With the coming of fall, amidst a variety of ongoing crises, there are a number of important advancements and opportunities for moving to better situations, including concerning climate change, which is gaining increasing international concern. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, in February, that Climate change poses as much danger to the world as war, as he urged the United States to take the lead in the fight against global warming, and prepared to urge strong action against global warming at the then upcoming G8 summit. In May, Ki-moon appointed three well known international figures as climate change envoys, to strengthen global action against global warming. The final draft of the second report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was completed by scientists and officials from more than 100 nations in Bangkok, Thailand, in May, along the lines of the preliminary draft (reported in the winter issue of NCJ). The report called for immediate, substantial action across the world to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to 2000 levels, over the next 25 years. If current trends continue, the current levels, which have risen 70% since 1970, could increase by an additional 90% in that period. The report projected that to return to 2000 global carbon dioxide emission levels by 2030 would require a cost of $50 to $100 a released ton, equivalent to raising the price of gasoline $.25 to $.30 a gallon. It was estimated that carbon dioxide reduction might cause a small reduction in global economic activity, of perhaps 0.1% a year. (At the same time – and not necessarily a contradiction – other experts find that developing alternative energy and conservation technology will create jobs). A UN report. in March, found that poor nations will suffer the greatest injury from global warming, while wealthy nations focus primarily on their own risks (for details, see “Poor Nations Bear Brunt As World Warms, While Rich focus on Own Risks,” The New York Times, pp. 1 and 6).
As recent signs of climate change appear in Brazil, including an unprecedented, severe draught in the Amazon region and the occurrence of a hurricane for the first time in the southern region of Brazil, the government is reconsidering its environmental policy, and for the first time is willing to consider measures in international negotiations that it previously rejected, such as market based programs to curb carbon emissions resulting from massive deforestation in the Amazon. Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. dropped 1.3% in 2006, over the record 2005 levels, according to preliminary Department of Energy data, released in May. The DOE indicates that the primary reasons for the decline are a moderate winter and high energy prices. A New York Times/CBS poll, published April 27, found that protecting the environment is a high priority for Americans, and in many instances were willing to pay more to improve it. Asked, “When a trade off has to be made which is more important to you, 52% said protecting the environment, 36% said stimulating the economy, and 8% answered both. On which should be a higher energy priority, 68% favored conservation, while 21% chose increasing production. 92% favored and 6% opposed requiring manufacturers to produce more efficient vehicles to reduce fuel consumption. 75% were willing to pay more for electricity if it were generated renewably, and 20% were not. 64% were willing to pay higher gasoline taxes to fund renewable energy research, and 33% were not. In order to reduce dependence on foreign oil, 64% were willing to pay higher gas taxes, and 30% were not. On the other hand, 58% opposed raising gas taxes to reduce consumption, which 38% favored, and 76% opposed a gasoline tax of $2, which 20% favored. On May 31, President Bush, for the first time proposed that “a long term global goal” should be reducing greenhouse gas emission, and called for international negotiations to do that, but gave no details, except that, at least for the time being, each nation should set its own goals – so that there would be no international mandatory limits to greenhouse gas creation. European officials and environmental activists expressed skepticism about Bush’s intentions. Meanwhile, in June, Maine became the third state to pass a law, signed by the governor, to cap carbon dioxide emissions. Maine, which produces 3% of the nation/s CO2, will cap emissions at 5.9 million tons in 2009, and reduce them by 10% by 2019. Congress is currently moving to increase funding for research in renewable energy and methods of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. While there are complaints that some of this funding is “green pork,” a number of promising projects appear likely to gain financing. One of the proposals being considered is producing electric power from coal – which is plentiful (but whose mining is usually quite polluting) – via transforming it into gas, and removing the carbon dioxide, on which the Senate Energy Committee held hearings in April. Among the other research to counter climate change are experiments to greatly increase carbon dioxide absorbing plankton in the ocean, primarily by dissolving large amounts of iron in the sea, which is a plankton nutrient. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining, in a move intended to increase mining of coal, issued a regulation (subject to 90 day review) that approves, and allows to expand, the previously legally questionable removing of mountain tops to mine coal, long used in the Appalachian Mountains, The main mining limitations in the regulation are vague, and already covered in existing law, requiring mining operations to minimize debris and cause the least environmental damage.
On August 17, temperatures hit an all time record high in Japan (105.6 degrees F. in the western city of Tajimi), as the death toll from the ongoing heat wave in the country reached 13, with almost 900 people hospitalized. Extreme weather in the United States this summer has killed dozens of people. Rescuers were looking for people swept away by flash floods from the remnants of tropical storm Erin, which dropped as much as 11 inches of ran in some locations along the Gulf Coast, August 17. The heat wave in the South and Midwest was blamed for at least 44 deaths, with more expected to be confirmed, as of August 22. At the Browns Ferry nuclear plant, overheated water in the Tenessee River forced the shutdown of on reactor and slow down, with reduced power production, of two others. So far, this is one of the few such cases, but there is concern that the reductions from overheated water may increase. David Lockbaum, a former Browns Ferry engineer, now with the Union of Concerned Scientists, stated, “This is an unforeseen impact of global warming. These plants do not do very well in extremely hot weather.” In late August, several places in the Midwest, including Ohio, suffered the worst flooding in almost a century. The Southeast has been suffering its most severe draught in over a century, seriously reducing crop yields and forcing premature cattle sales in Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee. The financial impact on many farmers has been severe. The heat and draught has increased fires, while low waters have reduced navigation on some rivers, while also limiting some hydroelectric power production. For gardeners, climate change has some benefits, as subtropical plants are becoming viable further into what has been the temperate zone, and also moving to formerly colder areas on their own. But milder winter and longer growing seasons are increasing and spreading insects that attack crops and carry diseases. Some types of beetles have been doing immense damage to trees, including to pine forests (as reported earlier in these pages). In addition, the emerald ash borer, an immigrant to North America from Asia, is destroying the white ash trees used for making baseball bats and may strike out, or seriously shift, that industry. The beetles are blamed for killing 25,000 white ash trees in Maryland, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Ohio in the last five years. Unwanted vegetation – weeds – are also growing faster and spreading, and some intrusive species do especially well with higher carbon dioxide levels. For example, kudzu, the fast growing vine that has choked out whole forests in the south is growing faster, and spreading north. Poison ivy is not only growing faster, but is more potent, while some of the worst allergy causing plants, such as ragweed, are producing more pollen.
Some aspects of climate change are taking place considerably faster than previously believed. Geophysical Research Letters published a finding, in lat April, that Arctic sea ice is melting much faster than previously estimate, as a result of human induced global warming. Melting has increased to the point where it is possible that there will be no floating ice in the summer in the Arctic by sometime between 2050 and the early years of the next century. Measures made regularly every September indicate that the rate of loss of sea ice per decade has increased from 2.5% in 1953 to 7.8% today. The melting is also raising oceans and reducing land area. East Anglia, in Brittan has been losing land the sea from erosion for a century, but the rate of land loss has increased tremendously in the last few years. One farmer’s formerly 23 acre fiield, is now only 3 acres – too small to plant. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicates that unless current trends are reversed, by 2080, 60 million people may be flooded out of their homes and jobs. A similar problem is occurring as deserts spread into fertile lands. A United Nations University report, published June 27, warned that the extensive desertification in parts of Africa and Asia, if not checked quickly, could create “an environmental crisis of global proportions,” triggering massive migrations and potential social, economic and political instability.
China, whose rapidly expanding coal powered, and increasingly polluting, economy surpassed the United States as the worlds greatest producer of greenhouse gasses this summer, released its first national strategy on climate change, in June. The plan rejects the imposition of mandatory caps on greenhouse emissions. China is already suffering from a variety of types of pollution – not only global warming increasing emissions – (though it has tried to hide reports of human and environmental losses from ecological degradation, including suppressing reports of statistical models that indicate that perhaps as many as 750,000 people die prematurely each year in China as a result of air and water pollution), and has begun to take steps to improve the situation, including a plan to reduce air and water pollution by 10% by 2010. U.S. Federal District Court Judge Saundra B. Armstrong, in Oakland, CA, ruled, August 21, that the United States government “unlawfully withheld action,” by close to two years, in not publishing a study, required by the Global Climate Change Research Act of 1990, on the impact of global warming, and ordered the government to publish a summary report by March.
Beyond global warming, negative effects of environmental change from pollution and overuse of resources continue. A survey by the Audubon Society of 20 common bird species in the United States shows that in the last 40 years these species have declined by an average of 68%. Bobwhites, for example, have declined from 31 million, 40 years ago, to 5,5 million today, while field sparrows are down from 18 million to 5.8 million. A study by Ransom A. Myers if Dalhouse University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, indicates that over fishing of sharks is likely having the secondary effect of destroying bay scallop fisheries in some parts of the North American eastern seaboard, as several species that feed on scallops, previously kept in check by sharks, have greatly expanded. African Penguin are also in decline, down from 1.5 million in southern Africa a century ago, to about 30,000 in 2001, the numbers have plummeted by almost 60% to around 18,000, the biggest recent cause being a migration of their main food, sardines, further north, whom they cannot follow. Meanwhile, the Zika virus, carried by Mosquitoes, which causes rash, join pain, pink eye and fever in humans – and has no specific cure or preventive vaccine – has been spreading from Uganda and South East Asia, where out breaks are rare, into Micronesia, where there were 42 confirmed, and 65 probable identified cases, a of the beginning of July.
On July 1, the International Crisis Group (IGC) (CrisisWatch N°47, 1 July 2007”: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4926) found that nine actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated in June. “Months of escalating violence in the Palestinian Territories culminated in the 14 June split of Hamas-ruled Gaza from Fatah-controlled West Bank. In Lebanon MP Walid Eido became the seventh anti-Syrian figure to be assassinated since 2005, while six UN peacekeepers were killed in the south, and fierce battles continued between the army and the Fatah al-Islam group. Popular discontent with Pakistan’s President Musharraf increased further with demonstrations in support of suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry attracting tens of thousands across the country. Violence escalated in Somalia with widespread attacks on Transitional Federal Government officials, troops and civilians. In Niger insecurity mounted in the northern region of Agadez with a surge of attacks by the recently formed Tuareg Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice. And the United Kingdom raised its terror alert to maximum after two unexploded car bombs were found in central London and a burning car was crashed into Glasgow airport. The situation also deteriorated in Afghanistan, the Basque Country (Spain) and the Comoros Islands. Three situations showed improvement in June. After a nine-month deadlock, Burundi’s September 2006 peace deal was reactivated. North Korea invited IAEA inspectors to visit Yongbyon nuclear reactor and agreed on a plan for verifying its shutdown. And in Yemen a ceasefire deal was agreed between the government and Al-Houthi rebels after months of violence in Saada province.” CrisisWatch N°48, August 1, 2007 found that six actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated in July: «In Pakistan, the seizure of Islamabad’s Red Mosque from militants by security forces resulted in over 70 deaths and sparked waves of retaliatory violence across border regions killing a further 180. The ceasefire between the Philippine government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front weakened as clashes escalated. Police in Sierra Leone reported an upward trend in violence related to political campaigns for 11 August presidential and parliamentary elections. The situation in Ethiopia’s Ogaden region deteriorated with clashes between ONLF rebels and the military, and a worsening humanitarian situation. Peace talks in Burundi between Palipehutu-FNL and the government suffered a major setback as the FNL delegation fled Bujumbura. And in Zimbabwe, President Mugabe announced legislative plans to tighten his grip on political power, while Zimbabweans suffered acute food and gasoline shortages and SADC-backed mediation talks faltered. The situation improved in Northern Ireland in July. The British army ended its 38-year operation on 31 July, leaving responsibility for security to the NI police. For August 2007, CrisisWatch identifies the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month». Dentified as essentially unchanged were:Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Chechnya (Russia), Colombia, Comoros Islands, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Georgia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Territories, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Macedonia, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Caucasus (non-Chechnya), North Korea, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Somalia, Somaliland (Somalia), Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Taiwan Strait, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen.”
Iraq, over the past 4 months has experienced some political deterioration, and virtually no political gains toward stabilization, while violence and Iraqi casualties have continued to rise (with a record more than 250 people killed in a single multiple tuck bombing, in August, while the number of internally displaced persons has been rising faster, since U.S. troop increases began in February), along with U.S. military casualties rising through June, which declined in July. While by July, the U.S. surge – increased military presence in Baghdad – finally did show some decrease in violence in some areas of the capital, the small gains appear to be merely a shift of some violent inter-group activity to other locations. Indeed, violence has spread strongly to areas that were relatively peaceful, particularly to the North, where Suni-Kurdish strife has arisen, and Zoroastrians have been targeted en mass, for the fist time. Thus the “surge” appears to be essentially ineffective, while the political actions necessary for seriously reducing violence and moving toward harmony are increasingly less likely as political splintering increases. However, on August 16, Iraq’s president and prime minister announced the formation of a new parliamentary alliance of moderates, which potentially could develop into a vehicle for political advancement, but only with great difficulty in the current, deteriorating situation. The portions of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, made public August 24, essentially agree with the above assessments, stating, on the poliitcal side, that it seems very unlikely that Iraqi politicians can bridge their growing differences to achieve any meaningful unity, by next spring. The report did project that violence would increase if U.S. troops left. That has not been the case in, mostly Suni Anwar, Provence, where U.S. troops pulled out nine months ago, following an agreement that the local fighters would attack, and remove, al-Quaeda, which they have done. Many commentators believe that the main opening for al-Quaeda is the U.S. presence, and that in most instances Iraqis would turn against foreign fighters, I the U.S. left. The New York Times reported, August 18, that the White House is planning to begin making small, gradual troop reductions in Iraq, beginning in 2008.
According to Richard May of the Center for Defense Information (CDI), “The Mission-Organization Disconnect,” on April 18, (http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=3927&from_page=../index.cfm), U.S. and allied forces are engaged in a new type of warfare in Iraq, a style that the U.S. armed forces had not seen nor been trained for until recently. “The organizational structure of the military is still ill-prepared for dealing with this type of evolving conflict and thus, a gap has grown between the organization of the military and its current primary missions, creating a cleavage between mission and structure”. In addition, the current rapid redeployment to Iraq of army. marine and national guard forces back to Iraq has not allowed sufficient time for training, and most of the equipment that U.S. forces will use in Iraq has not been available in the U.S., making what training there is inadequate. Richard May, “Opportunity Missed,“ Armed Forces Journal, on June 1, wrote that poverty, unemployment, and dissolution of civil society and infrastructure are the main factors that have led to the chaos in Iraq. Yet, since the invasion, the United States has spent much on U.S. contractors, but little to get the Iraqi economy standing on its own two feet. For more go to: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=3972&from_page=../index.cfm. Indeed, inspectors, reported in late April, that even the reconstruction projects that the U.S. had completed are falling apart from lack of maintenance, electrical and plumbing failures, and looting. On May 1, Michael Bell, former chairman of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq, stated that, “Reconstruction is difficult enough in a pacific environment. In this environment, it is almost impossible, if not impossible”. In retrospect, he said that the focus on high cost, high profile projects, “was too much too soon.” Moreover, many programs paid for directly by the U.S. went badly because American officials kept control of them. He said, “they go in and tell their guys how to do things. It’s a microcosm of what the Bush administration has tried to do in intervention. But you can’t impose mind-sets.” Bell also criticized reconstruction plans for making private, rather than public, ownership “an overriding objective,” which has been undermined by widespread instability, Indeed, the privatization of numerous businesses left them shut down, that could have put many thousands of Iraqis to work if left public and open, and thereby greatly fueled disorder. The Bush administration insistence that the still not passed Iraqi oil law focus on privatizing petroleum facilities is also a serious problem, for if the Iraqi government does approve it, the result may be primarily huge profits for American oil companies (and a few Iraqis) at the expense of the Iraqi people, over all., especially as the proposed law, drafted in the U.S., allows for joint ownership with foreign firms. For these reasons, the Iraqi oil workers unions strongly oppose the current proposal.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) found (“Where Is Iraq Heading? Lessons from Basra,” June 25 2007: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4914&l=1) that “the British experience in Basra, far from being a model to be replicated in the rest of Iraq, is an example of what to avoid”. “Coalition forces there already implemented a security plan in many ways similar to the current “surge” in the capital and its environs. As in Baghdad, one of the putative goals was to pave the way for a takeover by Iraqi forces. Today, however, Basra is controlled by militias which are even more powerful than before,” as the city has spiraled increasingly into chaos. Crisis Group Senior Analyst Peter Harling stated, “With renewed violence and instability, Basra illustrates the pitfalls of a transitional process that, instead of building legitimate institutions, has led to collapse of the state apparatus. Fierce intra-Shiite fighting also disproves the notion of an Iraq neatly partitioned between three homogenous communities”. “Basra’s political arena is in the hands of actors engaged in bloody competition for resources, undermining what is left of goverment institutions and coercively enforcing their rule. The local population has no choice but to seek protection from one of the dominant camps. Periods of stability do not reflect greater governing authority so much as they do a momentary — and fragile — balance of interests or of terror between rival militias. Inevitably, cycles of brutal retaliatory violence re-emerge. As the U.S. prosecutes its security plan in Baghdad and other parts of the country, the lessons from Basra are clear. First, the answer to Iraq’s horrific violence cannot be a military surge that aims to bolster the existing political structure and treats the dominant political parties as partners. Secondly, violence is not solely the result of al-Qaeda-type terrorism or sectarian hostility, however costly both evidently are. Thirdly, violence has become a routine means of social interaction utilized by political actors doubling as militiamen who seek to increase their share of power and resources. The Basra experience suggests the most likely outcome in Iraq is its untidy break-up into myriad fiefdoms, superficially held together by the presence of coalition forces. If this is to be avoided, the priority should be to confront the power structure whose establishment was supported in the wake of the 2003 invasion, as well as the parties that now dominate it, by insisting on genuine political compromises and a more inclusive system of governance”. “It is high time that Washington and London acknowledge that their so-called Iraqi partners, far from building a new state, are tirelessly working to tear it down”, comments Robert Malley, Crisis Group’s Middle East Program Director.
Winslow Wheeler, director of the Center for Defense Information’s Straus Military Reform Project, “Grading on a Curve for the Wrong Test” (available at: http://app.bronto.com/public/?q=message_link&fn=Key&id=bchdkbacarpnredvfxulcsdjntbobpi&link=bwtakfntsstybudzvfygncvivhxubae), in assessing the White House’s “Initial Benchmark Assessment Report” on Iraq, states, that while it’s not a pretty picture, the real issue is the “Benchmarks” themselves. “While the Iraqis are assessed in the White House’s report to have achieved “satisfactory progress” on only eight of 18 “benchmarks” (six are rated “unsatisfactory”; two are given mixed ratings, and two are rated unable to be rated), it is painfully clear from reading the report that the “satisfactory” assessments are graded on a sharp curve. On political issues, any change – even a decision to delay a decision – is deemed “satisfactory. On military questions, characteristics that would mean a military unit is unfit to fight in the American Army (such as the three brigades the Iraqis barely managed to cobble together to deploy to Baghdad) are deemed “satisfactory” in this report. However, we are missing a far more fundamental and important point if all we take from this White House report is its transparent effort to make the situation in Iraq appear slightly less of a mess than others might perceive. What comes through even more clearly is the imposition of alien benchmarks on the Iraqi society and its faltering government. These benchmarks are not an effort to assist Iraq recover from the disaster of the American invasion and occupation, they are an effort to impose Western, if not American, values and methods on a society that has been resisting them, mostly violently, for the last four years. Perhaps even more to the point, the benchmarks have every appearance of an effort to make American politicians, not Iraqi citizens, feel better about themselves.”
ICG reported, April 19 (“Iraq and the Kurds: Resolving the Kirkuk Crisis,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4782&l=1) that, “a new approach is urgently needed to settle the status of Kirkuk, where security is deteriorating and an explosion of ethnic tensions could destroy any gains anticipated from the U.S. surge in Baghdad.” ICG cites two factors for the growing tensions: Kurdistan Regional Government insistence on a status referendum by year’s end, despite strong Arab and Turkoman community opposition; and exploitation by Jihadi fighters, who have found fertile ground for chaos by exacerbating communal tensions. While the Bush administration is focusing on security in Baghdad, it is paying little attention to the Kirkuk crisis. “Kurds consider Kirkuk a lost heirloom they are about to recover by following steps laid out in the Iraqi constitution. Arabs and Turkomans consider the process a rigged prelude to possible break-up of Iraq. Turkey fears both worsening of its own Kurdish problem if Iraqi Kurds gain Kirkuk and more chaos on its borders if Iraq breaks up. With all sides dug in, debate should move off outcomes to focus on a fair and acceptable process. The U.S. should recognize the risks of explosion and press Kurds, Baghdad and Turkey alike to adjust policies. A referendum conducted against the wishes of the other communities in 2007 could cause the civil war to spread to the Kurdish region, until now Iraq’s only quiet area. A referendum postponed without a face-saving alternative could lead the Kurds to withdraw from the Maliki cabinet, producing political crisis. Washington, with UN help, should encourage the Kurds to forge an alternative Kirkuk strategy, which will need to incorporate progress on Iraq’s hydrocarbons law (key elements of which are still to be negotiated) so as to cement the Kurdish region within Iraq; and address Turkey’s concerns about the PKK, the Turkish-Kurd guerrillas. Fortunately all sides in Kirkuk seem to agree on need for dialogue. The Kurds recognise that the strategy they have followed might gain Kirkuk but will not enable them to hold it peacefully. Some appear ready for a new approach. The international community should encourage the Kurds gently but firmly to pull back from the referendum and implement confidence-building measures such as reallocating administrative posts to better reflect Kirkuk‚s ethnic balance. All sides should reduce rhetoric”.
Center for Defense Information Scoville Fellow Rich May, “The Kurdish Tug of War” (Available at: http://app.bronto.com/public/?q=message_link&fn=Key&id=b) writes, that as the Turkish military moves soldiers to the Iraqi border, the region moves precipitously closer to another challenge in its path to stability. The impact of a Turkish military invasion of northern Iraq will reverberate throughout the Middle East. Worst of all, writes it will force Kurdish soldiers to choose between defending their ‘homeland,’ and defending Baghdad, with Baghdad likely losing.
The Bush administration, finally, has seen the necessity of including Iraq’s neighbors in discussion of finding solutions for the Iraq situation in a regional setting. Some discussions have taken place with Syria and Iran (both in Baghdad and Egypt), but so far have been rather limited. It is also difficult for the U.S. to negotiate effectively with Iran, while rhetorically attacking its leaders – and there are still credible rumors that Bush may yet take military action against Iran, before his term ends (and complaints that Fox news in the U.S. is propagandizing for such an attack – Go to: http://foxattacks.com/iran). One indication of the diplomatic difficulties that the Bush administration has created for the U.S. is that, on May 28, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah declared that the American occupation of Iraq was illegal, and that unless Arab governments settled their differences, powers foreign to the region, like the U.S., would continue to dictate the area’s politics. Meanwhile, Diplomats an other delegations from around the Middle East, came together in Amman, Jordan, July 26, in a follow up to a meeting in Egypt in May, to work on ways of assisting more than two 2 million refugees who have fled Iraq to neighboring nations. No concrete plans were decided upon. Meanwhile, in late August, France, which has previously avoid direct involvement with Iraq, is offering itself as “an honest broker” to try and negotiate differences among Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurdish factions.
The Iraq war has now spilled out into the region and beyond. Many militant fighters have, and continue, to return home from Iraq, working to carryout activities there. There were credible reports, by May, from Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Libya of Jihadist recruiting for local and international (outside of Iraq) violent activity, and there is indication that Jihadists have come to Iraq from many nations, including from Europe, to which it is expected that they will, and likely already are, returning. In April, Algiers suffered its first bombing since the 1990s, killing 30 people, al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the coordinated explosions.
A Congressional Research Service (CRS) update of the financial costs to the U.S. government of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11,” published July 16, includes the following findings: Assuming Congress’ approval of President Bush’s request of $141.7 billion for war costs for fiscal year 2008 total appropriations related to the wars would reach $758 billion, including $567 billion for Iraq, $157 billion for Afghanistan, $29 billion for other security operations in the US and elsewhere, and $5 billion which can be attributed to “unknown” due to the Defense Department’s inability to track its own money. Counting all war appropriations to date, including those for not just DOD but also the State Department and the Veterans Administration, costs per month have risen from about $12 billion in FY 2006 to about $14.4 billion in FY 2007. The 2007 costs totaled $173 billion, $135.2 billion is for Iraq, and $36.9 billion is for Afghanistan. In addition to the additional costs of the “surge” of troops in Iraq, the growth in costs from 2006 to 2007 is marked by a dramatic increase in procurement spending to replace warn out equipment and to move acquisition costs for routine modernization (such as for V-22s and C-17s) from the regular annual budget to the separate budget for the war. Current White House plans, which assume a rapid termination of the surge in September, project a reduction of spending in 2008: down to a total of $147.5 billion, of which $116.3 billion would be for Iraq. Meanwhile, cost per deployed troop has increased from $320,000 for each troop in 2003 to $390,000 for each in 2006. However, CRS, CBO, and GAO each continue to find major discrepancies in the Defense Department’s (DOD) reporting on annual expenditures, making it diffiulct to know the actual costs. GAO’s Comptroller General reported that the continuing inability of DOD to account for its own spending “make it difficult to reliably know what the war is costing, to determine how appropriated funds are being spent, and to use historical data to predict future trends.” There is concern that DOD may be “front loading” its budget requests for “reset” (repair and refurbishment of equipment and units) by requesting funds twice for both the Army and the Marine Corps for reset in 2007. While the Congressional Budget Office has estimated the future costs of the wars (ranging from $393 billion to $840 billion), the actual future costs are truly unknown, especially if one includes long term costs for the wars’ veterans as paid out over decades by the VA. Beyond federal appropriations, there are also other costs, including to the economy, that have been measured by other studies. The CRS study is available by going to: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=4018&from_page=../index.cfm.
Oxfam International released a report on conditions in Iraq, at the end of July, combining research from the United Nations, the Iraqi government and non-profit organizations, showing that Poverty, hunger and public health continue to worsen in Iraq, requiring more humanitarian aid from abroad and calling on the Iraqi government to immediately decentralize the distribution of food and medical supplies. The report describes a deepening humanitarian crisis, describing as a slow-motion response from Iraq’s government, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union, with as many as four million Iraqis in dire need of help getting food, many of them children; 70% of the country lacking access to adequate water supplies, up from 50 percent in 2003, and 90% of the country’s hospitals lacking basic medical and surgical supplies. A survey completed in May by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning, found that 43% of Iraqis live in “absolute poverty,” on less than $1 a day. Unemployment and hunger are particularly acute among the estimated two million people displaced from their homes by violence – those who “have no incomes and are running out of coping mechanisms.”
Iran, in late March captured a British patrol boat with 15 Marines and sailors it claimed had come from Iraqi into Iranian waters, which the British denied. Iran threatened to try the marines and sailors, while Brittan cut commercial relations with Iran and moved to take the situation to the UN Security Council. Some commentators saw this as dangerous brinkmanship on Iran’s part (go to: http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2007/03/29/unwise_brinkmanship_in_iran.php) and others see the incident as part of the rising war threat against Iran (go to: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17447.htm and
http://ips-dc.org/comment/bennis/tp49opposingsupplemental.htm). It seemed. However that Iran was acting to retaliate for U.S. capture of Iranian intelligence officials while in the Kurdish area of Iraq on an official Iraqi government invitation. The British Military personnel were eventually released. Meanwhile, there has been no meaningful movement on Iran’s Nuclear power program. In April, the European Union approved a second phase of sanctions against Iran for continuing enriching Uranium – quite possibly to bomb grade – that included a ban on Iranian arms exports and the freezing of the assets of 28 additional organizations and individuals. In May, International Atomic Energy Agency concluded that Iran had made technical advances allowing it to increase the rate of its uranium enrichment, but by all reliable estimates, Iran is still at least five years away from being able to begin to able to build a nuclear bomb. Even if Iran did develop a bomb, there is doubt that it would be made available to a terrorist group. For an analysis of this issue see Straus Military Reform Project Adviser, Charles Pena, “Nuclear Fear Factor” on the Center for Defense Information web site: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=4069&from_page=../index.cfm.
Brian Ross and Christopher Isham “The Secret War Against Iran,” April 3, at: http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/04/abc_news_exclus.html and http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article17480.htm, states that Jundullah, a Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids across the border, inside Iran, has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, according to U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources. Jundullah has taken responsibility for the deaths and kidnappings of more than a dozen Iranian soldiers and officials, including an attack in February that killed at least 11 members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard riding on a bus in the Iranian city of Zahedan. U.S. officials say the U.S. relationship with Jundullah is arranged so that the U.S. provides no funding to the group, which would require an official presidential order or “finding” as well as congressional oversight. Tribal sources told ABC News that money for Jundullah is funneled to its leader, Abd el Malik Regi, through Iranian exiles who have connections with European and Gulf states. Some former CIA officers say the arrangement is reminiscent of how the U.S. government used proxy armies, funded by other countries including Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.
The struggle between the Taliban and NATO-Afghan government forces has continued to rage, while Afghani factions continue to conflict, sometimes violently. The appearance in May of both deadly factional struggles, and a number of suicide bombings, in what has been the relatively peaceful part of the country are signs of deterioration. One sign of progress of at least some post–Taliban recovery is the 18% drop in infant mortality (along with other indications of improving health care) in Afghanistan, since 2001. Nick Grono, “How to Beat the Taliban,” The Australian (http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4762&l=1), April 9, 2007, argues that to succeed in Afghanistan, “Strategies must start with cutting off the staging posts and sanctuaries provided to the insurgent leadership in Pakistan. Pakistan’s tribal belt provides a safe haven for Taliban militants and a near endless source of jihadi recruits from fundamentalist madrassas. Ultimately this conflict will only be won by addressing the legitimate grievances of the Afghan people, not by negotiating with violent extremists. There has to be a long-term effort to build effective, fair local institutions that provide real security to the population. The international community must be prepared to provide the political cover and courage to the country’s leadership to tackle corrupt and discredited powerbrokers rather than the present short-term strategy of simply drawing everyone, no matter how tainted, into the fold, creating a culture of impunity and corruption. This is foremost a struggle for hearts and minds. The insurgents understand this all too well. They are conducting an effective propaganda campaign, giving television and radio interviews and distributing pamphlets to make themselves appear far more powerful and pervasive than they really are… International forces must stay the distance – another decade at the very least – with increased emphasis on training and equipping Afghan security forces. While the international community can provide the security umbrella, it is ultimately local forces and institutions that will determine success against the insurgents. Jobs are vital too, creating real occupations for local youths so they do not have to turn to the gun or poppies. One widely praised initiative is a small vocational training project in Uruzgan, led by the Australians. It teaches locals skills such as bricklaying and carpentry, and then works with the Afghan Government to place them in jobs in an area where there are otherwise few lawful options.” The New York Time reported April 6 (C.J. Chivers, “Dutch Soldiers Stress Restraint in Afghanistan,” pp. A1, A12) that Dutch troops have had success in countering the Taliban in Uruzgan Province by improving living conditions, engaging in reconstruction, mentoring and diplomacy, using military force, and more often the threat of resorting to it, to protect local development. U.S. commanders worry that if the Taliban are not kept under pressure, they will spread their insurgency. The Dutch counter that consistent social and political support will move the people away from the Taliban, allowing the central and provincial government to expand their authority in the longer term. The Dutch are supported by findings, in May, that the high civilian casualties from aggressive NATO offense, relying heavily on air strikes against the Taliban, have been undermining the allied war effort. (The Center fro Defense Information has two analysies of the Afghan Civilian casualties situation at: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=4065&from_page=../index.cfm). It has long been reported in these pages that effective anti-insurgency and peacekeeping require a peacebuilding strategy of local economic, social and political development working collaboratively with local people for their empowerment. For example, see Stephen Sachs, “Los Angeles and Somalia: Community Service Policing and Community Empowerment,” Vol. VIII, No. 2-3, Winter-Spring 1994 (reprinted in The COPRED Peace Chronicle, Vol Vl. 1994.), “A Kosovo Unit’s Success Shows the Value of a Community Policing Approach to Peace Keeping,” Volume XIV. No. 1, Fall, 1999, and “Somalia, Bosnia,… and Kosovo: Peace Keepers Need to Understand the Particulars of the Crises they are Intervening in, and Act Appropriately for It, ” Vol. XIV, No. 3, Spring 2000.
Pakistan is experiencing increasing violence on two fronts. First, Intelligence reports, in June, indicated that the while Pakistani forces in the tribal areas near the Afghani border are outgunned by the Taliban, al Queada and their allies, the Taliban are spreading their influence and violence to other parts of Pakistan, and the situation is likely to become serious if not countered. Second, the military government of President Pervez Musharraf is experiencing increasing opposition, particularly since its removal of the Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court, which has brought widespread protest, and which was overturned by the Supreme Court, July 20. On July 31, ICG reported, in “Elections, Democracy and Stability in Pakistan,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4969&l=1, that, “Military rule in Pakistan is producing a failing state that will endanger its own and its region’s security unless democracy and rule of law are restored through free and fair elections this year”. “The end of the military regime is now a matter of time”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “The manner in which elections are held, however, will determine if there is a peaceful, orderly democratic transition or a violent transition, with the attendant costs for a fragile state”. “President Musharraf and the military have maintained power by suppressing democratic forces and rigging national and local elections. Empowerment of Islamist parties to counter moderate opposition has been significant and is now essential to the military government. But the growing pro-democracy movement is leaving Musharraf with few choices, and the judiciary can no longer be counted on to endorse unconstitutional acts. Another rigged or stolen election could possibly lead to a violent confrontation between the military and protestors. The U.S. should understand its interests are best served by a democratically-governed Pakistan and not by military rule that excludes moderate parties and fans extremism. Its policy of relying solely on the military is largely responsible for growing anti-U.S. sentiment among pro-democracy Pakistanis, who view the support for an authoritarian regime as hypocritical and unjustifiable. Backing a deeply unpopular military regime is no way to fight terrorism and neutralize religious extremism. The international community should support its natural civilian allies, including Pakistan’s most popular national parties, Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party and Nawaz Sharif’s Muslim League. Influential international actors should use their considerable influence to persuade the generals to give up power, offering political and material incentives if they do and sanctions if they choke democratic change. The Pakistani government must hold free and fair parliamentary elections, before presidential elections, so that the new president is selected by a legitimate electoral college, ensure independence of the election commission, release political prisoners and allowing return of political leaders in exile”. (See also ICG, “Pakistan Crisis Alert: Emergency Rule or Return to Democracy?” June 6, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4884&l=1). In mid August, the U.S. was quietly pressuring President Musharraf to broaden his government, appointing rival Benezir Bhutto as Prime Minister. Musharraf and Bhutto met privately on July 27. In early August Musharraf had considered declaring a state of emergency, but did not then do so in the face of domestic and international opposition. Musharraf is campaigning for election to another five year term as President, but there is considerable expert opinion that the Supreme Court is likely to block his candidacy, on a number of grounds, even if he were to resign from the military, which he says he does not intend to do. The Pakistan Supreme Court, overturned the exile of former Prime Minister Shariff, ousted by Musharraf’s Coup, in 1999, on August 23, allowing Shariff and his wife to return to India, The former prime minister intends to run against Musharraf.
One internally destabilizing, and internationally dangerous, aspect of Pakistani President Musharraf’s policy has been its allowing the continuing operation of a network of extremist religious schools, “madrasas”, supporting violent jihadi groups. ICG, “Pakistan: Karachi‚s Madrasas and Violent Extremism,” March 29, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4742&l=1, holds that the schools pose “a significant threat to domestic, regional and international security”. “Deplorable public schools, the sectarian tilt of state institutions, the marginalisation of moderate voices and military government‚s reliance on religious parties for political survival have led to the growth of madrasas at an explosive rate over the past two decades. They are either unregistered or registered under laws that have no effective implementation”. “Karachi‚s madrasas have trained and dispatched jihadi fighters to Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir, contributing to a climate of lawlessness and bitter sectarianism. In 2006, the city was rocked by high-profile acts of political violence: in three separate attacks, suicide bombers killed a U.S. diplomat, assassinated the head of the most prominent Shia political group and wiped out the entire leadership of a Sunni militant group locked in a struggle for control over mosques with its Sunni rivals. The international community needs to press President Musharraf to fulfil his commitments, in particular to enforce genuine controls on the madrasas and allow free and fair national elections in 2007. It should also shift the focus of its donor aid from helping the government’s ineffectual efforts to reform the religious schools to improving the very weak public school sector. Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director states, “So long as the military continues to rely on the mullahs to retain power, madrasas and the violent extremism they encourage will become ever more powerful in Pakistani society, undermining the security of the state and its citizens. Real reform will only be possible through the strengthening of the country‚s moderate parties and forces, with free and fair national elections in 2007 an essential first step.” Meanwhile, concerning the growing violence in Northern Pakistan, ICG reported, April 2, “Pakistan: Discord in the Northern Areas,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4748&l=1, that, “unless Pakistan takes steps to provide meaningful autonomy and basic political rights to the Northern Areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, sectarian radicalism will increase”.
The newly renamed organization of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) — formerly the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC) — killed approximately 30 people and wounded more than 220 in two suicide attacks in Algiers on April 11. The attack sparked fears of resurgence in terrorist violence reminiscent of the 1992 insurgency in Algeria, which started after the government canceled elections that the Islamic Salvation Front was expected to win. Meanwhile, the organization’s re-branding as an al-Qaida affiliate is an attempt to transform it from a primarily domestic terrorist group to one with a stronger militant presence in both Africa and Europe. AQIM had made earlier deadly attacks in February. For more information go to: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=3938&from_page=../index.cfm.
The International Crisis Group reported, April 10, “Restarting Israeli-Syrian Negotiations,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4758&l=, that, “Israel should seize the opportunity to renew peace negotiations with Syria while there is a real chance of success, or risk further destabilizing the Middle East”. “Within weeks of the Lebanon war, Damascus signalled it would resume talks without any precondition and indicated that its regional posture and relationships would change following a peace deal. Israel, however, has conditioned any dialogue on a broad change in Syria‚s policy: cutting ties to Hamas, halting assistance to Hizbollah and fundamentally altering its relationship with Iran. What Israel demands could potentially be achieved, but only as part of a final deal, not as a precondition for it. “Rejecting Syria‚s overtures is a mistake which is fast on its way to becoming a missed opportunity, warns Peter Harling, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst in Damascus. “The mood in Damascus is turning decidedly skeptical, and the regime is reverting to its more cautious habits. Mirroring Israeli doubts on Syria’s seriousness, officials here are deeply disillusioned with Israel, questioning its ability and readiness to negotiate in earnest.” “If there is scant justification for Israel to put off peace talks, there is even less for the U.S. to oppose them. Quartet members should press for renewed Syrian-Israeli negotiations. While the U.S. and Israel may prefer to give precedence to the Palestinian over the Syrian track, lack of movement on the latter will inevitably hamper the former.” Crisis Group’s Middle East Program Director, Robert Malley, states, “Israel-Syria peace negotiations would profoundly alter regional atmospherics. A peace deal would fundamentally transform them. This opportunity may not last forever. It should not be wasted.” Israel, on July 7, was concerned that Syria’s removing military checkpoints on the road to Kuneitra on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights could be a preparation for war, the Arab newspaper Al-Hiyat al-Jedidia reported (http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=21024).
Lebanon remains in danger of exploding into a civil war, as a result of the U.S. causing Iraq to collapse, giving Iran and its international affiliates in Lebanon new status, while Syria and its Lebanese allies remain unhappy with the pro western government. Beginning in May, heavy fighting broke out in the Nahr al Bared Palestinian Refugee Camp when a police raid set off a conflict between the Lebanese Army and the militant Palestinian group, Fatah el Islam, initially pinning down up to 40,000 Palestinian civilians without water or electricity, and meager food supplies. The conflict has continued at a lower level. By June 18, after a month of battling, a reported 150 lives were lost. In late August, the Palestinian Clerics Association mediated a truce for the 100 or so remaining family members of armed militants in the camp (the rest fled earlier) to leave. Meanwhile, in Mid June, the UN. Security Council approved a request from Lebanon’s prime minister to help investigate the similar car bomb murders of former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, in 2005, and of legislator Walid Eido, in June. This followed the May 30 Security Council decision establishing a special court to prosecute Hariri’s killing.
The June 14 take over of Gaza by Hamas (strengthened by guns smuggled in from Egypt), and the formation of an emergency Fatah government in the West Bank by President Mahmoud Abbas, have brought a major shift in the Palestinian-Israeli situation, but only modest adjustments in Israeli policy. The Olmert government continues to build the security fence along the West Bank. Israeli defense forces remain engaged in raids and assassinations in Palestinian lands aimed at militants, that regularly kill and injure innocent Palestinians. Despite some removal of checkpoints and minor adjustments, the occupation in the West Bank remains repressive, and perhaps because of frustration by some security personnel, appears to be becoming more brutal. The Palestinians experienced a violent Hamas takeover in Gaza, with at least 90 people killed in the first five days. A partial power vacuum, accelerated by the takeover, and spin off from the clashes in Palestinian Refugee camps in Lebanon, and other aspects of the shift in power in the Middle East with the destruction of Iraq, has given rise to numerous Jihadist groups in Gaza believing violence to be a practical tactic. In response, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared a state of emergency and disbanded the Hamas-led unity government in the West Bank. Fearful that Hamas might attack in the West Bank, Fatah went on the offensive there, rounding up three dozen Hamas fighters, while angry militants threw office furniture out a third-story window of the Palestinian parliament building in Ramallah, then set fire to the office of three Hamas lawmakers. During the several days of deadly violence in Gaza, one Hamas activist was shot and killed in Nablus, on the West Bank, the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent Fatah faction, claiming responsibility. The Olmert government response was to be tough on Hamas in Gaza, while taking some steps to support Abbas and Fatah in the West Bank (a strategy that most knowledgeable independent observers believe will not work – as is exemplified below), including releasing 256 Palestinian prisoners and turning over some of the Palestinian taxes Israel has collected, but for some time impounded. (The United States supported Olmert’s policy, unfreezing millions of dollars in aid to the Palestians, via the Abbas governe=ment). Israel closed the checkpoints into Gaza, completely for some time, worsening an already difficult humanitarian situation. Similarly, for several weeks, the closing of the Rafah border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip left a group of Palestinians stranded at the border, until Israel allowed most of them to return to homes in Gaza by a round about route. The long term, often sporadic, exchange of fire across the Gaza-Israel border has continued.
ICG recommended, August 2 (“After Gaza,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=2745&l=1), “Fatah and Hamas must cease hostile action against each other, begin to reverse steps that are entrenching separation between Gaza and the West Bank, and negotiate a new power sharing arrangement”. “Some in the international community have viewed the result positively, seeing the new government as one with which Israel can make peace and hoping stagnation in Gaza will discredit Hamas to the point of surrender. They are mistaken. Security and a credible peace process depend on minimal intra-Palestinian consensus. The events in Gaza were predictable. The Mecca Agreement’s collapse reflected Fatah’s inability to come to terms with the loss of its political hegemony and Hamas’s inability to come to terms with the limits of its own power. But it would be disingenuous to minimize the role of outside actors who refused to deal with the unity government”. Nicolas Pelham, Crisis Group Senior Analyst, finds that, “Gaza’s separation will become ever more entrenched without a reasonable plan to end it. And the more successful the strategy of choking off Gaza and rewarding the West Bank, the greater will be Hamas’s motivation to sabotage it.” “Despite big obstacles, a new power-sharing arrangement is needed, including: a clearer political platform, explicitly endorsing a two-state settlement; a commitment to a reciprocal and comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire; reform of the security services and the PLO, expanding the latter to include Hamas and Islamic Jihad; formation of a new unified government approved by the parliament; and consideration of early presidential and legislative elections. To facilitate this, Arab states and other third parties should offer to mediate and to monitor an agreement. If one is reached, the Quartet (U.S., EU, Russia, UN) should engage the new government politically and economically.” “A diplomatic agreement reached by one faction to outmanoeuvre its rivals is an illusion. No Palestinian state can be built without Gaza,” says Mouin Rabbani, Crisis Group Senior Analyst. “Palestinians cannot end the occupation if they are at war with themselves”.
A parallel view is expressed by Akram Atallah, “Early elections is a national necessity,” Ma’an News, 30 July 2007www.maannews.net, also distributed by the Common Ground News Service (CGNews): www.commongroundnews.org) states that a July 2-12 poll by the Norwegian FAFO organization shows that splits between Palestinian factions have never been as deep or as sharp as they are now, and asserts that new elections are necessary to begin to overcome the rifts and begin to create legitimate Palestinian government. The poll shows that only 31% believe that Fayyad’s government is legitimate, while 28% believe that Haniyeh’s government is the legitimate government, and 35% believe that both governments are illegal. 32% percent of Palestinians do not trust the PLC, 38% do not trust the security bodies, 53% do not trust the Executive Force either, while 42% do not trust the political factions. In addition, the poll indicates that 73% percent of Palestinians are concerned that the country will be divided into two parts, with one in the West Bank and the other in the Gaza Strip, while 14% percent of Palestinians believe in the necessity of the separation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Given its political meaning, this percentage is very high. It also represents an important part of Palestinian society, which was shocked, not only by the violent method of the attainment of power, but also by the daily scenes of internal fighting, which lasted for over a year and a half in the Gaza Strip. The study shows that 49% of Palestinians were not satisfied with their lives, and only 3% said they were “very satisfied” by their lives. 23% of Palestinians believe that solving the current crisis could be achieved through dissolving the entire Palestinian Authority (PA). Concerning the economic situation in Palestine, the study shows 38% percent of Palestinian families will not be able to secure the basic needs for the coming three months, if the economic conditions remain as they are, with the percentage a little higher in the strip. 86% of Gazans did not pay their electricity bill for the month before the study was made and 87% percent did not pay their water bill, indicating a possible pending collapse of the two vital sectors due to accumulated debts, and the subsequent harm which will occur to the establishments which supply this service. Second is that the Palestinian individual may become unable to cover the necessary expenses of food and clothes.
A July 2-12 poll by FAFO finds Palestinians seeing national reconciliation as more important than peace talks with Israel. Eighty-five percent of those polled would like to see negotiations between Fatah and Hamas. Although a higher proportion of Hamas voters (91%) are in favour of such talks, reconciliation between the two parties also attracts strong support among Fatah followers (73%). 58% say they want peace negotiations with Israel, which is a decline by 20 percentage points from December 2006. People in Gaza and those who vote for Hamas are less likely to support talks with Israel than others. Meanwhile, Ghassan Bannoura (IMEMC), “Abbas and Hamas respond positively to unity call by Arab leadership in Israel,” July 28 (available at: http://www.imemc.org/article/49652) reported that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and leaders of the Hamas movement responded positively to an initiative by the leadership of the Palestinians living in Israel to form a unified body that would strive to overcome internal fighting. For more go to: http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=21394.
Meanwhile, the growing instability across the region, following the U.S. destabilization of Iraq, makes more important a settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. A public opinion poll of Israelis conducted by “New Wave Research” finds: 49.2% are for simultaneous negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas and Syria. 66.0% for negotiations with Mahmoud Abbas. 57.4% for contacts with Hamas. 50.1% for almost complete withdrawal to the Green Line. 52.0% for a demilitarized Palestinian state. 62.7% do not believe Olmert can do it. For more information contact Gush Shalom, P.O. Box 3322, Tel-Aviv 61033, Israel, tel. 972-3-5221732, email@example.com, http://www.gush-shalom.org. The nations of the Arab league have continued to press Israel to accept their peace proposal, initiated by Saudi Arabia. In late July, a meeting did take place between the prime ministers of Israel, and Egypt and Jordan – for the first time acting as envoys of the Arab league. At that time, aside from that important precedent, little was accomplished (see commentary below). Many observers believe that the event opened a door that could lead toward genuine peace movement, but only if Israel follows up reasonably soon with negotiable counter proposals – which its current government does not seem ready to undertake, while the U.S. does not seem to be willing to apply the pressure which might bring Olmert to undertake meaningful negotiations.
One of the difficulties that will have to be overcome in moving to peace is the continued expansion of Isreali settlements. A report by Peace Now, using Israeli government figures, published in Occupation Magazine (http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=21025) finds that Israeli West Bank settlements build on just 9% of state-allocated land, and use only 12% of their territory, although 90% of the settlements exceed their territory, and about one-third of the territory they do use lies outside their jurisdiction, on Palestinian legally owned land. Amnesty International published a 45-page report, on June 4, Enduring Occupation: Palestinian under Siege in the West Bank, documenting the devastating impact of four decades of Israeli military occupation, including the relentless expansion of unlawful settlements on occupied land that deprives the Palestinian population of crucial resources and a plethora of measures that confine Palestinians to fragmented enclaves and hinder their access to work, health and education facilities. A full copy of the report is available at: http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/engmde150332007. A new restraint for settlement expansion has now arisen. Peace Now’s warning, earlier this year, when West Bank settlers launched a campaign in the U.S. to sell homes in settlements, that investing in real estate across the Green Line was not only politically and morally wrong, but also financially risky, has resulted in Heftzibah Construction, one of Israel’s largest contractors and a chief builder of West Bank settlements, falling to the brink of bankruptcy. A key aspect of the development is that Peace Now, with some landowners, appealed illegal building to the Israeli Supreme Court, which ordered the work stopped. The court also ordered the government to open a criminal investigation to determine how the illegal building permits were issued and explain why it would not demolish the illegally constructed homes. This the first instance of the Supreme Court holding companies and people accountable for illegal conduct concerning land and construction, that has become common practice in the West Bank.
The foreign ministers of Japan, Israel and Jordan met with Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) officials in Jericho on the West Bank, in mid August, to discuss developing a joint agricultural-industrial park, as Japan announced resuming aid to the PA.
North Korea shut down its bomb grade uranium producing nuclear reactor, inviting in International Atomic Energy Agency as witnesses, completing its part in the deal for the first step in Pyongyang’s denuclearization, after a long delay in the U.S. getting bank funds cleared, which were part of the arrangement. As ICG pointed out April 30 (“After the North Korea Nuclear Breakthrough: Compliance or Confrontation?, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4795&l=), the U.S. and the other countries must follow with a detailed development plan, and negotiations need to be completed for North Korea to rid itself of any atomic bombs that it may have. North and South Korea restarted rail service, across their border, on May 17, for the first time in 56 years.
In late July, President Bush announced plans for the U.S. to give additional U.S. assistance with civilian nuclear development to India, in part of an arrangement that includes increased trade. However, this and the earlier agreement along the same lines still require congressional action. India continues to experience violence in several states, including a May 29, clash in Jaipur, Rajasthan that became deadly when police opened fire on ethnic Guijars, who are demanding special status under affirmative action laws. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan, who earlier announced that he will abdicate the thrown, has called for elections to a parliament next year, for which a practice, mock election, was held in April. The calm months in Banledesh since the military imposed a care taker government, in the midst of political instability, was broken with widespread clashes between demonstrating students and police, August 22, brinigng the government to impose a curfew in six of the nation’s largest city.
The Red Cross, in a rare finding, in late June, denounced the Myanmar military government for causing “immense suffering,” including making thousands of detainees serve as porters for the military, exposing them to risks, and committing acts of violence against civilians along the Thai-Myanmar border, including the large scale destruction of food supplies. In May, the Myamar ruling military junta extended the house arrest of pro democracy leader and 1991 Nobel Prize winner Daw Aung San Suu for another year, while in August the government broke up peaceful marches protesting fuel price increases.
While advances have been made, over the last few years, in settling conflicts in Indonesia, with the settlements of the Ache conflict and the independence of Timor-Leste, several Indonesian conflicts remain. First, with more than 900 members, the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), South East Asia’s largest jihad organization, continues to be a serious security threat. ICG reported, May 3 (“Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah’s Current Status,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4792&l=1) that JI appears to be in a building and consolidation phase toward its long run goal of establishing an Islamic state. It seems unlikely that JI is currently interested in large, expensive operations, as previous large scale attacks, which inflicted many casualties upon Muslims weakened its support base. “Targeted assassinations of police, prosecutors, and others may be both more cost-effective and more in line with organizational objectives. Recently, Indonesian police have been effective in detaining JI members responsible for violence. ICG Asia Program Director Robert Templer, states that, “Now the Indonesian government needs to pay much more attention to prisons, including what goes on inside, visitors and the materials they bring, and pre- and post-release programs.”
Second, The International Crisis Group stated, May 22, (“Indonesia: Power Struggles in Maluku,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4849&l=1) that to avoid conflict, Indonesia needs to be careful in how it undertakes proposed division of the South East Maluku, in order to properly deal with latent communal tensions, while making equitable distribution of development funds and even-handed prosecution of corruption. “The original idea was that smaller units would bring better service delivery and more representative government, but too often the process is driven by local elites eager for power and wealth. In former conflict areas like Maluku, administrative disputes that arise as a result, whether over boundaries, civil service appointments or choice of district capital, can quickly become magnified”. “The geography of Indonesia’s more than 13,000 islands clearly makes decentralization essential,” says Robert Templer, ICG Asia Program Director. “But in South East Maluku, as in other former conflict areas, the question is whether the process will build bridges or foster distrust. Everything depends on implementation.” “South East Maluku erupted in conflict for three months in 1999 shortly after Christian-Muslim fighting broke out in Ambon. Most people point to local customary law that bridged the religious divide as the main reason why it was quickly brought under control, but tensions remain, and the proposed division will leave the new municipality predominantly Muslim and the rump predominantly Christian. Land and economic development are bigger issues, but both could take on a communal cast. Depending on how the borders are drawn, Tual could end up with most of the public facilities, leaving the rump district with nothing. Opponents of the split say this will bankrupt the latter. Proponents say it will be a stimulus to growth.” A similar situation exists in the third area, Indonesian Papaua, where moves for decentralization need to take into account the complex of local interests in order to insure that new arrangements foster harmony, rather than fueling existing conflicts, as detailed in ICG, “Indonesian Papua: A Local Perspective on the Conflict, July 19, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4945&l=1.
Timor-Leste continues to suffer political turmoil, with no party wining a majority in the June 30 elections. Consistently with the Constitution, and accepted by the UN, following the failure of the former ruling party, Fretilin, and a coalition led by Alexandre “Xanana” Gusmão’s National Congress for Timorese Reconstruction (CNRT) to form a combined administration, President José Ramos-Horta appointed Mr, Gusmão, a charismatic former president and resistance hero, prime minister, on August 6th. However, the appointment has been rejected by Fretilin, whose supporters have staged violent protests in the capital of Dili. There is some danger that Fretilin’s reaction will lead to prolonged political deadlock and instability. Fretilin considers the appointment of the new administration illegal and is threatening not to participate in the political process. Prior to the elections, on June 13, ICG expressed concern (“Timor-Leste‚s Parliamentary Elections,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4895&l=1), that “Inflammatory rhetoric during the current parliamentary election campaign could reignite violent tensions in Timor-Leste.” More important, the key issues underlying the 2006 violence remaining unresolved. If CNRT led a government coalition, “it would be more consultative and transparent than FRETILIN and thus better equipped to deal with the social-political rifts that revealed themselves in 2006. The expected coalition’s openness to advice on institution-strengthening and awareness of the needs of vulnerable groups bodes well for Timor-Leste;s future but its lack of technocratic skills and contradictory statements regarding appointments and policies emphasizes the potential pitfalls of such a newly-formed political grouping. There is real concern over the fiscal management competencies of a CNRT coalition given its proposals to distribute money quickly to alleviate poverty. Such a program could squander the Petroleum Fund and thus jeopardize the country‚s economic future. Also, there has been virtually no discussion of proposed names or policies for the all-important ministries of the interior and defense raising further anxieties.” The Geneva based mediation organization the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) facilitated a meeting between the President of East Timor José Ramos Horta and fugitive military police officer Major Alfredo Alves Reinado in Ermera District, South West of the capital Dili on Sunday August 19. HD reports, “The meeting was a positive move towards the start of a genuine dialogue process between the Government and Major Reinado who left the army in May 2006 with a group of armed followers. At the meeting both sides expressed support for a dialogue process with the aim of settling their differences peacefully and ending the armed confrontation. The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue has since been formally requested by both sides to continue to act as mediator and facilitator along with Movimentu Unidade Nacional ba Justiça (MUNJ).” For more information go to: http://m1e.net/c?50573564-ApQtqNk9yIKfg%402697487-3aBpv14vus0hY.
The military government of Thailand, which has been frustrated to find that, at least in the short run, its conciliatory policy toward its Muslim minority has not ended the insurgency, signaled a tougher policy against insurgents, in May, with the appointment of a new security chief. Known for his harsh tactics. Analysis of the August 19 referendum on the New Constitution in Thailand (Seth Mydans, “Thai Vote Shows Division Among Classes Is Simmering,” The New York Times, August 21, 2007, p. A10) brought to light a deep social rift that is likely to impact future politics and elections. While close to 58% of voters approved the new constitution, in poorer districts, which gave very strong support to the prime minister ousted by the current military government, 63% voted against the new constitution. Human Rights Watch reported, July 30, that the Philippines has taken the highest toll in the region in Jihadist attacks since 2000, with 1700 civilians killed.
ICG reported, June 14, (“Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Crisis Deepens the Conflict, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4896&l=1), “The international community must press the warring sides for urgent action to address wide-spread human rights abuses in Sri Lanka as a first step to restoring a climate in which the long conflict can ultimately be resolved”. Both the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) have been deliberately committing human rights abuses, in renewing the civil war, that fuel the fighting. “While the LTTE has continued its deliberately provocative attacks on the military and Sinhalese civilians as well as its violent repression of Tamil dissenters and forced recruitment of adults and children, the government is using extra-judicial killings and disappearances as part of a brutal and counter-productive counter-insurgency campaign.” “The abuses on both sides will only fuel further violence, and the new generation of embittered youth being created will only prolong the war. Moreover, while the government faces a severe security threat, which it has a legitimate right to address, “its policies are doing little to improve security and are fuelling antagonism among moderate Tamils and other minorities towards the state. Limitations on human rights are having a significant impact on Sri Lanka‚s institutions, including parliament, the media, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary. As the state decays, corruption and criminal influence on the political system have increased. While attacking moderates who are critical of the government’s approach, the administration has given space to nationalist extremists, who provoke further inter-communal strife. The international community should support a resolution in the UN Human Rights Council, reassess aid policies and support more international involvement in monitoring abuses. The government must pursue and support genuine investigations into abuses, repeal aspects of the Emergency Regulations inconsistent with international human rights norms and assert effective control over government-aligned Tamil paramilitary groups.” In addition, ICG asserted, May 29, (“Sri Lanka‚s Muslims: Caught in the Crossfire,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4868&l=1) that the government badly needs “to ensure the security and political involvement of Sri Lanka’s Muslims, whose views must be taken into account if a lasting peace settlement is to be achieved”. To date, both sides have “largely ignored Muslim community, who have been victims of massacres, ethnic cleansing and forced displacement over the past two decades, largely by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and have been sidelined at successive peace talks. The growing disillusionment among a new generation must be adequately addressed through an equitable settlement between the country’s Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim communities.” “One third of Sri Lanka’s nearly two million Muslims live in the conflict-affected north and east and thus have a significant interest in any future settlement. The resumption of large-scale military action in 2006 saw more killings and displacement of Muslims in the east, as well as conflict with the pro-government Tamil paramilitary group, the Karuna faction. Muslims are also concerned about government plans for the eastern province, which so far do not show any willingness to devolve powers to local communities. While the Muslim community has largely refrained from resorting to violence in the past, some frustrated youth are showing increasing interest in more radical versions of Islam. All parties to future peace talks must support the Muslim community‚s demand for a separate delegation. In any final peace settlement, the parties must ensure the right of return of displaced Muslims. The government should also assert effective control over pro-government Tamil paramilitary groups such as the Karuna faction and end their involvement in kidnapping, extortion and other criminal activity. Any new interim government for the Eastern province must include equitable power-sharing for Muslims as well as Tamils, along with the enhancement of local government structures. In parallel, Tamil militant groups should make a public commitment to Muslim representation and their return to their original properties.”
ICG warned, July 9, “Nepal‚s Troubled Tarai Region,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4941&l=1, “Violent unrest in Nepal‚s Tarai plains could generate a new conflict if weaknesses in the country’s peace process are not addressed.” Currently, Madhesis, plainspeople, comprising a third of the national population, who are largely excluded from political processes and otherwise discriminated against, are becoming politically assertive in demanding equal rights. “The national political process must be made more inclusive and responsive, and constituent assembly elections later this year must be free and fair if a new conflict is to be avoided.”
Tibetans, in mid August, turned a festival in Gyegu, Tibet into a muted protest against China. China, this year, pledge $20 billion over the next three years to finance trade an infrastructure development in Africa. While the investment has helped economic development, there are also reported costs. Textile mills in Zambia, for example, have suffered, in some instances closed, reducing much needed employment, as the result of the influx of low cost Chinese goods. There are safety and environmental issues as well, illustrated by an explosion at a Chinese owned explosive factory, in Zambia, killed 46 people in 2005. The problems of free trade (and sometimes international dumping), and lack of regulation in China, that have been evident in the U.S., recently, are also a concern in China’s African economic relations,
ICG warned, June 7, (“Georgia’s South Ossetia Conflict: Make Haste Slowly,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4887&l=1) that “Frequent security incidents in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia could degenerate into greater violence unless all sides resume substantive dialogue and avoid pressing unilateral efforts to end the stalemate.” The Georgian government, showing resentment for Russia’s role in the resolution process has been pressing to change the peacekeeping and negotiation format, as well as the status quo on the ground. “In November 2006, Tbilisi launched a bid to change the South Ossetian stalemate peacefully by supporting a new alternative South Ossetian administration led by Dmitri Sanakoev. Though Sanakoev is an ethnic Ossetian and fought against Georgia in the 1990-1992 conflict, a majority of South Ossetians perceive Georgia‚s strategy as a way of forcing a settlement upon them under Tbilisi‚s terms and now see him as a traitor. Sanakoev controls mainly Georgian populated villages in the conflict zone. For a real transformation of the status quo, he would need to gain credibility with Ossetians. Tbilisi risks pushing for change too fast. Its steps are non-violent and development-oriented but implementation is unilateral and so assertive they contribute to a dangerous rise in tensions. The Georgian government needs to work on changing perceptions, through bilateral efforts and by embarking on a substantive dialogue with the de facto authorities in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia. Tbilisi should also emphasize gradual confidence building through transitional justice initiatives, implementation of the Law on Property Restitution and Compensation and allocation of more economic aid to the programs led by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the conflict zone. At the same time, Moscow should recognize its mutual interest in ending a dangerous stalemate and agree with Georgia on changes to the negotiation format to emphasize direct Georgian-Ossetian dialogue and give the EU a role on a par with its own and the OSCE’s. It should encourage Tskhinvali to do the same and both sides to implement verifiable demilitarization. All parties should work to further inter-ethnic cooperation and confidence by implementing economic development and rehabilitation through joint efforts, rather than competing unilateral projects, as now. The US, EU and Russia should set up an informal consultative group to assist the parties in renewed dialogue.”
Western election observers stated that Armenia’s May elections were the first, since it gained independence in 1991, to be largely in compliance with international standards. A coalition of pro-government parties took a sizable majority in the National Assembly, a victory for the prime minister. The observers found that the opposition voters were heard, even if they did not win over a majority of voters. In Kyrgyzstan, in late March, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, yielded to strong political pressure to appoint one of his leading critics Alman Atambahev, as prime minister, in what has been a uniform one party government. In contrast, the party of Kazakhstan’s authoritarian President Nursultan a. Nazarbayev took all 98 contested parliamentary seats in elections, in late August, that the main opposition said it would contest, while election monitors from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe found flaws in vote counting in 40% of the polling places they visited. Never-the-less, the leader of the monitoring team, Consiglio Di Nino said that the elections offered some progress. Ealier, Nazarbayev signed a constitutional amendment exempting him from the limit of two terms as President, making it legal for him to effectively serve as president for life.
ICG is concerned (“Uzbekistan: Stagnation and Uncertainty,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5027&l=1) that “The international community must brace for civil conflict in Uzbekistan when the dictatorial president, Islom Karimov, leaves office.” “Two years after the Andijon massacre, the country remains a serious risk to itself and the region. The 69-year-old Karimov’s term ended formally in January but he shows no sign of stepping down. There is no clear successor or succession process, so an eventual power struggle could well be violent. The human rights situation is grave; a tightly controlled economy drives off investors and exacerbates grinding poverty. The regime cites the ‘war on terror’ to justify authoritarian policies but its repression may instead be radicalizing opponents and creating greater future danger.” “In May 2005 the government killed hundreds of civilians while suppressing an uprising and demonstrations in Andijon. The EU imposed limited sanctions but these have not achieved the international investigation they sought or otherwise moderated government policies. The regime has made only token gestures to appease Western critics, while continuing to persecute human rights activists, journalists and the political opposition. Hundreds have sought refuge abroad, where they risk forced repatriation by Uzbek security services. Some in the EU, notably Germany, favor scrapping sanctions and resuming „engagement‰ with the regime. Instead, the EU should make clear that for sanctions to be lifted, the government should meet specific benchmarks, such as allowing re-registration of NGOs closed down after Andijon and ending harassment of journalists and human rights activists. The International Committee of the Red Cross should get unrestricted access to all detention facilities and an independent rapporteur – backed by the UN or the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – should be allowed to carry out an Andijon investigation. The international community should also work at opening the Uzbek economy and improving the flow of information into and out of the country. Uzbek refugees and labor migrants should be helped so as not to become easy recruitment targets for Islamic radicals. Education abroad should be sustained, and the country‚s neighbors helped to build up their ability to withstand the shocks likely to result from turmoil inside Uzbekistan. The international community should also tackle the criminal nature of the regime by targeting its assets abroad.”
ICG expressed its concern, May 24, (“Central Asia Cannot Solve Europe’s Energy Problem,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4866&l=1) in saying, “Central Asia’s oil and gas cannot solve the European Union’s energy dependence on Russia, but these resources can destabilize the producing region unless governments use the revenues to promote good governance and rule of law.” In examining the resources of Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and the dangers of mishandling them, ICG “argues that a trans-Caspian gas pipeline cannot largely write Russia out of the European energy equation, as Brussels hopes. But it also disputes the common view that the May12 Russian-Central Asian gas agreement prevents that pipeline from being built. ‘Central Asia can make a contribution – a modest one – to helping resolve Europe’s energy security concerns’, says Charles Esser, Crisis Group Energy Analyst, ‘but only if outside investment is tied to the good governance that is needed to improve regional and human security. If Western governments turn their eyes away from mismanagement and human rights abuses in expectation of short-term gains, they risk stimulating instability in Central Asia that will only add to their energy and other security problems’. The three countries present different challenges, but all three are suffering from the ‘resource curse’. Kazakhstan has used its money best and is impressive compared to its neighbors but should aim for a higher standard now. It is at a point where enormous oil revenues need to be translated into commensurate outcomes that benefit its citizens. Corruption, an undiversified economy, improper management of state funds and a lack of the legal guarantees that are part of a true democracy hold it back. All these problems are more extreme in Turkmenistan, a major gas exporter that was pillaged by the eccentric and brutal dictator Saparmurat Niyazov until his death in December 2006. Despite a relatively high per capita income on paper, most Turkmen live in poverty. Investment in energy production has faltered. It remains to be seen if anything fundamental will change under the new leader, a close protégé of Niyazov’s who came to power in a rigged election. He may not have much time before revenues fall, as gas production will decline without substantial new investment. Uzbekistan has the least oil and gas of the three producers. It is a net importer of oil, and much of its declining gas output has been sold to Russia. Despite wishful thinking in some European capitals, it will never be a part of EU energy security arrangements. The gas also perpetuates a system that impoverishes and represses its people. Domestic supplies are often cut in winter, for example, so the gas can be sold abroad, leaving cities unheated in freezing weather, provoking protests and serious unrest. ‘The hard fact is there is no substitute for arrangements with Russia that stress mutual dependence on commercial oil and gas delivery,’ says Michael Hall, Crisis Group Central Asia Project Director. ‘The international community needs to pay more attention to Central Asia as a security risk, without expecting it to solve its outside energy needs’.
Progress on settling Kosovo’s status remains blocked, with Russia refusing to allow the “supervised independence” in the plan proposed by UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari, which has significant backing from other Security Council members. Russia refuses to allow any arrangement opposed by Serbia, and Beograd rejects any arrangement that could lead to Kosovo independence (though privately, the Serbian government admits it would accept a division of Kosovo, with the area north of Mitrovica remaining part of Serbia, and the rest capable of leaving Serbia). A major problem is that many Kosovo Albanians are becoming increasingly impatient at the delay in achieving a settlement that leads to independence, so that as delay in reaching agreement goes on, the danger of new violence in Kosovo increases. Should a new civil war begin in Kosovo, it could spread to Macedonia, which has a large Albanian minority, and this in turn could threaten a wider instability in the Balkans, as warned by ICG, May 14, (“Kosovo: No Good Alternatives to the Ahtisaari Plan,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4830&l=1). The report finds that “the recommendation of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari for ‘supervised independence’ and his detailed implementation proposals are the best that can be achieved. It explains why Serbia‚s private preference for partitioning the province north of Mitrovica would be immensely damaging, not least for most of the 7 per cent Serb minority.” Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director., warns, “The choice is now between an imposed international solution and no solution at all for the foreseeable future. Any delay in coming to a decision on Kosovo‚s status will seriously complicate an already fragile situation, and partition would benefit only the extremists.” On August 21, ICG, stated (“Europe Must Break the Kosovo Stalemate,“ http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5018&l=1), “Europe risks a new bloody and destabilizing conflict unless the EU and its member states now accept the primary responsibility for bringing Kosovo to supervised independence by April/May 2008.” “The preferred strategy of bringing Kosovo to supervised independence through the United Nations Security Council has failed, following Russia’s declared intention to veto, and a new round of negotiations between Pristina and Belgrade will most likely lead nowhere. This leaves the EU – with the most to lose from renewed violent conflict in the Balkans – before crucial decisions.” “Pristina and Belgrade have recently started four months of talks mandated by the six-nation Contact Group (France, Germany, Italy, Russia, UK, U.S.). But Serbia will not accept independence, seeks to delay indefinitely and is laying the foundation for what would be destabilising partition. The EU and U.S. should maintain the integrity of the Ahtisaari plan ˆ the blueprint for supervised independence crafted by the UN Secretary-General‚s special envoy, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, after a year of painstaking negotiations. By 10 December – if, as is overwhelmingly likely, no agreed solution emerges from those talks – the EU, U.S. and NATO need to be ready to start coordinated action with the Kosovo government to implement the essence of the Ahtisaari plan, including the 120-day transition it envisages. That period should be used to accumulate recognitions of the conditionally independent state from many governments; to adopt and set in place the state-forming legislation and related institutions foreseen by the Ahtisaari plan; for the Kosovo government to invite the EU and NATO to take up new responsibilities and for those organisations to do so; and for the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to withdraw in an orderly fashion. In April/May 2008, Kosovo would be conditionally independent, under EU and NATO supervision.”
Meanwhile, ICG reported, May 31, (“Serbia’s New Government: Turning from Europe,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4878) that the new Serbian government is deeply divided between anti-Western, ultra-nationalists in Premier Vojislav Kostunica’s Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and pro-Western members of the government. ICG recommends that, “The European Union should support pro-Western forces inside Serbia by holding firm on its demand for the arrest of key war criminals before starting talks over closer ties”. “The EU and US should now resist the temptation of further appeasing Serbia in a misguided effort to gain acceptance of Kosovo’s independence. The EU’s strategy of using the prospect of integration and accession to soften Serbia’s stance simply will not work while the nationalists retain so much power.” On May 31, the Serbian government arrested General Zdravko Tolimir, the third most wanted Bosnian war crimes suspect, and extradited the two primary suspects, General Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadic to the Hague for trial, on June 1. This led the European Union’s Enlargement Commissioner, Oli Rehn to announce that suspended preentry talks between the EU and Serbia could be restarted – as they had been suspended, last year, over Serbia’s failure to arrest and extradite the top Bosnian war crime fugitives.
A U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) study evaluating the improvements in security at Russian nuclear material and warhead sites overseen by Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), under The Material Protection, Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program, established by DOD under Cooperative Threat Reduction initiative (CTR) in order to ensure the sustained effectiveness of U.S. funding for security upgrades, notable improvement to security at Russian nuclear cites, but saw funding by the United States as uncertain in the long-term, while accountability concerns persist. See, “Room for Improvement in Russian Nuclear Sites,” (http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=3946&from_page=../index.cfm). At the end of May, the United States and Russia agreed to speed expansion of a program to detect radioactive materials along Russia’s borders, with detection equipment stationed at all border crossings by 2011. The program involves collaboration between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Russian federal custom service. Through the end of 2006 the U.S. had spent about $40 billion on the effort, and it anticipates spending an additional $100 million through 2011. At a, July 3, meeting between Presidents Bush and Putin, the United States and Russia pledged to reduce their stockpiles of long range nuclear weapons “to their lowest possible levels consistent with their national security requirements and alliance commitments.” The two Presidents stated that the two nations would work “to provide continuity and predictability about their atomic arsenals, as they work to complete an early extension of the 1991 nuclear arms limitation treaty, which expires in 2009. Russia’s continued unhappiness with the expansion of NATO eastward and the U.S. proposal to place antiballistic missiles (which, in fact, do not work) in former Warsaw Pact nations, has brought President Vladimir Putin, in April, to suspend its compliance with its treaty with NATO limiting conventional arms in Europe. Putin said that he would use compliance as a bargaining chip in future disagreements with the U.S. In an indication of Russia’s increased international assertiveness, President Putin announced, August 17, that the Russian air force was beginning to patrol the world’s oceans with nuclear capable aircraft, in a renewal of a USSR Cold War practice, discontinued 15 years ago.
Ukraine’s ‘Orange Revolution’, going on three years ago, promised a free and more democratic government, The country and its governance became mired in on going conflict and crisis, when President Viktor F. Yushchenko signed a disputed order dissolving parliament, in April, which, amid much protest, charges and counter charges, did not occur. A May 25 compromise ended the constitutional crisis. Parliament adjourned in June looking for new elections September 30.
The Turkish Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, March 28, reaffirmed a Turkish offer to Armenia to establish a joint commission of historians, opened to third parties, to examine the contentious events of 1915, sometimes called the ‘Armenian Masacre’ Turkey, May 22, suffered its worst terrorist act in months, when a bomb, set of in a shopping district in Ankara, killed six people and wounded eight.
The Basque separatist group ETA declared their previously announced “permanent” ceasefire with the Spanish government to be over, on June 5. saying the action was taken because of the Spanish government’s mishandling of the truce, including ongoing arrests, torture and persecution. In this updated analysis, CDI Research Assistant Monica Czwarno details the politics surrounding ETA’s often-bloody history, including their strategies and funding, and what the future might hold for ETA and their quest for independence for the Basque Country. However, ETA had effectively ended its cease fire, in December, with an airport bombing. For more, see, “In the Spotlight: Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA),” at: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=4061&from_page=../index.cfm. To develop a culture of peace, the Basque provincial government has launched the Basque Plan of Action for Human Rights and Peace Education (2008-2009), “as an outcome of the creation in 2006 of an Interdepartmental Commission on Peace and Human Rights. The plan is supported by the belief that human rights and peace education are essential tools for strengthening social and ethical consciousness in the defense of the dignity of each person, of life in the first place, and of all Human Rights. The Basque Plan is justified as a public response for a society that has lived for a long period with violence and terrorism. Terrorism is a phenomenon that has been present in recent Basque history and a big concern again after the end of ETA´s ceasefire. Terrorism, apart from its dramatic immediate effects, contaminates relationships in groups and in society in general creates many non-desired effects and disrupts possibilities for co-existence. The persistence of violence has created deep fractures in Basque society. The Plan of Action for Peace and Human Rights Education was formulated to redress and heal these fractures, offer particular attention to victims of violence, and further necessary processes toward reconciliation in all social levels from a human rights foundation. The plan seeks to create and support an active education fabric for the promotion of a Human Rights and Peace Culture. Actions are being designed to reach these goals without leaving anyone aside. The plan aims at making society in general aware of the need to see this kind of education as a complex, global and permanent process. At the same time it attempts to create the structures that respond to this educative demand. For this, we need coordination and good understanding between different political structures at different levels: local, provincial and autonomous government.” “Civil society institutions and organizations are also considered critical partners.” “The Basque Government is pleased to share this plan with you and is happy to receive your feedback.” To receive a copy of the complete plan please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org”
Indications were clear, this spring and summer, that Northern Ireland has begun a new stage in building peace. On May 8, the Northern Ireland power sharing authority was reestablished with the swaring in of two former enemies, Protestant Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Union party, and Catholic Martin McGuiness of the Sinn Fein party as leader and deputy leader of the Northern Ireland executive government. Five days earlier, the Ulster Volunteer Force, the oldest pro-British paramilitary group renounced violence, stopping military training and putting its arms “beyond reach.” This July 12, the annual Irish Protestant Parades, celebrating the victory of the Protestant forces of English King William of Orange over Catholic King James the Second, for many years accompanied by interfaith violence, were completely peaceful. Irish President Mary McAleese invited hundreds of Protestant leaders to a “Twelth” (as the anniversary celebrations are known) party in their honor. As a result of these advances, Great Brittan has declared an end to its military intervention in Northern Ireland.
Fearing that Germany may soon become a major target for Islamic terrorist acts, the German government’s top security official was proposing measures, in July, allowing for surreptitious government on line searches of the computers of people suspected of terrorist activity, and authorization for the shooting down of hijacked aircraft. He also calls for considering detaining potential terrorists and approving killing terrorist leaders abroad. The proposals have created great controversy in a country with a deep aversion to intrusive and harsh enforcement tactics, as a result of nazi and communist brutality.
A retreat of eminent mediators on conflict mediation in Zanzibar, April 23-25, agreed that “The international community must speak with one voice to achieve peace in Darfur.” Jan Eliasson, Special Envoy of the Secretary General of the United Nations for Darfur said: “There will be no quick fix for Darfur but we need to do all we can to mobilize the political energy towards a solution. Therefore we are working for a unified position by the international community and trying to intensify the political process.” Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, African Union Special Envoy on the Darfur Conflict since 2004 commented, “The fragmentation of the Darfur Movements renders mediation efforts extremely difficult. It is very important that the movements are able to present unified positions for talks to move forward.” The Africa Mediators’ Retreat was co-hosted by the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (http://www.nyererefoundation.or.tz) and the Geneva based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (http://www.hdcentre.org). Participants in the retreat included representatives of the African Union (AU), the United Nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), as well as analysts and representatives of nongovernmental organizations. In addition to Darfur, several other current mediation processes were examined, including Somalia. The implementation of peace agreements in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi were discussed. Africa’s capacity to support mediation processes, including within institutions such as the African Union and IGAD were a major theme throughout. For more information contact: Andy Andrea, Tel: +41 (0)22 908 11 47, Mobile: +41 (0)79 257 9974, email@example.com, http://www.hdcentre.org.
Zoe Alsop and Nick Wadhams, “Ethiopia: Tainted Ally” (http://www.pulitzercenter.org/showproject.cfm?id=29), reported that while U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces made headlines when they invaded Somalia to root out Islamic extremists, less known is the Ethiopian government’s massive persecution of its own people committed by the regime of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, and the potential repercussions of making the country a key U.S. ally. Ethiopia suffered one of its worst rebel attacks in years, when forces of the Ogadan Nationl Libration Front – fighting for control of Eastern Ethiopia – raided a Chinese-run oil field, killing 70, including 9 Chinese oil workers, in mid-August, the Bush Administration stated that it is considering adding Eritrea to its list of nations sponsoring state terrorism, accusing it of supplying arms to Islamic insurgents in Somalia, a charge supported by a July 20 report to the Security Council by UN monitors.
ICG warns (“A Strategy for Comprehensive Peace in Sudan,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4961&l=1) that “a new and worse civil war in Sudan is possible unless the international community presses for a fundamental shift in the way the country is governed”. “The Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended Africa‚s longest-running civil war in 2005, is being extensively undermined, primarily by the ruling National Congress Party (NCP). While international attention has focused on Darfur, albeit without much success, Sudan’s other brewing conflicts and the crucial implementation of the CPA are being largely ignored. Crisis Group says a more balanced approach is urgently needed, also in the interest of peace in Darfur.” “The CPA contains the detailed provisions and schedule for governmental reforms and a democratization process leading to national elections in 2009 which can be the building blocks for peacemaking in Darfur and elsewhere. However, it is in danger of collapse due primarily to NCP sabotage and international neglect. The NCP views democratic transformation as a threat to regime survival and so undermined the CPA’s critical reforms. International efforts over the last several years have lacked leadership, and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), which fought the government for a generation until it signed the CPA, has focused on internal southern issues at the expense of the national agenda. Meanwhile the risk of new conflict is rising in Kordofan in central Sudan, in the far North and in the East. Consistent international engagement and vigilance is needed to ensure the CPA is implemented. The UN Secretary-General must immediately appoint a chief for the peacekeeping mission (UNMIS), which has been leaderless for more than half a year, so it can refocus on its primary mandate of monitoring the CPA. The international community should lay out a roadmap for peace which includes the African Union/United Nations plan for reviving the Darfur political process, benchmarks for CPA implementation, and consensus on diplomatic and economic rewards for those who cooperate, and punitive measures for spoilers.” The government of Sudan finally agreed to have UN peacekeepers in Darfur, provided African troops are part of the force, but they will not deploy until next year, finding a more complex situation than at the war’s beginning, including a fracturing of rebel groups fighting each other, with no cease fire. Judges at the International Criminal Court charged two top Sudanese officials with helping plan atrocities in Darfur, in May, Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-al-Rahaman, accused of being a former leader of a janjaweed militia, and Ahmnad Muhammad Harun, a former security officer.
The International Crisis Group stated, June 11 (“The Western Sahara Conflict: The Costs and the Solution,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4893&l=1, and “Western Sahara: Out of the Impasse,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4892&l=1) that, the UN Security Council needs to take a new approach to resolving the costly, stalemated, 30 year conflict in Western Sahara amongst Morocco, the Polisario Front and Algeria. Crisis Group President Gareth Evans finds that, “There are vested interests in the status quo, and most of the leading actors have underestimated or ignored its costs. But when they are understood, the case for finally resolving this conflict becomes overwhelming”. “The combination of Morocco’s recent proposal of a „Sahara autonomous region‰, the Polisario Front’s counter-proposal of independence with guarantees for Moroccan interests and the Security Council’s 30 April resolution calling for negotiations between the parties, has been hailed as a promising breakthrough. However, the underlying dynamics of the conflict have not changed, and the formal positions of Morocco and the Polisario Front are still far apart. The UN has unfortunately been part of the problem: it has insisted, understandably, on treating the conflict as a case of decolonization entitling the Sahrawi people to self-determination, but at the same time it has not insisted on the necessary referendum, thus allowing Morocco to block the proper exercise of this right. The Security Council has just two choices. It must discharge in full the responsibility it assumed to secure the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. Or it must accept that it cannot and encourage Morocco, the Polisario Front and Algeria to resolve matters among themselves on whatever basis they can.” Crisis Group‚s Middle East and North Africa Director, Robert Malley, says, “The Security Council should not keep fudging this issue. Either it must find the political will to persuade Morocco to agree to a referendum including the option of independence. Or it should let the three main parties negotiate the terms of a settlement for themselves, without prejudicing its outcome in any manner.”
ICG reported April 26 (“Northern Uganda: Seizing the Opportunity for Peace,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4791&l=1) that in order for the peace talks, which began in Juba, Sudan, April 26, to succeed in ending the brutal twenty-year insurrection in northern Uganda by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), they need to be supported more strongly by international actors. “Both sides have agreed to renew their cessation of hostilities agreement and restart the Juba negotiation that stalled early this year. However, to achieve lasting peace, a more comprehensive strategy is needed both to address the conditions that have created a cycle of conflict in northern Uganda and guard against destabilization in neighboring Congo and Sudan.” “The peace talks have improved security and begun to allow a few of the 1.4 million internally-displaced northern Ugandans to return home”, according to Adam O’Brien, Crisis Group analyst, “but some of the wrong issues are on the table, the wrong LRA negotiators are present, and UN Special Envoy and ex-Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano does not yet have sufficient leverage to overcome the mutual mistrust.” “A solution to one of Africa‚s longest and most brutal conflicts requires two-tracks. The first, the Juba talks, should focus on ending the LRA security threat. Chissano needs more help, especially from the U.S. and UK, and he needs to be empowered to present a package of security and livelihood guarantees directly to the reclusive LRA leader, Joseph Kony. The second track should focus on a follow-up national reconciliation forum, with much wider participation, that addresses the north’s political, economic and social alienation and includes a plan for northern Ugandans to redevelop their communities and reintegrate returning rebels. The investigation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has increased pressure on the LRA‚s indicted leaders to negotiate and should continue. Finally, contingency planning on a regional security strategy for use against the LRA if Juba fails should begin now and include military and political cooperation between Uganda, the Government of Southern Sudan, Congo and the UN missions in Sudan and Congo.”
ICG is concerned (“Congo: Consolidating the Peace,” July 5, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=4933) that “An unimpressive first half-year of Congo’s elected government has left the peace process in danger, especially in the volatile East, and democracy fragile.” President Joseph Kabila’s new government has made real gains that have at serious risk. “While the transition helped unify the divided country and improved security in much of it, governing institutions remain weak, abusive or non-existent, and the national army is still the country’s worst human rights abuser, while another crisis is looming in the East. ‘Despite Kabila‚s strong mandate, the last months have seen the rapid paralysis of the state machinery, increased authoritarian tendencies and no decisive progress in the restoration of peace in the Kivus,’ says David Mugnier, Crisis Groups Central Africa Project Director. ‘Kabila and Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga need to acknowledge the shortcomings of the last months and make a fresh start by promoting a culture of dialogue and accountability and strengthening cooperation with the UN mission (MONUC) and the wider international community.’ The Government must make good on promises to respect opposition rights and stop using repressive violence in the West, which strongly supported the opposition in the election. Jean-Pierre Bemba, the runner-up in that election, must have his security guaranteed so he can return promptly from the exile into which he was driven after the government used excessive force to disarm his guard in the capital in March. Parliament, courts and media must be free to serve as checks against a worrying authoritarian drift. A comprehensive peace initiative for the Kivus, emphasizing diplomacy and dialogue, is also urgently needed. Much remains to be done to turn the army and police into competent, confidence-inspiring forces that can provide stability and tackle lawlessness, especially in the militia-dominated East. In order to avoid tensions during implementation of the decentralization program and preparation of local elections, the permanent consultation process between the central government and the provinces must be strengthened. To improve the management of natural resources and aid economic recovery, the findings and recommendations of the mining contracts review must be made public and illegal contracts cancelled. Donors must stay engaged and condition their aid on acceptance of a political framework in which the security and governance challenges can be addressed jointly. They should press for a comprehensive peace initiative in the East and increased cooperation with MONUC, especially in the Kivus, where renewed war threatens.” François Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director observes. “If the new government does not live up its own promises to build a different Congo, it is likely to continue being perceived more as a nuisance than a legitimate authority. Without clear signs of improvement before year‚s end, donor support will start shifting to other post-conflict theatres, and Congo could lose the peace-building gains of the past five years.”
Nigeria continues to miss its great potential, and to compound its many problems. These include endemic, though somewhat lessened, corruption, which fuels other problems, including a variety of growing inter group conflicts. This includes insurrection and ethnic conflict in the petroleum producing delta, that regularly experiences attacks on foreigners, and oil workers of whatever nationality, with frequent interruptions of oil production, and some times deadly and environmentally destructive oil spills and fires. ICG reported, May 30, “Nigeria: Failed Elections, Failing State?” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4876, that “after deeply flawed elections, Nigeria’s new President must act urgently to pull the nation back from the brink of chaos”. The widely perceived unfairness of the April elections, with resulting considerable inequities, threatens to magnify Nigeria’s existing problems, while degrading its status as an international peace broker and peacekeeper in Africa. “The report calls on President Umaru Yar‚Adua to reach out to the opposition to form an inclusive government of national unity, in which all major parties are represented. ‘Nigeria‚s democracy has derailed, says Crisis Group Senior Analyst Nnamdi Obasi. ‘Yar‚Adua has to understand that no number of overtures will satisfy the opposition unless and until his administration seriously confronts all the institutional failures that must be redressed if Nigeria is to escape collapse and widespread violence.’ The out-going administration of Olusegun Obasanjo declared the 2007 elections as a success, constituting the first-ever civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in Nigeria‚s history. In reality the transition to a hand-picked successor through a flawed election was more like a dynastic succession, and it has been denounced not only by opposition leaders but even by members of the triumphant People‚s Democratic Party. Yar‚Adua assumed the presidency on 29 May with less legitimacy than any previous president and thus has less capacity to moderate and resolve Nigeria’s violent domestic conflicts. Pre-existing tensions in the Niger Delta and demands in the south east for Biafran separatism have been exacerbated over recent months due to diminished civilian confidence in governing institutions. Resolving these issues requires a government that enjoys legitimacy and respect in the eyes of its people and can enlist their cooperation. To stave off this brewing crisis, Yar‚Adua must work with the opposition to form an inclusive government of national unity and not by co-opting individuals but rather by accepting their own official nominees. His administration must also establish an independent inquiry to identify responsibility for fraudulent electoral practices. The Senate should launch a judicial inquiry into election commission’s financial management, and the UN, US and the EU should give material and technical aid to future election tribunals adjudicating transparency.”
A peace agreement was signed, in March, between ex-rebels and the transitional government in Côte d’Ivoire, providing for power sharing for a period of transition. In June, the terms of the peace agreement were being carried out, including militias turning in arms and the commander of the rebel army becoming prime minister, but national integration was barely beginning. As in other African settlements it is difficult to get many weapons turned in, and with many immigrants – many former agricultural workers who contributed to the Ivory Coast’s once booming agricultural sector – to determine who is a citizen. Interstate travelers and truckers still have to pay off rebel militias and government soldiers to move on the roads. On June 27, ICG expressed concern (“Côte d‚Ivoire after the Ouagadougou Agreement,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4916&l=1) that “the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement [concluded in March] could pave the way to Cote d’Ivoires reunification, but the political crisis is yet to be resolved and continues to threaten stability in West Africa.” “The agreement is a major turning point, but for the time being, it is merely a compromise between two armed leaders: President Laurent Gbagbo, who is concerned with remaining in power, and Guillaume Soro, the head of the rebel Forces Nouvelles and the current prime minister, who is anxious to secure his political future in a reunified country. The agreement is also the result of the re-engagement of Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, supporter of the Forces Nouvelles, who is weary of an extended Ivorian crisis.” Olakounlé Gilles Yabi, Crisis Group Analyst, states, “The Ouagadougou agreement is still unstable since it is yet to be implemented. Care must be taken to avoid the accord becoming a mere pause between two periods of conflict. Even if optimism remains high, the delays in the execution of the accord are already worrying. The 2002 attempt by the Forces Nouvelles rebels to topple President Gbagbo plunged the country into civil war, which international military intervention and diplomacy ended. But the armed conflict was the result of political tensions, manipulation of the definition of national identity and the spread of violence, all factors which have come to the fore since the struggle for succession following President Félix Houphouët-Boigny‚s death in 1993. The potential end to the crisis offered by the power-sharing agreement between Gbagbo and Soro is only a first step. The government should seek UN and other international support to institute mobile courts for issuing identification documents and carrying out the electoral census, disarmament and security sector reform. The international community must remain engaged with all parties and support stability and a clean electoral process. In order to guarantee the credibility of elections, the mandate of the UN High Representative for Elections must be renewed – against the recommendations of the UN Secretary-General. Ivorian civil society should promote debate on the lessons to be learned from the conflict and necessary reforms. ‘The future of the country cannot be dependant on the thirst for power of a handful of figures, adds François Grignon, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. ‘If we try to build peace on a foundation of vested interests alone, the country risks falling back into violence’.”
Initial reports (August 14) indicate that Sierra Leone’s election has come off fairly well, with the main opposition party claiming to have won a majority in parliament, and a run off likely in the Presidential race. ICG had warned, July 12 (“Sierra Leone: The Election Opportunity,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4942&l=1) that. “Heightened political tensions could lead to Sierra Leone‚s destabilization if elections next month are not free and fair”. “Sierra Leone is still a fragile state in which peace will not be consolidated unless the new authorities tackle sources of popular discontent such as corruption, chiefs‚ abuse of power and youth unemployment”. “While Sierra Leone is no longer a failed state, youth unemployment and disillusionment are serious threats, and core institutions remain untested. A customary law system in parallel to statutory law and the details of the electoral system leave traditional “Paramount Chiefs” with powers that are frequently abused in the countryside. Corruption in public services is extensive, and the security and justice sectors still require several years of external oversight in order to become self-sustaining. The new National Electoral Commission has started well and broadly inspires confidence, but allegations of fraud or malpractice must be adjudicated promptly and fairly. Coordination with the national police is needed to allow prompt reaction to security incidents. All political parties should instruct their officials that violence, and calls to violence, will be investigated and appropriately punished, and they should commit to a comprehensive post-election reform program. International partners, including the UK and the UN Peacebuilding Commission, will have to engage immediately with the new administration to make clear that tackling corruption is a prerequisite to long-term support”.
Talks between the Burundi government and the country’s last rebel group, the Forces for National Liberation, achieved a breakthrough, in mid-June, with an agreement to release prisoners. Initially, a peace agreement had been reached last year, but talks broke down in haggling over details. Later in June, the 2006 peace agreement was reinstituted. The Zimbabwe government opened its first talks with the opposition, in June, to discuss plans for a Presidential election in March 2008. The meeting took place in Pretoria, South Africa, under the pressure of the South African government. It is the first sign of softening, by President Mugaby, who has been staunchly holding on to power with repressive policies that have escalated a descending economic collapse with huge social consequences. In Senegal, President Abdoulaye Wade won reelection in largely peaceful voting, in April, but opposition parties said they would boycott the June Parliamentary elections.
Global Exchange reports in, “New escalation of police repression against the popular movement in Oaxaca!” (available at: http://www.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?key=382863656&url_num=6&url=http%3A%2F%2F, or contact: www.globalexchange.org), that on July 16th, members of the Oaxaca municipal and state police provoked members of the Oaxaca Peoples’ Popular Assembly (APPO) and teachers from Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers with tear gas and stones as they held a march in Oaxaca City, Killing one and injuring between 50 and 100 people”. Police also raided the Red Cross, arresting injured people there who were seeking medical attention. Later, several hundred police and the Mexican Army barricaded an outdoor auditorium, known as the Cerro del Fortin, in an attempt to prevent the APPO and the teachers’ union from boycotting this years’ Guelaguetza, an internationally famous arts festival, for the second year in a row to protest the impunity of the state government’s human rights violations. Meanwhile, U.S. Indymedia reporter Brad Will reports state that the Army has been setting up roadblocks and making rounds in Oaxaca City, while police continue to detain APPO organizers, who took over the city for five months, in 2006. “There is a great risk that the Oaxaca state and Mexican federal security forces will escalate the use of violence in Oaxaca, leading to more injuries, illegal detentions and possible deaths, in addition to the overall militarization of the region’s of social conflict.”
Luis Hernández Navarro, “The New Tortilla War” (available at: http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4205) comments that the price of the tortilla, a staple for poor and modest income people, has risen significantly in Mexico, causing much hardship. He reports that the price rise has occurred for three reasons, hoarding and speculation by the agro-industrial monopolies; the rising cost of gasoline, diesel, and electricity, which has affected production, transport, and processing costs; and, the increase in the international price of corn due to its use in ethanol production. Meanwhile, the bloody drug war between the government and drug dealers continues. For example, in early May, alleged members of a drug cartel attacked army personnel during an anti narcotics operation, In efforts to counter drug related corruption, Mexico purged 284 top commanders from the national police force, in late June.
Costa Rica, in the face of a growing popular anti free trade movement, is the only one of the five participating Central American Nations (plus the Dominican Republic) that has not ratified the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), passed by Congress in 2006 at the initiation of the Bush administration. For more information see “Costa Rica Protests U.S. Free Trade Agreement” at: http://americas.irc-online.org/aptp/4104. Umberto Mazzei. “Guatemala and Costa Rica: In and Out of CAFTA” (available at: http://americas.irc-online.org/am/4408), states “After nearly a year in CAFTA’s orbit, the same traditional exports as always are growing, outside of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The message is overwhelming: the country “sacrificed” itself to the Free Trade Agreement with the United States for nothing. The CAFTA model, pushing the Central American economy toward the export of non-traditional goods to the United States, has been a pretext for imposing expensive foreign pharmaceuticals as opposed to cheap, national generic drugs, overwhelming the peasant farmer with subsidized imports, and granting extra-territorial jurisdiction to foreign companies. All indicates that the privileged share in an FTA with the United States is more a hindrance than a help”. In Guatemala. Mayan indigenous rights activist, and Nobel Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu Tum, is running for President. She is considered a long shot to make the Presidential run of election, but it is a sign, that despite growing corruption and other problems, conditions are more peaceful now than in the 1980s, when Menchu had to flee to Mexico and France, with the military having put a price on her head.
ICG warned, May 4, (“Haiti: Prison Reform and the Rule of Law,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4809&l=1) that Haiti’s, critical, but to date modest, efforts to reform the police and judiciary “cannot succeed unless the overcrowded, insecure prison system is also overhauled.” “The prisons are powder kegs that could erupt and further destabilize the country unless immediate steps are taken to alleviate overcrowding and prevent violence or mass escape.” Despite promises by donors in the Interim Cooperation Framework (ICF) of 2004, there have been no significant steps to rehabilitate prisons and none at all to build them.” Crisis Group Senior Vice President Mark Schneider said, “Donors should urgently put in place a plan to finance and build secure prisons, hire more guards and put the most dangerous offenders in maximum security cells. Otherwise, the progress President René Préval‚s government has made in its first year on police and justice reform will be threatened.” In addition, “Haiti’s justice ministry and donors must ensure the newly-created detention commission moves quickly on the most urgent and longest pending cases and identify prisoners who should be released if they are not a threat to society. Dangerous offenders should be moved to more secure areas while a maximum security prison is built, and existing prisons need to be modernized and expanded. An emergency donors conference should be held to meet immediate prison construction and correction staff needs and plan for long-term reforms.”
Amnesty International (AI) reports, this spring (http://www.amnestyusa.org/Colombia}, that “since 2003, paramilitary groups, responsible for the vast majority of human rights violations in Colombia for over a decade, have been involved in a government-sponsored “demobilization” process. More than 25,000 paramilitaries have supposedly demobilized under a process which has been criticized by AI and other Colombian and international human rights groups, as well as by the OHCHR and the IACHR. The process is lacking in effective mechanisms for justice and in its inability to ensure that paramilitary members actually cease violent activities.” “For more than two decades Colombia has suffered from a human rights crisis. The Colombian government of President Alvaro Uribe has recently argued that there are less killings and that it is taking action against paramilitary forces. Amnesty International has documented that there has been no substantive improvement in the human rights situation, that human rights conditions have worsened in several conflict zones, and that collusion between the armed forces and illegal paramilitary groups continues. Colombians suffer a dire human rights situation because the country has been embroiled in a civil conflict that has lasted for over 40 years. In Colombia leftist guerrillas fight the state and illegal right-wing paramilitary organizations, which often collaborate with sectors of the Colombian armed forces. All of the parties to the conflict are responsible for human rights violations. Armed opposition groups, including the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and the ELN (National Liberation Army) have committed numerous violations of international humanitarian law, including high-profile kidnappings. Paramilitary forces carry out massacres, often with the acquiescence of the armed forces. The Colombian government routinely fails to bring to justice military officials who have collaborated with these illegal paramilitary groups as they carry out atrocities. Civilians caught in the crossfire between these armed groups suffer the majority of the casualties. Human rights defenders, women, farmers, unionists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities among others face constant threats to their security. In rural communities, these individuals are often terrorized by guerillas and paramilitaries alike. They are forced to choose between supporting one of the armed groups for protection, or fleeing to the relative safety of urban areas where they add to the mass of urban unemployed and under-employed, swelling the ranks of the desplazados (displaced persons). As a result, an estimated 2.7 million Colombians live as internal refugees.” “Despite this grave situation, Colombia has a host of active community leaders, peace activists and human rights defenders who are bravely working toward a peaceful end to the conflict. These individuals face constant threats and have been subject to torture and murder, and many have been forced to leave the country.” Amnesty International USA has been calling for a complete cutoff of US military aid to Colombia for over a decade due to the continued collaboration between the Colombian Armed Forces and their paramilitary allies as well the failure of the Colombian government to improve human rights conditions.
ICG agrees with AI’s assessment of the situation in Columbia (“Colombia’s New Armed Groups,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4824&l=1) adding that new armed groups are emerging in several parts of Colombia threatening the success of the government’s demobilization strategy, and that the new groups are deeply involved in drug trafficking and other criminal activities. Some even have established drug business ties with the insurgent Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), which continue to fight the government. There is the risk that they also continue links to regional politicians, which could lead to the writing of a new chapter in the “para-politica scandal” that has reached into Colombia’s highest political and security elite and is now being investigated by the independent attorney general and the supreme court. “Sustaining security in the regions where the new groups are emerging will require the government to design and implement an integrated strategy to confront the emerging groups, including solid intelligence, more effective law enforcement and military cooperation, as well as making reintegration of former combatants work and implementing a national rural infrastructure program.”
Kelly Hearn, “Peru’s Petroleum Play: Amazon Oil and Politics,” Pullitzer Center on Crisis Reporting (http://www.pulitzercenter.org/showproject.cfm?id=32) reports that The hydrocarbon industry is making a major push into the Tropical Andes, with “recent oil and gas finds turning the eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains and the adjacent Amazonian lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia into a hydrocarbon hotspot,” “In Peru and Ecuador, where biodiversity levels peak and activists say Big Oil has penetrated public institutions, the problem is especially acute: Over half of Peru’s pristine rainforests is now zoned for oil and gas, while 80 percent of the Ecuadorian Amazon is on the auction block”. This is very destructive of the environment, causing major harm to indigenous peoples.
ICG reported, August 7 (“Ecuador: Overcoming Instability?,” http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index) “Ecuador is poised for another round of instability unless the new president pays more attention to upholding the rule of law and building a consensus for fundamental reforms.” President Rafael Correa has been taking the first steps to bring about political and socio-economic change, primarily through a Constituent Assembly (CA) to prepare a new constitution. “However, history shows the country’s problems cannot be solved solely by constitutional engineering and that elites and traditional parties will do everything in their power to protect their privileges. To truly bury the ills of the old system and restore stability, Correa will need to ensure a level playing field for the CA, concentrate on the rule of law and develop wide-spread consent for his reforms.” Mark Schneider, Crisis Group’s Senior Vice President and Special Adviser on Latin America states, “Correa and his left-wing administration portray themselves as catalysts for change to end the vicious cycle of chronic instability and provide a more just future for citizens. But past presidents have made similar claims, only to fall quickly into the same corrupt habits.” “Since 1996, Ecuador has had eight presidents, three of whom have been ousted by Congress and street protest. The rule of law has been progressively weakened and despite reform efforts, the political system has become largely dysfunctional. The country has also endured one of the continent’s worst economic crises. Correa’s “shock therapy” during his first six months in office has resulted in government domination of Congress, the Electoral Court, parts of the judiciary and other state institutions and the banking sector. He has also denounced critical media and engaged in reckless social spending. Real change is only possible if Correa acts more decisively against corruption and reinforces the rule of law as part of an effort to generate investment and guard against a major drop in oil prices that could further destabilize the country. He must democratise and institutionalise his Alianza País movement, and ensure a transparent and fair CA process by seeking consensus on key constitutional points and elaborating an economically sustainable development plan with broad citizen participation. Correa enjoys a record-high approval rating, but the 30 September election to the Constituent Assembly may prove difficult, as the political opposition has regrouped. ‘Correa has shown his talent for communicating with the poor and working class, but Ecuador will quickly return to instability if he fails to take the rest of the country with him on the path to democratic change,’ says Markus Schultze-Kraft, Director of Crisis Group’s Latin America Program.”
The Venezuelan government, in early May, furthered efforts to control the economy by regulating operations of a large Argentine owned steel maker and threatened to take over foreign owned banks if they did not offer low cost financing to domestic industry. These moves are part of a larger project to strengthen state enterprises and worker-led cooperatives, while developing regional financing alternatives to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. This Spring, Venezuela was engaged in the largest forced land redistribution program in the nations history, taking land from the small elite who own most of the rich farm land, and making it available to poor squatters and cooperatives. There has been violence in the process, with some casualties on both sides, including more than 160 peasants killed by gunmen hired by land owners, and eight land owners.
The United Nations Population fund projected, in June, that by next year 3.3 billion people, more than half the world’s population, will live in cities and towns. And is anticipated to reach 5 billion by 2010, with the swiftest urban growth in Africa requiring governments to develop adequate services in urban areas. The UN Office of Drugs and Crime, reported in late June, that global drug use and production has declined, at least slightly since last year, and is less than the peak of the last five years, prior to last year, so that there is at least stability in global consumption, with variation according to specific location. The largest supplier of heroin is the heavily conflicted south of Afghanistan, where opium production has been increasing sharply. For details, Warren Hogure, “Drug Use and Production Slowing, U,N, Finds,” The New York Times, June 26, 2007, p. A3.
The G-8 meeting, in June, pledged $60 billion for treating AIDS and other diseases in developing nations.
Blacklist.com news (http://www.blacklistednews.com/view.asp?ID=3111) reported a BBC report (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/6607757.stm), of April 30, “The United States and the European Union have signed up to a new transatlantic economic partnership at a summit in Washington. The pact is designed to boost trade and investment by harmonizing regulatory standards, laying the basis for a US-EU single market. The two sides also signed an Open Skies deal, designed to reduce fares and boost traffic on transatlantic flights. But little of substance was agreed on climate change.
The Child Soldiers Protection Act of 2007 (S. 1175), that would bar the U.S. from sending military aid to nations that use child soldiers, was introduced into the U.S. Senate on April 19, 2007. House Resolution 213 calling for the formation of the new UN Peace Keeping force, named the UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) that would help stop armed conflicts in the world before they turn into a Darfur-like humanitarian catastrophe, had strong support in a letter, in June, from as many as 37 humanitarian and peace organizations. The letter noted with concern that, in recent years, despite repeated calls for rapid and effective action, the world community has failed to move against emerging crises.
“The U.S. Missile Defense System in Eastern Europe: An incomplete system that will leave the continent less secure,” a presentation given by Victoria Samson, CDI research analyst at the GUE/NGL hearing: “The U.S. missile shield,” European Parliament, Brussels, Belgium, June 12, 2007 found, “This whole discussion of other countries partnering up with the U.S. missile defense system overlooks one very crucial detail: the system doesn’t work, it has never proven it will work, and it is being rushed through its development to meet a political deadline and thus guaranteeing that it never will work the way in which supporters claim. But this discussion does ignore one very crucial consequence of collaborating on the U.S. missile defense system: that this will eventually lead to collaborating on the weaponization of space.” The whole statement is available on the Center for Defense Institute web site: http://www.cdi.org/program/document.cfm?DocumentID=3983&from_page=../index.cfm. CDI has been raising the question, “With the United States now contemplating space-based weapons as part of its high-priority missile defense architecture, the future of space is nearing a crossroads: will the 50-year tradition of international cooperation and space sanctuary prevail; or, will the fear of military and/or economic domination drive nations to compete aggressively for primacy in the ultimate ‘high ground’?” Discussion of this and related issues is at: http://www.cdi.org/program/index.cfm?programid=68. This includes analyzing the issue of whether the Chinese launch of an anti-satellite missile will bring dangerous Sino-American competition, or lead to cooperation. Meanwhile, as the Bush administration has completed new rules allowing harsher interrogation methods (that were relied upon unofficially during Bush’s tenure), experts advising the U.S, intelligence community find that the harsh techniques used since 2001 are outmoded, amateurish and un reliable – often producing false information (while undermining the moral standing and diplomatic power of the U.S., and helping anti American organizations that use terror, recruit). At the same time, the specialists complain that the U.S. has yet to develop an elite corps of interrogators trained to gain secrets from terror suspects (which requires using humane methods).
The U.S. aid organization CARE has begun turning down some U.S. government food assistance, holding that sending U.S farm commodities as foreign aid in many cases hurts the poor, and the economy in the receiving nation. Earlier this year, the U.S. government heeded such international and domestic criticism, and began a policy of purchasing 25% of its international food assistance locally.
Violent crime rose in the U.S. last year, with a surge in homicides in Eastern Cities. For the second year in a row, the FBI reported a nation wide rise in violent crime, increasing by 1.3% in 2006 0ver 2005. Cities with high increase murder rates include Newark, going from 23.3 per 100,000 in 2005, to 37.5 in 2006; Boston rising from10.1 to 13.3; Philadelphia from 18.9 to 27.7; Jacksonville from 11.7 to 13.8; and Baltimore from 38.0 to 43.3. Interestingly, murder rates were highest, and rose the fastest, in place with relatively few immigrants (leading some law enforcement people to say of those places, “not enough immigrants”).