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Tuesday Morning Coffee

Hillary promises to press on regardless of the results today in Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The BBC reports from the Obama bus.

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>>Ukraine – Gazprom, Russia’s state natural gas company, cut a quarter of its gas flow to Ukraine yesterday and threatened another 25 percent cut today to force the nation to pay a debt of $600 million. A similar incident occured two years ago when Russia unilaterally renegotiated the price of natural gas supplied to the Ukraine. Europe, which draws 20 percent of its gas from Gazprom pipelines crossing the Ukraine, has expressed concern about the reliability of Gazprom’s gas. The Ukraine has threatened to restrict the gas flow to Europe if Gazprom proceeds with further cuts.

>>China – China announced today that it intends to increase military spending by almost 18 percent this year to $59 billion (compared to the $439 billion — not including funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — spent last year by the U.S.). Yesterday the Pentagon released a report criticizing the lack of transparency in China’s military spending, which, it says, “poses risks to stability by increasing the potential for misunderstanding and miscalculation,” and its development of the ability to destroy enemy satellites.

>>Iraq – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on his second day in Iraq, called for the immediate withdrawal of foreign troops, saying their presence has only caused “descruction and division.”

>>Iran – The United Nations Security Council enacted a third round of sanctions (resolution 1803) against Iran yesterday, which imposes a travel ban on Iranians suspected of involvement with a nuclear weapons program and further restricts the activities of Iranian banks.

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U.N. Human Rights Chief to Leave Post

a famous maxim of Theodore Roosevelt that Sudan analyst John Prendergast frequently uses to characterize the Bush administration’s Darfur policy. By limiting its action to sharp rhetoric, Prendergast contends, the U.S. has effectively pursued a policy of “speaking loudly and carrying a toothpick.” Vocal condemnation of countries’ human rights policies, as deplorable as they may be, is not the only way to induce a change in behavior, and Arbour is simply articulating the necessity of working within the UN system. When faced with the alternatives of unilateralism or inaction, this remains a laudable goal, even if some aspects of the UN, such as the Human Rights Council — over which, incidentally, Arbour’s office exercises no control — fall short of the ideal level of reform. Instead of merely pointing its fingers at the transparent violations of notorious human rights abusers, the U.S. should work with the UN to effectively address these issues — and should focus on cleaning up its own act as well.

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Happy Anniversary?

February 29th marked the fourth anniversary of President Jean Bertrand Aristide’s departure from Haiti. Since that time the United Nations’ seventh peacekeeping mission (MINUSTAH) has been on the ground ensuring that Haiti’s transformation to a more secure, stable and capable state is on track. Progress has been made since 2004, thanks to the UN, the leadership of Brazil in peacekeeping, and the support of donors, the U.S. and Canada. Successful national elections in 2006 gave Haiti a democratically elected president, Rene Preval. It also ushered in an unprecedented period of consensual politics, where a broad range of political parties have engaged in the rebuilding institutions, and more important, the Haitian state. Finally, on-the-ground security has also improved since last year. MINUSTAH, with the full agreement of the Government of Haiti, launched a very aggressive gang eradication program that has reduced violence and kidnappings in Port au Prince. But the clock is ticking.Real progress on the ground has been slow for Haitians. In spite of improved economic growth (at 3 percent last year) Haitians remain dependent on international humanitarian aid and Diaspora resources to survive ($1.65 billion, or 35% of GDP). Job creation programs have been slow to bring in the vast ranks of the unemployed, and decentralized assistance outside of the capital is still lagging. Finally, elections scheduled for this April that would have completed a cycle of constitutionally mandated votes for new Senators have been postponed, and the head of the electoral council dismissed. Such delays are not new to Haiti. But these signal a need to monitor more closely conditions on the ground which could become a tipping point if left to fester.

Although the UN has learned its lessons about early exits from unstable countries from the its experiences in Haiti, and more recently Timor, it will take at least three to five years more of continuous UN presence in Haiti to ensure that a new police force is in place, and that a successive democratic election for president allows for a non-violent succession. UN Security Council Resolution 1780, approved in October 2007, renewed the MINUSTAH mission through 2008. But it also required that in this unique effort to provide security and development in the hemisphere’s poorest nation, that there be benchmarks of progress for the mission to continue. This is a tall order for the international community, but one that it avoids at its peril. For the U.S. Haiti should remain a priority as the presence of a weak state at our third border not only invites trouble, but also threatens the future of the Dominican Republic, and other regional neighbors. Saving Haiti should again be a priority of U.S. foreign policy and also for the UN. Only Haitians, however, in country and abroad, can help realize a more secure future. A policy of partnership could go a long way to achieving this goal.

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Paging Rubin and Pletka…

Kevin Drum and Jeffrey Lewis offer some background on this important Washington Post scoop on the IAEA’s confrontational meeting with Iranian officials last week. I don’t much to add to the story other than to point out that also last week, American Enterprise Institute scholars Michael Rubin and Danielle Pletka railed against Mohammed elBaradei’s alleged anti-Americanism in the Wall Street Journal and accused him of mounting a “single-minded crusade to rescue favored regimes from charges of proliferation.”

In fact, elBaradei disclosed damning evidence about Iran’s nuclear program on the eve of an important Security Council vote on sanctions. Once again, IAEA delivers. And once again, its critics have egg on their face.

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Monday Morning Coffee

Protesters attack Japanese whalers with “non-violent chemical warfare,” rotten butter.

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>Russia – Vladimir Putin’s hand-picked successor, Dmitri Medvedev, won Russia’s presidential election with roughly 70 percent of the vote on Sunday. Putin will be his Prime Minister. Medvedev has never before held political office and will be the youngest Russian ruler since Tsar Nicolas II. Voter turnout was 64 percent, amid widespread accusations that citizens were pressured to vote. The major European elections monitoring group had previously refused to monitor the elections due to restrictions placed on them by the Russian government.

>>Venezuela, Ecuador, and Columbia – Venezuela and Ecuador sent thousands of troops, as well as tanks, to their border with Columbia yesterday after Columbia forces assassinated Raúl Reyes, a major FARC leader, inside Ecuador. President Rafael Correa of Ecuador expelled Columbia’s ambassador and withdrew Ecuador’s ambassador from Bogota. Hugo Chavez, who had been trying to mediate a prisoner exchange with FARC, has said that he would retaliate with recently bought Russian jets if Columbia were to make a similar incursion into Venezuelan territory. However most analysts agree that Venezuela’s economy (and Chavez’s political mandate) could not survive the loss of business with Columbia.

>>Iran/Iraq – Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Iraq on Sunday, the first since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the first official state visit by any nation to post-Saddam Iraq, to cement “brotherly relations” (color on the fanfare in the Times). Ahmadinejad announced a $1 billion low-interest loan for reconstruction, and the two nations are expected to sign up to ten economic agreements over the next two days. Sunnis widely protested the visit.

Quote of the Day

“By this historical visit of our brother Dr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, we have first renewed the feelings of mutual struggle and jihad, which goes back a long time ago against the dictatorship.”
Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani

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UN Plaza: Exploring, and Unpacking, Conservaitve Hostility to the UN

Ed Morrissey, AKA Captain Ed of Captain’s Quarters (now, at Hot Air) and I discuss conservative hostility toward the UN. In this segment, we take a look at the UN and IAEA’s track record on North Korea and Iran.

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