U.N. TO CLOSE ANGOLA OFFICES — United Nations officials announced April 18 the world body will close its Angola offices by the end of May at the request of Angolan authorities, who no longer wish to cooperate with the U.N. on formulating a comprehensive human rights policy. Angola, which is still struggling to recover from more than two decades of warfare that ended in 2002, has used growing oil revenues to insulate itself from Western criticism of its rights situation and to lay big plans for its own development. Human rights groups and U.N. officials, however, have expressed grave concerns […]

Democratically Elected Terrorists

How do you respond to a democratically elected governing party that just happens to be a terrorist outfit? I guess that depends who the outfit is. According to an unconfirmed report citing the U.S. Ambassador to Nepal, Nancy Powell, the State Dept. is ironing out the final “technicalities” needed to remove the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), winners of Nepal’s recent elections, from its terrorism watch list. Now, there are several terrorist listings maintained by the U.S. government, including the Foreign Terrorist Organization list, the Terrorist Exclusion List, and EO 13324 (an executive order issued in the aftermath of the […]

Russian Ambassador on Nabucco

To follow up on Judah’s post on Nabucco, the recent (rather amusing) comments of the Russian ambassador on the Nabucco project show that Russia is also trying to use the Iran threat to undermine U.S. and EU support for the project. Thanks to John Rosenthal for sending along this story from the EU Observer: EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Moscow has questioned the viability of the EU-backed Nabucco energy corridor, a pipeline designed to lessen the bloc’s dependency on Russia. “I know few things about political geography. The only way to fill the Nabucco pipeline is to rely on Iranian gas,” […]

Virtual Nabucco

More problems for the Nabucco pipeline project, which if it never actually ends up delivering gas might have a future as a soap opera. This time the sticking point has to do with Turkish transit fees, which the EU and Azerbaijan wants to set at market rates, and which Turkey wants to negotiate at a “privileged ownership” rate. Hey, why not? Meanwhile, as John Rosenthal pointed out in a WPR piece not so long ago, the Nabucco pipeline really makes the most sense if it brings Iranian gas online. John saw that as a potential wedge Tehran could drive between […]

The Costs of Containing Iran

I flag these two stories to illustrate the difficulties involved in a containment strategy for Iran based on sanctions and isolation, in the absence of any real international sense of urgency or outrage over their nuclear program. The result is often a curious ambivalence where countries pay lip service, on the one hand, to the ostracization demanded by the U.S., while at the same time quietly carrying out their day to day business with Tehran. In this case it’s Turkey, which has too many points of overlap to seriously consider shunning its neighbor (among them security concerns about Kurdish guerillas […]

Spinning the NDU Study

A study written by Joseph Collins, a former Pentagon official whohelped plan for post-invasion humanitarian operations in Iraq, has beengetting a lot of attention for its conclusion that the war is adebacle. The gang over at Small Wars Journal was a bit skeptical abouthow the report was being cited and spun, and decided to contact Collinshimself. Turns out that, according to the author, his work is being taken out of context to make points that aren’t his own. The points he is making (.pdf), mind you, are pretty damning. But just not in the way people are saying they are.

Over the course of the Iraq war, a principal mission of the U.S. military effort has been to build, arm, and train Iraqi security forces capable of quelling internal violence and protecting Iraq from external threats. As with other elements of the Iraq war, this mission has not proceeded smoothly. A number of governmental and media sources have recently highlighted the haphazard procedures and inadequate accountability standards the United States utilized to equip Iraqi soldiers and police officers with lethal firepower, shedding light on the often chaotic nature of the train-and-equip program. While most evidence remains uncorroborated or anecdotal, U.S.-supplied […]

Beneath the Surface of the Surge

Thanks to Kevin Drum, I doubled back and caught the rest of this post by Intel Dump’s Phil Carter the second time around. (I missed it the first time due to the WaPo’s “Read more” function, which seems to be the new space-saving, content-masking trend in blogs.) By admitting to putting a veneer of victory on what amounted to a disastrous situation on the ground in Iraq throughout 2006, President Bush is basically confirming what Michael Feaver revealed in his Commentary article earlier this month. Namely, that the administration’s internal discussions bore no resemblance to its public declarations. Of course, […]

NEW YORK — The evidence of Gen. Ahmed Ibrahim’s service to the United States is scattered throughout his apartment, which overlooks the East River in Manhattan near his office at the United Nations. Ornate certificates attesting to his counterterrorism training adorn the walls. Pictures of him shaking hands with Donald Rumsfeld and chatting with Bernard Kerrick and Paul Bremer are clear reminders of Ibrahim’s close relationship to the United States. It is a relationship that he is afraid soon will lead to his death. Ahmed Ibrahim was born and grew up in Baghdad, and in 1973 graduated from the Baghdad […]

The Failure of the Al-Qaida Model

Funny how for months we’ve been picking apart the Anbar Awakening from a tactical point of view, all the while failing to take into account its single most significant strategic implication. Namely, that al-Qaida’s blueprint for Islamic revolution does not work. The Military Review article I wrote up in an earlier post offered more evidence of what’s become the consensus explanation for the turning of the Sunni tribes: their disgust with al-Qaida Iraq’s murderous tactics and their resentment at the AQI “foreigners” trying to impose an internationalist jihadi ideology on what was essentially a nationalist insurgency. But al-Qaida, as a […]

How Anbar Awakened

If you’re interested in the actual operational details of how Anbar was Awakened, this Military Review article (.pdf) (via Phil Carter) is worth a read. It’s an account by Col. Sean MacFarland, commander of the Army brigade credited with implementing the tactical approach that culminated in the Awakening, and Maj. Niel Smith, one of his company commanders, and to my mind it demonstrates how resourcefulness and initiative remain fundamental American assets. Significantly, Col. MacFarland’s approach pre-dates the Surge, and seems to confirm Lt. Col. Gian Gentile’s assertion in a WPR interview that COIN tactics had been applied as early as […]

FORMER SLAVE SUES NIGER GOVERNMENT — Former slave Hadijatou Mani has sued the government of Niger, charging cruelty for its failure to protect her from exploitation. Mani, now 24, says she was sold into slavery at the age of 12 for just over $500 to a slave master who later sexually abused her. The case — being heard by the court of the Economic Community of West African States — is based on the government’s failure to enforce aspects of its own 2003 law banning slavery. The court has said it will announce a verdict in October. While slavery is […]

U.S.-Israeli Nuclear Safety Agreement

Israel’s nuclear program remains the pink elephant in the Middle East nuclear room, despite the country’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity.” But as this Yossi Melman article from Ha’Aretz illustrates, the other problematic aspect of the Israeli program is our involvement with it, which just got expanded under the terms of an agreement to ensure the safety of Israel’s aging Dimona facility. The double-bind here is that this kind of cooperation clearly undermines the non-proliferation regime, since Israel is not a signatory to the NPT, and also lends credibility to Iranian claims of a nuclear double standard for the Muslim […]

Compromise Plan for Iran Standoff

A report in today’s Independent has now conferred the semi-official status of “backchannel negotiation” to Thomas Pickering’s proposal, published last month in the NY Review of Books, for resolving the international standoff over Iran’s nuclear program. The plan (which was co-authored by William Luers and Jim Walsh, and resulted from five years worth of discussions between Pickering & co. and their Iranian counterparts) called for, among other things, a multi-national uranium enrichment facility placed under IAEA supervision but located within Iran. The plan has the merit of fully satisfying no one, while providing everyone with an opportunity to save face. […]

Iran’s Iraq Strategy Mirrors Our Own

Yesterday’s post about recent U.S. and Iranian restraint opening the door to possible engagement might have been premature to the extent that it downplayed the rhetoric now coming out of Washington about Iran’s involvement with Iraqi militias. In particular, the events in Basra are now being used to demonstrate the amount of material and training Iran has supplied to the Sadrist militia, both “special” (ie. rogue) factions and those loyal to Moqtada. Future conflicts will certainly bring to light the operational links that Iran has established with other Shiite militias as well, including those that are integrated into Iraq’s national […]

Bush and Petraeus

I’ve been meaning to mention Steve Simon’s treatment of tribalism in his Foreign Affairs article on the Surge for the past couple days, but Patrick Barry over at Democracy Arsenal just did it for me. Which means that all I have to do now is contrast Simon’s severe critique of the Sunni Awakening’s re-tribalizating effect on Iraqi civil society with page nine from Carole O’Leary’s Congressional testimony which I flagged last week. O’Leary makes a very strong case in favor of tribal society as a means of strengthening the fabric of Iraqi society, since Iraq’s tribes straddle ethnic, sectarian and […]

U.S. and Iran Lower the Heat

M K Bhadrakumar offers a thought-provoking read of the state of play in U.S.-Iranian relations. Based on a series of restrained responses on both sides to events that at other times might have provoked more hostile reactions, he suggests that Washington might be preparing the waters for some sort of engagement. Unlike many American commentators, Bhadrakamur seemed to think that the Petraeus/Crocker hearings “. . .turned out to be a low-key affair that was deliberately, almost ostentatiously, mild in rhetoric against Iran.” The announcement that Tehran planned to install 3,000 centrifuges at Natatnz? Barely a shrug. On the Iranian side, […]

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