqi diplomats blocked any effort to take robust action against Syria or even use tough language, thus advancing Iran’s agenda at the expense of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which advocate arming the rebels seeking to unseat Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Immediately after the meeting ended, Maliki dashed to Tehran to confer with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Almost every Iraq expert I’ve ever talked to agrees that Maliki is an Iraqi nationalist who squirms under the Iranian thumb. But that’s where he finds himself today. The question is why.

FULL ARTICLE (Foreign Policy) 

(Source: foreignpolicy.com)

24 Apr
Lost in Transition: The World According to Egypt’s SCAF
Middle East/North Africa Report N°12124 Apr 2012
Since it assumed power after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been, at times, head-scratching. Extolled in the wake of the uprising as the revolution’s protector, many have come to view it as an agent of the counter-revo­lu­tion. It often has been obstinate, before abruptly yielding to pressure. It values its long ties with Washington, from which it receives much assistance, but seemed willing to jeopardise them by targeting U.S.-funded NGOs. Suspected by Islamists of seeking to deprive them of opportunity to govern and by non-Islamists of entering a secret pact with the Muslim Brotherhood, it finds itself in the worst of both worlds: an angry tug-of-war with liberal protesters and a high-wire contest with Islamists. It displays little interest in governing, wishing instead to protect privileges, but erratic behaviour threatens even that. On the eve of presidential elections that have become a high-stakes free-for-all, the SCAF should take a step back and, with the full range of political actors, agree on principles for a genuine and safe political transition.
What has the SCAF been thinking? Understanding the Egyptian military’s mindset is difficult and requires modesty in reaching conclusions. At the core of the SCAF’s outlook is the conviction that its principal complaints against the Mubarak regime – the slide toward hereditary government; the excesses of neoliberal policies; ostentatious corruption by networks associated with the president’s family – faithfully reflected the public’s. Once it had ousted the president, it follows, it felt it had accomplished the revolution’s goals. As a corollary, the SCAF was and is inclined to view any who continued to protest after Mubarak’s fall as serving either their own narrow self-interests or, worse, those of foreign powers (read: the U.S.) aiming to weaken and fragment a proud Arab nation. No doubt, the latter notion has been a tool used by the SCAF to discredit its critics; but it would be a mistake to see it as that alone, for it is also a deeply-held belief within the military.
As a corollary to the corollary, the SCAF considers itself the sole actor possessing the experience, maturity and wisdom necessary to protect the country from domestic and external threats. In contrast, virtually all political parties are regarded with scorn, self-centred in their demands, narrow-minded in their behaviour. The Muslim Brotherhood stands as an exception of sorts, treated by the military with guarded respect. But it is a respect born of the long-term, hard-fought battle waged against an outlawed organisation that faced decades of persecution. Because the Brotherhood represents the only organised political force with which it must contend, the SCAF has treated it seriously – which does not mean sympathetically.
The interests the SCAF wishes to defend are a mix of the national and more parochial, but insofar as the military is persuaded it alone can protect Egypt, it has a tendency to conflate its well-being with that of the country. With the spread of internal insecurity, volatility in the Sinai and uncertainty in Libya and Sudan, it hardly sees this as a time to trust untested civilians. But it also hardly sees this as a time for others to challenge its privileged status – such as a secret budget sheltered from civilian oversight; de facto immunity from prosecution; and vast business ventures that affect key sectors of the economy. It almost certainly has no wish to remain in the political spotlight, governing the nation and thus blamed for what inevitably will be a taxing period of social and economic distress. But nor does it intend to be sidelined, lose its self-ascribed role as guarantor of constitutional legitimacy, be stripped of its economic privileges or see political institutions in the hands of a single (Islamist) party. Its objective is to stay in the background yet remain an arbitrator; and shun the limelight even as it retains decisive influence.
The trouble is that virtually all the SCAF has been doing and that has occurred since it took power has placed that objective further out of reach. Playing secularists against Islamists and Islamists against secularists alienated both. After a period of at least implicit understanding, the two leading forces – the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood – appear locked in a zero-sum game. The degree of uncertainty is striking. Egyptians elected a parliament and are scheduled to choose a president without enjoying either well-defined or commonly accepted powers. The committee due to oversee the drafting of a new constitution, which already had lost much of its credibility, has been suspended by court order. The issue of civil-military relations, at the centre of controversy both before and after the uprising, remains open. Of greatest concern, perhaps, is the risk the transitional process, despite having checked all the boxes (parliamentary and presidential elections and a new constitution), will end up doing so in ways that undermine the new institutions’ legitimacy, yield an unstable political system and fail to resolve any of Egypt’s many questions.
From the SCAF’s perspective, this cannot be welcome news. Its goal, from the outset, was to preserve what it could from the previous system for the sake of continuity, restore normalcy, marginalise a protest movement it viewed with considerable suspicion as well as both work with and contain the Islamists. Not only are the odds for success declining by the day; in the process, it also increasingly is alienating a range of political forces while diminishing its leverage and capacity to pursue its goals.
Given growing political polarisation, the presidential election has become pivotal. Fearing that the military would impose a strong presidential system, void parliament of real influence and thus rob it of its historical opportunity to govern, the Muslim Brotherhood has thrown its weight into this race, reneging on its repeated pledge not to do so. Remnants of the old regime sought to respond in kind. The presidential electoral commission has thrown out some of the highest-profile candidates – from the former regime; from the Brotherhood; and from the Salafi movement – but that has done little to mollify passions, as both Islamists and non-Islamists, suspecting a regime attempt to shape the electoral outcome, are renewing their protests.
The election may well be the SCAF’s last chance to peacefully produce a “balanced” political system, reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary supremacy, yet also protecting interests critical to the military. Should Egyptians elect an Islamist without a prior understanding between the political forces and the military, the SCAF could well find itself at once powerful and helpless, unable to influence the process save by unconstitutional – and highly risky – moves. The prospect of renewed, widespread confrontation and an abrupt halt to the transitional process, once remote, no longer is unthinkable. The end result could be a presidential election that further inflames the situation, gives rise to institutional and extra-insti­tu­tional challenges, jeopardises the transition and settles nothing.
Neither the SCAF nor the Muslim Brotherhood wanted it to come to this. For the two, the clash is premature. Both would have benefited from a compromise agreement, safeguarding essential military prerogatives while setting the country on a clear path toward full civilian rule, allowing the Islamists to govern but ensuring it happens gradually and inclusively, consistent with the Brotherhood’s own fear of grabbing too much too soon. But, because the transition increasingly has taken on a winner-take-all quality, neither appears to feel it has a choice.
It is not too late. What is urgently needed is what the SCAF was either unwilling or unable to do from the outset: consult broadly and seriously with representatives from the entire political class and reach agreement on key parameters of a future political system – the powers of the presidency, the constitutional committee’s make-up and the basis of civil-military relations. By clarifying what precisely is at stake in the presidential elections, defining checks and balances and ensuring that fundamental guarantees can protect various interests at play, such a deal would de-dramatise the contest. It would make it less of an uncontrollable existential exercise – and more of a manageable political one.
CRISIS GROUP

Lost in Transition: The World According to Egypt’s SCAF

Middle East/North Africa Report N°12124 Apr 2012

Since it assumed power after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the performance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been, at times, head-scratching. Extolled in the wake of the uprising as the revolution’s protector, many have come to view it as an agent of the counter-revo­lu­tion. It often has been obstinate, before abruptly yielding to pressure. It values its long ties with Washington, from which it receives much assistance, but seemed willing to jeopardise them by targeting U.S.-funded NGOs. Suspected by Islamists of seeking to deprive them of opportunity to govern and by non-Islamists of entering a secret pact with the Muslim Brotherhood, it finds itself in the worst of both worlds: an angry tug-of-war with liberal protesters and a high-wire contest with Islamists. It displays little interest in governing, wishing instead to protect privileges, but erratic behaviour threatens even that. On the eve of presidential elections that have become a high-stakes free-for-all, the SCAF should take a step back and, with the full range of political actors, agree on principles for a genuine and safe political transition.

What has the SCAF been thinking? Understanding the Egyptian military’s mindset is difficult and requires modesty in reaching conclusions. At the core of the SCAF’s outlook is the conviction that its principal complaints against the Mubarak regime – the slide toward hereditary government; the excesses of neoliberal policies; ostentatious corruption by networks associated with the president’s family – faithfully reflected the public’s. Once it had ousted the president, it follows, it felt it had accomplished the revolution’s goals. As a corollary, the SCAF was and is inclined to view any who continued to protest after Mubarak’s fall as serving either their own narrow self-interests or, worse, those of foreign powers (read: the U.S.) aiming to weaken and fragment a proud Arab nation. No doubt, the latter notion has been a tool used by the SCAF to discredit its critics; but it would be a mistake to see it as that alone, for it is also a deeply-held belief within the military.

As a corollary to the corollary, the SCAF considers itself the sole actor possessing the experience, maturity and wisdom necessary to protect the country from domestic and external threats. In contrast, virtually all political parties are regarded with scorn, self-centred in their demands, narrow-minded in their behaviour. The Muslim Brotherhood stands as an exception of sorts, treated by the military with guarded respect. But it is a respect born of the long-term, hard-fought battle waged against an outlawed organisation that faced decades of persecution. Because the Brotherhood represents the only organised political force with which it must contend, the SCAF has treated it seriously – which does not mean sympathetically.

The interests the SCAF wishes to defend are a mix of the national and more parochial, but insofar as the military is persuaded it alone can protect Egypt, it has a tendency to conflate its well-being with that of the country. With the spread of internal insecurity, volatility in the Sinai and uncertainty in Libya and Sudan, it hardly sees this as a time to trust untested civilians. But it also hardly sees this as a time for others to challenge its privileged status – such as a secret budget sheltered from civilian oversight; de facto immunity from prosecution; and vast business ventures that affect key sectors of the economy. It almost certainly has no wish to remain in the political spotlight, governing the nation and thus blamed for what inevitably will be a taxing period of social and economic distress. But nor does it intend to be sidelined, lose its self-ascribed role as guarantor of constitutional legitimacy, be stripped of its economic privileges or see political institutions in the hands of a single (Islamist) party. Its objective is to stay in the background yet remain an arbitrator; and shun the limelight even as it retains decisive influence.

The trouble is that virtually all the SCAF has been doing and that has occurred since it took power has placed that objective further out of reach. Playing secularists against Islamists and Islamists against secularists alienated both. After a period of at least implicit understanding, the two leading forces – the SCAF and the Muslim Brotherhood – appear locked in a zero-sum game. The degree of uncertainty is striking. Egyptians elected a parliament and are scheduled to choose a president without enjoying either well-defined or commonly accepted powers. The committee due to oversee the drafting of a new constitution, which already had lost much of its credibility, has been suspended by court order. The issue of civil-military relations, at the centre of controversy both before and after the uprising, remains open. Of greatest concern, perhaps, is the risk the transitional process, despite having checked all the boxes (parliamentary and presidential elections and a new constitution), will end up doing so in ways that undermine the new institutions’ legitimacy, yield an unstable political system and fail to resolve any of Egypt’s many questions.

From the SCAF’s perspective, this cannot be welcome news. Its goal, from the outset, was to preserve what it could from the previous system for the sake of continuity, restore normalcy, marginalise a protest movement it viewed with considerable suspicion as well as both work with and contain the Islamists. Not only are the odds for success declining by the day; in the process, it also increasingly is alienating a range of political forces while diminishing its leverage and capacity to pursue its goals.

Given growing political polarisation, the presidential election has become pivotal. Fearing that the military would impose a strong presidential system, void parliament of real influence and thus rob it of its historical opportunity to govern, the Muslim Brotherhood has thrown its weight into this race, reneging on its repeated pledge not to do so. Remnants of the old regime sought to respond in kind. The presidential electoral commission has thrown out some of the highest-profile candidates – from the former regime; from the Brotherhood; and from the Salafi movement – but that has done little to mollify passions, as both Islamists and non-Islamists, suspecting a regime attempt to shape the electoral outcome, are renewing their protests.

The election may well be the SCAF’s last chance to peacefully produce a “balanced” political system, reflecting the Muslim Brotherhood’s parliamentary supremacy, yet also protecting interests critical to the military. Should Egyptians elect an Islamist without a prior understanding between the political forces and the military, the SCAF could well find itself at once powerful and helpless, unable to influence the process save by unconstitutional – and highly risky – moves. The prospect of renewed, widespread confrontation and an abrupt halt to the transitional process, once remote, no longer is unthinkable. The end result could be a presidential election that further inflames the situation, gives rise to institutional and extra-insti­tu­tional challenges, jeopardises the transition and settles nothing.

Neither the SCAF nor the Muslim Brotherhood wanted it to come to this. For the two, the clash is premature. Both would have benefited from a compromise agreement, safeguarding essential military prerogatives while setting the country on a clear path toward full civilian rule, allowing the Islamists to govern but ensuring it happens gradually and inclusively, consistent with the Brotherhood’s own fear of grabbing too much too soon. But, because the transition increasingly has taken on a winner-take-all quality, neither appears to feel it has a choice.

It is not too late. What is urgently needed is what the SCAF was either unwilling or unable to do from the outset: consult broadly and seriously with representatives from the entire political class and reach agreement on key parameters of a future political system – the powers of the presidency, the constitutional committee’s make-up and the basis of civil-military relations. By clarifying what precisely is at stake in the presidential elections, defining checks and balances and ensuring that fundamental guarantees can protect various interests at play, such a deal would de-dramatise the contest. It would make it less of an uncontrollable existential exercise – and more of a manageable political one.

CRISIS GROUP

23 Apr
The New York Times |In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity
In January, the dismembered body of Wisam Jumai, a Kurdish intelligence officer, was discovered in a field in Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq. Soon his family and friends, one after another, received text messages offering a choice: leave or be killed.
“Wisam has been killed,” read one message sent to a cousin. “Wait for your turn. If you want your life, leave Sadiyah.”
After Mr. Jumai’s killing, nearly three dozen Kurdish families fled their homes and moved here, according to local officials, to the sanctuary of a city that is claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have come here after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein’s policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs.
Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq’s Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military’s withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semiautonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Bagh dad.
FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)

The New York Times |In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity

In January, the dismembered body of Wisam Jumai, a Kurdish intelligence officer, was discovered in a field in Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq. Soon his family and friends, one after another, received text messages offering a choice: leave or be killed.

“Wisam has been killed,” read one message sent to a cousin. “Wait for your turn. If you want your life, leave Sadiyah.”

After Mr. Jumai’s killing, nearly three dozen Kurdish families fled their homes and moved here, according to local officials, to the sanctuary of a city that is claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have come here after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein’s policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs.

Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq’s Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military’s withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semiautonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Bagh dad.

FULL ARTICLE (The New York Times)