Friday, August 31, 2007

US Partisan Politics and Foreign Affairs

By Stanford Matthews
Blog @

While Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Dems or Democratic party faithful admit the surge is working but claim the good news comes too late, those supporting US troops never view advances toward victory as 'too late.' Nor do they place political motives above matters of national defense, security or support of the US military.

There is no need to revisit the civilian and political interference that has presented the greatest obstacle to victory in Iraq as it has been thoroughly addressed by everyone to date. However, positive news has been sorely neglected and a few notes are worth repeating.

Just this week Iraqi government leaders reached an agreement to resolve sectarian differences. While agreement by the entire Iraqi parliament is required and not guaranteed, this event is a breakthrough in what has been the Iraqi obstacle in this war.

Not long ago tribal leaders in previous hot spots in the country have joined with US military forces to oust Al-Qaeda from Iraq. The senseless murder of civilians by the terrorist group has finally been recognized as unacceptable by influential regional leaders in various provinces.

Countering the influence of Iran in the Iraq war are efforts like General Odierno who says the US is attacking supply lines of those offering money, material and trainers for Iraqi sectarian extremists. In addition the case is being made to Iraqis that Iranian involvement is not in the long term interests of Iraq. However, the General adds the Iranian factor is still significant.

In a report from VOA, President Bush again expressed displeasure with Iran's actions in the Iraq war in a speech to members of the American Legion.

Stearns report (mp3) - download 630K audio clip

Listen to Stearns report (mp3) audio clip
President Bush says Iran must stop arming militants who are attacking U.S. troops in Iraq.

Other events concerning Iran include their own saber-rattling and defiance to international opposition on their various nuclear programs as described below.

Pace report (mp3) - Download 567k audio clip
Listen to Pace report (mp3) audio clip

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says that, contrary to recent news reports, Tehran has not slowed its nuclear activity. In a lengthy news conference in the Iranian capital, the president also warned Iran would respond if the United States goes ahead with plans to label the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization.

Urging by political opponents of President Bush for the US to enter talks with regimes in Iran, North Korea and elsewhere may not be having the effect suggested by those same opponents. But overall, Us efforts in Iraq are showing much improved results since the beginning of the surge. Including this week's surprise event which should probably not be taken at face value.

Iraqi cleric Sadr suspends militia activities
By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
518pm BST 29/08/2007

The powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr moved to rein in his increasingly murderous followers today, announcing his popular Shia militia would stand down for six months following the deaths of more than 50 pilgrims in the holy city of Karbala.

The Democratic party leadership, like Majority Whip James Clyburn, recently expressed concern that a positive report from General Patraeus in September may split the party. Shortly after that reports surfaced that no matter what the General reported, the left would view it as a lie. Further evidence that the political left is obstructing the war effort as alleged earlier.

In other words, ever since those in Congress who oppose victory in Iraq were defeated on continued funding for the war, limited obstruction from civilian authorities have allowed military efforts to turn the corner that has fostered positive outcomes in Iraq.

Other foreign affairs issues that have been the focus of most criticism of the Bush Administration's performance include relations with Russia, Israel, Palestine and North Korea to mention a few. Events like Pelosi traveling to Syria or Dems urging talks with Iran or North Korea have been used to attack the Administration's positions. So how are things working out so far.

Again from VOA news a report outlining Congressional efforts to advance nuclear arms control with an old nemesis from the Cold War.

Fedynsky report (mp3) - Download 639k audio clip
Listen to Fedynsky report (mp3) audio clip
Senator Richard Lugar and former Senator Sam Nunn, authors of U.S. legislation to reduce the post-Soviet nuclear arsenal, are in Russia in an effort to further tighten global controls on weapons of mass destruction.

If you are old enough to have been on the planet when US President Jimmy Carter, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin worked on the Camp David Accords, you may have experienced an optimistic expectation tempered with an objective pessimism over the chances for Mid-East peace.

The first discussion over critical issues between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in seven years may have given rise to similar optimism but by now few would have truly expected progress. The excerpts below document the endless travel over all too familiar posturing.

The Israeli mood is summed up by analyst Dan Schueftan:

"Peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not even a remote option. We will have to learn to live with the idea that for generations the Palestinian people has decided that fighting us is more important than giving a better future for their children," Schueftan said.

Those fears were reinforced after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip from Mr. Abbas's more moderate Fatah faction in a civil war two months ago. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said negotiations with Israel are a waste of time.

He says the only way to liberate Palestine is through jihad or holy war.

Palestinian moderates, like former Cabinet minister Ziad abu Zayyad, said Israel's failure to advance the peace process brought Hamas to power.

"There is no chance of a peace agreement," Abu Zayyad told Israel Radio. He said Israel does not have the resolve to dismantle dozens of Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

So with that much skepticism, why are Israeli and Palestinian leaders reporting progress on a framework for a peace agreement? Schueftan, the Israeli analyst, says the answer lies in Washington.

Another topic related to the illusive pursuit of world peace on the world leaders 'to do' list is nuclear power wannabe North Korea.

According to the February 13 Agreement, North Korea must declare all nuclear programs but their effort in manipulating the term “nuclear programs”, excluding the nuclear weapons from the list, is causing much hubbub.

The report above suggests there is no reason to be especially optimistic about talks between the US and North Korea. While it is better than a daily reminder of increasing tension or some concern of an imminent showdown, current talks may be nothing more than a delay of the inevitable. From what has been characterized as the most unpredictable regime on the planet, a most predictable course of bad faith negotiating emerges. And many criticized the US for not talking to North Korea earlier.

Any accommodations made by President Bush to resolve issues with the Democratic party and a few GOP members in Congress may less effective than if he had maintained his rigid position with regard to certain countries. Softening the approach may be what led Iran to make the ridiculous offer to fill the power vacuum in Iraqi politics. In addition, talks with North Korea are showing symptoms of DPRK intentions to circumvent an effective agreement.

The upside is conditions in Iraq have improved enough to potentially torpedo the left antiwar strategy. Talks with Iran and North Korea have not yet disintegrated. Maybe the US and Russia will move away from a return to Cold War positions and at least Israel and Palestine have talked about things that were ignored for the last seven years. Other than Iraq, no improvements really, just more of a time out.

There is no proof that politics are necessary for international diplomacy. Although diplomats and politicians will argue that point ad infinitum. It may be the wrong approach to expect people to resolve differences equipped only with the idea we should all be adequately intelligent to do so. If we learn how to remove politics from negotiation the solution may find us.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating article.

    Everyday when I wake up in the morning I thank God that I have not invested all of my political assumptions or my personal integrity on the hope that America will ultimately lose this war.

    Thank you once again Faultline for reinvigorating these beliefs.