Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Archive for November, 2006

Talking to Iran: Sorry, It’s Still Vital

Posted by K.E. White on November 30, 2006

The Confederate Yankee offers up some analytical drivel, pointing to the “smoking gun” that—hold your breathe—Iran has been reported to terrorists in Iraq.

Confederate Yankee’s conclusion: America is already at war with Iran, so it’s too late to negotiate.

But from my viewpoint, regardless of your view of the Iranian regime, it was the United States who “declared” this “war”. Remember, President Bush did single out Iran in the “axis of evil.”

So how again does this prove that negotiating with Iran can’t work? It seems just to show how misdirected the Bush foreign policy was. If you’re going to invade Iraq, it seems that you want to ensure that Iran a) doesn’t take advantage of the situation and b) do it in a fashion that doesn’t threaten Iran.

Anyone must concede Bush brilliantly failed to deliver any of those assurances.

Result: a threatened Iran results to asymmetrical warfare—terrorism—to defend its interests in the region and, indeed, their regime.

And what does that mean for America’s Iraq operation? It had little chance ever to succeed from the get go.

Posted in Diplomacy, Iraq | Leave a Comment »

Perkovich Blows Up the “Democratic Bomb” Doesn’t Help Much on Fallout

Posted by K.E. White on November 30, 2006

George Perkovich, a Carnegie Endowment senior fellow, blasts the Bush White House’s handling of WMD proliferation, urging the United States to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and work towards making nuclear proliferation a recognized international crime. But the policy brief fails to compelling links these proposals to solving the nuclear dilemmas of Iran and North Korea.

Opponents of the dismal Bush foreign policy record must begin to link their overall proliferation strategies with clear steps to alleviating today’s nuclear stand-offs.

If not progressives risk losing on foreign policy in ’08, regardless of who wins the White House.

The report follows a mid-term election that has been seen as a rebuff to President Bush and his foreign policy of democratic regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another aspect of this foreign policy has been the administration’s push to stem worrisome nuclear proliferation by focusing on certain states. The Bush administration has harshly criticized Iran and North Korea for developing their nuclear capabilities, while also leading a charge to modernize the U.S. nuclear forces and pursue a nuclear deal with India.

Perkovich calls the approach “risky,” citing that “Iran and North Korea and perhaps others may see nuclear weapons as the best bulwark against U.S. intervention.”

Perkovich makes the case for universal rules to manage the numerous aspects WMD proliferation. Such a strategy demands that America engage and come to accommodation with its strategic rivals, instead of pushing for regime-change.

His most potent arguments against selectively rewarding “good” states and “punishing” bad states, are also the most well-known: a) most states are “gray”–neither completely good nor bad– and b) states change.

The unilateral, regime-centric approach undermines cooperation between the nuclear powers, according to Perkovich. Alienating or provoking Russia and China with nuclear deals to India or encouraging Japanese re-militarization breaks the ability of the world’s great nuclear powers to work together to tackle worrisome proliferation–whether through sanctions or other diplomatic strategies.

The report offers little new, but does digestibly present the complicated issue of WMD proliferation. Only the charge to make nuclear proliferation an officially recognized international crime succeeds in spinning a new yarn on an old theme.

Yet the report fails to show how universal rules for proliferation get us to solve the nonproliferation regime’s two great challenges: North Korea and Iran.

And when it comes to picking policy makers, it will be those two pressing issues–not the wonkish issue of universal guidelines or selective strategy–that will define the ’08 elections and the next White House’s foreign policy.

Posted in Proliferation News | Leave a Comment »

Bush Pushes Back Meeting with Iraqi PM al-Maliki

Posted by K.E. White on November 29, 2006

Talks between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki have turned into a diplomatic nightmare for President Bush, showing the world just a stressed U.S.-Iraq relationship.
Bush did not cancel the meeting with al-Maliki, but postponed it until Thrusday. I guess this was to buy time while a final decision is made on whether or not to meet is made.
WaPo reports:

President Bush’s planned meeting Wednesday in Jordan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was put off following the public disclosure of U.S. concerns about the Iraqi leader’s ability to control the raging sectarian violence in his country.

This last minute change seems to show just how little the Bush administration understands about Iraq political situation. A major Shiite partner in the governing coaltion, allied with Moqtada al-Sadr, had commenced a boycott of their government roles.

Or perhaps it just reflects the leaked White House memo gives an unflattering description of al-Maliki’s performance. As reported by the New York Times:

“His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change,” the memo said of the Iraqi leader. “But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.”

The postponement seems to only show how weak the American position in Iraq is, and settles nothing for al-Maliki on his domestic front.

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Iraq’s Unity Government– Fraying or Surging?

Posted by K.E. White on November 29, 2006

The blogosphere and general media is abuzz with news of a boycott by a powerful Shiite group—led by Moqtada al-Sadr—in Iraq’s governing coalition. And yesterday Iraq’s President Jalal Talibani went to Iran to meet with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .

Alex, over at Martini Republic, writes:

“An already weak and ineffective Iraqi government led by Nouri al Maliki loses the backing of a powerful faction of lawmakers…”

Yet he fails to mention an important aspect of the boycott, found in WaPo’s coverage:

But Rubaie cautioned that their action did not mean the officials were pulling out of the government [emphasis added], which would all but guarantee the collapse of Iraq’s unity government.

“The suspension does not mean our withdrawal from the political process,” said Rubaie. He added the Sadr bloc would meet in coming days to discuss how long members would remain out of the government.

To hit up Bush for meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a tad unfair. I doubt Bush pushed this meeting because he thinks such an action “imbues them [Iraqi officials] with domestic legitimacy.”

In fact, I think he made the right calculation: knowing that Sadr wouldn’t risk being blamed for worsening Iraq’s already dire civil crisis. And maybe such independence by Prime Minister al-Maliki, dovetailed with what appears a very successful visit to Iran by Iraq’s President, is the right diplomatic path for the embattled Iraqi regime to take.

This observation shouldn’t be mistaken for a blanket endorsement of the Iraqi regime or Bush’s Iraq policy. But it does point to a regrettable truth: something positive has to happen in Iraq to improve the situation. And just maybe this boycott is necessary if there be any hope for a stable national Iraqi government of any type or strength– seemingly the only way to avoid a Yugoslavia-like breakdown.

Posted in Diplomacy, Iraq | Leave a Comment »

North Korea Hot for Nuclear Talks and Asian Games, Not Human Rights

Posted by K.E. White on November 28, 2006

Six-Party Talks Back On!

Christopher Hill and Kim Kye-gwan

WaPo’s Benjamin Kang Lim reports on North Korea’s return

to the negotiating table– in the form of six-party talks.

Lim shows sheds light on yesterday’s diplomatic shuffle in Beijing. North Korean official Kim Kye-gwan met with the chief North Korean diplomat Christopher Hill, South Korea’s
nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo, Japan’s envoy Kenichiro Sasae, and China’s Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.

The U.S. has refused to entertain North Korean calls for bilateral talks between the two nations,
favoring instead the six party framework that brings together North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

North Korea’s recent testing of a nuclear weapon provoked harsh reactions from the international community, including China, and saw intensified pressure for North Korea’s return to the six-party talks.

But while Lim caved to these demands yesterday, he made sure to employ two face-saving measures–one hard, one soft.

China Daily showcases a sympathetic portrayal—big shock! In it we see it was always North Korea’s intent to return to six-party talks, but only after it could do so from a “dignified position”:

Kim said the timing “depends on the United States.”

“There are too many outstanding issues” and both parties should narrow their differences, Kim told reporters on arrival at the airport.

“I said on October 31 that we can enter the talks at any time,” he
said. “I said that because we can do that from a dignified position as we
have taken defensive measures through our nuclear test to counter sanctions and
pressure against us.”

This flurry of activity comes near ASEAN (a group of ten South East Nations that includes Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines) putting its diplomatic weight behind returning North Korea to the negotiating table.

Asian Games

This diplomatic thawing comes on the heels of the Asian Games, an-all Asian nation Olympics.

The games open this Friday in Doha, Qatar.

The sporting competition is hoped to warm chilled relations between the two
Korean nations.

From the International Herald Tribune:

Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, said it would be the eighth time the Koreas have marched together at an international sports event.

The two countries will not be competing together, however.

South Korea’s 830-member delegation, most of which was to arrive on Wednesday, is hoping to win 70-75 golds, while the North is setting its sights on a much more humble goal of about 10 gold medals. The North is expected to participate in 16 events.

Kim Jang San, the North Korean delegation chief, said the North is hoping to win medals in boxing
and the Korean martial art of taekwondo.

Perhaps this good-will diplomacy will push some good-will into the contentious six party talks.

U.N. Flags DPRK’s Human Rights Record

This diplomatic activity also comes after an embarrassing United Nations
resolution on North Korea’s poor human rights record. Amnesty
International reports
:

On 17 November, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted its second resolution condemning North Korea‘s record on human rights with a vote of 91 in favour of the resolution, 21 against and 60 abstentions. The resolution contains tougher language than the earlier resolution adopted in November 2005. It also requests the UN Secretary General (the SG designate is Ban Ki-moon, former South Korean Foreign Minister) to submit a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in North Korea.

The press release brings attention to North Korea’s continuing food

crisis, rampant child malnutrition, executions of political opponents, use of
torture, and restrictions of free speech.

Posted in Asia Games, Blogroll, Diplomacy, Human Rights, North Korea, Proliferation News | Leave a Comment »