Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A deal for North Korean denuclearization

Resolving differences and removing tension and conflict is always good. It must be genuine of course, and cannot be sought for or declared carelessly or naively, for each breach of trust in the pursuit of harmony makes the next try fraught with all the more struggles. At times the seeming breach of agreement can come from misunderstanding, or different understanding of viewing the same terms of agreement. A seeming "violation" of an agreement, is not always from deceptive and underhanded intentions.

This morning's announcement from the spokespeople for the 6 party talks, that a deal was reached for North Korean denuclearization is wonderful news, potentially lifting a horrible spectre of destabilization from a key global region, (and by implication the whole world). Time Magazine does raise some important questions in its argument that the tentative agreement, is less a comprehensive solution than it is a starting point, such as But what is the trigger, in terms of aid delivered to the North, for the regime to actually begin tearing down the reactor? and other very important elements left vague, like, what of the six to 10 nuclear bombs that the North already has in its arsenal, according to U.S. intelligence analysts? Does anyone believe Kim Jong Il will give those up? Or does he believe they are the ultimate guarantor to the survival of his regime?

These are important questions, but should not serve to diminish the importance of the agreement as far it has come, nor the achievements of the negotiators.

What are the implications of this "first harvest" for the current challenges presented by Iran's frightening nuclearization? (The Financial Times writes Iran will be able to develop enough weapons-grade material for a nuclear bomb and there is little that can be done to prevent it, an internal European Union document has concluded.)

The applicability of the hard-won Korea agreement to Iran is not readily seen, especially when looking at the external elements in the compromise. Until now international affairs continue to be engaged politically, a system of trades and compromises grounded in self-interest. This is a mossback approach to relations that soon will pass from the coming world. If one remains bound in perspective to narrowly political approaches to the resolution of differences, then there is very little to draw from the Korea progress to apply to Iran. North Korea essentially was purchased (possibly temporarily) with approximately 1 billion dollars worth of oil. It is obvious that this cannot apply to the Iranian situation.

It is possible however that a close study of the "heart," mentality, attitudes, structures, and dynamics of the extremely high-level conversations in the 6 party talks, might reveal something that CAN be applied to the Iran question. For example, the US (even directly from Mr. Bush himself) acknowledged actual dependence on China to help make success happen. If there are people from within the 6 party talks who can account for the internal pathways that led to this first small harvest, (and not just the external political conditions of the "deal") there may well be valuable lessons to be learned from Western powers who are concerned over how to dampen Iran's frightening nuclear ambitions and activity.

Frank Kaufmann is the director of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace. These opinions are his own

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Gates condescension not helpful

Mr. Gates was brought in on the morning of Mr. Bush's crushing electoral thumping, many thought as a friend of dad sent in to clean up the youngster's mess, and many hoped as a bellwether of change to help repair the wreckage US foreign policy since 9-11. The straight talking Rumsfeld was sent to place where he can continue to influence US foreign policy without sitting so plainly on the dartboards of the angry and disappointed.

Strangely Gates proved to be not a jot of substantive difference as his first act Defense Secretary was to champion Bush's depressing implementation of a troop surge. (Apart from being a bad idea, it should not go without notice that:
The CBO estimated that the troop increase could cost about $13 billion for a four-month surge and that 21,500 combat troops might need as many as 28,000 additional support troops. The CBO based its estimates on an analysis of past and current Pentagon deployments.

This next chance to see how Gates functions (his response to Putin reported below) is equally disheartening. Russia's President Putin delivered a shocking assault on the United States at the Munich security conference. The ramifications of this speech, even that it was given(!) are monstrous. A breach of international diplomacy at this level can ONLY happen if something is massively wrong. (The expansion of NATO, the independence of Kosovo, and the missile defense system planned for Eastern Europe are the main issues.)

When you face a blow up, it is NOT the time to show how clever you are at demeaning, dismissing, and further infuriating and provoking the troubled partner. What is Gates in Junior Highschool? Anybody can be clever. What good is such arrogant behavior. If someone is troubled, a true act of leadership is to take effective steps to dissolve the difficulties.

Gates should lead or not speak. Gates should have responded something like this. "We are concerned over the intensity of President Putin's remarks, as well as the occasion and public manner in which he chose to express his frustrations with US policy. We hold Russian and its President in high esteem as a precious and important ally, and look forward to meeting with Russia's leadership to iron out all difficulties and misunderstanding that led to Mr. Putin's unexpected Munich speech. The world needs its major powers to work harmoniously
to every extent possible for the sake serving the welfare of the the whole world."

This is what is required, NOT snide mockery, and counter accusations (no matter how veiled).

Let go of Cold War mentality, US defence chief tells Putin

THE United States Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has disputed a lengthy critique of American power by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, telling a European security conference: "One Cold War was quite enough."

Mr Gates chose words of velvet, not steel, in offering Washington's fullest response to Mr Putin's long complaint on Saturday about US domination of global affairs.

"As an old Cold Warrior, one of yesterday's speeches almost filled me with nostalgia for a less-complex time," he said. "Almost."

Mr Gates, a former director of the CIA recently called back to government service from academia to serve as defence secretary, told attendees of the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy that both he and Mr Putin had spent most of their careers in their governments' spy agencies. "And, I guess, old spies have a habit of blunt speaking," Mr Gates said.

"However, I have been to re-education camp - spending 4½ years as a university president." His remark drew laughs and applause. His sharpest response to Putin was gently couched.

"Russia is a partner in endeavours," Mr Gates said.

"But we wonder, too, about some Russian policies that seem to work against international stability, such as its arms transfers and its temptation to use energy resources for political coercion."

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

US credibility gap hurt Iran meddling claims

The two articles cited here below are closely related. Congressional investigations into pre War intelligence that resulted in the ill-fated decision to invade Iraq have brought to light the existence of a Pentagon intelligence operation serving at the pleasure of Cheney and Rumsfeld. Current defense secretary Gates opposes the creation of such groups stating "groups outside the CIA and other chartered intelligence agencies should not be involved in freelance analysis."

The fact that the administration that led America to war is unchastened, even emboldened to expansion, by the substantial and overwhelming rejection of their policies by Americans and the world, has all but completely undermined all claims by this administration to provide accurate information on the region. The accusation of Iranian involvement in aspects of Iraqi insurgency, might be true, but US statements, especially which encourage more war, are no longer trusted by anyone.

Defense Report Says Pentagon 'Manipulated' Pre-War Intelligence -

A "very damning" report by the Defense Department's inspector general depicts a Pentagon that purposely manipulated intelligence in an effort to link Saddam Hussein to al-Qaida in the runup to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, says the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The LA Times report says: The work of that special Pentagon unit — which was run by former
Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith — is one of the lingering symbols of the intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq....

Most of the evidence that Feith's Office of Special Plans cited in making its case for significant collaboration between Baghdad and Al Qaeda has crumbled under postwar scrutiny...

Feith's work was of critical importance to Vice President Dick Cheney, who once referred to the Pentagon team's conclusions as the "best source" for understanding the relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda.

Tehran agents blamed for deaths of US troops

The US military claimed yesterday that 170 soldiers had been killed in Iraq by sophisticated armour-piercing weapons supplied by Iranian agents acting on behalf of the highest levels of the Tehran Government...

The revelations were greeted with caution by Iraqi and Western journalists because of their timing, coinciding with Washington intensifying the pressure on Tehran over its nuclear programme. The suspicion was heightened by defence officials refusing to be named and
forbidding photographs or filming of the briefing, in which they put on display a small cache of the weapons allegedly involved and supplied a CD-Rom of other material...

Asked why the US-led coalition chose to make the claims now — two years after the threat posed by EFPs to multi-national forces’ armour was first identified — one senior defence official said that their use had “dramatically increased”, with 620 soldiers wounded in addition to those killed.

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Friday, February 9, 2007

Violence over renovations near Al Aqsa

It is very disappointing and frustrating to see the Israeli government go about this matter in so poor and senseless a manner. Is it really that hard to figure out that Muslims are sensitive about what goes on around the hilltop compound they call the Noble Sanctuary?

Why the renovation work? Answer: The stairs are dangerous to its users. Who uses the stairs to climb up to the mosque? Mostly Muslims. Who is responsible for the hilltop compound? Jordan (the waqaf). Is the government of Jordan really SO unreasonable? Can it really be the case that the danger of the stairs is roaringly obvious to the government of Israel, but Jordanians will NEVER be able to understand that? If so, what is it in the genetic make up of Jordanians that make them unable to recognize patently obvious dangers?

If Israel had worked with the waqaf NONE of these problems would have occurred. Why start these renovations before gaining secure Muslim support for the project?
Why can't our elected leaders proceed with the common sense that would be expected of a 13 year old? Is it that we're short on problems there in the region. Now innocents and young people will be further thrust into violence over something that could easily have been avoided.

Enlightened leaders should lobby for the suspension of renovations, and the rapid engagement of honest and concerned leaders from both Jordan and Israel to work closely with engineers from both countries and come to a consensus approach for repairing or improving to the earthen ramp leading up to the hilltop.

Violence breaks out at disputed Jerusalem holy site

On Friday, about 200 police streamed into the compound to try to quell the violence, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Witnesses said police hurled stun grenades. As many as 300 protesters barricaded themselves inside the Al-Aqsa mosque at the compound. Police were stationed near the mosque, but did not enter it. Hundreds of worshippers threw rocks an bottle at the police.

Israeli border police officers, bottom left, block Palestinian demonstrators of the Islamic Movement, protesting Israeli government's construction works outside the nearby disputed Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in east Jerusalem's Old City, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2007. Palestinian leaders have harshly condemned the work but Israel says the project is needed to replace a centuries-old earthen ramp that partially collapsed in a snowstorm three years ago. It has promised the work would cause no harm to Islamic holy sites, but those assurances have not calmed Muslim passions over the project.

Jordan government Okays anti-Israel demonstration Friday

Amman - The Jordanian government Thursday licensed a demonstration to be staged after Friday prayers by opposition parties to protest Israeli excavations near Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third holiest shrine, officials said.

Cry of youth arouses the ancient hatred

Stun grenades were thrown, rifles levelled and rubber bullets thudded into rioters who minutes before had been bowed in piety.

A battle over Jerusalem's Old City was under way.

For the next two hours, paramilitary police surged through the narrow cobblestone streets as youths scampered through alleyways and perched on rooftops with rocks that they threw before retreating.

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Thursday, February 8, 2007

Muslim leader says extremist elements here must be tackled

Today on IRFWP.ORG there appears an article on a Muslim Sheikh operating in Ireland who outlines the steps Muslims leaders can take to diminish the rise and influence of violent Islamism in Western European societies.

This impressive and courageous commitment is consistent with my call in the article "Planning ahead," and also consistent with recent efforts by the Saudi's to broker a truce among Hamas and Fatah leaders in Gaza and related territories.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Death toll in Iraq spikes

The observation in this article adds greater nuance to the folly of the troop surge that is already in motion, as the Congress stalls through the use of procedural chicanery. (One hopes that the American public keeps an eye on the daily death toll closely relating it to the partisan political maneuvering at play.)

The special point to note in this article is that the folly of the Bush escalation is not merely that he ignored the mid-term elections, and not just that the war among Iraqi factions is getting worse, but as importantly, that the current Bush escalation sends American boys and girls now into the most dangerous areas in the country. When the earliest detractors of the invasion were making Viet Nam comparisons, it was precisely the urban door to door warfare, facing this time urban guerrillas that was compared to the Viet Cong who in their space knew the natural jungle to our disadvantage.

Death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq rising

Honor guard carry the coffin of U.S. Army Capt. Mark C. Paine, during a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Friday, Nov. 3, 2006, in Arlington, Va.  Capt. Paine, 32, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., died Oct. 15, 2006 in Taji, Iraq, from injuries suffered when a roadside bomb detonated near his vehicle. More American troops were killed in Iraq over the past four months, at least 334, through Jan. 31, than in any comparable stretch since the war began, according to an Associated Press analysis of casualty records. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON - More American troops were killed in combat in Iraq over the past four months; at least 334 through Jan. 31; than in any comparable stretch since the war began, according to an Associated Press analysis of casualty records." over the past four months — at least 334 through Jan. 31 — than in any comparable stretch since the war began, according to an Associated Press analysis of casualty records.

The reason is that U.S. soldiers and Marines are fighting more battles in the streets of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and other cities. The top killer is the roadside bomb, but hostile forces also have had more success lately shooting down U.S. helicopters.

n some respects it is the urban warfare that U.S. commanders thought they had managed to largely avoid after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in early April 2003 and quickly toppled the In some respects it is the urban warfare that U.S. commanders thought they had managed to largely avoid after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in early April 2003 and quickly toppled the Saddam Hussein regime."

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Hamas and Fatah promise to reach compromise

This is precisely the type of event that augurs our only hope to see the dissolution of Islamist violence. Only Muslims can solve the problem of those interpretive streams that admit of violence as legitimate. I make this argument strongly in my recent article "Planning ahead"

Hamas and Fatah promise to reach compromise

by Hassan M. Fatah in the IHT

February 7, 2007

MECCA: Leaders of Hamas and Fatah, the two main Palestinian political groups, opened an emergency summit meeting Wednesday in Islam's holiest city, promising to compromise in forming a new government. They expressed a desire to salvage the Israel-Palestinian peace process and end the violence that has wracked Gaza and the West Bank.

Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister, and Khaled Meshaal, the Damascus-based militant leader, who are members of Hamas, faced Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president from Fatah, at a round table as other Palestinian officials looked on in a palace towering above Mecca's Grand Mosque, the birthplace of Islam.

The men were essentially left inside the room to thrash out their differences, while Saudi officials and advisers stayed outside, offering help but insisting that they are not directly involved.

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Another US helicopter down

Five US helicopters have been downed in less than 3 weeks.

This article reports:
But the high number lost in such a short time had raised questions about whether militants had changed tactics or were using more sophisticated weapons.
Here again we are left with an impression that US military is flatfooted in intelligence. So in the dark that militants have upgraded their weapons capabilities to the degree that they can down US helicopters, and we can only guess that they might have changed tactics?

Into this we are being compelled to send more young American boys and girls.

US confirms helicopter downed in Iraq

By Reuters, Wed Feb 7 2007 12:41 PM GMT

The U.S. military confirmed on Wednesday that a transport helicopter had come down near Baghdad but declined comment on any casualties.

“We have a CH-46 that is down,” U.S. military spokesman Major-General William Caldwell told reporters, referring to the twin-rotor Sea Knight, the Marine version of the Chinook, which can carry up to 55 passengers and two crew.

Local reports suggested that the helicopter had either crashed or made an emergency landing.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Inching closer

Matters continue to be frightening under this "it is possible to win old fashioned wars in the Middle East, I don't care what anyone says" administration. The prediction "I Will Not Withdraw Even If Laura And Barney Are The Only Ones Supporting Me," has proven depressingly true, as the response to near universal condemnation of the Iraq campaign resulted in a troop surge proposal. It required the intervention of a Republican Senator to humbly recommend, "I would suggest respectfully to the president that he is not the sole decider."

Now, as this administration rattles its sabers ever louder and more often at Iran, hair-triggers like the kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat by "soldiers" in uniform, bring us ever closer to the brink of what would be calamitous escalation.

Iran accuses US over diplomat kidnapping in Baghdad

February 06, 2007

Iran blamed America for the "terrorist" kidnapping of a Iranian diplomat in Baghdad today in the latest chapter of the two countries' increasingly hostile competition for influence in Iraq.

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