Monday - February 5, 2018

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

(Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi. © AP)For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus


(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)



Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler



CARTOON: Peter Broelman, Australia/BROELMAN.com.au)


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Entries in NATO (3)


Ocean Piracy - A Global Report (NEWS) 

(Video NATOCommunity)

(HN, 4/23/12) - The number of worldwide attacks in January to March dipped to 102, down from 142 cases in the same period in 2011, the International Chamber of Commerce's (ICC), International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia  said the latest global piracy report.  

However, the IMB cites 102 “incidents of piracy and armed robbery” for the first quarter of 2012, “with dangerously increasing numbers in West African waters.”

According to figures released, “11 vessels were reported hijacked worldwide, with 212 crew members taken hostage and four crew killed. A further 45 vessels were boarded, with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired upon – the latter all attributed to either Somali or Nigerian pirates.” 

(MAP: Horn of Africa piracy incidents. The map is adapted from IMB data )The 10 reports received from Nigeria in Q1 2012, equaled “the same number reported in Nigeria for the whole of last year. A further attack in neighboring Benin has also been attributed to Nigerian pirates. The reports include the hijackings of one product and one chemical tanker, between which 42 crewmembers were taken hostage.”

“Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range. At least six of the 11 reported incidents in Nigeria occurred at distances greater than 70 nautical miles from the coast, which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as mother ships to attack shipping further afield,” said Pottengal Mukundan, Director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Center

In addition, the report noted that “two crew members were killed when armed pirates boarded their bulk carrier 110 nautical miles off Lagos, Nigeria. Attacks in Nigerian coastal waters have further resulted in at least three crew kidnapped from their anchored vessel.”

Despite the growing number of incidents in West Africa, Somalia continues to dominate figures “with 43 attacks, including the hijacking of nine vessels and the taking hostage of 144 crew. Somali pirates were also responsible for the hijacking of a Panamax bulk carrier at the end of March.”

The report also indicated that while the number of 2012 incidents and hijackings are “less than reports for the same period in 2011 (97 incidents, 16 hijackings), it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term unless further actions are taken.”

Multiple navies - including a large US presence - patrol the Gulf of Aden and the wider Indian Ocean, and many private ships now carry armed guards.

The European Union Naval Force recently said it would expand its mission to include Somalia's coast and waterways - hunting for pirates inside the country for the first time, making its battle against piracy more proactive.

As of March 31, 2012, suspected Somali pirates still held 15 vessels with 253 crew members as hostages, with an additional 49 crew members being held hostage on land.

Africa isn’t the only area of the world’s oceans where piracy is a threat. The report pointed to a “noticeable increase in the number of armed robbery attacks in the Indonesian archipelago, up from five in the first quarter of 2011 to 18 in 2012."

The latest attacks may also be viewed on the IMB Live Piracy Map .  



Afghanistan's Injustice System (PERSPECTIVE) 

By Nick Grono

Afghanistan is ruled not by law, but by power and patronage. The absence of the rule of law fuels the country's savage insurgency. When citizens can't rely on the state to protect them against systemic abuses, then rebellion becomes a far more attractive option. Tragically, in Afghanistan the abusers, more often than not, are from the government itself - including ministers, governors, police chiefs and militia leaders.

It needn't be this way. If there is one policy reform that all the main actors in Afghanistan purport to agree on, it's the critical importance of building the rule of law. President's Karzai's speeches are liberally salted with promises to reform the legal system and tackle corruption.

Afghan fighters (file photo) The Taliban understands that a key way to win Afghans' hearts and minds is to provide them with the justice they so desperately desire. It does so by setting up mobile courts, delivering a very rough and ready justice, but one that is often preferred to the arbitrary rule of local commanders. And Western governments have spent billions on rule of law reforms, with little tangible impact.

So with this apparent unanimity on the need for the rule of law, why in Afghanistan do the powerful continue to abuse the weak with near total impunity?

The answer is that the purported commitment is largely in name only. True rule of law requires laws that are public, clear, and apply equally to everyone. It needs government officials who accept that they are subject to the law. It requires reasonably fair, competent, and efficient courts, prosecutors and police who respect the presumption of innocence and due process. It needs judges who are reasonably independent and impartial, and have the confidence in their safety to properly perform their jobs.

But the reforms necessary to achieve all this present an existential threat to the power of the ruling elite in Afghanistan.

Building the rule of law involves challenging vested interests at the highest levels of the government. It is far more a political exercise than a technical one. Many Afghan power holders -- from President Karzai downwards -- benefit from a patronage based system. It enables them to buy and maintain loyalty. Corruption is an integral part of such a system.

It's not just corruption that thrives in such an environment.  Equal treatment by the law requires that those who have committed atrocities against their people be held accountable for these crimes. Failure to do so promotes a climate in which the powerful continue to commit abuses with impunity. But in Afghanistan those responsible for grave human rights abuses continue to occupy positions of power.

These include officials like Vice Presidents Mohammad Fahim and Karim Khalili, who face credible accusations of war crimes or crimes against humanity during the brutal civil war. They also include a generation of post-Taliban leaders -- such as the Minister of Tribal and Border Affairs, Asadullah Khaled, as well as powerful provincial governors allied to Western forces -- accused of serious human rights violations since 2001. A report soon to be released by the Afghan human rights commission -- if not blocked by the government -- will document many of the past crimes.

View of the shell of the "Large Buddha" and surrounding caves in Bamyan. The Buddha statue in this cave as well as in another - both dating to the sixth century A.D. - were frequently visited and described over the centuries by travelers on the Silk Road. Both statues were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. (photo: CIA World Factbook)International intervention encouraged and promoted this impunity by returning to power warlords and commanders. Influential international actors continue to rely on alliances of convenience with these abusive power holders to promote perceived stabilization goals.

Meanwhile the Taliban also preys on the local population, and subjects those it is purporting to liberate from foreign occupation to horrendous abuses, including suicide bombings, assassinations and the use of civilians as human shields.

For Afghans, the tragic result is that today's reality is not much different from that of the last thirty years, and their lives are still dominated by powerful men with guns.

Achieving accountability is not a question of naïve aspiration: the culture of high-level impunity must be challenged, as failure to do so will undermine all other rule of law efforts and perpetuate an environment in which conflict will flourish. 

The culture will not change until some of those responsible for the worst abuses against the Afghan people are prosecuted.

The best option would be for the government itself to pursue some of these abusers. This would increase its legitimacy in the eyes its people and would send a clear warning to those in authority and to those seeking to do deals with the government who believe they can continue to kill with impunity. It would also undermine one of the claimed attractions of the Taliban -- that it provides harsh, but fair, justice where none otherwise exists.

Unfortunately, there is no prospect of the government providing high-level justice.

The Karzai administration has consistently opted for expediency over principle when it comes to accountability, most notably in enacting a law giving amnesty to former warlords. Most international actors have been largely silent on this law. In fact, it appears that a desire for a quick exit by NATO countries may have stifled all discussion of the critical need to link reconciliation with accountability and to tackle Afghanistan's longstanding culture of impunity.

But expediency will not promote stability, and a failure to build the rule of law will lead to more instability, not less. It will also ensure that Afghan power holders - government and Taliban alike - continue to commit abuses that shock the conscience of the international community and fuel the very instability that led, a decade ago, to such a costly international  intervention.

Nick Grono is the Deputy President of the International Crisis Group. Originally published by Foreign Policy


Libya and the New Warmongering (PERSPECTIVE) 

This is the first part of a new FPIF Strategic Dialogue on the aftermath of the Libyan War, here David Gibbs argues that the long-term consequences of the military intervention are dire. See Michael Berube's more positive assessment here. 

The NATO intervention in Libya is likely to produce a more militarized and insecure world, and this will be its most enduring legacy. The military “success” in Libya has increased the possibility of new wars. There is a widespread perception that NATO has achieved an easy victory against Gaddafi, and the resulting sense of hubris augments the risk of future military actions against Iran, Syria, and other possible targets. Politicians in NATO countries surely welcome the public distraction that war provides, especially in the context of the world-wide economic slump, and this may prove an additional motivation for new military action.

And the Libyan success will generate heightened levels of military expenditure. The British military has already been using the intervention as an argument for more funding; the same situation will no doubt occur in France and the United States as well, where the intervention will bring political benefits to the military-industrial complexes of each country. Given limited funds, the relatively higher military budgets that result from this situation will probably reduce funds for education, health, environmental protection, and disease eradication, and also for aid to developing countries, which include Libya.

Another consequence of intervention is the erosion of international law, as indicated by NATO’s disregard of the UN Charter and also the U.S. War Powers Resolution, which were openly flouted in the course of the bombing campaign and the efforts at regime change. In previous eras, U.S. liberals might have criticized the unchecked use of executive power shown by the Obama administration. But such concerns are a thing of the past. With Libya, liberals have shown themselves to be perfectly comfortable with an “imperial presidency.”

In addition, the intervention constitutes a setback for international cooperation aimed at curbing nuclear proliferation: NATO’s decision to overthrow Gaddafi after he had agreed to give up his nuclear weapons development program will surely dissuade other countries such as North Korea from repeating Gaddafi’s mistake. The significance of the intervention will thus extend far beyond Libya itself, and it is this larger class of implications that constitutes the most dangerous implication of the intervention. No one likes to think about the long-term consequences of policy actions, especially where “victory” is involved; but these long-term consequences will remain, all the same, and international security will be compromised as a result.

Libya on the Ground

Let us now turn to the implications of NATO’s victory for Libya and its people. At this level, the outcome seems uncertain, as the facts on the ground are ambiguous. On the one hand, the National Transitional Council (NTC) has achieved full control of the country, and so far has avoided the post-Gaddafi chaos that many had feared. On the other hand, the situation remains unstable, as indicated by the frequent clashes amongrival militia groups for control of Tripoli and other areas. And the NATO intervention itself may pose problems for future stability. Achieving power with external support, the new regime is thus open to criticisms that it is the product of foreign intervention. True, the NATO powers retain some popularity among at least those Libyans that supported the Gaddafi overthrow; but that support may wear thin over time, as the traditional and deeply rooted anti-colonialism of the Libyan people reasserts itself.

Overall, there is little in Libya’s past to suggest a happy ending. The country is comprised of more than one hundred self-identified clan groups, with an additional regional divide between the eastern and western parts of the country, a split that goes back to the period of Ottoman rule. There is no significant precedent for parliamentary democracy. And the only national unity the country has achieved was largely the creation of Muammar Gaddafi.

No one should mourn the fall of Gaddafi, who (despite some accomplishments) remained at base an unsavory and megalomaniacal figure. The question is whether the new regime will prove any better – or worse -- than what came before. There are several possible outcomes. The new regime might prove to be a relatively decent and stabilizing force that provides the Libyan people a better quality of life than they had under the Gaddafi dictatorship. Perhaps they will even achieve some form of representative democracy, with impartial rule of law and respect for individual autonomy. Any reasonable person would surely hope for this outcome. But this hardly seems likely. A more plausible scenario is that the central government will fall apart, triggering a renewed civil war between the eastern and western regions. Alternatively, there may be a generalized descent into chaos, without clear battle lines, similar to what happened in Somalia in 1991, after the fall of the Siad Barre dictatorship.

Perhaps the most likely scenario would entail a weak and corrupt Libyan central government, which would nominally rule amidst regional instability, economic deterioration, and growing social misery. In an earlier time, the Western powers might have furnished a Marshall Plan-style aid program to ensure the success of the new government. However, such programs have largely gone out of fashion and seem especially unlikely at the present moment, given the austerity-minded regimes in Europe and the United States. The NATO powers surely will congratulate themselves for having financed the bombing campaign but are unlikely to find much money for reconstructing the country. Stated simply, the most likely outcome would be a Libya that ends up in even worse shape than was the case before the fall of Gaddafi.

“Humanitarian” Interventions

There is thus a real danger that the NATO intervention in Libya may end up worsening the situation for the Libyan people. Purported efforts at humanitarian intervention have certainly made things worse in the past. Consider the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which had been governed by regimes that were even more repressive than Gaddafi’s and more repulsive in a moral sense. And so, Western interventions overthrew both regimes, and they did so with the support of many of the same intellectuals who recently supported the overthrow of Gaddafi. The results were disastrous.

At the time of the 2003 Iraq invasion, Juan Cole offered the following endorsement:  “I remain convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides.” It is painful to read this type of rubbish now, almost a decade later, and it must raise questions about Cole’s judgment. This past endorsement of the Iraq war is also worth recalling in light of Cole’s recent writings on Libya, which once again endorsed intervention.

In general, there is a tendency to assume that interventions termed “humanitarian” must always have positive outcomes. This is indeed a widely held assumption, popularized by Samantha Power’s influential (though poorly researched) book A Problem from Hell. But there is little in the historical record to support this assumption. In fact, military interventions typically make humanitarian situations worse than before, not better, a point dramatically illustrated by the hundreds of thousands of deaths that resulted from interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. And despite myths to the contrary, past interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo worsened the humanitarian crises in those areas, a point that is well documented even if little known.

First Do No Harm

In medicine, doctors must assume a stance of restraint before taking action; “first do no harm” is the operative principal. We cannot solve all problems, after all, and we should at least not make a bad situation worse by reckless or ill-considered interventions. This principal is well recognized with regard to medical interventions, so why should it not apply as well to military interventions, including those labeled “humanitarian”?

And finally, we must assess the implications of the Libya intervention for the liberal left. This intervention demonstrates liberals’ abandonment of their traditional peace position. Since the end of the Cold War, many liberals have become enamored of military force, in a way that is indistinguishable from the most retrograde and jingoistic elements of the right. Let us be frank and call things by their correct names: The movement for humanitarian intervention – with regard to Libya, Darfur, Iraq, and the Balkans – has always been a pro-war movement, for war is what we are really talking about here.

With regard to matters of tone, the liberal interventionists embody much of the ugliness that has been associated with militarist movements throughout history, including their stance of moral self-righteousness, their tendency to vilify dissent, and their reckless disregard for the risks of military action. There is also a remarkable confidence in the good intentions of military, government, and corporate officials in the intervening powers, combined with a refusal to consider the self-interested motives that these figures have for undertaking intervention. Today, war-mongering is no longer confined to political conservatives. Liberals can also enjoy the thrill and moral uplift of advocating for war–but with no sense of accountability for the consequences of their advocacy.

Foreign Policy In Focus contributor David N. Gibbs is professor of history at the University of Arizona in Tucson. His latest book is First Do No Harm: Humanitarian Intervention and the Destruction of Yugoslavia (Vanderbilt, 2009). 

This work by Institute for Policy Studies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.