A U.S.-trained Iraqi soldier pauses in front of a burning oil pipe line north of Baghdad
WAXMAN CLAIMS THAT ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS REDACTED AUDIT REPORT AT THE REQUEST OF HALLIBURTON
California Congressman Henry Waxman presents the original Defense Contract Audit Agency's report on Halliburton's alleged over pricing in Iraq, along with the heavily redacted version released to the public. According to Waxman, administration officials blacked out embarrassing sections at Halliburton's request. The report notes that besides charging nearly $28 million to provide $80,000 worth of Liquid Propane Gas to U.S. troops, the auditors clearly feel that Halliburton overcharged in a number of other areas as well. The audit makes for informative reading. (Henry Waxman, U.S. Congress, March 15, 2005)
VOLCKER INQUIRY CLEARS KOFI ANNAN IN IRAQI OIL-FOR-FOOD SCANDAL
Paul Volcker expands on details of findings in an interview on PBS's News Hour (March 29, 2005)-Full text of Volcker's second interim report dealing with Kofi Annan (March 29, 2005)
-Volcker's initial interim report (pdf, Feb. 2005)
RUNNING UP THE TAB ON A HIGH TECH MILITARY
The first phase of the program, called Future Combat Systems, could run to $145 billion. Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman, said the "technological bridge to the future" would equip 15 brigades of roughly 3,000 soldiers, or about one-third of the force the Army plans to field, over a 20-year span... (Tim Wiener, New York Times, March 28, 2005)
U.S. SALE OF F-16s TO PAKISTAN AND INDIA, CHALLENGES CHINA
Islamabad is elated, India is miffed: the decision by the United States to sell F-16 strike fighters to Pakistan involves much more than a simple sale of arms - important geostrategic undercurrents are at play involving not only the Indian sub-continent, but also China... There are indications that the US decision to offer F-16s to Pakistan may affect that country's close ties with China. Pakistan watchers have long pointed out the existence of "pro-US" and "pro-China" lobbies within the Pakistani military establishment. "For decades, Pakistani military leaders, especially in the air force, have considered American weapons as the only ones good enough to be the spear-tip of Pakistani military capability," a Pakistan-watcher asserted, and added further, "Since the American sanctions, the pro-American officers had been losing the argument with the China-friendly ones within the Pakistani Air Force. This [F-16] gift turns the situation on its head."
(Kaushik Kapisthalam , Asia Times, March 29,2005)
IN IRAQ: A PARALYZED LEGISLATURE AND AN UNSEEMLY SHOUTING MATCH
Unable to agree even on the seemingly modest task of picking a speaker, the second session of Iraq's fractious legislature ended with a request for journalists to leave in order to spare the government further embarrassment. The dispute is over power-sharing between Shiites and Kurds.
As MPs haggled in the fortified Green Zone, mortar rounds exploded nearby.
(Al Jazeera, March 29, 2005)
--BBC on the meeting
SUNNIS BOYCOTT THE PROCESS ALTOGETHER
Sunni Arab representatives held their first full talks with Iraq's new ruling coalition yesterday, but hopes of an inclusive government that could persuade insurgents to lay down their weapons still seem remote. The negotiations suffered a setback even before they began when outgoing President Ghazi al-Yawar, the most senior Sunni Arab member of the outgoing government, announced that he had rejected an offer to become speaker of parliament. While ordinary Iraqis have grown increasingly frustrated over the wrangling for positions between Shias and Kurds, most analysts recognize that prospects for stability rest largely on the once privileged Sunni Arab minority. (Adrian Blomfeld, Daily Telegraph, March 29, 2005)
LIBYA AND AL QAEDA
Far from being soul-mates, Qadhafi and bin Laden have long been at odds; it was Qadhafi who, in March 1998, issued the first Interpol arrest warrant for bin Laden, a fact little known in the West. The warrant was issued in connection with the March 1994 murders of German anti-terrorism agents Silvan and Vera Becker, who were in charge of missions in Africa. Western intelligence agencies for a number of reasons chose to downplay and ignore the warrant; five months later the U.S. embassies in East Africa were bombed. (John Daly, Jamestown Foundation, March 24, 2005)
A HEIGHTENED SENSE OF INSECURITY IN THE MIDDLE EAST
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: Whether referring to Lebanon, Iraq or Qatar, concerns about security in the Middle East have now become common discussions at dinner parties. One particular dinner organized by the Lebanese community in Jeddah got a dose of reality on Saturday night, when one of the guests got an unexpected call from Beirut.
"There has been another blast in Beirut," announced Gaston Hajj to 40 Lebanese families at a Lebanese dinner party held on top of a roof of an apartment building in Jeddah as a way of celebrating Easter weekend, given the absence of churches in Saudi Arabia. The blast is the third of its kind to hit Christian suburbs in Beirut over the past week. In the most recent attack, a 55-pound bomb was reported to have been placed between a car and a furniture factory in Beirut's industrial northeastern Sad al-Boushrieh area.... (Rym Ghazal, Beirut Daily Star, March 29, 2005)
SYRIA AND LEBANON AT A STALEMATE
The U.S. talks tough, but has few credible options. Joshua Landis notes that President Chirac is really in charge of the Western position. Without a military solution to the Lebanese problem, Washington is confined to multilateral politics. The only real stick it possesses will come from future UN resolutions, which is why the Fitzgerald report recently delivered by the UN was so important to Washington. By including a section on the history of the crisis and the deterioration of relations between Hariri and Bashar that preceded the Prime Minister's assassination, the authors of the report sought to establish the motive - one that points to Syria. So far, that is the most damning part of the opposition's case against Syria. (Joshua Landis, Syria Comment, March 26, 2005)
A full withdrawal from Lebanon in the face of Western pressure would represent a serious humiliation for the ossified Ba'athist regime, which may not be able to survive such a display of perceived weakness. Surrounded by hostile and semi-hostile states, Lebanon stands alone as part of a Syrian sphere of influence. In important respects, Lebanon is the mortar holding together the bricks of a weak regime.
(Brian Maher, Power and Interest News Report, March 28, 2005)
KYRGYZSTAN IS NOT THE UKRAINE
In sharp contrast, change in Kyrgyzstan is being led by a far less disciplined force, with no widely recognized leader and no clearly defined program. It should thus not be viewed as another in a string of "velvet" revolutions. Events in Bishkek are shaping up to be revolutionary in a more classic sense, meaning that it could take months or even years for the country to regain a sense of political equilibrium. The unleashed fury of the Kyrgyz mob may prove not easily contained. (Eurasianet.org March 28, 2005)
--Carnegie's Martha Brill Olcott
on the "Tulip" Revolution
Some analysts believe a recent pardon by President Ilham Aliyev, setting free opposition activists who were imprisoned in connection with post-election rioting in 2003, was an attempt to show the international community that the Azerbaijani government is interested in reform. But opposition members are already expressing a desire to bring about a "democratic revolution" in Azerbaijan, emulating the experiences of Georgia and Ukraine.
(Eurasianet.org, March 28, 2005)
The President's readiness to impose his personal moral vision on the rest of the world is a departure from the usual conservative approach
U.S. Foreign policy has traditionally oscillated between Wilsonian idealism and pragmatic realism, with Republicans generally favoring realism. In reviewing three books on American foreign policy for FindLaw.com, Andrew Dworkin notes that President Bush appears to have reversed the normal roles. Dworkin writes:
"... Strikingly, the debate over Iraq - and about President Bush's international policies in general - has scrambled some traditional (albeit simplistic) assumptions about ideology and foreign policy. Since the time of Woodrow Wilson, moral idealism in foreign policy has generally been seen as a Democratic position. But it is a Republican president who now purports to espouse an idealistic approach to world affairs, seeking to establish a new international order on the basis of ending tyranny and advancing freedom. In pushing the expansion of democracy, Bush said in his recent inaugural speech, "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one."
By contrast, the Democratic candidate in last year's presidential election, Senator John Kerry, emphasized primarily the costly and counterproductive nature of the war in Iraq, describing it as an unnecessary distraction from the more important objective of defeating Al Qaeda. In contrast to Bush, Kerry took a position closer to the foreign policy tradition of realism - an outlook which aims at the promotion of national security, wealth, and power through conventional diplomatic means. Realists, who distrust talk of a world order based on values like democracy or self-determination, have more often been associated with the Republican political tradition. (Andrew Dworkin, FindLaw.com, March 29, 2005)
THE COMPLEXITY OF JOHN BOLTON
Tom Barry, writing in Counterpunch, notes that "Unlike most neoconservatives, UN Ambassador-designate John Bolton didn't start out his political career on the center-left--either as a liberal, social democrat, or socialist. When Irving Kristol, regarded by many as the "godfather of neoconservatism" described a neoconservative as a "liberal who has been mugged by reality," he wasn't describing John R. Bolton. In the 1950s through the 1970s, the political forerunners who established neoconservatism as the defining trend within American conservatism went through a left-right transformation. In that political morphing, the neoconservatives have redefined U.S. politics from the Reagan administration through the current Bush administration. Bolton shares much with the closely knit neoconservative political camp: their red-meat anticommunism, their obsession with China and their support of right-wing Zionism in Israel , and their glorification of U.S. power as the main force for good and against evil in our world. Bolton has also forged close links with neoconservatives while a scholar at the Manhattan Institute and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Although sharing most of the neoconservative ideology, Bolton is not himself a true-blue neocon...(Tom Barry, CounterPunch, March 14, 2005)
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