Move On (with no affiliation)

February 5, 2011 Leave a comment

When I took on Barack Beat in June of 2009, I knew that I was commencing an uphill battle. A battle to motivate the staff writers. The struggle to drum up support.

In the end, I was certainly the only blogger left at Barack Beat, but I learned to love the medium. For more from Tina Carter, please visit reallivewords.wordpress.com or the Twitter feed at CarterTinaM.

It was a pleasure.

Thank you.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Israel Cries Foul at United Nations

September 16, 2009 Leave a comment
Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza. The Guardian.

Israel announced today that it would block any effort by the U.N. to investigate its 2008 military “offensive” in the Gaza Stip or to try Israel soldiers before an international war crimes tribunal.

South African jurist Richard Goldstone, who heads the UN report, said that Israel used disproportionate force which resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians and caused widespread damage to the area. The report is largely grounded in the mass of human rights reports released in 2009.

The Associated Press reports, “But the U.N. report could carry much more weight, both because it was authored by a widely respected former war crimes prosecutor and because it could ultimately lead to charges against Israel before the International Criminal Court.”

Palestinians inspect damage in Gaza, Jan. 14. The Guardian

Pundits suspects that the United States, which is known for playing the veto card for Israel in the Security Council, would block the prosecution of Israeli officials in the ICC. Rather, political actors here are awaiting the result of the Palestinian Authority’s request to join the ICC. If its membership is approved, the prosecution will bypass the Security Council.

In Israel, the report produced an uproar, with President Shimon Peres calling it a “mockery of history,” and many officials eliciting barbs about Anti-Semitism.

The AP reports,

Goldstone is a former South African judge who prosecuted war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Goldstone, who is Jewish and has close ties to Israel, was well aware that his work would draw fire. As a condition for heading the inquiry, he insisted that the panel look at the actions of Palestinian militants.

… Israel launched the three-week war in late December to quash Palestinian militants in Gaza who had bombarded southern Israel for years with rocket and mortar fire.

Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in the conflict, including hundreds of civilians, and thousands more were wounded. Thirteen Israelis also died, including four civilians.

Peres, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping craft an interim 1993 peace agreement with the Palestinians, said the Goldstone report “makes a mockery of history.”

“It draws no distinction between the attacker and the attacked,” Peres said. “The report essentially grants legitimacy to acts of terrorism, shooting and killing, and ignores the right and duty of any country to self defense, as outlined in the U.N. charter.”

In his statement, however, Peres, founder of one of the first settlements in the West Bank, ignores the phrase “disproportionate use of force,” which grants legitimacy to the offensive.

At this time, both Hamas and Israel are citing self-defense for their actions December 2008 and onward.

The U.N. investigators recommended the Security Council require both sides to launch credible probes into the conflict within three months, and to follow that up with action in their courts.

If either side refuses, it said the U.N. should refer the evidence for prosecution by the International Criminal Court, a permanent war crimes tribunal, within six months.

Deputy Foreign Minister David Ayalon told the American Jewish Committee in New York, “The Goldstone Report should be treated like the UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism, thus we must mobilize and act with all force against the report in order to remove it.”

According to Haa’retz, Ayalon plans to meet with Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN to discuss ways to minimize the report’s damage to Israel’s reputation.

Time Magazine writes,

What worries authorities in Jerusalem is that many European countries are signatories to a Geneva Convention that allows their courts to arrest and prosecute individuals accused of committing war crimes in other countries. Such legal options, Israel fears, may be used to bring politically motivated charges against its citizens. The daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported Wednesday that Israel’s Foreign and Justice ministries have begun drawing up lists of law firms in different European countries that could be enlisted to defend Israelis in any future cases.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Duke Senior’s Crib Sheet on Obama’s Initial Reception in the Middle East

August 30, 2009 1 comment

Edith Chen, now a senior, studied and lived in Amman, Jordan from February until early May of this year. Jordan is the primary US ally in the region, and the close relationship between the governments have made the royal family’s legitimacy  more tenuous.

This is Edith’s always-relevant assessment of how Jordanians received President Obama’s June 4th address.

The upper middle class is generally more skeptical about Obama’s ability to change US policies in the Middle East (Christian, Muslim, and Palestinian Jordanians alike).

A man in a Palestinian refugee camp in Amman watches the US Presidents address to the Middle East and Muslims June 4th.

A man in a Palestinian refugee camp in Amman watches the US President's address to the Middle East and Muslims June 4th. The Guardian

The prevailing issue to Amman’s Jordanians has always been Israel-Palestine, which is unsurprising given the large Palestinian urban and refugee population. Thus Obama’s silence during the Israeli air attacks on Gaza really set back Obama’s credibility as the “anti-Bush” (at least when I first arrived, and Gaza was still a fresh topic of discussion). I think whether Obama can follow up his support for a Palestinian state in speech with actions (and exert pressure on Israel) will be critical if he wants to reach out to Jordanians.

There is also some privately expressed skepticism towards the Jordanian monarchy, which is seen as too cozy with the US government. This feeling is even stronger for Palestinian-Jordanians. It’s noteworthy, however, that skepticism towards governments is common in the Middle East, since during my time there, I has also encountered complaints about the governments of the Gulf states, Egypt, Iran, and even Turkey, trying to inject their influence and ideology in regional affairs.

Regarding whether Obama’s message can effectively reach the people, it is a matter of local consciousness than the effectiveness of his message. Something I noticed in my family was that the nightly Turkish musalsal seems to have priority instead of the news. I don’t think I ever saw our TV tuned into a news channel during my 3 month stay, except during the Pope’s visit, and I’ve never seen a newspaper in the home; so I am not certain how or if they keep up with  political developments. I don’t know if this apathy towards politics is common to the urban upper class. The inertia of cynicism–that the more things change the more they stay the same–is a challenge Obama will have to beat if he wants a more receptive and enthusiastic urban audience in the Middle East.

Working class Transjordanians, or Jordanians without Palestinian lineage, (such as taxi drivers, store keepers) have expressed more positive attitudes towards Obama. But I believe these responses may be due to a self-selective sample. The ones who aren’t keen on Americans are unlikely to engage in conversations with us. At another time, a Palestinian driver (originally from Kuwait before the first Iraq war) was outraged that he was stuck living in Jordan and complained about the country and its shortcomings relative to life in a Gulf state.  His outburst was so intense that we didn’t want to bring up the fact that America is the reason he was forced to evacuate Kuwait.

Bedouin Transjordanians seem to have a positive attitude towards Obama, but not the US government. As tribal Transjordanians, they have a higher esteem towards the monarchy and respect the king’s traditional ties to the US. For instance, my host family’s Bedouin grandfather used to travel with King Hussein and named his sons after the princes. For the Bedouins I believe the Iraq war was a major factor that hurt their perception of the American administration, since there was a time before Iraq’s sanction that they helped the Jordanian economy by providing subsidized oil. Hence, many other students were also surprised to find their Bedouin households decorated with portraits of Saddam Hussein. Likewise, my Bedouin grandfather said Obama was a good man and so was Saddam, while Bush was majnun (so in the twist of analogy meant he approved of Obama on some level). How Obama handles the Iraq situation might be important in changing their perception about the US. A continued perception of the US as an aggressor and an occupying force will hit the traditional tribal sensibilities the wrong way.

As senator, Obama toured the Middle East to engender enthusiasm for a new era of US-Arab relations.

As senator, Obama toured the Middle East to engender enthusiasm for a new era of US-Arab relations. Handout/Getty Images Europe

Satellite television beams in 24-hour global news into most households, even in the remote Badia where the Bedouins lived and herded. Therefore, Obama’s approach of giving direct speeches would be an asset in winning his case with those in the Middle East. Unlike my Amman host family, my Bedouin family kept up to date with news development and frequently watched CNN and al-Jazeera. Bedouins also have more political leverage on a per-capital level, since the electoral districting system was designed to give more power to the tribes. More than this, social and political connections, or wasta, awards Transjordanians with priority for government jobs. As a result, how they perceive the situation will be influential. But the Jordanian tribal political system is so complex and I’m uncertain as to what this might mean.

In short, what Obama decides to do about a Palestinian state will be the foremost determining factor in how he will be received by Jordanians. The diversity of actors in Jordan could also create numerous problems in the country that is one of America’s most helpful allies in the Middle East: exacerbated tension between Palestinian-Jordanians and Transjordanians; diversion of resources and support from other areas of social development and modernization. These issues of contention could possibly jeopardize Jordan’s national stability and generate support for opposition political parties. The monarchy also has a history of “protecting” the country from another Black September with crackdowns on civil liberties and rollbacks of the budding democratizing process.

If Obama can clean up the previous administration’s mistakes in Iraq, Guantanamo etc. in a responsible manner and seek dialog with the region’s important players, the President could repair the perceptions.

Light Flickers on Peace….

August 30, 2009 Leave a comment

In June it seemed that Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu had extinguished all hopes for even the pretense of peace. His acceptance of a two-state solution at Bar Ilan University mollified many in the West, but infuriated Palestinian leaders. Netanyahu advocated a state whose military and even political powers would be restrained relative to those of Israel. More than that, Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas’s Khaled Mashaal demanded a cessation to the settlements in the West Bank–a key issue on which Netanyahu remained silent.

Earlier this month, however, Netanyahu agreed to a partial halt of settlement activity. The move is not a formal moratorium however. According to the AP, Israel has not issued settlement permits in months, and will halt activity until peace talks can proceed.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, who has been working to reconcile the Palestinian factions, is not moved by the temporary solution. During his first visit in 5 years to the Oval Office, Mubarak commented,

“This issue has been going on 60 years, and we cannot afford wasting more time because violence will increase,” the 81-year-old Mubarak said, speaking through an interpreter. “We need to move to the final status solution. … The Israelis said talk about a temporary solution. I told them, ‘No, forget about the temporary solution, forget about temporary borders.’ That’s why I came today to talk to President Obama to move forward on this issue.”

Worsening the situation is Israel’s ever more icy relationship with the Obama administration. Israeli-US relations in 2009 have been characterized by harsh words and, to some degree, paranoia. President Obama has taken the hardest-line stance with Israel than any other president to date. The Administration has veered from Israel’s positions on how to deal with the conflict and also on a nuclear Iran, and in doing so,  the Administration has lost favor among the Israeli right. Even his chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel is losing clout with Israeli political actors.

Politico reports,

An observant Jew with deep ties to Israel, Emanuel is viewed as something of a native son, his rise through the ranks of American politics celebrated by Israelis who reveled in details such as his childhood summers spent in Israel and his volunteer stint during the first Gulf War in an Israeli military program for civilians.

… But in a dramatic emotional shift, Israelis have become increasingly disenchanted with Emanuel, and the disappointment is especially intense on the Israeli right, which supports Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his opposition to Obama’s call for ceasing settlement activity.

As Obama’s most senior Jewish proxy, Emmanuel faces the impact of Israel’s “widespread unhappiness” with the Administration. Both Emmanuel and senior adviser David Axelrod have been called “self-hating Jews” by the Israeli Prime Minister, Haaretz reports. Although Netanyahu’s spokespeople have denied the allegation, the sentiment is widely publicized and shared  in Israel.

While the temporary halt on settlements buys time for all nations involved, a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Conference may further upset this nebulous state of affairs. President Obama hopes to convene a meeting of heads of state on September 24th to discuss nuclear terrorism and global disarmament, and Israel’s alleged nuclear power program may end up on trail or a target of suspicion and accusation.

Obama also has another summit planned for March 9 and 10, which will stir up animosity among nations. Arab states will undoubtedly use Israel’s alleged nuclear program to counter Obama’s plans for a nuclear-free Middle East, and the Jewish state will crop up national security issues as a reason to remain laconic and mulish on the issue.

Despite the laundry list of conflicts and entanglements, Obama is optimistic about the future of the peace talks and is not worried about lost ground.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10

Ship Seized On Its Way to Iran

August 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The United Arab Emirates seized a cargo ship bound for Iran with a cache of banned weaponry. The UAE, which is a hub for Iranian goods, reported the find in a confidential letter to the council’s sanctions committee for North Korea.

Although the ship contained rockets rather than nukes, the discovery does not bode well for the international reputation of either North Korea or Iran.

North Korea has only recently developed a more conciliatory stance towards South Korea and the U.S., the Associated Press reports, and Iran has only just begun to produce nuclear fuel at a slower rate and has increased U.N. access to its main nuclear complex in Natanz and Arak.

Still,  contention between Iran and the U.S. rages.

Iran’s chief representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh told the AP, “America alleges that Iran has a Manhattan Project” to build a bomb, Soltanieh said. “This is ridiculous. This game is enough. It should be over. … We have tried to take a very logical and pragmatic approach.”

The fate of a nuclear Iran will be decided after September 2nd during a meeting of the IAEA’s 35-nation board. President Obama has said that sanctions will be tightened if Iran does not stop enriching uranium. However, if Iran does end it’s nuclear program, Obama has promised trade and commercial benefits.

It is doubtful whether an economically-based ultimatum can address an issue that is largely ideological. Can commerce and trade substitute national (and regional) pride? That remains to be seen, but it is just as unlikely that Iran can bear the weight of the “severe” sanctions that Europe hopes to put forth after September 2nd.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
Categories: Iran Tags: , , , , ,

Resurgence of Violence in Iraq Worries Region, Not U.S. Gen.

August 29, 2009 Leave a comment

In July, some senior defense officials attributed the spike in violence in Iraq to a last push by Sunni extremist groups.

We knew that if al-Qaeda in Iraq had only five bombs left, they were going to use them all as the last of our forces left the cities,” said a senior defense official who follows Iraq. “They wanted to create the narrative that they had driven us from Iraq. Next, they’ll want to build the narrative that the Iraqi security forces can’t protect the people.”

Indeed, two months after the withdrawal of American troops, a series of attacks have all but convinced Iraqis that the security troops cannot quell the violence.

A string of coordinated attacks on government ministries and a number of deadly bombings in the north, have rapidly chipped away at the legitimacy of the troops.

“Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says the security forces are partly responsible for allowing the worst attack to happen outside his ministry,” reported the BBC.

Iraqis name corruption as the reason why the bombers have been able to get through the checkpoints. Bribes and other underhanded dealings take the place of inspection, undermining security measures. One of the organizers of the 19 August truck bombing that killed 68 spoke of paying $10,000 to get a truck laden with explosives into the center of the capital.

Nevertheless, U.S. army chief of staff General George Casey said the U.S. military is pushing ahead with its schedule to reduce the 130,000 American troops.

Advisers expect sectarian tensions to flare by the January elections.

BBC LIST OF KEY ATTACKS SINCE US PULLBACK

19 Aug: At least 95 killed in wave of attacks in central Baghdad

31 July: Bombs outside five Baghdad mosques kill 27

9 July: 50 die in bombs at Talafar (near Mosul), Baghdad, elsewhere

30 June: US troops withdraw from Iraqi towns and cities. Car bomb in Kirkuk kills at least 27

Update:

A bomb attack on a cafe in a remote Iraqi village in northern Iraq today killed 18. The visiting Iranian foreign minister said that instability in Iraq affects the region, reports the AP.

The Iranian foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki called on neighboring countries to help stabilize Iraq. Since the U.S. pull-out, bombers have been exploiting the vulnerability of small remote villages. These attacks allegedly target ethnic minorities especially, including Kurdish Yazidis and Sunni Azamiyah.

According to the AP, the Iraqi government has blamed an alliance of al-Qaeda in Iraq and Saddam loyalists based in Syria for the truck bombings.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
Categories: Iraq Tags: , ,

The Economist States The Age-Old

August 29, 2009 Leave a comment

BarackBeat will soon feature regular updates, and I have decided to mark the occasion with the Economist’s explanation of why and how the Arab world has gone to rack and ruin.

On July 23, The Economist printed two articles entitled “Waking from its sleep.”

The special report hits the sore spot almost immediately,

To revisit the Arab world two decades later is to find that in many ways history continues to pass the Arabs by. Freedom? The Arabs are ruled now, as they were then, by a cartel of authoritarian regimes practised in the arts of oppression. Unity? As elusive as ever. Although the fault lines have changed since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait 19 years ago, inter-Arab divisions are bitter. Egypt, the biggest Arab country, refused even to attend April’s Arab League summit meeting in Doha. Israel? Punctuated by bouts of violence and fitful interludes of diplomacy, the deadly stalemate continues. Neither George H. Bush at Madrid in 1991 nor Bill Clinton at Camp David in 2000 nor George W. Bush at Annapolis in 2007 succeeded in making peace or even bringing it visibly closer.

These articles make no new pronouncements. Their greatest indictments– the anti-Israeli attitude, oil and corrupt leadership– are among the most well-known hindrances to development in the region (see the Arab Human Development Report). The real power in these articles lie in their pointed (even frustrated) condemnation of the region’s leadership. They make no bones about the fact that it is the ravenous scramble for power in the Arab world that has brought it to its ruinous state. It is not Islam or even the legacy of imperialism.

Not one ruler in today’s Arab League got his job through a free election. Whatever legitimacy these regimes enjoy derives mainly from tradition, fear, or an unwritten contract between ruler and ruled: in return for your loyalty I will meet your basic economic and social needs. That may be a splendid contract in times of plenty. But a bursting population is already making it hard for governments to keep their side of the bargain.

“Waking from its sleep” say that a social bargain of co-optation does not endure, and that political change is not a nicety but a necessity for economic and social progress. One gets the feeling that the Economist is not just addressing the Arab world, but is using its story as a parable, an example for much of the Third World.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10