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John Kerry, Wikileaks Bellwether?

The reactions to the massive Wikileaks document dump will be fascinating to view during the next few days.  So far, the administration’s response is to condemn the leaks while also noting that most of the revealed documents stem from the Bush era.  Specifically, the White House advised reporters:

“The period of time covered in these documents (January 2004-December 2009) is before the President announced his new strategy. Some of the disconcerting things reported are exactly why the President ordered a three month policy review and a change in strategy.”

One person to watch these next few days is John Kerry, the influential chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Kerry was initially supportive of the counter-insurgency strategy Obama laid out in his West Point speech nearly one year ago. But in recent weeks, Kerry has been cautiously expressing some doubts.  

Could the Wikileak document dump be a tipping point for the Massachusetts senator?  Consider his statement released hours after the documents went public:

“However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America’s policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those policies are at a critical stage and these documents may very well underscore the stakes and make the calibrations needed to get the policy right more urgent.”

Keep in mind that 1) Kerry put his name on a $5 billion aid package for Pakistan last year and 2) these documents seem to show that the Pakistani intelligence and military liaisons with the Taliban were rather extensive.  It seems to me that Kerry might be forced to act on these revelations.  Can we expect a wikileaks doc dump inspired hearing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sometime soon?  Stay tuned. 

UPDATE: Steve Clemons and Glen Kessler have more along these lines. 

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“Countdown to Zero”

The people who brought you An Inconvenient Truth have set their sites on nuclear terrorism. Countdown to Zero opens in theaters across the United States today. From David Corn’s review in Mother Jones:

Countdown to Zero is a splashy and distressing look at nuclear security and nonproliferation, packed with frightening accounts of uranium smuggling and assorted near-misses. In a jailhouse interview in Russia, a former uranium worker explains why he swiped nuclear material to sell: He needed money for a new fridge and stove. (He was caught only because he was hanging out with members of a car-battery-theft ring that got busted.) A former National Security Council staffer recalls attending a meeting with a colonel who told him not to worry so much about nuclear war, since it would only kill 500 million people. A onetime nuclear launch officer relates how he and another officer could have gamed the system to fire nuclear missiles on their own. Nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione notes how easy it is to smuggle highly enriched uranium; hiding it in kitty litter works well. It’s the ultimate horror movie.

Check out the trailer and the film’s website

 

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Everyday is a Struggle for Darfur Refugees (Video)

Life is hard for Darfur’s refugees in eastern chad.  This disturbing video from the UN Refugee Agency shows how Darfuri refugees are coping with shortages of water and cooking fuel as they fight to survive in a harsh environment.

 

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Ban Meets Cameron, Council Debates Middle East, UNICEF Signs Deal with Sudan Rebel Movement and more from the UN

ICJ: as you may have heard, today the International Court of Justice delivered its advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence, which, by a vote of 10-4, decided that the declaration did not violate international law.  Secretary Clinton issued this positive statement in response.  Both the SG and Clinton have urged constructive dialogue in the wake of this decision.

SG: in his first meeting with British PM Cameron at UNHQ yesterday, the SG welcomed the UK’s leadership on the MDGs, adding that he hoped they could serve as a model for other countries to follow.

DSG: the DSG is departing for Kampala today to attend the AU Summit from July 25-27 on “Maternal, Infant and Child health and Development in Africa”.  She is expected to address the Summit on the theme, as well as Somalia and Sudan, among other issues.

Disarmament: the SG has decided to convene a meeting on disarmament on the sidelines of the General Debate this year (Sept. 24).  In the meeting, he hopes to break the stalemate in the Conference on Disarmament, which has been deadlocked over 12 years, preventing progress on such issues as negotiating a fissile material cutoff treaty (FMCT), which the Obama Administration firmly supports.

Security Council: speaking at the Council’s monthly debate on the situation on the Middle East yesterday, USG Political Affairs Pascoe said the region is at a “critical juncture” and that we must work to bring the parties together for talks which addresses core issues and the situation on the ground in Gaza.

Darfur: earlier this week, UN/AU Chief Mediator Bassolé said that ongoing Doha peace talks between Sudan and some Darfur rebel groups are going well (despite the absence of JEM and a faction of the Sudan Liberation Movement from the process).  In related news, UNICEF signed an MOU with JEM regarding child soldiers, that would eventually allow UNICEF to have access to JEM bases to ensure child soldiers aren’t being recruited.  It would also allow the UN to respond more effectively to sexual violence.  This is the result of a negotiating process which began in 2008.

Somalia: in a briefing by Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Somalia, Mr. Bowden called Somalia one of the world’s most complicated humanitarian situations, but noted progress in the UN’s provision of basic health care services, shelter and food to IDPs.  However, 3.5 million people still rely on food support and acute malnutrition is widespread, especially among children.  1.2 million are internally displaced as a result of the conflict.

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ICJ Rules on Kosovo Independence. So what’s next?

The International Court of Justice issued a long-awaited ruling on the legality of Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in February 2008. I will leave it to our international legal eagle friends at Opinio Juris to parse the jurisprudence, but suffice it to say the ICJ concluded that Kosovo did nothing illegal.  More specifically, the ICJ ruled that Kosovo did not violate Serbia’s soverenghty by declaring independence. 

So, what does this mean for Kosovo’s march to gain international recognition as an independent country?  And what kind of effect will this ruling have on simmering ethnic tensions in throughout the Balkans?  I speak with Balkan expert Daniel Serwer of the United States Institute for Peace who answers these questions reflects on the long term consequences of today’s ruling.

Balkan Expert Daniel Serwer Discusses Kosovo Independence by UN Dispatch

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Sudan Cracks Down on Journalists Who Talk About Southern Secession

Bec Hamilton writes a very important dispatch from Sudan where she reports that Sudanese authorities are heavily censoring what journalists may write about South Sudan’s  looming independence.    

Before the elections, journalists say that the government’s main “red lines” were the publication of articles on the International Criminal Court’s case against the Sudanese president, and on the conflict in Darfur. Now though, the government has a bigger concern – the unity of the Sudanese state.

In January next year, the people of southern Sudan will have a referendum on whether they want to become an independent nation. The right to self-determination was granted to southerners in a 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the NCP and the main southern political party, the SPLM. In theory, both parties were supposed to spend the six years until the referendum making unity an attractive option. In practice, neither have done so, and there is a widespread belief that next year’s vote will see Sudan split in two.

Mariam Sadiq Al Mahdi, spokesperson for the opposition Umma Party, says the NCP cannot afford secession for two reasons. The first is the ensuing loss of resource-rich southern land. “The government budget is more than 60 percent dependent on oil, mainly from the south,” she says.

Second would be the historical stigma on Bashir’s government: “They took over a unified country and then it was divided under their rule.” At the eleventh hour, the NCP is trying desperately shift course – less by actually making unity attractive to southerners, and more by repressing anyone who speaks of secession.

If this is how the government is responding to the mere mention of South Sudan secession, what do you reason their reaction will be six months down the road when the deed is done?  Actually, US Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has already has given this some thought. This is what he told congress in February:

Looking ahead over the next five years, a number of countries in Africa and Asia are at significant risk for a new outbreak of mass killing. All of the countries at significant risk have or are at high risk for experiencing internal conflicts or regime crises and exhibit one or more of the additional risk factors for mass killing. Among these countries, a new mass killing or genocide is most likely to occur in Southern Sudan.

 Make no mistake: this current crackdown on what journalists may write may presage a very bloody future for Sudan. 

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