Monthly Archives: May 2009
Michael Keating at World Politics Review points to a tense political situation that the world doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to — and explains why we should be:
[A]nti-proliferationists can only be chilled by the prospect of one of the world’s major producers, Niger, plunging into a constitutional crisis, one that may completely destabilize a government that has already demonstrated an inability to keep the peace in its most strategic uranium districts.
Niger’s president, Mamadou Tandja, has dissolved the country’s parliament rather than face the prospect of relinquishing power after his maximum two five-year terms end this year. The situation is clearly worrisome, as is (still) the country’s long-running, on-and-off conflict with Tuareg rebels in the particularly uranium-rich north of the country. And as the kidnapping of a UN official some months ago under somewhat murky circumstances suggests, the connections between business, politics, insurgency, and government in Niger frequently seem to overlap.
What is most interesting to me, though, is the persistent notion that a local strongman with nuclear capability (Pakistan), or even the material to produce nuclear capability (Niger), is preferable to — well, the unknown, but, more probably, the military, which plays a strong role in both countries. This is not surprising, or necessarily off the mark, but the fretting can sometimes surpass existing global realities that are already frightening enough to warrant vigorous non-proliferation efforts. The disturbing Iranian and North Korean paths toward nuclear weapons are obvious examples, but, perhaps even more significant is the fact that if either India or Pakistan were, disastrously, to use a nuclear weapon, it would likely be over the often forgotten Kashmir dispute.
And why folks don’t panic more over the loose nukes still floating around from the breakup of the old Soviet Union, I don’t know…
(image from flickr user thomasina under a Creative Commons license)
The U.N.’s top human rights official demanded an independent investigation Tuesday into atrocities allegedly committed by both sides in Sri Lanka’s civil war.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told an emergency meeting of the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council that tens of thousands of civilians had been killed or injured in intense fighting between the government and Tamil rebels since December.
A few days ago, the African Union petitioned the UN Security Council to levy sanctions on Eritrea for its role in supporting and arming Islamist militants in Somalia. The BBC’s correspondent calls this show of AU unity against one of their own “an unprecedented development,” and Eritrea, in response, has lashed out at the organization, even saying it will suspend its membership.
An arms embargo already exists in Somalia, and the international community certainly needs to get serious about making it stick. But that means advising against reckless incursions by the Ethiopian military as well as ceasing Eritrean support for insurgents. Somalia cannot be allowed to become (again) the territory for an East African proxy war. Even if only for the relatively short-sighted cause of stopping piracy, the rest of the world needs to be paying attention to Somalia’s other borders, as well.
Readers, this is a topic of interest to many of you — what do you think? Sanctions on Eritrea? Censuring Ethiopian incursions? The responsibility of the government of Somalia?
For the past 10 months, Hanna Ingber Win has reported on the Iraqi refugee community in El Cajon, California, where a high concentration of Chaldean Christian Iraqis have settled. The LA Weekly feature that resulted from her months-long reporting project offers an important window into the difficulties that Iraqi refugees face in the United States. Here’s Ingber-Win:
We go to the home of Saad and Baan Shaya. It is a workday, but the Shayas have no jobs and are home watching Arabic television. We sit down in their living room, on furniture donated to the couple by another church group, and the Shayas tell us that they left Baghdad in 2003 because of the war. They moved to Mosul in northern Iraq, and Saad owned a liquor store. In 2006, Muslim extremists threatened him, telling him to leave his store. When he didn’t, the extremists shot Saad in the leg and then bombed the store. He walks to the couch, pulls up the leg of his jeans and reveals a scar from the gunshot. The store bombing killed Saad’s 43-year-old brother. Saad escaped Iraq and fled to Turkey.
Baan says she left Iraq because a militia came to her home with a flier, giving the family three options: Convert to Islam, pay the militia monthly taxes or leave the country. She says some of her friends never had the chance to escape because they were kidnapped.
Bazzi pauses from translating to say that a militia murdered her own cousin two years ago. “They took the money and killed him,” she says. “They skinned his face. They couldn’t recognize him if it wasn’t for his ring.”
The Shayas registered as refugees in Turkey, and the United States resettled them in El Cajon in February. They have both been looking for jobs since they arrived. They receive about $580 a month from the government, but that will only continue for eight months. They speak almost no English and don’t have transportation. Baan says she has been walking around, looking for a job every day. She says she would take anything — but she hasn’t had any offers.
“How will we live here if we don’t find a job?” Saad asks.
As opposed to other western countries that have received large numbers of Iraqi asylum seekers, the United States has a smaller social safety net. The Shayas and other refugee families in the United States face the double hurdles of chronic poverty and adapting to life in a country in which they do not speak the language. It is a pretty tragic situation.
The United States government has a deep and enduring moral obligation to make the life of displaced Iraqis as comfortable as possible–in El Cajon and beyond. Check out Refugees International for more on the Iraqi Refugee crisis.
Iran has sent warships to the Gulf of Aden. An opportunity for some unexpected anti-piracy collaboration? Well…maybe.
The move to dispatch the warships “is indicative of the country’s high military capability in confronting any foreign threat on the country’s shores,” Sayyari said.
The [Iranian state news agency] report did not mention the threat of pirate attacks, which, fuelled by large ransoms, have continued almost unabated despite the presence of an armada of foreign warships patrolling the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden.
It obviously makes no sense for the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter not to instruct its warships to ward off pirate attacks (and other reports in fact contradict the suggestion that this is the case). But why the deployment is couched in such adversarial language, when there is already an eclectic assortment of bedfellows on the anti-piracy patrol, is probably just a quirk of Iran’s need to appear bellicose to the rest of the worlds. Everybody’s interest here is protecting oil, though, so they might as well work together and cool the military chest-thumping.
Folks may recall that in March, a group of researchers from Purdue University purported to prove that Radovan Karadzic entered into a secret agreement with the United States in which Karadzic promised to remove himself from politics in return for a pledge that he would not be brought before the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in the Hague. Well, last night, Karadzic’s defense team submitted a motion in court which they say proves that such a deal took place.
The above document is the closest thing that the defense team has to a smoking gun. It shows that Karadzic agreed to resign as president of Republika Srpska and disengage from politics completely. There is no American signature on the document, but Karadzic contends that it was written by Richard Holbrooke’s staff. The fact that it is in English, that the American style of writing the date (i.e. July 19, 1996, not 19, July 1996) as well as the words “Final Version” in the upper corner all point to this being an American-drafted document, says Karadzic. Richard Holbrooke, who is now President Obama’s point person on Afghanistan-Pakistan, denies that he ever offered this kind of deal to Karadzic.
This all comes via friend of Dispatch Kevin Jon Heller, who serves as a legal advisor to Karadzic. No word yet on whether or not the court is willing to grant the motion a hearing.
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.