Proliferation Press

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

Posts Tagged ‘Hillary Clinton’

Pakistan and America Cozy Up During Strategic Dialogue

Posted by K.E. White on March 25, 2010

The United States and Pakistan have closed out two major meetings, wrapping up highlights of their week-long strategic dialogue.  NPR offers a good summary of the meetings and their trust-building importance, and the current status of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

Earlier this week, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.  And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi conducted a ministerial meeting yesterday.

A apparent results of the meetings are not breath-taking.  Yesterday’s meeting brought new American pledges for development aid.

From The Australian:

“It is the start of something new. Our countries have had our misunderstandings and disagreements in the past and there are sure to be more disagreements in the future, as there are between any friends or family members,” she said. “But this is a new day. For the past year, the Obama administration has shown in our words and deeds a different approach and attitude toward Pakistan.”

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Pakistan: Is Engineering Civic Engagement Needed To Ensure Effective U.S. Military and Humanitarian Aid?

Posted by K.E. White on May 20, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s description of US policy toward Pakistan as “incoherent” caught US airwaves for its frankness–or, perhaps to some, apologist tone. But more importantly, Clinton’s press conference highlights a much tougher question: how does America make a coherent policy towards Pakistan?

Right now the stakes in Pakistan are high, but the mission is clear: help Pakistan’s civilian government beat back the extremist threat and, in so doing, strengthen liberal rule in the country and route dangerous terrorist groups that promise to make mayhem for Pakistan, Afghanistan and, ultimately, the United States.

But completing that is another matter all together. As Clinton laid out in yesterday’s press conference, the United States is increasing aid to Pakistan by $110 million—and reaching out to citizens to make additional $5 pledges via text messages. Here’s the breakdown and how the aid will reach Pakistan:

Despite her warmer words for Pakistan’s government, Mrs. Clinton said little of this aid would flow directly to the Pakistani authorities. Most of it will flow to the United Nations and other international aid organizations. Pakistan has been criticized in the past for squandering American assistance.

The latest influx of aid comes on top of $60 million in humanitarian aid that the United States has sent to Pakistan since last August, and $400 million the administration has requested from Congress to improve the counterinsurgency abilities of the Pakistani military.

While the bulk of the $100 million is coming from the State Department — channeled mainly through the Agency for International Development — the Pentagon will contribute $10 million for water trucks, food and large tents equipped with air-conditioning.

Mrs. Clinton emphasized that $26 million of the package was designated to buy grain from Pakistani farmers, which she said would take advantage of the country’s bumper grain crop this year.

Setting aside the important question whether or not this aid channels successfully to Pakistan, Rick Barton argues that without a mobilized Pakistani public committed against the Taliban no amount of is US military hard power and aid will turn the tide. How can the US assist in keeping the Pakistani public—which has already proven its civic force—mobilized to ensure effective civilian rule in Pakistan? Barton calls for American funding of locally controlled TV and radio stations to broadcast the barbarism of the Taliban and ensure continuous responsiveness of the Pakistani government to its citizens.

Now what Barton actually calls for verses current US efforts at ‘public diplomacy’ requires more digging. This CFR publication reviews current efforts at ‘public diplomacy’ in Afghanistan, illustrating that these operations are comprised of US military-run radio stations in Afghanistan. These stations report news, primarily US military operational updates, to locals before the Taliban can disseminate their own message of US humanitarian misdeeds.

Barton argues for greater scope of such efforts into television and radio, local control of content and less emphasis on American military news-updates. Rather these programs should empower locales to bring attention to social ills and examples of good governance.

Such a shift would see ‘public diplomacy’ shift from a focus on beating back extremist propaganda to  providing an independent avenue for public discourse and mobilization.

Starting such a public diplomacy program in Pakistan has risks.  First, will US funds inadvertently go towards anti-American messaging, entertainment programming of little worth or—most alarmingly—into jihadist controlled stations?

But Barton’s provocative idea has its virtues. Showing images of heinous terrorist acts and allowing Pakistanis to push for responsible governance could go a long way in keeping the Pakistani regime responsive to and credible in the eyes of its citzens.

Yet, there are greater dangers than misspent American funds. Stirring the pot of public mobilization can freeze a regime’s forward motion: fanning legitimate public grievances could place unrealistic demands on a regime making real, if slow, forward motion towards effective governance. End-result: A poor, but improving, regime is rejected and replaced with crippled regime.

In any case, the United States must craft a workable, and not simply a military-run propagandist approach to public diplomacy in Pakistan. As Jeanne Bourgault points out in her article Radio a Sound Salvation for Pakistan?:

One recent survey in the area found that “many of the listeners who tune in to militant or mullah-run stations do so largely out of boredom and for want of a better alternative.” By training journalists and helping to set up new radio stations, America and Pakistan can offer this alternative. Supporting local, independent media is a cheap but effective weapon against instability and terror.

From Bourgault one can glean a less ambitious, but perhaps more attainable public diplomacy approach than offered by Barton. Barton’s prescription to instill large-scale mobilization of the Pakistani public must overcome two significant hurdles. First, will not hard-power attained security permit Pakistanis, themselves, to extend their already existing social networks?  And does not such a hard-power success depend on diplomatic and miliatary coordination between the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan, not to mention agressive counter-insurgency operations in Pakistan more than additional radio stations?

Second, how does one measure the various variable that make-up large-scale social mobilization? The Pakistani public seems very engaged with its regimes current difficulties. Would American aid really produce civic engagement—or merely free-ride on the work of existing Pakistani social networks?

Expanding US jamming operations of extremist media outlets makes sense. And constructing US-controlled radio stations with local staffs that pump out ‘soft propaganda’—exposés on the value of American aid and extremist atrocities—could improve the perception of the United States to Pakistan’s inhabitants. Those two steps are practical steps forward in combatting the Af-Pak terrorist threat; and, furthermore, are preconditions to accessing the value of Barton’s more expansive public diplomacy prescription.

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Cracking The Iranian Nuclear Dilemma: Does Success Run Through Kabul?

Posted by K.E. White on March 31, 2009

Today’s meeting between a top Iranian and American foreign minister is big news. But perhaps bigger than the historical nature of this official contact, is its delivery method. Choosing Holbrooke makes clear that the Obama administration is serious about improving relations with Iran, but that success might just first flow through Kabul—not DC or Tehran. While by no means a risk-free strategy, Obama’s determination to engage Iran and others does not merely set the stage of diplomacy (which might very well fail). Neo-conservative critics would do well to realize Obama’s strategy also sets the stage for possible punitive action against Iran.

The Holbrooke-Adhundzadeh meeting in the Netherlands marks the first high-level contacts between Tehran and the Obama administration. The unplanned and brief meeting described as “cordial.” But Iran mixed signals: having this positive development shaded by criticism of the White House’s recently unveiled Afghanistan plan and refusing to send high-level Iranian officials to the Dutch meeting.

Today’s meeting reminds us of just how difficult the Iranian dilemma remains for the Obama administration.  On one side are voices demanding tougher action on the Iranian regime—whether through a military strike or greater economic sanctions. To these voices engaging in high-level negotiations with Iran before it suspends its nuclear enrichment program only will embolden negative Iranian behaviors. First and foremost, America must negotiate from a position of strength—i.e. be tough on Iran.

Such an issue becomes more pressing with the possible transfer of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to Iran. There purpose? To deter an Israeli strike. Will this force Israel’s hand? (Probably not, at least right now, given the messy state of Israel’s newly confirmed Netanyahu government)

On the other side are calls for a fleshed out diplomatic plan. Such a plan requires a developed set of increasing consequences for Iranian defiance and clear carrots; coordination (currently lacking) between Russia, China and the United States; and, finally, a comprehensive approach, linking the Iranian nuclear dilemma with global nonproliferation in general.

But first it’s useful to illustrate just how far US-Iranian relations have a way to go. Today’s LA Times editorial page offers this message from Ali Akbar Javanfekr, an aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:

The policies of previous U.S. administrations led to a rise in hatred, anger and worries. In all corners of the world, it is worth noting, the only flags being set ablaze belong to the U.S. and the occupying Zionist regime. 

President Obama has proclaimed a policy of “change,” and the American people have embraced it. But to remedy its image in the world, the U.S. needs to truly change its past methods.

Change is mandatory for the U.S. administration. For as history demonstrates, either you change, or you are forced to change. 

But it seems that before picking between ‘dove’ or ‘hawk’ response, the Obama administration is buying time. And this is a smart move. Obama’s public message to Iran, presently cooler rhetoric and today’s brief diplomatic meeting all show an administration intent gathering a clearer picture of the Iranian dilemma.

Tightening the screws, a la Jim Bolton, now does not seem prudent. If the Obama administration can get time to chat with Russia and China over Iran and possibly change their stance on Iran’s nuclear program, suddenly the diplomatic calculus changes.

But laying the ground work for a coordinated diplomatic approach on Iran seems inexorably tied to Obama’s strategy in Afghanistan—and Pakistan. It’s no coincidence that Richard Holbrooke, Special Envoy to for Afghanistan and Pakistan, was the chosen emissary. Beyond the procedural rationale (deputy ministers meet with deputy ministers), three messages were being conveyed:

-Attention-Grabber: Holbrooke brokered the Dayton Peace accords. A respected deal-maker initiating a converstation with an Iranian minister conveys status and respect to Iran. It also makes America appear inviting to dialogue with Iran.

-That United States is serious: Holbrooke earned his reputation for getting things done; Adhundzadeh agreed to keep in touch, a key means or communication and deal-making was opened.

-Muscle-Flexing: Choosing Holbrooke, the point-man for diplomatic strategy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan also holds a muscular, symbolic resonance. It signals the overlap of two Obama administration goals: victory in Afghanistan and improved Iranian relations.

This third component is the most important. Victory in Afghanistan, tied with a continuing presence in Iraq, seems to be the lynch-pin in the Obama administration’s attempt to mold dialogue with Iran from a position of strength:

1)      It puts Iranian aspirations for hegemony on note

2)      Allows Obama to frame future discussions with Iran from an image of strength, at least relative to the image of America in 2005-2006. In this light he is not only a dove to Bush hawk, but a dove who fights and wins.

3)      It strengthens the faith of our allies in the region that the United States will not simply cut a deal with Iran and jump ship

4)      It signals our priorities to other key nations—Russia and China—about what is important: chiefly Iran’s nuclear program. When this is tied other discussions—for example, discussions over missile defense with Russia or modernizing our nuclear arnsenals—deals can be made

In short, it allows the Obama administration—in conjunctions with many other moving parts—to both whip up the international support it needs for any diplomatic break-through and pushing (not begging) Iran to the negotiating table.

Now neoconservative voices, such as John Bolton, may disagree with this ‘doveish’ approach. But what these voices fail to recognize is that these steps are also needed to make punitive action against Iran—whether through economic sanctions or military strikes—work.

Sanctions only work if they are enforced. Attempting to win Russian support, tied with greater efforts at screening supplies that go through Gulf States are key to 1) punishing Iran economically and 2) keeping dangerous materials out of Iran.

Furthermore any military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities are more likely to succeed with support—however mild from major powers. If a military strike is seen by countries as a unilateral power grab on the part of America, American stature and partnerships will be seriously damaged. But if over time the Obama administration can successfully turn the narrative to patiently dealing with a ‘bully’ state consequences of military action—while severe—will be minimized.

Success with Iran—whether through tough-talk & proxy competitions for influence (Iraq and Afghanistan) or military strikes (most likely through Israel, but seen as green-lit by the United States)—both require the moves the Obama administration is making.

Make no mistake: Obama is taking a big gamble. In putting his chips on Afghanistan, it has become his war—one with little support in the United States. And some suggest he’s doing this on the cheap. If Obama’s Afpak strategy does not work, pushing Iran back from the bomb—let alone our allies in the region—will become more difficult.

But some critics of diplomatic accommodation may point to the issue of time. Is there time to put all these moving parts in place before Iran builds the Bomb? I believe such an objection is a red herring.

A premptive military strike against Iran will not stop an Iranian nuclear weapon, but guarantee it. And done brusquely, such a strike will diminish America’s ability to a) stop nuclear proliferation worldwide and b) hurt America’s standing in the region irrevocably, let alone predictable flare-ups in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Keeping materials out of Iran is the key, along with a robust inspection force. Getting there requires cooperation (yes, from a position of strength), not preemptive military action.

To get there, the Obama administration must work with the time it has.

And the administration needs success in Afghanistan, ideally paired with stability in Paksitan.

Even if this ‘tough-diplomacy’ does not fail to deter Iran from virtually possessing or acquiring an operational atomic weapon, it places America in the best position possible to justify action against Iran.  The Obama administration is taking a breath and insuring America the widest possible range of action possible: something we should be thankful for.

Let’s just hope the Afghanistan gamble pays off.

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Pakistan’s Political Rivalry Turns Serious: Zadari-Sharif Rift Causes Nation-Wide Protests; Sharif Under House Arrest

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2009

A consequential weekend is brewing in Pakistan: fueled by divisions over the Supreme Court, Pakistan’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif has called on supporters to publicly protest President Asif Ali Zardari.

How serious is this? Well Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just had an “unusually long [phone] conversation with Zardari and Sharif” urging the two leaders to find common ground and avoid “another roud of political instability in Pakistan”. [Times of India article]

Clinton’s comes amidst reports that Sharif Sharif has been put under house-arrest. This latest escalation comes after Sharif’s public outcry against the Zardari-appointed Supreme Court’s ruling barring him from public office in Pakistan.

Is there a better to alienate a rival political party than by summarily banning its leader from future election? To be fair, Zardari has yet to completely emulate past practices: former President Prevez Musharraf took the additional step of exiling political foes.

From the Washington Post:

As the political brinkmanship continued, police in the capital prepared to stop protesters from reaching the city Sunday, and the army remained on alert. Officials blocked highways with huge shipping containers, and flights were grounded.

But thousands of opposition supporters, egged on by Nawaz Sharif and a national lawyers’ movement, continued streaming toward Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, where they rallied by torchlight in the darkened city and prepared to leave Sunday morning for their “long march” on the capital. They have vowed to demonstrate until Zardari restores a group of deposed senior judges.

Despite Zardari’s late-night offer, analysts said the confrontation in this nation of 172 million appeared to have gone too far to be defused.

The struggle centers around Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, the former chief justice of Pakistan who was fired two years ago by Pervez Musharaff. His removal triggered wide-spread disaffection which lead to Musharaff’s removal, but Zardari has yet to reappoint him to the Supreme Court. Hence the  two leading liberal parties of Pakistan, Zardari’s PPP and Sharif’s PML-N, are at one another’s throats.

Why? WaPo reports:

Many Pakistanis say Zardari fears that Chaudhry would reopen old court cases against him and nullify many of his year-old government’s actions. Analysts said Zardari’s stand has also been strengthened by U.S. ambivalence about the former justice, an unpredictable maverick who has questioned the disappearance of terrorism suspects.

At the gathering in Raiwind, Sharif related a history of broken promises by the president and said he had reneged on a Charter of Democracy both men had signed to create a civilian government one year ago.

“We were trying to bring Pakistan out of a dictatorial regime. It was the first time in our history that the two major parties had gotten together. But Mr. Zardari kept backing out of his promises,” Sharif told the journalists here. “I am not joining the long march to reach the presidency only to bring back the independent judiciary.” But if Zardari “pushes us to the wall,” he added, “we will not go home and be silent.”

Aides to Sharif said he plans to join the march, in which caravans of vehicles will set out from a lawyers’ association office in the Lahore High Court complex. But police are expected to stop the procession, as they have been blocking caravans from other cities all week, and Sharif could well be placed under house arrest.

It appears the two leading liberal parties of Pakistan are on the verge of a violent altercation—a worrisome development for Pakistan’s young and fragile democracy. Such divides were how former President Musharaff climbed to power in 1999.

So how is current Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani reacting to Pakistan’s lastest affray?

Not well; but in an interview last Friday US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen stated that Kayani is “committed to a civilian government” in Pakistan.

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Bill Clinton: US India Nuclear Deal “Should be Supported,” But Keeps Door Open to Revisions

Posted by K.E. White on March 13, 2008

In an apparent sign of things maybe–maybe not–to come, Bill Clinton indicated his support for the US-India nuclear deal. This is not shocking, given Hillary’s vigorous support for the US India nuclear deal. But former President Clinton did leave the door open to revisions–suggesting another grueling round of negotiations should his wife, Hillary Clinton, be elected President this November.

From Sify News:

Underlining strong bipartisan consensus for the deal in his country, he said the US has a made “a decision across parties to build strategic partnership with India in the 21st century”.

“The deal could have been stronger on the “non-proliferation side”, Clinton replied when asked what portions of the deal he would have liked to change if he were the President.

“We did not want to give the Chinese an excuse to develop nuclear weapons,” Clinton replied when asked why such a deal could not be reached during his tenure as the president between 1992 to 2000.

“The agreement should be supported. There’s a strong level of trust between India and the US. The US would be willing should Indians wish to revisit some provisions of the deal,” Clinton said when asked whether a Democratic Party administration would like to renegotiate the deal if they come to power next year.

Is Bill speaking for himself, or rather the policy of a Hillary Clinton administration? Only time will tell.

For more on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy, read her recent policy brief in Foreign Affairs.

The Decemeber 2007 brief does touch on the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT):

But we lost that opportunity by refusing to let the UN inspectors finish their work in Iraq and rushing to war instead. Moreover, we diverted vital military and financial resources from the struggle against al Qaeda and the daunting task of building a Muslim democracy in Afghanistan. At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism: refusing to pursue ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, abandoning our commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, and turning our backs on the search for peace in the Middle East. Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing.

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