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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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When Russia and Georgia disagree, fairness wins

Russia Today bemusedly reports something on which "Russia and Georgia have found themselves in rare agreement" -- a UN report on the security status in the disputed region of Abkhazia. The report recommends such outlandish steps as securing a ceasefire zone and calling for the UN's 129 unarmed military observers to monitor peace and stability.

My somewhat insouciant conclusion: if both Russia and Georgia think a UN report on something as contentious as Abkhazia is biased, well, then it pretty much must be fair.

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Israelis Look For Hope In Washington

As it happens, I am in Israel this week.  And in Israel, all eyes are on Washington, D.C. as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Obama White House for the first time.  The meeting, however, has the potential to be somewhat awkward the Israeli Prime Minister has yet to endorse the "two state" solution. 

Scanning the Israeli press today it is stricking to see the degree to which Israelis are depending on Obama to press Netanyahu to once and for all endorse a two-state solution.  For a good chunk of the Israeli body politic, all hope lies with Obama.  Ha'aretz has a three-fer of editorials today which all reinforce this same point.

  The lead editorial in Ha'Aretz advises Bibi to "say 'yes' to Obama:"

Now Netanyahu must show he can set aside his ideological opposition to dividing the country and support for expanding settlements and, for the good of the state, strengthen relations with the United States and advance the peace process with the Palestinians and the Arab states.

The Israeli public expects him to adjust his political stances to international reality.

Gideon Levy calls for a "political U-turn by the prime minister," and see's the American president as Israel's "final hope."

Obama is the final hope: Only if he throws his entire weight into the process will anything in the Middle East start moving. Any American president could have long ago brought about substantial progress, first and foremost ending the intolerable Israeli occupation. But Obama's predecessors shrank from the task, preferring to yield to the Jewish and Christian lobbies and to engage in masquerades of negotiations leading nowhere.

And Zvi Bar'el says an endorsement of a two state solution

As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lands in Washington Sunday, he brings a valuable gift for U.S. President Barack Obama: new U.S. legitimacy in the Middle East. If Netanyahu says the right password at the White House gates - "two states for two peoples" - Obama will have his first Israeli political achievement. Then there will be no escaping attributing this ideological compromise to American pressure on Israel.

Bottom line: A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, President Obama

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Same-Sex Partner Benefits on the Way for American Diplomats

Congress has inserted a provision into the State Department authorization budget that would require the State Department to confer the same benefits to same-sex partners as it does to married couples. 

Congressman Howard Berman, Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, included the provision in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011 (H.R. 2410) to "end the long-standing practice of excluding the committed partners of Foreign Service officers from the benefits routinely provided to the spouses and children of officers serving abroad."  The provision now must make its way through the budget process, including the conference committee where many-a-well intentioned proposal hits the chopping block.  But in this case, it would be hard to imagine that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is lead by Chairman John Kerry and the moderate republic ranking member Richard Lugar, would do anything to strip out this provision.  

This would be progress.  For too long, gay and lesbian diplomats have had to chose between their families and their service.  "I'm happy that efforts to redress these discriminatory policies are being undertaken," emails Michael Guest a former Foreign Service officer currently affiliated with the Center for Global Equality.  "This is all about ensuring the safety, effectiveness and equal workplace conditions for those who serve our country abroad, and for the families who accompany them on those assignments."   Amen!

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David Miliband Dishes

I'm just returning from a presser with UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband hosted by the New American Foundation.  (Catch the webcast on The Washington Note).  First, contrary to my prediction he was asked about Sri Lanka -- by the New Yorker writer and New American Foundation president Steve Coll no less.  Miliband said there is no question that the LTTE is a murderous organization, but democracies like Sri Lanka must be held to a higher standard; governments are not allowed to say 'the ends justify the means.' And in describing the plight of some 50,000 civilians trapped in a three square kilometer sliver of land and coming under heavy bombardment, Miliband said "that is the definition of hell."  

I would have liked Miliband to have addressed what sort of policy options are available to the UK and Europe for addressing this crisis, particularly given the fact that Russia and China do not seem to be willing to take this up at the Security Council.  Still, all in all he offered  a welcome response.  

Finally, the newsiest bit (for those, um, not obessively covering the Sri Lanka crisis) was the way in which Miliband framed the foreign policy era that we are poised to enter.   He said that while the global economic recession will never have the searing trauma of 9-11, the long term foreign policy consequences will be just as profound.  At the same time, says Miliband, the Obama administration has recognized that although it is the only superpower, it cannot bring solutions to heel on its own.  Rather, Miliband says that Obama administration understands that the combination of American leadership and international cooperation will be the most powerful force for taking on some of the world's toughest challenges.  The G-20 meeting, says Miliband, is a good example of this principal made manifest.

"Progressive multilateralism," in the words of Miliband, is making a comeback. 

Baby, we've been here for years!

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Time for Law of the Sea

Via Scott Paul at The Washington Note, Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seems primed to make a concerted push to finally ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Law of the Sea treaty, with proponents on both sides of the aisle, from environmentalist groups and oil industries, in the science and the business communities, and both this president and the last one, is probably the biggest no-brainer of a treaty ever to be stalled by a vocal (and misguided) minority (treaties affirming basic rights for children notwithstanding).

The issue, it seems, is timing; and this doesn't look like just another legislative excuse, either:

The Republicans who oppose the treaty would likely use Senate procedure to prolong the debate, meaning it could take up to a week of floor time. Indeed, one of the more vocal opponents of the treaty, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), said in an interview this week that he would "do all I could" to block the measure if it came to the Senate floor.

"It's called sovereignty. We seem to be in such a hurry to give up our sovereignty to multinational organizations; the Law of the Sea certainly fits into that," Inhofe said.

Well, in short, no, it doesn't. Law of the Sea in no way impinges U.S. sovereignty. If anything, it comes quite close to the opposite; ratifying the Law of the Sea allows the United States to claim rights in the Arctic, which other parties to the treaty are snapping up faster than the ice up there is melting. What Inhofe -- and the United States, if it still does not ratify the treaty -- is missing is that the Law of the Sea would effectively increase U.S. sovereignty, not detract from it.  And there’s little time left to seize the opportunity.

Scott optimistically thinks that Republicans won't be able to mount too much of an opposition because they "cannot afford another loss that highlights its commitment to dead dogma over the national interest." I'd like to think so, too, but the tried-and-true dogmatic canard used by Law of Sea opponents for over two decades -- the same sovereignty abrogation claim mouthed by Inhofe -- remains politically powerful. If Inhofe's cadre of Republicans unwisely chooses to take this up opposition to this popular treaty as a cause, they may not have a leg to stand on, but we can be sure that they will holler.

(image from flickr user Center for American Progress Action Fund under a Creative Commons license)

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“The Fierce One” and the Maoists

The big news out of central Asia this morning -- on what probably counts as a big news day for central Asia -- was the resignation of the prime minister of the Himalayan monarchy-turned-republic of Nepal. The prime minister, a former Maoist guerilla who's stylized himself Prachanda, or "the fierce one," had faced some rather fierce protests of his own after he attempted to dismiss the country's army chief. Prachanda wanted former Maoist fighters incorporated into the national army, a move that went too far for Nepal's president, a non-Maoist opposition leader.

Attention has rightly focused on what this political development means for Nepal's young democracy and the peace deal that ended a decade of civil war (not to mention 240 years of monarchy). But equally significant is the military side: what will happen to the 19,000 Maoist fighters ostensibly allied with Prachanda? They were in fact supposed to be incorporated into the Nepalese army, eventually at least, according the the UN-brokered peace deal. The question, though, was when to do so without either prompting fears of a Maoist resurgency or undermining the reconciliation process. For now, the fighters remain in barracks overseen by UN civilian and military observers, in a system that has worked relatively smoothly for the two years since the peace deal.

It certainly seems a dangerous situation to have 19,000 former Maoist insurgents, with access to weapons and a command structure that is "still intact," hanging out in barracks when their former leader has just quit the government. A commander of the militia forces, however, has said they "have no plans to bring them out from the UN-monitored camps," so hopefully caution will prevail here.

(image of UN observers in Nepal)

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U.S. To Delay Sri Lanka IMF Loan, Putting its Money Where its Mouth Is

Fresh off the wires, Reuters is reporting that the Obama administration is seeking to delay a $1.9 billion loan to Sri Lanka from the International Monetary Fund.  I'm working on a longer piece about this that I do not want to cannibalize, but here is the money quote from an un-named American official. 

"The problem, from our vantage point, is that the Sri Lankans have refused to engage on the humanitarian crisis as a priority," said one U.S. official. Delaying an IMF loan "is an attempt to get their priorities back where they should be."

This is a  VERY forceful policy response to the unfolding crisis in Sri Lanka.  It places the onus of civilian protection in Sri Lanka squarely at the feet of the government in Columbo and comes after two weeks of tough talk by top officials in the Obama administration. Now,  by blocking the loan, the administration is backing tough talk with action, and quite literally putting its money where its mouth is.  Needless to say, it is nice to see this kind of policy and messaging coordination in pursuit of something that is clearly not a top American foreign policy priority, but nevertheless an important matter of human rights.    

Photo from Flickr user Kyrion.