Tag: diplomacy

White Elephants & Bipartisan Determination for War

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Afghan IG reopens probe into huge Leatherneck command center

By J. Taylor Rushing, Stars and Stripes

Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko notified Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel of the news in a Nov. 27 letter that was released by Sopko’s office Thursday. In the letter, Sopko complains that he never received an answer to questions he sent in July to Hagel, U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Lloyd Austin III and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan Commander Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., about the mammoth building, dismissed by many as a “white elephant,” never to be used. [..]

Sopko specifically complains about an investigation into the building by Maj. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of support for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan that was finished last month. Sopko said he delayed his own investigation to wait on Richardson’s report. A partial draft of the report was sent to Sopko, but he said it was sloppy, incomplete and actually suggests that taxpayer-funded construction should continue. [..]

Controversy over the building is not new – members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have been publicly critical of the construction, most recently after an initial Army investigation into the building in May determined that the building was unwanted and unnecessary, and could be converted into a gymnasium and movie theatre.

10 Democratic Committee Chairs Warn Menendez’s Iran Sanction Bill Could Blow Up Negotiations

By Ryan Grim, Huffington Post

In a remarkable rebuke to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), 10 other Senate committee chairs are circulating a joint letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, urging him to reject an effort by Menendez to tighten sanctions on Iran and warning that his bill could disrupt ongoing nuclear negotiations.

The senators write in their letter that “at this time, as negotiations are ongoing, we believe that new sanctions would play into the hands of those in Iran who are most eager to see the negotiations fail.”

Earlier Thursday, a senior White House official had accused Menendez of undermining the negotiations. [..]

Yet Menendez is not alone in his call for tougher sanctions. The proposed Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act, introduced in the Senate on Thursday by Menendez and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), is co-sponsored by 12 other Democrats — including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — and 12 other Republicans.

Senate passes $607B Defense bill

By Jeremy Herb and Ramsey Cox, The Hill

The Senate on Thursday evening passed the $607 billion Defense authorization bill that will reform the way the military handles sexual assault cases and loosen the restriction on transferring Guantánamo Bay detainees to foreign countries.

The Senate sent the bill to the president’s desk for the 52nd straight year in a 84-15 vote, after some legislative maneuvering was needed to extend the streak and quickly get a compromise bill through both chambers this month.

Nearly three-quarters of Republicans joined most Democrats in voting for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes $527 billion in base defense spending and $80 billion for the war in Afghanistan.[..]

The final bill included many new reforms to how the military prosecutes sexual assault and treats victims. The bill strips commanders’ ability to overturn guilty verdicts, changes the military’s pre-trial rules for interviewing victims, expands a special victims counsel for sexual assault survivors and makes retaliating against victims a crime.

The bill does not, however, include a controversial proposal from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) to take sexual assault cases from the chain of command. Before Thanksgiving, Republicans blocked Reid’s attempt to hold votes on Gillibrand’s amendment and a competing measure from Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

The stupid just burns.

The Agreement with Iran: How the US Finally Got There

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The agreement reached early Sunday morning in Switzerland with Iran over its nuclear program is nothing short of historic. It will expand inspections of nuclear sites and loosen some of the sanctions, worth some $7 billion to Iran. It also signals a shift in American foreign relations from military might to diplomacy, something that candidate Barack Obama had said he was going to do.

(T)he flurry of diplomatic activity reflects the definitive end of the post-Sept. 11 world, dominated by two major wars and a battle against Islamic terrorism that drew the United States into Afghanistan and still keeps its Predator drones flying over Pakistan and Yemen.

But it also reflects a broader scaling-back of the use of American muscle, not least in the Middle East, as well as a willingness to deal with foreign governments as they are rather than to push for new leaders that better embody American values. “Regime change,” in Iran or even Syria, is out; cutting deals with former adversaries is in.

For Mr. Obama, the shift to diplomacy fulfills a campaign pledge from 2008 that he would stretch out a hand to America’s enemies and speak to any foreign leader without preconditions. But it will also subject him to considerable political risks, as the protests about the Iran deal from Capitol Hill and allies in the Middle East attest.

“We’re testing diplomacy; we’re not resorting immediately to military conflict,” Mr. Obama said, defending the Iran deal on Monday in San Francisco. “Tough talk and bluster may be the easy thing to do politically,” he said earlier that day, “but it’s not the right thing for our security.”

The deal has been the reactions have been hailed by many as good move for the region and the world but it has it’s critics on both sides of the political aisle.

University of Michigan Mideast scholar Juan Cole argues on his blog, Informed Comment, that “the decade-long Neoconservative plot to take the United States to war against Iran appears to have been foiled” by the deal. Unsurprisingly, congressional Iran hawks on both sides of the aisle aren’t pleased, according to Bernie Becker at The Hill. Critics accuse the administration of “capitulation,” which The Daily Beast‘s Peter Beinhart says is a gross misreading of history. Siobhan Gorman reports for The Wall Street Journal that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that Congress may try to impose even more sanctions, which the White House calls a path to war. [..]

Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for The Guardian that the Iranian public appears to be very happy about the deal. Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is outraged by the deal, but Israeli journalist Gershom Gorenberg writes in The American Prospect that his reaction says more about him than the deal itself. And at 972 Magazine, Larry Derfner notes that the Israeli security community is a lot more optimistic about the deal than the country’s elected officials. The BBC taps its extensive network of reporters to bring mixed reactions from around the region. And Mark Landler reports for The New York Times that the deal could “open the door” to diplomatic solutions of other regional issues.

As Juan Cole points in his article at Informed Consent, the agreement is actually an agreement to negotiate and build confidence between all the parties for the hard bargaining to come. It also is a good history of how we got from post 9/11 to now.

In 2003, the Neocon chickenhawks, most of whom had never worn a uniform or had a parent who did, joked that “everyone wants to go to Baghdad; real men want to go to Tehran.” When people have to talk about being “real men,” it is a pretty good sign that they are 98-pound weaklings.

The “everyone” who wanted to go to Baghdad was actually just the Neocons and their fellow travelers. Most of the latter were hoodwinked by the Neocon/Cheney misinformation campaign blaming Saddam Hussein of Iraq for 9/11. A majority of Democratic representatives in the lower house of Congress voted against the idea of going to war. The Iraq War, trumped up on false pretenses and mainly to protect the militant right wing in Israel from having a credible military rival in the region and to put Iraqi petroleum on the market to weaken Saudi Arabia, cost the United States nearly 5000 troops, hundreds more Veterans working as contractors, and probably $3 or $4 trillion- money we do not have since our economy has collapsed and hasn’t recovered except for wealthy stockholders. Perhaps George W. Bush could paint for us some dollars so that we can remember what they used to look like when we had them in our pockets instead of his billionaire friends (many of them war profiteers) having them in theirs. [..]

The irony is that in early 2003, the reformist Iranian government of then-President Mohammad Khatami had sent over to the US a wide-ranging proposal for peace. After all, Baathist Iraq was Iran’s deadliest enemy. It had invaded Iran in 1980 and fought an 8-year aggressive war in hopes of taking Iranian territory and stealing its oil resources. Now the US was about to overthrow Iran’s nemesis. Wouldn’t it make sense for Washington and Tehran to ally? Khatami put everything on the table, even an end to hostilities with Israel.

The Neoconservatives threw the Iranian proposal in the trash heap and mobilized to make sure there was no rapprochement with Iran. David Frum, Bush’s speech-writer, consulted with eminence grise Richard Perle (then on a Pentagon oversight board) and Irv Lewis “Scooter” Libby (vice presidential felon Richard Bruce Cheney’s chief of staff), and they had already inserted into Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech the phrase the “axis of evil,” grouping Iran with Iraq and North Korea. Iran had had sympathy demonstrations for the US after 9/11, and, being a Shiite power, feared and hated al-Qaeda (Sunni extremists) as much as Washington did. But the Neoconservatives did not want a US-Iran alliance against al-Qaeda or against Saddam Hussein. Being diplomatic serial killers, they saw Iran rather as their next victim.

In many ways, Washington politics is still stuck in that neoconservative world.

MSNBC’s All In host Chris Hayes discusses the agreement with several guests  Iranian-American journalist and author, Hooman Majd, Ambassador Christopher Hill and Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY).

In another segment, Chris and his guest Matt Duss, Middle East policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, discuss how diplomacy with Iran is just the latest blow to the neoconservatives.

When George W. Bush was appointed as president in 2001, there was a moderate government in Iran. If it had not been for the Supreme Court, this would have been resolved 10 years ago and so many would not have needlessly died.

An Interview with Adlai Stevenson III, Part Four: Diplomacy and Foreign Policy

On the subject of diplomacy and foreign policy, Senator Stevenson followed in his father’s admittedly massive footsteps.  In particular, he spent much time working in the Far East, and holds an expert opinion on Asia and monetary policy.  The most detailed sections of The Black Book are devoted to both subjects.  This next installment, however, will discuss the high-stakes world of brinkmanship and negotiation.  In it, Stevenson directly refutes past political narratives whose veracity has rarely been challenged.  In a Wikileaks world, the Senator has some severe criticisms of a failed system whose abuses have left all of us still feeling the effect.    

TWiEC: Winds of Change in the Middle East – as Seen By Foreign and American Editorial Cartoonists

Crossposted at Daily Kos and The Stars Hollow Gazette



source Walk Like an Egyptian by Dwayne Booth, Mr. Fish, Buy this cartoon  

It’s spontaneous, yes, triggered by the explosion in Tunisia.  But contrary to some media reports, which have portrayed the upsurge in Egypt as a leaderless rebellion, a fairly well organized movement is emerging to take charge, comprising students, labor activists, lawyers, a network of intellectuals, Egypt’s Islamists, a handful of political parties and miscellaneous advocates for “change.”  And it’s possible, but not at all certain, that the nominal leadership of the revolution could fall to Mohammad ElBaradei.

— ‘Who’s Behind Egypt’s Revolt?’ by Robert Dreyfuss, The Nation

WikiLeaks and What It Says About Us

It is easy to be cynical in light of the Wikileaks revelations.  The automatic believers in the worst case and the perfidious have had confirmation followed by confirmation in the past few days.  An intelligence community and a President promising greater transparency has not followed through on its lofty promises.  Do as I say, not as I do, would seem to be its modus opperandi.  While I recognize that having the strongest hand at the bargaining table is considered the key to diplomacy, the behind-the-scenes sausage factory present here only confirms the fears of many Americans.  The timing could not be worse, especially when a strong anti-government sentiment swept the GOP to power in the House.          

Kerry on Afghanistan

I’ll start this out with a short clip of a speech Senator, and brother ‘Nam Veteran, Kerry gave on his return from a fact finding and diplomacy trip to Afghanistan. In this clip, in just a couple of sentences, he lays out the reality as to what one leading ‘chickenhawk’, and to many war criminal, has been blathering lately. Though Kerry doesn’t mention it also speaks as to what that chief ‘chickenhawk’s’ spokesperson, his daughter, fast becoming the leading ‘chickenhawkette’, has also been spreading around, allowed to and rarely, if ever, challenged.

Honduras: Diplomacy And A Harsh Curfew

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With the 3-day period imposed by OAS for the restoration of democracy and the Presidency of Manual Zelaya in Honduras slowly ticking down, diplomacy is proceeding between OAS and Roberto Micheletti’s government.  The military coup has imposed a harsh curfew, a feature of which is the withdrawal of various civil rights.  Neither side has so far blinked. No progress in resolving the coup has been reported.

According to the New York Times OAS diplomacy to end the military coup in Honduras is proceeding.  The United States role in this apparently is to give a cold shoulder to the coup, to cut off joint military operations, and to threaten a cessation of all aid if Zelaya is not restored to the presidency.

As the public standoff between Honduras and the rest of the world hardened, quiet negotiations got under way on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for a possible return of the nation’s ousted president, Manuel Zelaya.

After a marathon session that stretched close to dawn, the Organization of American States “vehemently” condemned the removal of Mr. Zelaya over the weekend and issued an ultimatum to Honduras’s new government: Unless Mr. Zelaya is returned to power within 72 hours, the nation will be suspended from the group.

Diplomats said they had rarely seen the hemisphere’s leaders unite so solidly behind a common cause.

The new Honduran government was equally resolute, warning that there was no chance Mr. Zelaya would be restored to office and that the nation would defend itself by force.

Both sides have stated their positions.  Both appear inflexible.  Has there been any movement?  No. The OAS secretary general, José Miguel Insulza, went to Tegucigalpa today for further talks.  Proposals being discussed involve an amnesty for the golpistas, Manual Zelaya saying he won’t seek an additional term, and restoration of Zelaya as President. Also, members of the Congress in Honduras are reportedly looking for a compromise.  Details of those proposals aren’t available.

Meanwhile, according to the Times, the conflict in Honduras continues to be highly polarized:

Demonstrations for and against the new government continued in Tegucigalpa and other cities across the country [on Wednesday].  Then, in a move to crack down on the opposition, the nation’s Congress approved a decree on Wednesday that applies during the overnight curfew and allows security forces to arrest people at home and hold them for more than 24 hours.

“It’s for the tranquillity of the country,” said the new president, Roberto Micheletti.

The government has accused pro-Zelaya demonstrators of vandalism and violence, noting that a grenade, which did not explode, was hurled at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Those who oppose the government, meanwhile, accuse the security forces of stifling dissent through brutality.

The withdrawal of civil rights is serious.  It includes curtailing the right to assemble and to seek redress from the Government as well as the right not to be held without charge for more than 24 hours.  These measures apparently permit the Government to detain the opposition if the arrests are made during the curfew:

According to Honduras’ El Tiempo, the following constitutional guarantees have been suspended:

   * Article 69, which guarantees the personal freedom.

   * Article 71, which states that no one can be detained or held incommunicado for more than 24 hours without an arrest warrant.

   * Article 78, which guarantees freedom of association and freedom of assembly.

   * Article 81, which states, “Everyone has the right to free movement, to leave, enter and remain in national territory.”

El Tiempo reports that with the aforementioned guarantees suspended, “no one can hold meetings, neither public nor private, be it in the streets, in churches, in their own homes, or in union or guild halls.”

source.

Meanwhile, Kristin Bricker reports:

he anti-coup movement’s momentum appears to be building across Honduras, with protests reported across the country.  Meanwhile, international pressure builds against the coup government.

Over the past two days, anti-coup protests were reported in Tocoa, Colon; San Pedro Sula; La Ceiba; El Progreso, Yoro; Tegucigapla; Intibuca; El Paraiso; Olancho; Santa Barbara; and all over President Zelaya’s native department of Olancho.  Moreover, the BBC reports that citizens have blocked major highways in Copan and Tocoa.  The BBC’s sources on the ground in Honduras say anti-coup protests have occurred in the majority of Honduras’ departments.

And so, we sit and wait.  I hope there will be a diplomatic resolution of the problem and a restoration of democracy in Honduras.  In the meanwhile, there is very little any of us can do except to watch and to spread the news.

———–

cross-posted from The Dream Antilles

The Middle Kingdom Ends Its Silence On Obama & Afghanistan.

Compare the two leadership styles and learn, because this relationship will guide the world:

see Observe calmly; source secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; non prescription finasteride hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at comprare levitra online consegna rapida maintaining a low profile; and never buy levitra in kamloops bc claim leadership.” — China’s former Communist Party Leader, Deng Xiaoping.

“But I can say that the president of the United States said during his campaign and in the debates that if there is an actionable target, of a high-level Al Qaeda personnel, that he would not canadian levitra prescription line hesitate to use http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=nonprescription-prednisone action to deal with that” — Vice President Joseph Biden.

U.S. Ambassadorships and Obama’s Big Campaign Donors

 

For all the money small donors brought to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, I doubt a small donor’s name will ever be floated for an ambassadorship. Small money donors are not rewarded with access or ambassadorships.

The Washington Post is reporting Louis Susman, a “mega-fundraiser” for Obama, may get “primo” ambassador job. Susman, “who gave and bundled some major bucks” for Obama’s campaign is likely to be nominated as the next U.S Ambassador to the United Kingdom, pending the outcome of “negotiations”.

What makes Susman qualified to represent our nation to one of America’s closest allies? First, he raises gobs of money for Democratic candidates! Last year alone, he contributed $118,187 to 36 different candidates or political action committees.

In 2004, Susman helped raise $247 million for John Kerry. “Susman was an early backer of Obama’s — getting on board even before Obama declared his candidacy in early 2007 — and was one of the campaign’s biggest bundlers.”

Veterans Day – Tuesday 11-11-08

We all know we have a change coming, and it would be great if it happened yesterday, but it will be happening soon enough. That change is in a New President and His Administration who ran on http://community2community.info/?search=discount-drug-free-propecia “Change” and bringing along with him a change in the Peoples Representation in both houses of Congress.

The new President, Barack Obama, was not brought into this job of the Countries President by a political parties leaders but by The People who rallied behind him, from the primaries to the Nov 8th National Election Day, and those people, Us, have to continue in what happens, for just one person and the administration nor the peoples representatives can bring about the http://creativelittleparties.com/?search=cheap-cialis-in-uk “Change” that is so desperately needed now after these detructive years on so many fronts by themselves, we must stay engaged!

Uh oh..Saakashvili-o’s!

Folks, it seems as if everyone’s favorite Georgian President is spoiling for a Round 2 with Moscow.

Despite the presence of Russian troops on Georgian soil, President Mikhail Saakashvili said the West would help his country regain control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the separatist regions of Georgia recognized as independent nations by Moscow last month.

“Our territorial integrity will be restored, I am more convinced of this than ever,” Saakashvili said in a televised appearance. “This will not be an easy process, but now this is a process between an irate Russia and the rest of the world.”

“Our goal is the return of our territory and the peaceful unification of Georgia,” he said.

– excerpt from “Georgian president vows to reclaim 2 provinces “, AP, 2008

You know, I felt bad about what happened in Georgia.  Tbilisi’s top man should have known better than to try and call Moscow’s bluff.  Washington should have also known better than to egg on Saakashvilli.  Nobody ended up a winner in this, well maybe Gazprom, but who knows I’ll defer to Jerome a Paris on that.  

BREAKING: Ingrid Betancourt Rescued! (Updated x 2)

BBC is now reporting:

The Colombian authorities say they have rescued Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans held by rebels in Colombia.

Ms Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician, has been held for more than six years by the rebel Farc group and is said to be in very poor health.

She is the group’s highest-profile hostage and the French government has made securing her release a priority.

The Farc group has been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government for more than 40 years.

The Colombian military said some 15 hostages had been rescued in total on Wednesday, among them 11 Colombian soldiers.

Please join me in Colombia.

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