At 4 PM (EST) The New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. will be hosting a conversation with Ad Melkert, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq. I’ll be there in person, but everyone can follow the action live via The Washington Note.
The UN Refugee Agency set out guidlines last April which advised that asylum seekers from central Iraq be considered in need of international protection due to the human rights and security situation in central Iraq. Not all governments, however, are taking heed. From the UN Refugee Agency:
Neocon and former occupation mouthpiece Coalition Provisional Authority spokesperson Dan Senor on the upcoming Kurdish elections:
On Saturday, the Kurds vote on a new parliament and president. While polls show that President Massoud Barzani and the two largest Kurdish parliamentary parties will be re-elected, the dynamic of this election is making Kurdish leaders nervous. Historically, Kurdish elections turned on the KRG’s power struggle with the national government. But in this election, the Iraqi Kurds seem to be more preoccupied with local governance issues such as KRG corruption. This may be prompting KRG officials to foment tension with Baghdad in the hope that the perception of external threats will strengthen their position at the polls. [emphasis mine]
He uses this analysis to argue for increasing not decreasing U.S. troop presence in Kurdistan. I don’t buy that, but I also don’t buy the logic underlying it. If Kurdish voters are mostly concerned about corruption in their own government, then their votes are most likely going to be in response to corruption in their own government. Kurdish politicians can try to foment all the tension they’d like (over the next three days), but that’s not likely to assuage their constituencies’ concerns about corruption.
Senor seems to be doing a little fomenting himself here. If there’s tension between Kurdistan and Baghdad, then he can argue for a greater U.S. military troop presence (and conveniently oppose the president’s agenda). And there’s nothing to reduce tension like an enduring occupation force.
I just got around to reading Tom Friedman’s column from the other day about Kirkuk Iraq. It’s odd in a number of ways, from his love of using jokes to make a point, to his blithe assumption that the U.S. military has “left a million acts of kindness” in the country, and his bizarre contention that Iraq is “100 times more important” than Bosnia (what is the point of a powder keg competition between the Middle East and the Balkans, anyway?). But this is what struck me most from Friedman’s outlook:
Senior Iraqi officials are too proud to ask for our help and would probably publicly resist it, but privately Iraqis will tell you that they want it and need it. We are the only trusted player here — even by those who hate us. They need a U.S. mediator so they can each go back to their respective communities and say: “I never would have made these concessions, but those terrible Americans made me do it.”
First, I have a hard time believing that Thomas Friedman can reliably attest to the private desires of most Iraqis (especially when he is writing from Kirkuk, but makes no mention that Kurds, who form a substantial part of Kirkuk’s population, have a notably different outlook toward Americans). Second, I have an even harder time believing that six-plus years of military occupation has made Iraqis “want” and “need” more American help (something tells me that simply observing the diversity of American military personnel has not, as Friedman weakly argues, made an impression on Iraq’s own ethnic politics). I don’t believe for an instant that “those who hate us” trust the United States simply because it has been there for a long time.
Third, the United States is not the “only” purportedly neutral party in Iraq. The UN, I’d wager, has a lot more public support, and, more importantly, can lay a better claim to being an objective mediator. Rather than advocate what seems an entirely collapsible and unsustainable strategy of blaming concessions on “those terrible Americans,” Friedman should consider the political reconciliation work that the UN already is doing in Iraq, particularly in Kirkuk, which he, again, oddly fails to mention. Rest assured that it does not involve sending Iraqi mediators home with the implicit point of blaming “those terrible” UN types.
(image from flickr user Charles Haynes under a Creative Commons license)
Well, okay, actually just damaged. But it is (mostly) because of war.
American troops and contractors in Iraq inflicted serious damage on the archaeological site of Babylon in Iraq, driving heavy machinery over once-sacred paths, bulldozing hilltops and digging trenches through the terrain, Unesco experts said Thursday. “The use of Babylon as a military base was a grave encroachment on this internationally known archaeological site,” said a report that the United Nations cultural agency presented in Paris.
This is what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon looked like before the American occupation 2500 years ago. It’s a shame that one of the original Seven Wonders of the World still isn’t able to be recognized as a World Heritage site. Saddam carving his name into some of the buildings also didn’t help.
(image from flickr user Carla216 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.