Proliferation Press

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CIA Killed Top Terrorist in Pakistan Without Musharraf Green-Light

Posted by K.E. White on February 19, 2008

MSNBC reports that the CIA killed a top al-Qaeda commander in Pakistan, but did not consult with President Musharraf before launching the missile attack.

What reaction will the Pakistani public have? Is this the new way US forces operate in the terrorist hotbed of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border?

From MSNBC:

In the predawn hours of Jan. 29, a CIA Predator aircraft flew in a slow arc above the Pakistani town of Mir Ali. The drone’s operator, relying on information secretly passed to the CIA by local informants, clicked a computer mouse and sent the first of two Hellfire missiles hurtling toward a cluster of mud-brick buildings a few miles from the town center.

The missiles killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander and a man who had repeatedly eluded the CIA’s dragnet. It was the first successful strike against al-Qaeda’s core leadership in two years, and it involved, U.S. officials say, an unusual degree of autonomy by the CIA inside Pakistan.

Having requested the Pakistani government’s official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval. The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was notified only as the operation was underway, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.

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Posted in CIA, Pakistan, Terrorism, United States | Tagged: , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Bush’s Other Lopsided Nuclear Deal: Sokolski Slams American Nuclear Cooperation with Russia

Posted by K.E. White on February 2, 2008

As posted earlier, nuclear cooperation between the United States and Russia is ramping up. Originally a plan to purchase Russian nuclear materials to power American nuclear power plants, Russia will now be paid (billions) to temporarily store these materials and be granted testing of American nuclear fuels. 

Henry Sokolski, Executive Director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, points out two flaws of the deal: America’s nuclear industries get “zilch” from the deal, and Russia is rewarded while supporting Iranian nuclear aspirations and providing other military assistance. 

Sokolski tackles why the administration—through the Department of Energy (DOE)—is backing the deal: 

Backers of the deal at the Energy Department, though, are motivated to test the waters. They are especially anxious now to substitute the U.S.-Russian cooperative nuclear weapons reduction programs that are nearing completion with a new set of U.S.-Russian civilian nuclear projects, projects that are only permissible if a formal nuclear cooperative agreement with Russia is put into force. These officials cynically calculate that Congress is too preoccupied with presidential-year politics to step in by the 90-day deadline.

 

The trade-off seems clear: while Russia is undermining Iran’s nuclear containment, it is more important to keep—or bride them—for their continued cooperation on nuclear matters. 

While Sokolski does paint a troublesome picture of executive dominance over America’s nuclear policies, he would have done well to briefly discuss Russo-American cooperative threat reduction (CTR) activities. 

Sokolski necessarily paints a simplified picture of American and Russian priorities. But CTR between the two countries is perhaps the most important aspect of their ‘nuclear’ relationship. CTR seeks to ensure Russian nuclear-weapons capable materials stay out of terrorist hands. 

From Richard Weitz’s April 2007 report on Russian-American Security Cooperation:

 

On a more positive note, the cooperative threat reduction process between Russia and its former Cold War adversaries remains one of the most successful examples of peacetime security collaboration between major military powers. Since major funding increases for weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related threat reduction projects in Russia are unlikely, however, both sides should consider more creative solutions to several recurring problems that have impeded further progress. For example, measures to resolve disputes over access to sensitive Russian sites could include  granting Russian representatives more opportunities  to see U.S. WMD-related sites, hiring Russian firms or personnel to help dismantle excessive WMD stocks in the United States, and supplying additional data  concerning U.S.-funded threat reduction projects in Russia in return for more detailed information about Russia’s WMD-related facilities and employees,  especially those involved in Soviet-era biological and  chemical weapons activities.

 

Opportunities for additional progress in curbing third-party WMD proliferation also exist. Chances for Russian-American collaboration on joint or multilateral threat reduction projects outside the former Soviet Union increased substantially in June 2003, when the  G-8 governments agreed that the “Global Partnership  Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction” could in principle support threat  reduction activities in countries besides Russia. Another opportunity for Russian-American collaboration on  threat reduction projects beyond Russia arose in May  2004, when U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced a Global Threat Reduction Initiative  (GTRI) to identify, secure, and dispose of stockpiles of vulnerable civilian nuclear and radiological materials and related equipment throughout the world. The GTRI involves close cooperation between the United States and Russia in securing these high-risk sources. At the July 2006 G-8 summit in St. Petersburg, Presidents Bush and Putin launched a Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and opened formal negotiations on a bilateral civil nuclear energy cooperation agreement. (pages 9-10)

 

But this consideration does not diminish this aspect of Sokolski’s argument: DOE’s sidelining of any real Congressional oversight is gravely distressing. 

Whoever enters the White House in 2009 will review and retool America’s overall security posture. Whether shifting overall troop levels or modifying our nation’s various nuclear cooperation agreements, success will depend of the President’s ability to forge a new national security consensus. Such Congressional muzzling can not only lead to bad foreign policy, but erodes the fundamental challenge our nation faces in the age of international terrorism.

Posted in Congress, congressional oversight, cooperative threat reduction, Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, Nuclear, nuclear cooperation, Russia, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Can American Foreign Policy Overcome the Bully Pulpit? Cavanaugh’s Diagnosis and Cure for “Threat Escalation”

Posted by K.E. White on January 30, 2008

Summary: How do follies like Iraq occur? Can they be avoided? Cavanaugh attempts to answer this question: breaking down the variables that lead to threat escalation. He also explores how threats can be underestimated, examining the failure to prevent the 9-11 attacks. Cavanaugh thus identifies how a charged executive can steer American foreign policy toward inflated threats—or away from legitimate threats. The solution to foreign policy follies? A greater role for Congress in US foreign policy. While his article suffers from selection bias and uncertainty clouds what actually determines foreign policy ‘success’, Cavanaugh’s article is still a must-read for anyone curious about US foreign policy.

 

The Political Science Quarterly (PSQ) offers a very interesting—and free—article examining “threat inflation” American foreign policy.

Why was the avoidable catastrophe of 9-11 not caught? And why was the nation cajoled into a second Iraq conflict that most now agree went against American security interests?

Jeffery M. Cavanaugh seeks to answer these dual questions of overreaction and under reaction—a.k.a. “threat inflation”. And he finds that there are several examples from recent American history to explore this concept.

Cavanaugh looks at three cases of successful threat inflation: President Harry Truman’s successful inflation of the Soviet threat, America’s Vietnam venture and the second Iraq war. He then probes a counter-case: the profound underestimation that culminated in 9-11.

All this might leave you wondering: Is American foreign policy ever rational?

Lessons from Truman, Vietnam and Iraq

Cavanaugh’s analysis moves past Bush blaming, instead seeking to find similarities between different cases threat inflation. Below is a table (reproduced from the article) that displays Cavanaugh’s four test cases and the variables that tie them together.

In regards to Korea, Cavanaugh argues that while Truman played up the Soviet threat, events came to verify his viewpoint and the American public and political classes rallied behind containment. Thus this can be called a ‘successful’ case of threat inflation: a President pushed the public to his view, but as events played out a bipartisan foreign policy was forged.

Vietnam and Iraq were both weaker cases of threat inflation: both succeeded in there immediate aims to wage war, but appear to have broken—not forged—a coherent direction in America’s foreign policy.

Meanwhile the threat of a terrorist attack on American soil never received the attention it deserved. Here one finds two crucial differences: divided elite opinion and a complete lack of bureaucratic capture as reasons for this failure. Such features would have stopped even a proactive executive—or any national politician—from successfully tackling this threat, according to Cavanaugh.

All these cases point to a profound American political weakness: the President holds too much power to frame and propel the national security debate, showing at times the ability to deceive the American public.

Cavanaugh rightly points out the chronic weakness of Congress on national security—having diluted it wartime authority over the sixty years. (This theme has been explored elsewhere,  as  this past article demonstrates).

Conceptualizing and Testing American Foreign Policy

But what differ Cavanaugh’s analysis is this: He attempts to identify the variables that lead to such outcomes. Cavanaugh also offers new solutions to bring the Congress and the executive back into balance.

But are the variables he examines helpful towards future foreign policy dilemmas? Many of his variables can only be obtained after an event. This diminishes the predictability value of his model–making any ‘test’ of his model difficult.

This comes through most clearly with his use of Truman Cold War foreign policy. Tackling such a huge subject—with various events—seems to make this not comparable to the defined cases of Vietnam, Iraq and the 9-11 attack.

Would not have merely investigating how Truman pulled America into Korea—which some academics consider also an avoidable war–been a better test case to explore?

(There’s also one obvious problem with the cases: Can one can fairly compare a traditional war to a highly lethal terrorist attack?)

But this is all part of a much bigger question: How does one define foreign policy success? By the immediate outcome (i.e. victory in Korea, failure in Vietnam)? Or the long term impact regardless of whether  or not the initial threat was overblown?

For example: It seems clear the short-term costs of the Korean War (verses a containment approach) outweighed any strategic interest the United States had in North Korea. But did not the long-terms benefits of this expenditure of blood and treasure pay make this a successful instance of American foreign policy?

In continuing this line of research, Cavanaugh must develop a model that proves the value of his test cases—and whether or not they should be seen as American foreign policy ‘successes’ or ‘failures’. (And another, perhaps even more daunting task, would be to incorporate the interplay between conflicts: e.g. the impact the Korean War had on America’s conflict in Vietnam.)

This conceptual fog risks boiling Cavanaugh’s research down to this: presidents have overcharged wartime authority, whereas Congress has far too diluted powers. Thus good or bad foreign policy comes down to having a good or bad President–unless Congressional powers are reworked. (One does not need Cavanaugh’s test cases to prove this, though they do offer different angles to gauge Presidential manipulation).

But Cavanaugh deserves credit for attempting to answer 1) how are threats to American security articulated within or society and 2) what generalizable and predictive tests help us get closer to evaluating American foreign policy.

Cavanaugh’s Advice to Congress and America’s National Security Infrastructure

Cavanaugh does offer Congressional remedies: some bland, some bold. He repeats calls for both longer terms for intelligence heads and greater whistle-blowing protections.

More interesting—and controversial—are two of his Congressional reforms: First he advocates granting members of Congress briefings akin to the President’s daily brief on national security. (Naturally one could easily imagine Congress barraging the executive with their daily concerns over American security.)

But Cavanaugh gives a seemingly firmer fix. Congress should merge the Intelligence, Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees into one, bipartisan body.

Such a reform—going against decades of decentralization—would guarantee focused and board attention from the Senate and House of Representatives on America’s national security. The hope? Congress will take clear stands on important foreign policy decisions.

But this too runs into problems: Either the committee would be huge and unmanageable, or Congressman would have to give up chairmanships and committee tasks. This second outcome would not only be an ego blow to Congress, but could dilute specialization of Congressional oversight and also shrink the numbers of elected officials involved in our nation’s foreign policy formulation.

But Cavanaugh offers a template of reform that can easily be tinkered, and perhaps—in time—evolve into an institutional counterweight to an excessive executive. If one reworked Cavanaugh’s scheme into a select, joint Senate-House committee, tasked with both an annual review over American foreign policy and crisis periods (e.g. before launching an invasion or after catastrophic events) one could see—over time—this practice becoming a clear Congressional ‘green light’ to bold developments in American foreign policy.

In short, Cavanaugh’s reforms run into the ‘9-11 Wall’. Why did retired officials steer of the 9-11 investigation? While their work was exemplary, politicians and the media suggested current politicians could not be trusted with foreign policy heavy lifting.

Can members of the House of Representatives—in constant ‘reelection’ mode—give the time necessary for such weighty work?

(On Capitol Hill, by Julian E. Zelizer, goes into great detail about Congress’s many institutional flaws and difficulty to reform.)

A solution would be to keep such work within the Senate, while granting a rotating representative for House Speaker and minority leader.

Conclusion

Cavanaugh’s research does a skillful job of getting past chronic ‘Bush blaming’ for America’s failure in Iraq. He successfully delineates a model of executive foreign policy bullying that can be applied in different time periods and different conflicts.

He also pushes the ball on Congressional reform: proving their value and bringing forth new ideas.

But on the bigger questions of diagnosing American foreign policy and threat inflation, Cavanaugh has much further to go. Cavanaugh’s Truman example must be broken down if it is to be fairly weighted with Vietnam and Iraq. Furthermore he must refine he judges sucess, or risk that he is simply manipulating his test-cases to prove his model.

Cavanaugh’s article also does not thoroughly explore when and if foreign policy decisions can be reversed. Look at his Vietnam example: at what point was Vietnam a failure, and when would have an American pull out been politically acceptable?

But these criticisms are mainly ‘add on’ criticisms. As such, they reflect both the importance of Cavanaugh’s line of research and his skill in laying out a path—however rough—towards a greater understanding of American foreign policy.

Posted in Foreign Policy, Jeffery M. Cavanaugh, Terrorism, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

America Pulls out of the International Nuclear Fusion Project

Posted by K.E. White on January 18, 2008

American participation in the global fusion project—the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactorwill be sidelined for the next fiscal year, thanks to congressionally pushed shifts to Department of Energy spending. 

From World Nuclear News:

In its omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 2008, announced in December, Congress included only $10.7 million for US work on the project. The US financial commitment for Iter is $1.1 billion, and the Bush administration had proposed spending $160 million in 2008 to start purchasing components for the project.

Although the Department of Energy’s Office of Science’s total science budget increased 4.6% to $4 billion, most of those increases were for supercomputers and biological research. Congress withheld money for DoE’s $160 million commitment to Iter, the international fusion reactor in France, and slashed funding for the International Linear Collider (ILC), the next-generation particle accelerator, from $60 million to $15 million.

Iter will be a crucial step in the development of nuclear fusion power stations. The 500 MWt device will be the proving ground for technologies and operational procedures leading to the eventual exploitation of nuclear fusion as a source of abundant clean energy. Parties involved in the project are: China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the USA and the European Union. The resulting technology will be available for use by all participants.

The Iter program is projected to last for 30 years, with ten years of construction followed by 20 years of operation, although this may be extended. In total the project is expected to cost just under $15 billion.

John Borland at Wired News calls this episode “embarrassing” to the United States, and notes the three domestic fusion projects still received funding:

The cuts – about $149 million over the next year – won’t kill the project. The other partners, including Europe, Japan, China, India, Russia and South Korea, are still ponying up. But it will hurt, and it will certainly hurt the United States‘ role in this field.

Maybe there was concern about sharing this kind of technology with so many other nations. I hope that wasn’t the case, although Congress did allow funding for fusion research on three homegrown projects to continue. Maybe there was the sense that the payoff for fusion research is so far off that it’s expendable today.

Whatever the case, it’s embarrassing. The U.S. and the Soviet Union started the effort leading to this project all the way back in 1985. The U.S. dropped out once before, in 1998, before rejoining in 2003.

It’s still not impossible (although technically banned by Congress) that the Department of Energy will somehow find funds to fulfill at least part of the U.S. commitment. It’s laudable that Congress is funding renewable energy sources well, but this kind of international cooperation on research should not be overlooked.

Posted in International Nuclear Fusion Project, United States | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

US-India Nuclear Deal: Will Time Run Out?

Posted by K.E. White on January 18, 2008

While groups may be coalescing against the US-India nuclear deal, its passage is still an open question in the twilight days of the Bush administration. But will it meet its summer 2008 deadline?

This AFP article skillfully dissects the difficulties of the US-India nuclear deal:

The nuclear deal with India is virtually stuck on two fronts — in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s administration, where communist and other leftist coalition parties are against it, and at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where New Delhi is struggling to forge critical atomic safeguards.

Bush and Singh agreed more than two years ago that Washington would provide India with nuclear fuel and technology even though the Asian nation has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But India had to place selected nuclear facilities under international safeguards, including inspections, which has to be agreed upon by the IAEA board of directors.

A third round of talks between Indian and IAEA officials ended last week without resolution on India’s demands for a mechanism to create a strategic reserve to meet lifetime fuel supply for its civilian nuclear plants, as well as “corrective measures” in the event of stoppage of fuel to power plants, experts said.

Even if IAEA agreed on the safeguards, the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group, another regulatory body which also operates by consensus, has to agree to a US proposal to exempt India from a “full scope safeguards” condition of nuclear supply.

Then, an operational agreement for the nuclear deal that has already been adopted by India and the United States as well as the IAEA safeguards has to be approved by the US Congress before summer for it to be implemented by year end, experts said.

The deadline stems from a tight 2008 legislative calendar ahead of the November US presidential elections.

Some might see the quick exit of Nicolas Burns—an architect of the deal—from the White as a symbolic sign of defeat, support for the deal still exists. The White House still has seemingly locked up key members of the NSG, making that roadblock less likely.

And while domestic opposition to the deal in both America and especially India has grown, the deal has still continued to inch along forward.

Below are clips showing the deal’s continued support from the governments of Britain, Australia and China.

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown continues to support of the US-India nuclear deal, but notes any UK-India nuclear cooperation would require some extra work:

Ahead of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s visit here, Britain on Friday voiced interest in having civil nuclear cooperation with India but said any such collaboration will have to await changes in the international rules.

The nuclear issue is expected to figure in the talks that Brown will have with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Monday. The Summit talks will also cover the subjects of terrorism, climate change and business cooperation besides regional issues.

”Civil Nuclear cooperation (between India and the UK) is dependent on international status (of rules of trade),” British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg said while briefing journalists on Brown’s two-day maiden visit here.

Noting that Britain supports the Indo-US nuclear deal, he said the agreement will ”open opportunities for collaboration which do not exist at present”.

However, Stagg said the ”real opportunity for major India-UK collaboration will require changes” in the status of international rules which New Delhi ”is trying to do” with the IAEA and the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

China also supports—or rather will not derail—the nuclear deal. From a Hindu report discussing India Prime Minister Singh’s recent Beijing trip:

He said China had offered support for civil nuclear cooperation in power generation.

China is an important and influential member of the 45-member NSG.

“I cannot say I have got a firm, definite answer but my own feeling is that the relationship of trust and confidence is now establishing, and we are succeeding in that. When the issue comes before relevant agencies, I do not think China will be an obstacle. I can’t say I have an assurance today,” Dr. Singh said when he was asked whether China would support India’s case at the NSG.

And while Australia’s new Labour government has soured on selling uranium to India, it also seems not willing to block the US-India nuclear deal:

AUSTRALIA has left open the option of supporting international uranium sales to India, even though the Rudd Government has ruled out Australian yellowcake exports to the energy-hungry South Asian giant.

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced earlier this week that Australia would not sell uranium to India unless it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But a spokesman for Mr Smith said yesterday that the Government has not yet made a decision on whether to block uranium sales to India by other countries — an option open to Australia and members of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group, which sets global export controls for nuclear materials.

Posted in India, Nicolas Burns, Nuclear Deal, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Proliferation Press Dispatch: New America’s ‘Pakistan in Peril’ Roundtable

Posted by K.E. White on January 15, 2008

With attendees elbowing for space and some even relegated to the wonkish backwater of a TV screening room, four experts—Flynt Leverett, Peter Bergen, Nicholas Schmidle and Steve Coll—probed the troubled but essential partnership between America and Pakistan at The New America Foundation.

While differences on the sequence American policy towards Pakistan lingered, the gaggle found common ground on the big issues. The Bush administration’s policy towards Pakistan has been wrongheaded and wanting; emphasis must now be on riding out the February elections; and, finally, unconditional American aid must continue: not only to spur real Pakistani economic reconstruction, but to ensure an effective counter-terrorism strategy that will clamp down on the extremists threats posed to both Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

And to make matters more difficult Benazir’s Bhutto’s recent assassination has only exacerbated Pakistan’s domestic unease, while some observers worry over the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

The US-Pakistan partnership is anything but a walk in Candyland.

The last six years of American policy towards Pakistan were seen by all the participants—though Schmidle agreement had to be implied—as a failure. Leverett—the harshest critic—took the administration to task for holding unreasonable expectations of Pakistan. He went to pains to flesh out the dire predicament the Bush administration leaders put by failing to capture Bin Laden and his associates in Afghanistan: hotheaded and intractable militants became Pakistan’s problem.

“Pakistan has probably performed more faithfully than the United States,” Coll stated in agreement to Leverett. He and Leverett did not hold a naïve view of Pakistan’s colored history. Rather they elevated Pakistan’s critical and productive role in America’s counter-terrorism strategy, while viewing short-sighted American policy over the last thirty years as worsening Pakistan’s domestic situation and relationship with America.

Peter Bergen did add a useful corrective to this Pakistani apologist line of though. If Iran developed nuclear weapons, contemplated selling a nuclear weapon or selling nuclear-weapons technology to North Korea and Iraq, Washington and Tehran would be at war.

These are all things Pakistan has done, all the while remaining a staunch American ally.

Such a contradiction illustrates the unique relationship between America and Pakistan. While Pakistan illegally developed nuclear weapons and proliferated nuclear technology, Musharraf’s response to 9-11 turned America and Pakistan into indispensable partners.

Pakistan needed military aid and economic reconstruction to beat back an Islamic threat and alleviate the severe poverty of this nuclear-weapons state. America needed an ally to help eradicate the Taliban and other Islamic extremists—a concern that trumped Pakistan’s past nuclear history.

Schmidle brought a unique, testimonial viewpoint to the discussion. Just deported after living in Pakistan for two years, Schmidle jocularly showed off his deportation notice while somberly telling listeners of his first hand experiences with Taliban militants.

He stressed two major themes. First he noted that a once scattered New-Gen Taliban has now come under the authority of one leader. Schmidle also saw Pakistan’s tribal areas turning away from Islamist parties to nationalist parties, a development that could pave the way for a successful counter-terrorism strategy in the tribal areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. [For more details, go to the source: read Schmidle’s articles]

Looking forward, the discussion tackled to US policy quandaries: how best to calibrate a US-Pakistan counter-insurgency strategy, and whether the US pushing democratic reform would help or hinder Pakistan’s stability and capacity to clamp down on the Taliban.

Leverett stressed American strategy turn away from bilateral engagement in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries. Instead regional coordination would increase the pressure on countries to fulfill their counter-terrorism strategies. But Coll doubted the payoffs of such an intensive diplomatic strategic investment, calling it a “very difficult strategy to carry out.”

Coll and Leverett also disagreed on promoting democracy in Pakistan.

“There is no evidence that democracy buys you anything in terms of the war on terror,” Leverett pronounced making clear illusion to failed attempts of the much maligned neo-con agenda.

But Bergen brought the obvious—while shallow—comparison between the histories of a turbulent Pakistan and its prosperous neighbor India. The difference? A firm commitment to parliamentary democracy and civilian rule.

Coll stressed the long history of failed, but real, attempts at Pakistani parliamentary democracy. “We’re not imposing democratic aspirations on Pakistan,” Coll claimed.

On forecasting Pakistan’s near-term future, the analysts were in wait and see mode. Election-fraud by Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf was bound to happen, but blatant voter manipulation would topple Musharraf—and he knows it (or should). The PPP will find success, and will aim to merge with Nawaz Sharif’s PML party to demand Musharraf’s ouster.

And regarding the Bhutto assassination controversy that has so animated Pakistan’s upcoming elections, the experts agreed that Musharraf’s version—that Bhutto was not killed by an assassin’s bullet—was true. Unfortunately Musharraf’s fabricated rush to judgment sapped whatever credibility he had left.

Pakistan political future now rests within the interplay between a new parliamentary majority dedicated to reform and an increasingly unpopular President. The wild card? Musharraf’s new pick for Army Chief of Staff—Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Will this American trained general emerge as a new Pakistani strong man? Or will Kayani work with a rancorous Parliament and dictatorial President to bring stability to a poor and divided nation, while executing a counter-terrorism strategy that defends America and Pakistan against international terrorism?

Posted in Flynt Leverett, international relations, Musharraf, New America Foundation, Nicholas Schmidle, Nuclear, Pakistan, Peter Bergen, Steve Coll, Terrorism, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Gulf Nations Offer Iran A Sweetheart Deal, But US Options Remain Grim

Posted by K.E. White on November 1, 2007

Six Gulf nations—Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—have proposed supplying Iran with uranium. This proposal, very similar to an earlier, rejected Russian offer, could end Western worries over Iran’s nuclear program.

But will Iran accept the deal?

From BBC News:

Gulf states are willing to set up a body to provide enriched uranium to Iran, Saudi Arabia‘s foreign minister is reported to have said.

Prince Saud al-Faisal told the Middle East Economic Digest (MEED) the plan could defuse Tehran’s stand-off with the West over its nuclear programme.

The prince was quoted as saying that Iran was considering the Gulf states’ offer, but the US was not involved.

The BBC’s Paul Reynolds says it is doubtful the plan will go anywhere.

Such a deal would fall in line with other Gulf nations aspirations for nuclear energy. From AFP:

Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Yemen as well as the six GCC states have all said that they want to pursue peaceful nuclear projects.

Faisal told MEED he believed the new plant “should be in a neutral country — Switzerland, for instance.”

“Any plant in the Middle East that needs enriched uranium would get its quota. I don’t think other Arab states would refuse. In fact, since the decision of the GCC to enter into this industry, the other Arab countries have expressed a desire to be part of the proposal.”

Mil Arcega illustrates the policy conundrum American officials face in dealing with Iran, regardless of whether or not they agree with the White House’s current saber-rattling approach:

Some Republicans say the tough talk is necessary. But Republican Congressman Christopher Shays says economic sanctions against Iran’s military and its banking institutions need to be tempered by open dialogue. “It is time for us to start talking with Iran, diplomat to diplomat, politician to politician, and person to person.”

The White House says it has exhausted diplomatic efforts and last week imposed sweeping economic sanctions — targeting Iran’s banking institutions and the country’s elite military branch. The sanctions are meant to hamper Iran’s ability to conduct business internationally and reduce the influence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, which U.S. officials accuse of providing weapons to Iraqi militants.

But Karim Sadjapour, a Middle East expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says U.S. actions could backfire unless the U.S. can convince Iranians that abandoning its nuclear program will bring peace and stability to the region. “Increasingly, Iranians look next door and they say if the choice is between what we see in Iraq — democracy and carnage — and what we have now, which is authoritarianism and security, we will choose the latter.”

Posted in America, deal, Iran, Karim Sadjapour, Middle East Economic Digest, Nuclear, Prince Saud al-Faisal, United States | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

News Alert: US-India Nuclear Deal Slipping Away?

Posted by K.E. White on October 12, 2007

Manmohan Singh

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has—for the first time—publicly discussed the possible failure of the US-India nuclear deal.

From AFP:

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday ruled out early elections amid a political uproar over a controversial Indo-US nuclear deal, but admitted the accord may never gain approval.

The communists have repeatedly threatened to withdraw their support for the minority Congress-led coalition government if it proceeds with the landmark pact, which would allow energy-hungry India to buy civilian nuclear technology.

Singh said he hoped that “reason and common sense” would ultimately prevail on the Indo-US agreement, which he described as “an honourable deal that is good for India and good for the world.”

But “if the deal does not come through, that is not the end of life,” Singh added.

“It will be a disappointment. In life, one has to live with some disappointments.”

It was the first time that Singh, who had staked his political credibility on the nuclear agreement seen as a cornerstone of warmer Indo-US ties, had publicly evoked the possibility that the deal might not go ahead.

It marked a sharp change in stance from two months ago, when Singh dared the communists to withdraw their support for the coalition if they were unhappy with the deal.

Voice of America explores the roots of Indian opposition to the US India nuclear deal:

London-based journalist Vijay Rana says some of the opposition to the deal in India stems from doubts about the United States dating back to the Cold War period when India was allied with the former Soviet Union.“The Indian opinion can be divided into two broad sections, says Dr. Rana.” One is the young India, the educated India, the high-tech India, rising and shining India. These younger people have no reservations as far as America is concerned, and they increasingly look forward to strengthening this relationship, which is based on economic ties largely. But then there is an older India, India of the cold war years, and these communists, in fact, largely survive on that part of public opinion.”

India’s opposition Bhartiya Janata Party, or B-J-P, also opposes the deal, even though the previous government, which was led by the B-J-P, laid the groundwork for cooperation between India and the United States. Experts say the B-J-P’s opposition is largely due to internal party politics, as well as to shortsightedness on the part of some B-J-P leaders. These politicians aspire to fresh elections that might result if the communists withdraw support from the Congress-led government over the nuclear deal.

Posted in India, U.S. India Nuclear Deal, United States | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Rice Criticizes IAEA Iranian Plan: “The IAEA is not in the business of diplomacy.”

Posted by K.E. White on September 19, 2007

Guess not everyone guess with the NYTimes that the ElBaradei is an “indispensable” figure. Today Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took aim at the IAEA–and indirectly its chief Mohamed ElBaradei. From Reuters:

“The diplomatic track can work but it has to work both with a set of incentives and a set of teeth,” she said.

The United States has criticized a deal International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei has made with Iran to answer long-standing questions about its nuclear activities.

Washington and its European allies argue the IAEA moves divert attention from U.N. Security Council demands that Iran suspend uranium enrichment and grant broader inspections.

Rice, who in June accused ElBaradei of “muddying the message” to Iran, voiced strong irritation with the IAEA chief, without naming him.

“The IAEA is not in the business of diplomacy. The IAEA is a technical agency that has a board of governors of which the United States is a member,” Rice told reporters traveling with her to Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

“It is not up to anybody to diminish or to begin to cut back on the obligations that the Iranians have been ordered to take.”

Now this brings up an interesting question. What is the role of the IAEA? Rice argues the the IAEA should not be crafting independent deals with countries it wishes to inspect. Rather, according to Rice, the IAEA should step back: leaving the decision of whether inspections occur to international diplomacy, with the IAEA then merely implementing the inspections will occur.

This does run into a problem, though. What happens when a nation of focus—Iran—is not having formal talks with the United States? Suddenly intermediaries like the European Union or the IAEA become necessary.

And at a time when American credibility is at an all time low, it’s hardly surprising to see the IAEA’s stock go up—especially with ElBaradei’s notorious and exceptionally long stint as IAEA director general.

Posted in Condoleezza Rice, IAEA, Iran, Mohamed ElBaradei, United States | 3 Comments »

‘Promote Liberal Democracy’: Proliferation Press Reviews David Makovsky’s Game Plan for Post-Bush Middle East Democratization

Posted by K.E. White on September 15, 2007

Summary: Makovsky looks at the future of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Fighting back the now defunct neo-conservative chant for radical change, he stresses that America not give up on Middle East democratization. He outlines a new strategy: one that eyes the region, and tailors specific liberal agendas for Middle Eastern nation-states. Deserving credit shifting out view out of Iraq and averring a middle path to eventual democracy, Makovsky neglects one important part of the puzzle: How America gets performs in Iraq will be the overriding concern of the next American president, most likely sapping energy for Makovsky’s program. Furthermore, how America gets out of Iraq will determine the efficacy of Makovsky’s nation-state specific democratization scheme.

 

Writing for Democracy, Washington Institute Senior Fellow David Makovsky tackles where to take America’s foreign policy after Bush. While surveying the flaws of the Bush administration’s neo-conservatively flavored push for democratization, he demands not a change in strategy but tactics. Pushing democratic tendencies is still the way to go, Makovsky writes, but demands a new approach—stressing the liberal underpinning any future democratic society requires.

Makovsky writes:

David MakovskyIt may be ironic, but the places where democratization seems more likely in the Middle East could be where there is an “enlightened” autocrat who holds ultimate power and enforces the rules of the game, whether it is King Abdullah of Jordan, King Hamad of Bahrain, or King Mohammad of Morocco. This enables evolving democratization to move apace. In Freedom House’s democratization ranking of Middle East countries, each are listed as “partly free.” In each case, economic growth has gone hand in hand with democratization. In these three countries, it might be more than coincidence that democratization occurs where there is no oil and there is a requirement for developing human capital. Indeed, there have already been fragile steps to build the institutional building blocks of democracy. In other countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where there is greater resistance by the authoritarian structure and which are listed as “not free” by Freedom House, U.S. efforts will not be easy. Specifically, while the scope of specific reforms in law should reflect the different pace of change in individual countries, the general direction should be clear. However, in all countries, there are programmatic points for the United States that could be attainable if we sustain our focus. Those seeking an evolutionary pathway to democratization know where to put the effort: women’s rights, freer media, a more independent judiciary, and education reform, alongside the greater transparency required for economic growth.

Specifically, the United States should encourage countries to reform restrictive political-party laws that could provide the legal framework for parties to form and compete. This is particularly important for non-Islamists who do not have the vast social network and organizational apparatus of Islamists. It should also encourage reform of media laws to widen the discourse on public policy. Such reforms are key to avoiding government’s prosecution of journalists who interpret any criticism as “defamation” of a head of state. Finally, it should push for reform of the judiciary laws to facilitate the operation of an independent judiciary. Such reforms must be genuine and not like the one passed in Egypt last year; in spite of that “reform,” human rights activists indicate that judges are still paid partly by the Justice Ministry, so that if they rule against the state, their salary can be cut for many months at a time.

Makovsky veers towards a straw man argument by pushing this dichotomy on American foreign policy in the Middle East: either America foolishly over commits (i.e. invades Iraq) or we bolster autocratic regimes with no concern to fostering democracy (Iran under the Shah). American foreign policy has always been between these poles. What determines whether America pushes Makovsky’s micro-liberal Middle East diplomatic track has been whether that goal overrides others: e.g. security concerns of Iran, the need of moderate allies in the region, and the current diplomatic black hole of Iraq. Typically Makovsky’s approach has fallen to other, more immediate diplomatic aims.

Therefore, while Makovsky deserves credit for splitting democratization (i.e. the form of government) from liberalism (the values a government embodies) and for redirecting focus out of Iraq, Iraq is still stands as America’s core dilemma in the Middle East.

An American president tasked with managing either a buildup or draw down of American troops will simply not have the capital to spearhead Makovsky’s strategy. And the mood of the American public come 2009—most likely one of enthused or embittered isolationism—augurs poorly for Makovsky’s diplomatic platform.

But Makovsky does earn praise for unlocking American foreign policy discourse, however briefly, from its ‘Iraq Jam’. And more importantly, Makovsky deserves credit for laying out a diplomatic paradigm that it built on the obvious: Iraq is not the only rubric for America’s success in the Middle East.

Posted in America, David Makovsky, democratization, Diplomacy, Foreign Policy, Iraq, liberal democracy, United States, Washington Institute | Leave a Comment »