Monthly Archives: May 2009
Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call on all sides to end hostilities immediately and allow for the safe evacuation of the tens of thousands of civilians trapped within the safe zone. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam must lay down their arms and allow civilians free passage out of the conflict zone. The government of Sri Lanka must abide by its commitment of April 27 to end major combat operations and the use of heavy weapons.
Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband express their appreciation for the continued efforts of the United Nations and their staff on the ground in Sri Lanka. They call on the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tigers to allow a UN humanitarian team to visit the conflict zone to facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians. They urge both sides to allow food and medical assistance to reach those trapped by fighting, cooperate with the ICRC to facilitate the evacuation of urgent medical cases, ensure the safety of aid and medical workers, and permit humanitarian access to all sites where displaced persons are being registered or being provided shelter. Secretary Clinton and Foreign Secretary Miliband call for a political solution that reconciles all Sri Lankans, and establishes a meaningful role for Tamil and other minorities in national political life. [emphasis mine]
In case you have not been following what’s going on, civilians that have managed to escape the conflict zone are being held at detention facilities run by the military. The conditions at the camps are appalling. There have been reports of women being raped and murderd by their guards. The Sri Lankan government needs to allow international humanitarian workers into these camps and stop treating IDPs as prisoners. International humanitarian organizations like the International Committee for the Red Cross have to be allowed access to these camps.
An emphatic will: Enough’s new strategy paper, “Beyond Piracy: Next Steps to Stabilize Somalia.”
The lowest order of threat to the [Transitional Federal Government], the Somali people, the region, and the United States is actually the security item enjoying the greatest attention right now-piracy. Even so, the continued epidemic of piracy off the Somali coast is a problem and a test of the capacity of the TFG to extend its authority. Proposals to provide external assistance to the TFG for the establishment of a coast guard are premature, do not reflect the security priorities of the Somali people, and are unlikely to work. Indeed, training up coast guard officers could easily produce unintended consequences, as that new skill set will be more valuable in the piracy sector than in the public sector, producing defections from the coast guard. A more appropriate approach for the TFG will be to tackle piracy onshore. That will require time, funds, and extensive negotiations. External actors will have only limited roles to play in this internal Somali process.
Antipiracy measures would attract much greater support among Somalis if those efforts were accompanied by international action to end illegal fishing off Somalia’s coast. Like the shabaab during the Ethiopian occupation, pirates have managed to cloak their criminal agenda beneath a veil of Somali nationalism. Although illegal fishing has undoubtedly decreased due to the effectiveness of Somali pirates, international commercial fishing boats have for years violated Somalia’s territorial integrity and severely disrupted local Somali livelihoods. [emphasis mine]
Less so: a potential new blockbuster, starring Samuel L. Jackson as too-busy-to-even-watch-movies-about-himself pirate negotiator Andrew Mwangura. Mwangura, who has been the go-to source for journos as the piracy saga has unfolded over the past year, pleads humility, but I seem to recall questions emerging last summer about just exactly what went on in his contacts with pirates.
At any rate, I’m sure that the Samuel L. Jackson flick won’t go into the nuances of how to support Somalia’s government and rule of law without upsetting the delicate balance in this fragile country. That’s what our smart friends at Enough are for — and, while arguably less sexy, these measures will do a lot more for saving lives and restoring stability than an opportunistic Hollywood ever could.
Jackson, it’s worth mentioning, does bring some negotiating cred to the role:
Washington, DC looks at the plight of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo this week, in the form of a hearing tomorrow that will be held by women’s rights advocate Senator Barbara Boxer. The panels feature State Department reps, playwright and V-Day founder Eve Ensler, and Enough’s John Prendergast, among others, and is aimed at addressing the staggering problems of rape and sexual violence in both DRC and Sudan.
Washingtonians can also literally see the situation faced by Congolese women in a photo exhibit on display this week called Congo/Women, featuring these stunning images of life and women in Congo. Be sure to check it out if you’re in the District.
I’m just returning from a presser with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband hosted by the New American Foundation. (Catch the webcast on The Washington Note). First, contrary to my prediction he was asked about Sri Lanka — by the New Yorker writer and New American Foundation president Steve Coll no less. Miliband said there is no question that the LTTE is a murderous organization, but democracies like Sri Lanka must be held to a higher standard; governments are not allowed to say ‘the ends justify the means.’ And in describing the plight of some 50,000 civilians trapped in a three square kilometer sliver of land and coming under heavy bombardment, Miliband said “that is the definition of hell.”
I would have liked Miliband to have addressed what sort of policy options are available to the UK and Europe for addressing this crisis, particularly given the fact that Russia and China do not seem to be willing to take this up at the Security Council. Still, all in all he offered a welcome response.
Finally, the newsiest bit (for those, um, not obessively covering the Sri Lanka crisis) was the way in which Miliband framed the foreign policy era that we are poised to enter. He said that while the global economic recession will never have the searing trauma of 9-11, the long term foreign policy consequences will be just as profound. At the same time, says Miliband, the Obama administration has recognized that although it is the only superpower, it cannot bring solutions to heel on its own. Rather, Miliband says that Obama administration understands that the combination of American leadership and international cooperation will be the most powerful force for taking on some of the world’s toughest challenges. The G-20 meeting, says Miliband, is a good example of this principal made manifest.
“Progressive multilateralism,” in the words of Miliband, is making a comeback.
Baby, we’ve been here for years!
“Giving credence and acceptance to this LTTE-inspired piece of ‘news’, would wittingly or unwittingly aid the terrorist organisation to save itself at the hour of its impending demise,” a government statement said.
Expressing concern about the inadvertent bombing of a civilian hospital in no way provides succor for Tamil Tiger rebels. The torturous logic of claiming that even investigating this “news” would amount to terrorist sympathies encapsulates exactly what is most problematic with the Sri Lankan government’s last-ditch offensive against the Tigers. It’s not only that the military has not been taking civilian presence sufficiently into account (yes, inexcusable rebel tactics notwithstanding); it’s that it isn’t even willing to let the press report that civilian casualties might be happening under its watch.
(image of displaced Sri Lankans, from flickr user trokilinochchi under a Creative Commons license)
Might Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s antics at the Durban Review Conference have helped Israel’s cause more than they hurt it? So argues Rasool Nafisi in, of all places, the Jerusalem Post.
Want a piece of the Berlin Wall? This guy‘s still the one to go to.
(image of the Berlin Wall, from flickr user siyublog under a Creative Commons license)
The SG: In Ethiopia over the weekend, the SG is now in the United Arab Emirates. Today he met with Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, where the two discussed developments in the region, including Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, and in the Middle East Peace Process.