Demonstrators in the Middle East protest the accidental wounding of an Italian hostage and the death of an Italian intelligence officer who came under fire at an American road block. The incident hilighted the rules of engagement in Iraq, which have led to numerous civilian casualties. It also underscored sharp differences between the U.S. and Europe over how to deal with the situation.
|SAYONARA FOR THE U.S. DOLLAR?
Asian banks have been quietly dumping U.S. greenbacks ever since the Bush administration cut taxes for the wealthiest segment of society while committing the U.S. treasury to spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq. The exception is Japan, which was afraid of being priced out of the american market(see below). Even that may be changing now. The impact on the U.S. of having the rest of the world drop the dollar as the currency of reference could be enormous. Asia Times examines the developments in Asia (Alan Boyd, Asia Times, March 11, 2005)
JAPAN'S DOLLAR-BUYING SPREE SUBSIDIZED THE U.S. DEFICIT
Japan is on an unprecedented spending spree, all focused on the same product: the U.S. dollar. Tokyo bought an astounding $172 billion last year to keep the yen from strengthening too much against the dollar. The push only accelerated in January, when Japan snapped up another $67 billion....
(Audrey McAvoy, The Honolulu Advertiser, February 15, 2005)
FALL OUT FROM THE ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING OF AN ITALIAN HOSTAGE
The furor in Italy which followed the accidental shooting of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena underscored important differences in the way Europeans and Americans see the situation in Iraq. Giuliana briefly speculated in il Manifesto that the U.S. might even have targeted her. The U.S. insisted that it had signaled the car to stop, although what they were describing were apparently hand signals made in the dark. Hundreds of Iraqi civilians have met a similar fate. Paul Rieckhoff, Fred Abraham and Italian colmunist Maurizio Molinari discuss the fallout on Jim Lehrer's News Hour (March 7, 2005)
-The View from Baghdad, River Bend (March 8)
SABRE RATTLING OVER SYRIA
President Bush's calls for Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon have been countered by massive demon-
strations from Hizbollah, the Shiite pro-Syrian, pro-Iranian and rabidly anti-Israeli movement. Hizbollah was responsible for some of the most serious terrorist incidents in the past. Its rabid anti-American rhetoric has softened recently , largely because the movement realized that it had everything to gain from the Pentagon's neocon strategy that effectively transferred political power in Iraq from Sunnis to Shiites. With that mission now largely accomplished, it is reasonable to expect Hizbollah to opt for a higher profile. The Beirut Daily Star reports on the demonstrations. (Beirut Daily Star, March 9, 2005)
Beirut Daily Star's Coverage
-RAMI KHOURY ON THE CHANCES FOR DEMOCRACY IN LEBANON (Center for Public Integrity, March 3, 2005)
-President Bush's speech to the National Defense University on developments in the Middle East (March 8, 2005)
-The Christian Science Monitor reports on the demonstrations
-Juan Cole on the demonstrations and Lebanese partisan politics
-Joshua Landis analyzes teh message in Hizbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah's carefully crafted speech
PERVERSE CHOICE FOR THE U.N.
It's hard to imagine a less diplomatic diplomat than John Bolton. His appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations would be laughable if it were not so potentially damaging to the image of the U.S. in nthe rest of the world. Bolton not only disdains international cooperation, but he has made it more than clear that he considers the U.N. to be a useless organization. On the other hand, assigning Bolton to the U.N. neatly sidesteps any policy making role for him at the U.S. State Department, and that may be a positive. The Nation's Ian Williams sketches Bolton's past and the impact his nomination is likely to have on America's few remaining allies. As Williams puts it: "There are lots of governments prepared to grovel to Washington, but Bolton will make it difficult to grovel gracefully..."(Ian Williams, The Nation, March 8, 2005)
-Read Sydney Blumenthal's current take on Bolton in Salon (March 10, 2005)
-Read SALON's previous portrait of Bolton prior to his last appointment (July 2003)
-For a more gentle appreciation, Joshua Muravchik, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Nancy Soderberg discuss the possibility that Bolton might actually learn something on the job (PBS's News Hour, March 8, 2005).
FAILING TO STOP THE DARFUR GENOCIDE
The U.N. Security Council is making a fourth attempt to stop the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, but with the U.S. preoccupied by Iraq, Colin Powell out of office, and China busy courting Khartoum's oil, the chances of stopping the slaughter are slim. (The International Crisis Group, March 8, 2005)
AFTER RUSSIANS KILL CHECHEN LEADER ASLAN MASKHADOV, WHAT COMES NEXT?
Maskhadov’s death effectively demolishes the hope that the ongoing conflict in Chechnya can be resolved peacefully, at the negotiating table. Command of the semiautonomous resistance forces, the various detachments of which are capable of operating independently for months at a time, now devolves to radical field commander Shamil Basaev, the next in seniority and experience after Maskhadov. While Maskhadov sought repeatedly to obtain Russia’s consent to negotiate a peace settlement that would guarantee the security of the Chechen people within the Russian Federation, Basaev has made it clear that he has no interest in peaceful coexistence with Russia. But it is likely that others, as yet unknown or little known, will emerge in the months to come to challenge Basaev for that role, or to operate independently of him. (Liz Fuller, EurasiaNet, March 8, 2005)
-The Moscow Times reports on Maskhadov's death (Catherine Belton and Valeria Korchagina, Moscow Times, March 9, 2005)
-Differing accounts of his death and Maskhadov's last statements in the Chechnya Weekly of the Jamestown Foundation (March 9, 2005)
-Carnegie Endowment on the need for a new approach in Chechnya.
OUTSOURCING MORE TORTURE TO PROVE A POINT?
A 23-year old Texan, Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, is currently in a U.S. federal prison accused of conspiring to commit terrorism. Actually, he is thought to have been part of a supposed plot to assassinate George W. Bush, although he is not being charged with that. Federal officials appear to be basing their case on confessions obtained by Saudi police who interrogated and very likely tortured Ali during the 20 months they held him in solitary confinement in Saudia Arabia, apparently with the consent or at the behest of U.S. authorities. Elaine Cassel, a lawyer hired by Ali's parents, explains the intricacies of Ali's case. (Elaine Cassel, Findlaw.com, March 7, 2005)
SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD ON ADVICE TO THE PRESIDENT ON THE USE OF TORTURE
In unsuccessfully voting against the nomination of Alberto Gonzales' to head the Justice Department, Senator Byrd noted: "I find it hard to believe that the top legal advisor to the President cannot recall what he said or did with respect to so many of the enormous policy and legal decisions that have flowed from the White House since September 11 in particular. It is especially difficult to comprehend this sudden memory lapse, when the consequences of these decisions have had, and will continue to have, profound effects on world events for decades to come.... Judge Gonzales was asked whether he had chaired meetings in which he discussed with Justice Department attorneys such interrogation techniques as strapping detainees to boards and holding them under water as if to drown them. He testified that there were such meetings, and he did remember having had some "discussions" with Justice Department attorneys, but he cannot recall what he told them in those meetings..."(Robert C. Byrd, February 2, 2005)
CARBON RUSH AT THE WORLD BANK
The European Union's experiment with emission trading is creating a potentially huge market in carbon dioxide. Although some countries, notably the United States, have rejected Kyoto, global climate change is becoming increasingly apparent, and the betting is that companies will have to adapt to lower emissions in the future or risk being excluded from international trade. Daphne Wysham provides details in a comprehensive report in Foreign Policy in Focus(Daphne Wysham, FPIF, February 2005)
CHINA'S NEW ANTI-SECESSION LAW WORRIES TAIWAN
The law provides grounds for launching an invasion of Taiwan, if and when Beijing feels ready. The Economist Intelligence unit notes, however, that "This does not, however, mean military action by China is more likely in the short term. The law is likely to provoke a strong nationalistic backlash in Taiwan from the island's independence movement. At the same time, it introduces a new complication into the already shifting diplomatic balance between the governments of China, Taiwan, Japan and the US. (Economist Intelligence Unit, March 9, 2005)
THE RHYTHM OF LIFE IN BAGHDAD-MORE BOMBS AND SPECULATION THAT SISTANI MIGHT GET THE NOBEL PEACE PRIZE
A bomb concealed in a garbage blasts Baghdad while police find dozens of bodies near the Syrian border...
Blogger River Bend writes: " We woke up this morning to a huge explosion. I was actually awake and just lying there, staring at the ceiling, trying to decide if today would be a good day to go shopping for some things we need in the house. Suddenly, there was a loud blast and the house shuddered
momentarily. In a second I was standing in front of the
window in my room, hands pressed to the cool glass. I couldn’t really see anything, but the sky seemed overcast.
I rushed downstairs to find E. and my mother standing in the kitchen doorway, trying to see beyond the houses immediately in front of our own. “Where did it happen?” I asked E. He shrugged his shoulders indicating he couldn’t tell either. We later learned it was a large garbage truck of explosives in front of Sadeer Hotel, a hotel famous for hosting foreign contractors- some of a dubious/mysterious reputation. It’s said that the foreign security contractors stay at the hotel, like former South African mercenaries, etc. Since the hotel is quite far from our home, we assume it was a very large explosion. Immediately afterwards, black plumes of smoke began to drift into the sky.
I got an interesting email today telling me about an internet petition to nominate Sistani, of all people, for the Nobel Peace Prize. That had me laughing and a little bit incredulous. Why should Sistani get the Nobel Peace Prize? Because he urged his followers to vote for a list that wants to implement an Iranian-styled government in Iraq? Is that what the Nobel Peace Prize has come to?
Someone once told me that they thought Sistani was responsible for the fact that civil war didn’t break out in Iraq. That’s garbage. Sistani has no influence over Sunnis and he also has little influence over many Shia. Civil war hasn’t broken out in Iraq because Iraqis are being tolerant and also because we’re very tired. It’s like we spent our lives in conflict with someone or another, and being in conflict with each other is not the most tempting option right now. Sistani is an Iranian cleric quietly pushing a frightening agenda and we're feeling the pressure of it every day.
If ANYONE should get the Nobel Peace Prize, it should be my favorite Puppet- Ahmed Chalabi. No, really- stop laughing. Ahmed Chalabi is the one Iraqi politician we can all agree on. Iraqi political debates were never pretty. Lately, they’ve been worse than ever. I think, to a certain degree, we don’t really know how to debate. Sometimes, a debate will begin over a subject both debating parties actually agree upon and then it will escalate into a full-blown yelling match. It never fails to happen with politics.
A debate will usually begin about two current parties or politicians- say Allawi and Jaffari. Someone will say something like, “Well it’s too bad Allawi didn’t win… Now we’re stuck with that Da’awachi Jaffari…” Someone else will answer with, “Oh please- Allawi is completely American. We’ll never have our independence if he gets power.” A few more words will be exchanged in a ‘debating’ tone of voice. The voices will get sharper and someone will drudge up accusations… In no time it turns into a full-scale political brawl with an underlying religious intonation. No one knows just how it happens- how that frightening thing that is an Iraqi political debate develops and escalates so quickly.
At some point there is silence. This is the point when both sides are convinced that the other one is completely inane and ridiculously intractable. It’s sort of a huffy silence, with rolling eyes and lips drawn into thin slits of scorn.
I’ve learned the best way to mediate these arguments is to let them develop into what they will. Let the yellers yell, the shouters shout and the name-calling and innuendos ensue. The important part is the end- how to allow the debating parties to part friends or relatives, or (at the very least) to make sure they do not part sworn enemies for life. It’s simple, no matter what their stand is, all you have to do is get a couple of words in towards the end. The huffy silence at the end of the debate must be subtly taken advantage of and the following words murmured as if the thought just occurred that moment:
“You know who’s really bad? Ahmed Chalabi. He’s such a lowlife and villain.”
Voila. Like magic the air clears, eyebrows are raised in agreement and all arguing parties suddenly unite to confirm this very valid opinion with nodding heads, somewhat strained laughter and charming anecdotes about his various press appearances and ridiculous sense of fasion. We’re all friends again, and family once more. We’re all lovey-dovey Iraqis who can agree nicely with each other. In short, we are at peace with each other and the world…And that is why Ahmed Chalabi deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.
(River Bend, Baghdad Burning, March 9, 2005)
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