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Iraqi Refugees Struggling in the United States

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.

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Iran confronts “foreign threats” in the Gulf of Aden

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.

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New Evidence of a Holbrooke-Karadzic “Cooperation Agreement?”

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.

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China? Nah, not so important

Even with the stakes undeniably ratcheted up by this weekend's nuclear and missile tests by North Korea, President Obama would be very ill-advised to heed Dan Blumenthal and Robert Kagan's warmongering op-ed in today's Washington Post. Billed "What to Do About North Korea," their strategy amounts to precisely the opposite, evincing a bomb-first-and-ask-questions-later mentality that will reap none of the rewards that they bizarrely claim will follow from their advised go-it-alone approach.

Blumenthal and Kagan's chief objection is that Chinese participation in diplomacy -- as well as, more broadly, diplomacy and the six-party talks in general -- is an obstacle to detering North Korea's nuclear program. While China's reluctance to tighten sanction on North Korean leaders is indeed frustrating, it is mystifying to me how Blumenthal and Kagan can seriously contend that China "fears a unified, democratic, prosperous Korea allied with the United States" more than a nuclear-armed, impoverished state at its border, full of refugees waiting to tumble into China. A unified Korea is a laudable goal, but the notion that this prospect is achievable in the immediate future is laughable; and how an escalation of military tensions with North Korea could democratize the country is feasible only if one wants to ponder an Iraq-except-with-nukes scenario.

In two quick breaths, Blumenthal and Kagan advise the Obama Administration to "strengthen multilateral efforts to stem North Korean proliferation" and withdraw from the six-party talks. Even discounting the fact that isolating the United States in bilateral negotiations has long been exactly what the regime in Pyongyang has wanted, this is a bafflingly incoherent policy proposal. Strengthening multilateral diplomacy is generally tough to achieve when you are withdrawing from multilateral diplomacy.

Blumenthal and Kagan's ponderous accusation that including China in North Korea negotiations is more about fostering Washington-Beijing relations is belied by the tenor of their own piece, which frets overwhelmingly about "ced[ing] influence" over Korea issues to China. Their strategy is thus not only to provoke North Korea, but to provoke China into tougher action on Pyongyang. With everyone -- especially in the most affected countries, South Korea and Japan -- talking tough right now, it is not the time for making adversaries out of allies. Even -- or perhaps especially -- with few attractive policy options for the United States, China's leverage is something that needs to be used constructively, not haughtily dismissed.

(image of Chinese president Hu Jintao)
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Susan Rice on the DPRK Nuke Test

Fresh from the US-UN Mission:

Ambassador Rice: Good evening. We had a very productive and efficient meeting of the Security Council and consultations. As Ambassador Churkin said, the Council was unanimous in its strong condemnation in opposition to the nuclear test by North Korea. We will now get down to work on a Security Council resolution, which we believe is the appropriate strong response to what was clearly and unequivocally a violation of Security Council Resolution 1718 and international law. We look forward to continuing to work with colleagues in the Council in the spirit of efficiency and partnership and unanimity which was demonstrated today, which I think bodes well for a constructive outcome by the Security Council.

Reporter: ... (inaudible) Security Council put together a strong resolution with strong sanctions stipulated in there?

Ambassador Rice: I think as Ambassador Churkin said, what we heard today was swift, clear, unequivocal condemnation and opposition to what occurred. The meeting was brief and everybody spoke and everybody essentially took same view. We are now resolved to work on a resolution, we believe it ought to be a strong resolution, with appropriately strong contents, but obviously unless - until - we have completed the process of negotiating that resolution it would be premature to suggest what those contents would be.

Reporter: What does the U.S. want for sanctions?

Ambassador Rice: The U.S. thinks that this is a grave violation of international law and a threat to regional and international peace and security. Therefore the United States will seek a strong resolution and strong measures.

Reporter: (inaudible)

Ambassador Rice: I would refer you to the President of the Council for that, but I think we all agreed that work on this product will begin tomorrow.

Reporter: In terms of the measures, are you talking about further economic sanctions targeting or general asset freeze...(inaudible) that sort of stepping up?

Ambassador Rice: I think it would be premature to go into any detail about what we are contemplating, what other members of the Council are contemplating. I think the appropriate place for that would be in the process of our consultations.

Thank you.

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Ban Ki Moon on North Korea

From the UN News Center:

"The Secretary-General is deeply concerned that this act will negatively affect regional peace and stability as well as the global nuclear non-proliferation regime," his spokesperson said in a statement.

Mr. Ban "trusts that the Security Council will take up this matter to send out a strong and unified message, conducive to achieving the goal of de-nuclearization of the Korean peninsula and peace and security in the region," the statement added.

Ban, remember, is the former foreign minister of South Korea.  He's seen this movie before.

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North Korea Tests Nuke – Security Council to Hold Emergency Meeting


North Korea announced on Monday that it had successfully conducted its second nuclear test, defying international warnings and dramatically raising the stakes in a global effort to persuade the recalcitrant Communist state to give up its weapons program. ...

Russia and Japan said the U.N. Security Council would hold an emergency meeting Monday.

Geological authorities in the United States, Japan and South Korea reported that the test triggered an earth tremor with a magnitude of between 4.5 and 5.3. The tremor emanated from Kilju, the same area where the North Korea carried out a test in October 2006.

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Are Deaths From Terrorism Qualitatively/Morally Different?

Cross-posted at Huffington Post

The establishment approach to counter-terrorism is based on an implicit assumption that there is a fundamental difference between the death and destruction caused by terrorist attacks and that caused by crime, hunger, disease and other such threats.

This unspoken assumption is used to justify the suspension of rules and standards that are employed when dealing with other causes of death and injury. And it explains a disproportionate urgency in contending with a single existential threat over others (global warming, environmental degradation, poverty, gun violence, etc.).