Archive for September, 2010

Clinton announces first ever human-rights-based sanctions against Iran | Madam Secretary.

As the saying goes, there is a first time for everything.

Secretary Clinton announced yesterday that for the first time ever, the United States is imposing sanctions against Iran based on human rights abuses. She said that President Obama signed an executive order on Sept. 28 that sanctions eight Iranian officials who have been involved in “serious and sustained” human rights violations since June 2009’s disputed presidential election. Under these officials’ watch, Iranians have been “arbitrarily arrested, beaten, tortured, raped, blackmailed, and killed,” Clinton said.

These sanctioned officials include Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, and Sadeq Mahsouli, who was responsible for forces that attacked students at Tehran University dormitories on June 15, 2009. Also among the eight are officials with responsibility over the infamous Evin Prison and Kahrizak Detention Center. Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations told the New York Times that these officials are “first-class thugs.”

The sanctions were imposed under the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, which allows the U.S. government to target individual Iranians and make them subject to financial sanctions and U.S. visa denials. Alluding to criticisms that broad-based sanctions can hurt everyday people, Clinton mentioned that those against the eight officials will not adversely affect ordinary Iranian citizens.

The notion of targeting sanctions against individuals, rather than states or whole societies is itself interesting.  Sanctions have long been criticized for punishing societies for the crimes of the elite, while leaving the elite relatively untouched.  How much these sanctions will affect the eight officials, who have been referred to as “first-class thugs” remains to be seen.  One wonders if this is part of a campaign to prime the public for stronger action against Iran in the future.


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Fareed Zakaria, Editor, Newsweek International...

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Fareed Zakaria – Rising powers need to rise up

Some food for thought from Fareed Zakaria.  As the rest rise, how will they be socialized to new roles in the international system?  Arguably, the U.S. had a century of British tutelage to prepare for its period of dominance.

The newly rising powers — China, India, Brazil — rightly insist that they be more centrally involved in the structures of power and global decision making. But when given the opportunity, do they step up to the plate and act as great powers with broad interests? On trade? Energy use? Climate change?

No. Many of these countries want to be deferred to on matters of regional peace and stability. Yet they continue to pursue their national interests even more zealously. Perhaps the most egregious example is South Africa, which insists that it is Africa‘s natural leader. Yet the country has been shamefully absent in the efforts to rescue the people of Zimbabwe and Sudan from the tragedies unfolding in their lands.

Chalk up one more example of the institutional inferiority of international politics.

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Chaos between boarders

I once read in an article a line about Somalia that has stuck with me. It went something like this “to call Somalia a failed state would be generous, the DRC is a failed state, Somalia is chaos between borders.” The constant state of war is unimaginable, we hear about it but yet I believe we fail to comprehend what over 19 years over constant war means. Somalia has also become the American government justification for not interfering in African civil wars. Somalia is a place that has developed everything from the most intense urban fighting, to the most numerous shortest lived governments, to the famous pirates, to Islamic militant groups made of teenagers, hence the name Al Shabab or The Guys. Now what to do? Its chaos has spilled over into Kenya, Ethiopia, Yemen, Uganda and who knows where else. Its ability to solve its own festering statehood on its own has been longed deemed impossible, as of now the only thing keeping the US backed government in power of the six miles it has is the 7,000 soldier Africa Union force. How does a government approach Somalia, does it ignore it? How does it deal with border issues or international water issues? How do its neighbors address that has acted like a cancer growing off their borders? And more important still how does one help the people? Thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians have been killed, over a quarter of the population has fled due to the violence. Those who have stayed face a constant danger more overbearing than almost any other place in the world. And those who have become entrepreneurial in a way that will improve their lively hood are shutdown by foreign powers and called pirates. While Somalia may be “chaos between borders” that doesn’t mean that people dont live there. What can we do with a place that has destroyed so many lives and will continue to destroy more.  There may be some hope in what has been created out of the autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland, but even those have led to violence and disputes between the two.  What now?

Response to:  http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/09/23/how_much_turf_does_the_somali_government_really_control

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In our own backyard, and people are still suffering. Although some women have taken it to the extreme claiming that their husbands died during the earthquake, these people still need help. So how long does a natural disaster last in the media? The Haitians are need of food and supplies, parents still want their children to attend school, and they are thankful to be alive, but with the lack of help, the question does arise: How long will they last? The following article is the voice of many, pleading for help.

The camp leader had proposed writing letters to the nongovernment authorities, and she had so much to say. She lighted a candle and summoned a gracious sentiment with which to begin.

“To all the members of concerned organizations, I thank you first for feeling our pain,” she wrote slowly in pencil on what became an eraser-smudged page. “I note that you have taken on almost all our problems and some of our greatest needs.”

Ms. Saint Hilaire, 33, then succinctly explained that she had lost her husband and her livelihood to the Jan. 12 earthquake and now found herself hungry, stressed and stranded in a camp annex without a school, a health clinic, a marketplace or any activity at all.

“Please — do something!” she wrote from Tent J2, Block 7, Sector 3, her new address. “We don’t want to die of hunger and also we want to send our children to school. I give glory to God that I am still alive — but I would like to stay that way!”

In the last couple of weeks, thousands of displaced Haitians have similarly vented their concerns, depositing impassioned pleas for help in new suggestion boxes at a hundred camps throughout the disaster zone. Taken together, the letters form a collective cri de coeur from a population that has felt increasingly impotent and ignored.

With 1.3 million displaced people in 1,300 camps, homelessness is the new normal here. Two recent protest marches have sought to make the homeless a central issue in the coming presidential campaign. But the tent camp residents, miserable, weary and in many cases fighting eviction, do not seem to have the energy to become a vocal force.

When the International Organization for Migration added suggestion boxes to its information kiosks in scores of camps, it did not expect to tap directly into a well of pent-up emotions. “I anticipated maybe a few cranky letters,” said Leonard Doyle, who handles communications for the organization in Haiti. “But to my absolute, blow-me-down surprise, we got 700 letters in three days from our first boxes — real individualized expressions of suffering that give a human face to this ongoing tragedy.”

In some cases, the letters contain a breathless litany of miseries, a chain of woes strung together by commas: “I feel discouraged, I don’t sleep comfortably, I gave birth six months ago, the baby died, I have six other children, they don’t have a father, I don’t have work, my tarp is torn, the rain panics me, my house was crushed, I don’t have money to feed my family, I would really love it if you would help me,” wrote Marie Jean Jean.

In others, despair is expressed formally, with remarkable restraint: “Living under a tent is not favorable neither to me nor to my children” or “We would appreciate your assistance in obtaining a future as one does not appear to be on our horizon.”

Several writers sent terse wish lists on self-designed forms: “Name: Paul Wilbert. Camp: Boulos. Need: House. Demand: $1,250. Project: Build house. Thank you.”

Just a thought but maybe volunteers exhausted their help, or did people just stopped caring?


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China’s maritime aggression should be wake-up call to Japan | Shadow Government.

“Japan is developing new defense guidelines that must factor in China’s increasing military challenge — and provide budget support for the development of new capabilities to protect Japan against Chinese bullying. Many DPJ members support the notion of a more equal U.S.-Japan alliance — which means they must be willing to bolster Japanese defense capabilities so that it can punch its weight without being overly dependent on the United States. Japan’s defense budget has declined by five percent in real terms over the past decade; it is past time to reverse this trend in light of regional developments. In addition to missile defense, this should include investing in new platforms, technology, and training for the Japanese navy and coast guard to secure Japanese territorial waters and maritime interests against Chinese revisionism.”

“Japan is also well-positioned for a new diplomatic activism. Japan is hosting the APEC summit this November and has succeeded in encouraging the United States to join the East Asia Summit. As Southeast Asian leaders unite in their apprehension of Chinese power and look to closer partnership with bigger powers to stabilize the Asian balance, Tokyo could re-emerge to play the leading role in regional diplomacy it did in the 1990s, when it was instrumental in founding Asian regional institutions designed to engage, enmesh, and constrain China so as to encourage it to be a constructive regional player.”

With China developing so fast, both in terms of economy and in military technology, Japanese national security might be be in danger in the near future.  The balance of power is definitely shifting in favor of China, and if everything continues as now, and China continues to build up its military power and US continues to not do anything about it, the present US military presence in Japan might not be enough to protect all of Japanese national security against China.  This is clearly visible in the Chinese maritime aggression as reported in the article.  With Japanese economy surpassed by China, China is now number 1 in Asia in almost every aspect related to national power and sovereignty.  Japan probably has one of the best chance of being able to compete with China again and re-balancing the shifting balance of power in Asia.  It needs to wake-up and actively look for a way to develop a new defense strategy that can defend them against any type of future Chinese aggression.  Japan also needs to find a way, probably a drastic one, to somehow fix its underlying societal problems that is causing the economic stagflation in Japan.  I do not have the expertise or the experience to even try to offer a possible solution for Japan, but I hope someone in Japan has the expertise to do so, and that they take into their consideration the shifting balance of power.

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“The CIA has trained and bankrolled a well-paid force of elite Afghan paramilitaries for nearly eight years to hunt al-Qaida and the Taliban for the CIA, according to current and former U.S. officials.”

The idea that the CIA operates a privately trained tactical team of locals Afghans should be nothing new. Since the nineties after the United States finally understood the danger Osama bin Laden posed, the CIA created a team codenamed TRODPINT to keep tabs on the Bin Laden within Afghanistan. This group was made up of 30 or so Afghan mujahedeens that collaborated with the United States against the Soviets in Afghanistan. There is also some indication that these private operatives were trained by the CIA within the U.S.

At that time yes, I understand and do feel it was a handy tool to operate such type of a group. Why? Because it was hostile territory and it was far more successful and cheaper to operate than those multi-million dollar satellites the United States operates to track objectives. The unfortunate story of this TRODPINT group was that they were not fully trusted. Otherwise, Osama would have been history with the many opportunities TRODPINT had before 9/11.

But now when we have a friendly government I do not see the point of such an operating group. Unfortunately now this group has expanded to “3,000 strong.” Why is it that we are still operating such groups? I see them more of a setback than a successful measure.

I would rather prefer to have that money spent on better equipping and training Afghan Special Forces than creating another possible monster. Didn’t Al Qaeda begin like this, when CIA began training groups to fight off the soviets, and now look where that has led to. By better equipping the military and police forces they would be seen by the people as advancement by their government and thus there will be more support for the government of Kabul. However, this group has no chain of command and cannot be held responsible for their actions. And whenever these groups go rogue the CIA can turn a blind eye. And incidents such as the one on 2009 in Kandahar will cause problems for government forces and resentment by the people. We may not be aware of such kind of activities often but the civilians of Afghanistan are fully aware of such CIA operated groups. These groups bully and commit crimes wherever they go and nobody can say anything to them. They have become an Afghani version of American lawless cowboys.

I do understand the having such groups are a positive when operating in the lawless territories of Pakistan since the Pakistani government is insufficient at doing the job itself. Or in many aspects has no control of its territories along the Durand border. For an ineffective region whose leaders are not keeping their promises an armed tactical group such as this definitely works very well. However, I deem it necessary that these forces be integrated under a proper chain of command and be held responsible for their actions if innocent civilians get hurt.

Within Afghanistan this group should not be armed though, because we already have resources devoted to hunting and fighting insurgents. We need to make those forces better instead of spending additional money to complicate things by adding another rogue force into the chaos. If we cannot operate through proper procedures and operations of the established government then there is no point at trying to keep one through our tax money. We can just as well let the government collapse and things become more chaotic than what already exists and just operate such groups to hunt whomever the CIA and Pentagon feel like hunting.

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What Happened to India?

In the last decade, India has been spoken of, along with China, as a rising power. A country with over a billion people and growing, ready to work and turn India into the churning money/knowledge/development factory that we all expected it to become. Yet something has happened. China is still moving up, continuously in the news and on our minds with its new developments, controversies and slow grasping back of power, but India has seemed to be left behind. In the article Debacle in New Delhi, Sadanand Dhume uses the Common Wealth Games, which are to be held in New Delhi, as an example of India’s growing confusion and not progressive development.

Over the last 20 years, liberalization and globalization have unshackled many of the country’s most productive citizens from heavy-handed socialism and raised living standards faster than at any time in the nation’s history. But even as the private sector booms — swelling the middle class and producing billionaires by the fistful — the quality of governance remains abysmal. Neither the courts nor the electorate punish public servants for amassing private fortunes. In parts of the country, the political and criminal classes are hard to tell apart.

Corruption seems to be the new dictatorship. Where as driven and passionate people were once held down by arbitrary laws and oppressive governments, corruption and lack of rule of law has seemed to fill that role. Countries in which a small few are prospering and the majority continue to eek out a living, remains a high number throughout the world. I would be interested in reading about the factors that play into developing countries, the main one being, is democracy actually conducive to development? (I’m talking real democracy not theoretical) or is strict rule of law and knowledge of consequences matched with a slightly open market the jump start that some countries need.

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