links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter



Posted on on July 25th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Friday, July 23, 2010, The Japan Times online.…

India ignoring Washington as it woos Iran.


Special to The Japan Times
LONDON — India and Iran have decided to give new direction to their bilateral ties that have been dormant for some time now.

Ever since the United States and India started to transform their relationship by changing the global nuclear order to accommodate India, Iran has been a litmus test that India has had to pass from time to time to the satisfaction of U.S. policymakers. India’s traditionally close ties with Iran have become a factor influencing a U.S.-India partnership.

India-Iran ties have been termed an “axis,” a “strategic partnership” and even an “alliance.” However, the American focus on India-Iran ties has been highly disproportionate to the realities of this relationship, a result more of the exigencies of domestic politics than of regional political realities.

Until recently, when the choice emerged between Iran and the U.S., India would side with the U.S. But the Obama administration’s callous attitude toward India is pushing India toward Iran, and that could have grave geopolitical consequences. Ignoring Washington, India recently signed several agreements with Iran, including an air services agreement and a memorandum of understanding on new and renewable energy aimed at increasing trade from $15 billion to $30 billion.

Economic cooperation in priority areas such as oil, gas, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and textiles is key to this endeavor. Plans are afoot for greater maritime cooperation; Iran has already joined the Indian Navy’s annual initiative, the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium. Moreover, the two sides have decided to hold “structured and regular consultations” on the issue of Afghanistan.

America’s Afghanistan policy has caused consternation in Indian policymaking circles. A fundamental disconnect has emerged between U.S. and Indian interests with regard to Af-Pak. The Obama administration has systematically ignored Indian interests in crafting its Af-Pak priorities. While actively discouraging India from assuming a higher profile in Afghanistan, for fear of offending Pakistan, the U.S. has failed to persuade Pakistan to take Indian concerns more seriously.

While the U.S. may have no vital interest in determining who actually governs in Afghanistan — so long as Afghan territory is not used to launch attacks on U.S. soil — India does. The Taliban — good or bad — oppose India in fundamental ways. The consequence of abandoning the goal of establishing a functioning Afghan state and a moderate Pakistan will be greater pressure on Indian security. To preserve its interests in this milieu, India is now coordinating more closely with states like Russia and Iran.

During Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit earlier this year, India sought Russian support in countering what it views as a U.S.-Pakistan axis in Afghanistan. India is making a concerted move to reach out to Tehran.

India’s deputy national security adviser, Alok Prasad, was in Iran a few weeks back trying to seek Iranian support in stabilizing the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, too, has held discussions with his Iranian counterpart, especially concerning the West’s plans for reintegrating “good Taliban” gathers momentum.

Over the last several years, India has repeatedly voted in favor of International Atomic Energy Agency resolutions condemning Iran’s nuclear behavior. Though the Indian prime minister has been categorical in asserting that a nuclear Iran is not in Indian interests, the Indian government has been keen in recent months to emphasize that it favors dialogue and diplomacy as means of resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis. India has underlined that unilateral sanctions on Iran will hurt India, including sanctions by individual countries that restrict investments by third countries in Iran’s energy sector. As Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao recently made clear, India is “justifiably concerned that the extra-territorial nature of certain unilateral sanctions recently imposed by individual countries, with their restrictions on investment by third countries in Iran’s energy sector, can have a direct and adverse impact on Indian companies and more importantly, on our [India’s] energy security and our attempts to meet the development needs of our people.”

The Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project has also been on the agenda as India remains keen to gain access to Iranian energy resources. Not only has Pakistan signed the deal with Iran, China is starting to make its presence felt in Iran in a big way. It is now Iran’s largest trading partner and is undertaking massive investments in Iran, rapidly occupying the space vacated by western companies.

India is right to feel restless about its marginalization with respect to Iran despite civilizational ties with the country. The problems with the IPI pipeline remain difficult to overcome. India has differences over the pricing of the gas even as ensuring the security of the pipeline in restive Balochistan makes it difficult for India to accept the deal in its present version.

Though problems remain in India-Iran relations, the latest overtures by New Delhi toward Tehran underscore the importance that India attaches to ties with Iran. That this is happening at a time when there has been a significant cooling of U.S.-India ties makes it even more significant. With the Obama administration’s credibility in India at an all-time low, New Delhi is left with few options, which include engaging with states that Washington doesn’t like.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College London.


Posted on on July 21st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Excerpts from “At UN, Of Africa Days and Al Qaeda Evenings, Burundi and Bacardi Gold.”
By Matthew Russell Lee.

UNITED NATIONS, July 15 — With small countries in Africa dominating the Security Council’s July 15 schedule … one of the four countries already on the “Peace Building Commission” (PBC) agenda, Burundi, recently had a one party election marred by tossed grenades and now the threat of attack by Al Shabab.

Burundi has soldiers in Somalia {and this is the reason why it has become fair game to Al Shabab}. Inner City Press spoke this week with the UN’s envoy to Burundi Charles Petrie. He put a positive spin on the one party election, saying it was not as violent as it might have been.

Petrie said the opposition is weak, and the UN must play the counter-balance that civil society and opposition parties would in other countries. He should know: he was thrown out of Myanmar by the government, then served for a time in a humanitarian role on, but not in, Somalia. He was in the French military …. The Council should have heard from him but didn’t.

The same might be said of the UN’s new envoy to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga. He went into the Council’s quiet room on July 14, but was not heard from by the Council as a whole. He met with the Permanent Five, one by one. He stopped to speak to Inner City Press, about including Al Shabab on the Al Qaeda sanctions list under Council Resolution 1267 in the wake of the Kampala bombings {This again, because Uganda has military forces for peace Keeping in Somalia.}.

Later on July 14, at an ill-attended UK reception on climate change in the General Assembly lobby, Inner City Press asked UK Permanent Representative Mark Lyall Grant about 1267 and the Shabab. He pointed out that they are already on the Somalia sanctions list, and who knew who is or is not truly affiliated with Al Qaeda. An Ethiopian diplomat added, not surprisingly, they are “definitely” with Al Qaeda.

But the Council sticks to its schedule. Guinea Bissau was the topic for July 15. The coup leader now heads the military; the UN “took note” of it. A Presidential Statement is to be drafted in the coming days.

Still and all, the Permanent Representatives of France, Japan and Mexico strode into the Council just after 10 a.m..

{Liberia is now becoming the fifth small African Country on the PBC operating table.}
* * *
{And further at the UN} – In Wake of Uganda Bombing, UNSC Statement Does Not Assign Blame, Even After Al Shabab Takes Credit.

UNITED NATIONS, July 12, updated — A day after the Kampala double bombing which killed more than 60 people, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had yet to issue any kind of statement. In front of the Security Council on Monday morning, one non-permanent member’s spokesperson wondered under what agenda item the Council might issue a statement: Somalia?

Another spokesperson said moves were afoot for the issuance of a press statement, later in the day. Would it say who is responsible? After the bombing of trains in Madrid, the Council issued a statement blaming it on ETA. When Al Qaeda later took responsibility, the Council’s statement was never retracted.

Here, nearly all speakers including Uganda authorities are pointing the finger at Islamist Somali insurgents. They had vowed retaliation for the Ugandan and Burundian AMISOM peacekeepers’ shelling of a market in Mogadishu. Others pointed out the targeting of “Ethiopian Village,” given antagonism between irridentist Somalia and Ethiopia. Motive is certainly there– and, the media pointed out, opportunity.

As the draft text of the press statement was distributed to members, a Council diplomat told Inner City Press it did not assign blame, only the Council’s “standard terrorist attack language.” Might that change?

Update of 3:20 p.m. — Nigeria’s Ambassador, the Council’s president for July, read out a four paragraph statement. As Inner City Press predicted this morning, it did not assign blame. But in the interim, the spokesman for Al Shabab has taken credit for the bombings, saying they were months in the planning.

Inner City Press asked Nigeria’s Ambassador on camera why blame was not ascribed, and if this might not discourage countries from sending peacekeepers to Somalia. She declined the first, and to the second question said “there is a peace to keep in Somalia.”

Afterward, Inner City Press was told that Al Shabab’s confession came after the statement was circulated and concurrence obtained. They didn’t want to delay it. But wouldn’t it have been stronger if more specific? An Ethiopian diplomat spoke about Eritrea. If ten Taliban are coming off the 1267 Al Qaeda sanctions list, does that mean there’s room for Al-Shabab?

In Kampala, the Ethiopian Village?

Incoming UN envoy on Somalia, Tanzania’s former Ambassador Mahiga, spoke to Inner City Press at the UN in New York last week, including about the peacekeepers’ use of “long range artillery” and the civilian casualties caused. Will Mahiga take this so-called “collateral damage” more seriously than Ould Abdallah did?


From the above we see clearly that when it come to the need to blame an Islamic insurgency, the UN is very slow at pointing a finger. There clearly must internal UN be reasons for that.

Now let us see what Fared Zakaria and his high-brow participants in his circle of policy reviewers think about the situation:

His program included Jeffrey Gettleman, the New York Times Bureau Chief in East Africa Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya) who saw the situation on location in Somalia, and Ken Menkhaus of Davison College in New Jersey, who served as UN Political Advisor in Somalia 1993-94.……



Chaos and lawlessness rule in Mogadishu, Somalia. And Al Shabab, a Somali affiliate of Al Qaeda, is exploiting that power vacuum and exporting terror.

Al Shabab claimed responsibility for the bombing of World Cup viewers in Uganda and is practicing an extreme form of Islamic justice.

What exactly is Al Shabab doing in Somalia and what can we expect next? Is there anything the U.S. or its allies can do to help the country that is called “the world’s worst failed state?”


Somalia is a country of 6-8 million people and at the end of the cold war they were the most militarized country in the world. Now there are 1-1.5 million people living outside Somalia and the country was destroyed – not by bombings but by small caliber guns. There is no central authority in the country and it has become ideal terrain for an Al Qaeda base.

In 1992 the First President Bush had there 20,000 troops and left to avoid worst disaster leaving behind total vacuum.

The locals are incapable of establishing a functioning government. Foreign funds that go to an interim government are dissipated but nevertheless there is a will on the outside to view this government as a transition – the question transition to what?

The Al Shabab is widely unpopular but viewed as an alternative to useless government. This Al Shabab practices the most tuthless of Islam justice – like the cutting off of arms for suspected thieves.

In this second level of vacuum move in the foreigners – be these the Al Qaeda people from Pakistan who want to see if they can move here as a new home base, and some more benevolent home comers from among the Somali diaspora that actually are ready to provide their skills in building government at locality levels like cities. These are very welcome by the elders who are ready to back their efforts with the elder prestige.

This latter is the hope – but this is a bottom up government – and who will say that this will lead to a National government in its present borders? Would it not make sense to let them rule according to the ethnic divisions of the country and resulting in two or three smaller States that can then go their own ways? Jeffret Gettleman has seen this function on the ground in several locations where the situation is thus much better then in the country at large.

The importance of this goes well beyond Somalia and the case that came to mind in this CNN/GPS program was Iraq.

With the Iraqi elections held 133 days ago and a Parliament that todate has met only for the grandiose time of 18 minutes, and with the upcoming holidays, the evidence that nothing else can be expected before September and the US troops starting by then to leave the country, is Iraq going to be next Somalia?

So – the conclusion is that government can be built only bottom up if the idea is to reach up to democracy – and then why insist on having a non-unified country when the only evidence at hand is that the people actually hate each other and belong to various groups with the only semblance of unity is the unity of cleptocrats?

This disaster of Somalia may turn out to speak not only of Africa, but also of Iraq and why not of Afghanistan?

These problem go well beyond the limited scope we started out with.


Somalia Centre Stage Ahead of AU Summit.
Joshua Kyalimpa –   ipsterraviva.netKAMPALA, Jul 18 (IPS) – The African Union summit opens in Kampala on July 19 amid heightened security following twin bomb attacks a week earlier. The official theme of child and maternal mortality will likely be overshadowed by discussion of the AU’s mission in Somalia.

The blasts, which killed at least 74 people and wounded 82 others watching the World Cup finals on big screens at the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala’s Kabalagala neighbourhood, and at the Kyaddondo rugby grounds. The attacks came just two days after a spokesperson for Somalia’s al-Shabaab group, which is fighting against the weak Transitional Federal Government (TFG) for control of the country, said Uganda would be targeted for its role in the conflict.

Questioning military solutions
Some analysts argue that a troop surge will achieve little, pointing to the difficulties faced by Ethiopia. Ethiopian soldiers entered Somalia in December 2006 to push back the Union of Islamic Courts, an Islamist group with ambitions to establish sharia law in Somalia, from which al-Shabaab subsequently emerged.

But while the UIC’s bid for control was halted, this larger force was unable to fully capture the capital or impose itself in the countryside; the Ethiopians pulled out and were replaced by the Ugandan-dominated AMISOM.

Makerere University political scientist Yassin Olum believes it is time for Uganda to review its position in Somalia, with a view to withdrawing.

“We have to ask ourselves why other African countries are not sending troops to Somalia. Maybe they have realised it’s a hot potato or they view it as an internal matter,” says Olum.

Targeting the AU mission in Somalia

Uganda contributes the majority of the 5,000 troops in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has helped the TFG maintain a tenuous hold over parts of the capital, Mogadishu, but little more.

We are sending a message to every country who is willing to send troops to Somalia that they will face attacks on their territory,” said al-Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamoud Rage following the attacks. He added that Burundi, the second-largest troop contributor to AMISOM after Uganda, “will face similar attacks if they don’t withdraw.”

Bahoku Barigye, spokesperson for AMISOM, told IPS that the mission’s mandate should be expanded from peace-keeping – its terms of reference originate in a U.N. resolution authorising a “training and protection” mission – to one of peace enforcement, for which more soldiers would be needed.

“We have troops guarding the airport, the presidential palace, the port and other key installations this leaves us with few men to defend the civilians,” says Barigye.

Security personnel in Uganda have so far made 20 arrests; two men have also been detained in neighbouring Kenya in connection with the bombings.

Despite previous commitments by members of the African Union to contribute to a force of 20,000 peacekeepers, there are only about 5,000 troops in the Somali capital in support of the weak transitional federal government. Over 3,000 of these are from Uganda, the rest are from Burundi.

Uganda undeterred

At a Jul. 14 meeting called after the Kampala bombings, the Inter Government Authority on Development, a regional bloc of countries in the Horn of Africa, agreed to send an additional 2,000 soldiers.

Uganda has indicated it will send in more of its own troops if other countries are not willing.

Addressing a news conference at his private home in Ntugamo, western Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni said, “It was a very big mistake on their side; we shall

Development goals overshadowed by conflict?
African civil society has voiced concerns that the AU summit to be held in Kampala from Jul. 17-19 could be dominated by the Somalia question.

The official theme of the summit is “Maternal, Infant and Child Health and Development in Africa,” but consideration of this development goal seems likely to suffer the same fate as previous themes on water and sanitation and promotion of agriculture: a formal declaration will be made, but the summit will be dominated by al-Shabaab’s bombing of Uganda, the leading contributor of troops to the AU’s mission in Somalia.

Civil society organisations organised a forum in Kampala ahead of the summit to enable civil society, ordinary citizens and key stake holders deliberate on the key issues and demand action, but now doubt they will get a platform to present their case to African leaders.

l deal with the authors of this crime.” He is also reported to have assured the U.S., which takes an active interest in Somali Islamist activity, that Uganda would not try to disentangle itself from the conflict in Somalia.

The U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier, said, “We believe the Uganda mission is more important than ever now.”

The ambassador said the U.S. planned to increase assistance to Uganda and AMISOM.

Political scientist Yassin Olum says the Ugandan president needed more time to reflect on the matter before making statements.

“What this means is that we are no longer neutral in the conflict and we are fighting on the side of the Transitional Federal Government which is dangerous. This is not conventional warfare where you need more troops to defeat the enemy.”

Fred Bwire, a Kampala city resident, voices the attitude of many ordinary Ugandans towards the Somali mission. “What are we doing there? Our people are being killed for nothing. Why aren’t Kenyans – who are neighbors with Somalia – bothered?”

Hussein Kyanjo, an opposition member of parliament, believes the main beneficiary of Uganda’s continued involvement in Somalia is President Museveni himself. “He knows that the United States of America opposes the al-Shabaab and so he fights U.S. enemies to blind them to his dictatorial tendencies.”

Amama Mbabazi, Uganda’s minister for security, responds that Kyanjo forgets that Uganda was suffered terrorist attacks long before it sent troops to Somalia.

“The Allied Democratic Forces – another rebel outfit with links to Al-Qaeda – killed many people in the past and my friend Kyanjo seems to have forgotten this.”

In their struggle against the government, the Islamist ADF rebels attacked police posts, schools and trade centres in the west of the country beginning in 1996; in 1998, it carried out several bombings in Kampala, killing five and wounding six others. Military action by the Ugandan army largely destroyed the group the following year.


July 21, 2010 as per official UN NEWS we are not convinced the UN has the faintest idea of what to do about Somalia beyond calling for wasting some more money on it:

UN DAILY NEWS from the

21 July, 2010 =========================================================================


As Somalia remains in the grip of a humanitarian crisis, it is vital to ensure adequate funding to assist the 3.2 million people – or more than 40 per cent of the population – who rely on international aid, a senior United Nations aid official stressed today.

UN agencies and their partners have so far received only 56 per cent of the $600 million needed to fund critical areas such as health, water and sanitation, nutrition and livelihood support in Somalia, which is recovering from drought and years of chaos and is also in the throes of ongoing violence.

“My major concern at this time of the year is that there is a renewed emphasis on ensuring that we do address the funding gaps in Somalia to help us to sustain the achievements that can continue to be made in one of the world’s most difficult and acute humanitarian crises,” said Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator for Somalia.

He told a news conference in New York that the situation in the Horn of Africa nation is characterized by severe child malnutrition, loss of livestock and livelihoods, as well as ongoing displacement owing to continued clashes between Government forces and Islamist militant groups.

The conflict has led to Somalia being one of the countries with the highest number of uprooted people in the world – an estimated 1.4 million displaced within the country and almost 595,000 living as refugees in neighbouring countries.

“Conflict is the driving cause behind displacement and most of it comes from Mogadishu,” he said, noting that 20,000 people were displaced in the capital in June, and an estimated 200,000 people have been displaced from the city this year.

In addition, fighting in Mogadishu since March this year has led to more than 3,000 conflict-related casualties.

“What I genuinely hope is that we try to find some way of reducing the impact of this conflict on the civilian population and all parties need to find more peaceful means of settling their disputes,” he said, adding that where that is not possible, to at least avoid the considerable collateral damage on civilians.

Despite the ongoing crisis, Mr. Bowden noted that the situation in Somalia “isn’t all bad news,” although it is one of the most complicated humanitarian situations the UN is facing.

Some major achievements include keeping the country free of polio amid a resurgence of the disease in a number of other African countries. This is thanks to the provision of clean water to 1.3 million people, as well as vaccination campaigns that were carried out, even in volatile areas.

“We are able to make progress in terms of managing humanitarian operations in extremely difficult circumstances, which include control of large parts of the country by rebel groups and active conflict in other parts,” he noted.


And Inner City Press from the UN continues its bleak reporting from the UN that really shows again and again that the UN will not lead the Somalis out of their misery.

See –…

Killing of Civilians by UN Supported Troops in Somalia Admitted But Not Acted On.

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, July 21 — In the wake of the World Cup finals bombing in Uganda, there has been even less discussion of the civilians being killed in Mogadishu by the peacekeeping mission which the UN is supporting. But a memo leaked from within that AMISOM mission notes continued firing into civilian neighborhoods.
Inner City Press asked UN Humanitarian coordinator Mark Bowden whether there is a special responsibility on the UN to ensure that the troops to which it provides logistical support through its UNSOA office are not killing civilians. “Yes there is,” Bowden said, adding that he’s “had discussions” with Ambassador Diarra of the African Union about “reducing civilian casualties.” ………..  it continues

On Child Soldiers Supported by UN in Somalia, UNSC Will Respond After 3 Years.

By Matthew Russell Lee
UNITED NATIONS, June 16, updated — Days after the UN-supported Somali Transitional Federal Government’s use of child soldiers was widely exposed, the UN Security Council’s lack of seriousness on the issue was on display on Wednesday. Mexican foreign minister Patricia Espinosa presided over a day-long series of speeches about children and armed conflict. At noon, Inner City Press asked her what she and the Council would do about their support of the TFG, which uses children as young as nine and 12 to wield AK-47s in Mogadishu.

This has not been raised to the Security Council, Secretary Espinosa replied, not even to the Working Group. …… more



Posted on on July 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Fareed mentioned that on this day, nine years ago, he took the Oath of Naturalization and became a US citizen – clearly a tremendous gain for the US.

He mentioned this while showing 57 military personnel serving with the US forces in Afghanistan who took today their oath of Naturalization right there in Afghanistan swearing that they will be ready to take up arms in the defense of the United States – this please note while they are already fighting on behalf of US Government even though they were not yet US citizens.

This might have been an expressive thing that caught my eye on the CNN/GPS  program – sort of corollary to the main meat of the program that dealt with the G-20 meeting on the World Economy and the US position on the conclusions of the meeting.

Our clear decision watching the program is that the US is far from being united and one. In effect it is divided in two, and it was Fareed Zakaria – the newest American – who tried to bind the two parts into one. But what is even worse, the two opposing parts – both of them – are not purely American – but rather still beholden to the British outreach – this after all of these 234 years.

So, as Fareed would say – “let us see:”

The G-20 decided (that is except for Japan) that we must start decreasing debt because otherwise the cost of borrowing money increases prohibitively. Today is Greece – tomorrow it’s us.

The stakes are the future of US and Global Prosperity and the two opposing points of view are:

(A) As presented by Paul Krugman – an American steeped in Keynesian (English) economics – said that our reaction today is like it was in the 30s and we will face similar consequences – a similar large depression which he calls The Coming Third Depression.

We need increased stimulus now – a la Keynes – and he told us so earlier that the $800 Billion were just not enough. He does not want to see unemployment keeping  workers out of a job for 3-4 years as it becomes harder for them to return ever to a job. They will be lost into a structured unemployment reality.

Also, people will be afraid to spend enough to keep the economy going. In uncertainty they will hold on to their money as this will seem the right thing to do, but it will cause drop in prices and deflation.

So, if we do not increase spending now – in the next 1-2 years – in the short term – we drift into The Third Depression.

A trillion dollars spending now will cause $26 Billion in interest per year but this is not so much.

(B) On the other side was Niall Ferguson, himself British of Glasgow, and we do not know if he ever started steps to become American.

He points a finger at the US debt and says the US must start to decrease spending and have also some increase in taxes if it wants to get back some credibility in the world. He said the financial crisis is already happening – right now – and we will not have a Keynesian answer of stimulus in the future.

The US Treasuries are safe heaven like Pearl Harbor was until something happened. Imagine something happening – then what?

Ferguson talks of a rationalized new tax structure that is a serious option. He was reminded by Fareed that this is the Republican approach that was presented by Congressman Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, and was told that in the Meeting with him, there were two more Congressmen present. So, what we are talking here is a Policy Change but Fareed is skeptical. If we cannot even raise the retiremment age by one year, how will we achieve radical change?

The answer was that when an international Bond market crisis hits – there wil be a radical restructure of policy. It seems that the Republican answer to Keynes is to create first a total collapse that will radicalize the wealth divide before readiness to do anything at all. That smells of the 30s all-right.

Fareed added that American companies have a lot of cash at hand from earnings that they do not spend – to which Ferguson reacted that confidence is low. if you look at China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, growing very fast and you sit on money at a US company, so what are you to do?

The Chinese had it very well when keeping out of a Western Crisis, but they over-heated and have wage unrest as a consequence. If we do the right thing – they will do the right thing – he said.

(C) The Fareed Zakaria Unifier Proposal:
That seems easy – Go for a second stimulus coupled with an announced 10 year program or what we say all the time – do now what should have been done then – Give money to companies only so that they work with you on betterment and problem solving – not as giveaway and bailouts.

Clearly he says – the US never had a problem borrowing money – this until we will!

Further – the issue is not Small Government or Big Government – But Smart Government.


Back to Afghanistan, Fareed Zakaria noted that having been told that the number of Al Qaeda men in Afghanistan is 100, and the yearly expenditure on the war by the US is $100 Billion – this comes to $1 Billion/Al Qaeda man/year. At the same time –  legally, at Afghan airports, $2.7 Million declared money leaves daily, and this is by far much more then all the taxes that the Afghan Government collects. The illegal exit of money is obviously much much higher – so what is the US doing there?


Also, today, July 4, 2010 is DAY 76 of the BP oil-spill and the TV showed a huge ship called “A WHALE” that was refitted specifically for the purpose of collecting water and oil mixtures in order to retrieve the oil from the water. This does not yet make the US independent of its oil industry strongmen.

VENICE, La., July 4 (UPI) — The world’s largest skimming vessel, A Whale, could play a crucial role in oil cleanup efforts in the Gulf of Mexico if tests succeed, maritime experts say.

The tanker, which can skim about 21 million gallons of oil a day by taking in water with oil and separating it, was conducting tests in a 5-square-mile area north of the underwater spill Sunday, CNN reported.

The ship is capable of skimming at least 250 times the amount of oil that modified fishing vessels now in the gulf are able to contain, said Taiwanese shipping company TMT, the ship’s owner.

Initial test results could be available Monday, TMT spokesman Bob Grantham said. A Whale arrived in the gulf Wednesday and was waiting approval to join in cleanup operations.

A Whale is a Liberian flagged oil tanker built in 2010 by Hyundai Heavy Industries, Ulsan, South Korea. She was refitted and converted in Portugal into a so-called “super skimmer” to assist in the clean up of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A Whale arrived in the Gulf of Mexico on 30 June 2010, while financial agreements were yet pending.

The “WHALE” is thus capable to retrieve some of the oil – clearly a financial gain for BP.


Posted on on July 3rd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

from U.S. Department of State

Sat, 03 Jul 2010 18:29:32 -0500

“Civil Society: Supporting Democracy in the 21st Century,” at the Community of Democracies.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Slowacki Theater
Krakow, Poland
July 3, 2010

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I am delighted to be here with all of you. And I thank my friend, Foreign Minister Sikorski, for hosting us here in this absolutely magnificent setting, and for an excellent speech that so well summarized what the agenda for all of us who are members of the Community of Democracies should be.
The idea of bringing together free nations to strengthen democratic norms and institutions began as a joint venture between one of Radek’s predecessors and one of mine: Minister Geremek and Madeleine Albright. And they were visionaries 10 years ago. And it was initially a joint American-Polish enterprise. And I cannot think of a better place for us to mark this occasion than right here in Krakow. Thank you, Madeleine, and thanks to the memory of Minister Geremek.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I think you heard from Foreign Minister Sikorski some of the reasons why Poland is an example of what democracies can accomplish. After four decades of privation, stagnation, and fear under Communism, freedom dawned. And it was not only the personal freedoms that people were once again able to claim for their own, but Poland’s per capital GDP today is nine times what it was in 1990. And in the middle of a deep, global recession, the Polish economy has continued to expand.
By any measure, Poland is stronger politically, as well. We all mourned with Poland in April when a plane crash claimed the lives of Poland’s president, the first lady, and many other national officials. It was one of the greatest single losses of leadership suffered by any country in modern history. But it is a tribute to Poland’s political evolution that, in the aftermath of that accident, the country’s institutions never faltered. And tomorrow polls will move forward with selecting a president through free and fair elections.
Now, I would argue that this progress was neither accidental nor inevitable. It came about through a generation of work to improve governance, grow the private sector, and strengthen civil society. These three essential elements of a free nation — representative government, a well-functioning market, and civil society — work like three legs of a stool. They lift and support nations as they reach for higher standards of progress and prosperity.
Now, I would be the first to admit that no democracy is perfect. In fact, our founders were smart enough to enshrine in our founding documents the idea that we had to keep moving toward a more perfect union. Because, after all, democracies rely on the wisdom and judgment of flawed human beings. But real democracies recognize the necessity of each side of that three-legged stool. And democracies that strengthen these three segments of society can deliver extraordinary results for their people.
Today I would like to focus on one leg of that stool: civil society. Now, markets and politics usually receive more attention. But civil society is every bit as important. And it undergirds both democratic governance and broad-based prosperity. Poland actually is a case study in how a vibrant civil society can produce progress. The heroes of the solidarity movement, people like Geremek and Lech Walesa and Adam Michnik, and millions of others laid the foundation for the Poland we see today. They knew that the Polish people desired and deserved more from their country. And they transformed that knowledge into one of history’s greatest movements for positive change.
Now, not every nation has a civil society movement on the scale of Solidarity. But most countries do have a collection of activists, organizations, congregations, writers, and reporters that work through peaceful means to encourage governments to do better, to do better by their own people. Not all of these organizations or individuals are equally effective, of course. And they do represent a broad range of opinions. And, having been both in an NGO and led NGOs and been in government, I know that it’s sometimes tough to deal with NGOs when you are in the government.

But it doesn’t matter whether the goal is better laws or lower crime or cleaner air or social justice or consumer protection or entrepreneurship and innovation, societies move forward when the citizens that make up these groups are empowered to transform common interests into common actions that serve the common good.

As we meet here on the eve of our American Fourth of July celebration, the day when we commemorate our independence, I want to say a word about why the issue of civil society is so important to Americans. Our independence was a product of our civil society. Our civil society was pre-political. And it was only through debate, discussion, and civic activism that the United States of America came into being. We were a people before we were a nation. And civil society not only helped create our nation, it helped sustain and power our nation into the future. It was representatives of civil society who were the first to recognize that the American colonies could not continue without democratic governance. And after we won our independence, it was activists who helped establish our democracy. And they quickly recognized that they were a part of a broader struggle for human rights, human dignity, human progress.

Civil society has played an essential role in identifying and eradicating the injustices that have, throughout our history, separated our nation from the principles on which it was founded. It was civil society, after all, that gave us the abolitionists who fought the evils of slavery, the suffragettes who campaigned for women’s rights, the freedom marchers who demanded racial equality, the unions that championed the rights of labor, the conservationists who worked to protect our planet and climate.

I did begin my professional life in civil society. The NGO I worked for, the Children’s Defense Fund, helped expand educational opportunities for poor children and children with disabilities, and tried to address the challenges faced by young people in prison.

Now, I would be the first to say that our work did not transform our nation or remake our government overnight. But when that kind of activism is multiplied across an entire country through the work of hundreds, even thousands of NGOs, it does produce real and lasting positive change. So a commitment to strengthening civil society has been one of my constants throughout my public career as First Lady, Senator, and now Secretary of State. I was able to work with Slovakian NGOs that stood up to and ultimately helped bring down an authoritarian government. I have seen civil society groups in India bring the benefits of economic empowerment to the most marginalized women in that society. I have watched in wonder as a small group of women activists in South Africa begin with nothing and went on to build a community of 50,000 homes.

President Obama shares this commitment. In his case, it led him to become a community organizer in Chicago. Both of us joined in the work of civil society because we believe that when citizens nudge leaders in the right direction, our country grows stronger. The greatness of the United States depends on our willingness to seek out and set right the areas where we fall short. For us and for every country, civil society is essential to political and economic progress. Even in the most challenging environments, civil society can help improve lives and empower citizens.

In fact, I want to recognize two women activists who are with us today from Afghanistan and Iran. If Faiza Babakan and Afifa Azim would stand up, I would just like to thank you for your courage and your willingness to be here.


SECRETARY CLINTON: Now, it may seem to some of us like a very nice, but perhaps not essential presence to have just one woman from each country be here. But I can speak from personal experience that, just as civil society is essential to democracy, women are essential to civil society. And these women speak for so many who have never had a chance to have their voices heard.

So, along with well-functioning markets and responsible, accountable government, progress in the 21st century depends on the ability of individuals to coalesce around shared goals, and harness the power of their convictions. But when governments crack down on the right of citizens to work together, as they have throughout history, societies fall into stagnation and decay.
North Korea, a country that cannot even feed its own people, has banned all civil society. In Cuba and Belarus, as Radek said, civil society operates under extreme pressure. The Government of Iran has turned its back on a rich tradition of civil society, perpetrating human rights abuses against many activists and ordinary citizens who just wanted the right to be heard.
There is also a broader group of countries where the walls are closing in on civic organizations.

Over the last 6 years, 50 governments have issued new restrictions against NGOs, and the list of countries where civil society faces resistance is growing longer. In Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo, physical violence directed against individual activists has been used to intimidate and silence entire sectors of civil society. Last year, Ethiopia imposed a series of strict new rules on NGOs. Very few groups have been able to re-register under this new framework, particularly organizations working on sensitive issues like human rights. The Middle East and North Africa are home to a diverse collection of civil society groups. But too many governments in the region still resort to intimidation, questionable legal practices, restrictions on NGO registration, efforts to silence bloggers.

I hope we will see progress on this issue, and especially in Egypt, where that country’s vibrant civil society has often been subjected to government pressure in the form of canceled conferences, harassing phone calls, frequent reminders that the government can close organizations down, even detention and long-term imprisonment and exile.

In Central Asian countries, constitutions actually guarantee the right of association. But governments still place onerous restrictions on NGO activity, often through legislation or stringent registration requirements. Venezuela’s leaders have tried to silence independent voices that seek to hold that government accountable. In Russia, while we welcome President Medvedev’s statements in support of the rule of law, human rights activities and journalists have been targeted for assassination, and virtually none of these crimes have been solved.

And we continue to engage on civil society issues with China, where writer Liu Xiaobo is serving an 11-year prison sentence because he co-authored a document calling for respect for human rights and democratic reform. Too many governments are seeing civic activists as opponents, rather than partners. And as democracies, we must recognize that this trend is taking place against a broader backdrop.

In the 20th century, crackdowns against civil society frequently occurred under the guise of ideology. Since the demise of Communism, most crackdowns seem to be motivated instead by sheer power politics. But behind these actions, there is an idea, an alternative conception of how societies should be organized. And it is an idea that democracies must challenge. It is a belief that people are subservient to their government, rather than government being subservient to their people.

Now, this idea does not necessarily preclude citizens from forming groups that help their communities or promote their culture, or even support political causes. But it requires these private organizations to seek the state’s approval, and to serve the states and the states’ leaderships’ larger agenda.

Think for a moment about the civil society activists around the world who have recently been harassed, censored, cut off from funding, arrested, prosecuted, even killed. Why did they provoke such persecution?

Some weren’t engaged in political work at all. Some were not trying to change how their countries were governed. Most were simply getting help to people in need, like the Burmese activists imprisoned for organizing relief for victims of Cyclone Nargis. Some of them were exposing problems like corruption that their own governments claim they want to root out. Their offense was not just what they did, but the fact that they did it independently of their government. They were out doing what we would call good deeds, but doing them without permission. That refusal to allow people the chance to organize in support of a cause larger than themselves, but separate from the state, represents an assault on one of our fundamental democratic values.

The idea of pluralism is integral to our understanding of what it means to be a democracy. Democracies recognize that no one entity — no state, no political party, no leader — will ever have all the answers to the challenges we face. And, depending on their circumstances and traditions, people need the latitude to work toward and select their own solutions. Our democracies do not and should not look the same. Governments by the people, for the people, and of the people will look like the people they represent. But we all recognize the reality and importance of these differences. Pluralism flows from these differences. And because crackdowns on NGOs are a direct threat to pluralism, they also endanger democracy.

More than 60 years ago, Winston Churchill came to the United States to warn the world’s democracies of an iron curtain descending across Europe. Today, thankfully, thanks to some of you in this room, that iron curtain has fallen. But we must be wary of the steel vise in which many governments around the world are slowly crushing civil society and the human spirit.
Today, meeting together as a community of democracies, it is our responsibility to address this crisis. Some of the countries engaging in these behaviors still claim to be democracies because they have elections. But, as I have said before, democracy requires far more than an election. It has to be a 365-day-a-year commitment, by government and citizens alike, to live up to the fundamental values of democracy, and accept the responsibilities of self government.

Democracies don’t fear their own people. They recognize that citizens must be free to come together to advocate and agitate, to remind those entrusted with governance that they derive their authority from the governed. Restrictions on these rights only demonstrate the fear of illegitimate rulers, the cowardice of those who deny their citizens the protections they deserve. An attack on civic activism and civil society is an attack on democracy.

Now, sometimes I think that the leaders who are engaging in these actions truly believe they are acting in the best interests of their country. But they begin to inflate their own political interests, the interests of that country, and they begin to believe that they must stay in office by any means necessary, because only they can protect their country from all manner of danger.
Part of what it requires to be a true democracy is to understand that political power must be passed on, and that despite the intensity of elections, once the elections are over, whoever is elected fairly and freely must then try to unify the country, despite the political division.

I ran a very hard race against President Obama. I tried with all my might to beat him. I was not successful. And when he won, much to my surprise, he asked me to join his Administration to serve as Secretary of State. Well, in many countries, I learned as I began traveling, that was a matter of great curiosity. How could I work with someone whom I had tried to deprive of the office that he currently holds? But the answer for both President Obama and I was very simple. We both love our country. Politics is an important part of the lifeblood of a democracy. But governing, changing people’s lives for the better, is the purpose one runs for office.

In the Community of Democracies, we have to begin asking the hard questions, whether countries that follow the example of authoritarian states and participate in this assault on civil society can truly call themselves democracies. And to address this challenge, civil society groups and democratic governments must come together around some common goals. The Community of Democracies is already bringing together governments and civil society organizations, some of whom are represented here. And it is well suited to lead these efforts. I know that the Community of Democracies working group on enabling and protecting civil society is already working to turn this vision into a reality. The United States pledges to work with this community to develop initiatives that support civil society and strengthen governments committed to democracy.

With the leadership and support of countries like Lithuania, Poland, Canada, and Mongolia, I believe that the Community’s 20th anniversary could be a celebration of the expanding strength of civil society, and the true institutionalization of the habits of the heart that undergird democracy. To make that happen, our joint efforts, I believe, should include at least four elements. First, the Community of Democracies should work to establish, as Radek recommended, an objective, independent mechanism for monitoring repressive measures against NGOs.

Second, the United Nations Human Rights Council needs to do more to protect civil society. Freedom of association is the only freedom defined in the United Nations declaration of human rights that does not enjoy specific attention from the UN human rights machinery. That must change.

Third, we will be working with regional and other organizations, such as the OAS, the EU, the OIC, the African Union, the Arab League, others, to do more to defend the freedom of association. Many of these groups are already committed to upholding democratic principles on paper. But we need to make sure words are matched by actions.

And, fourth, we should coordinate our diplomatic pressure. I know that the Community of Democracies working group is focused on developing a rapid response mechanism to address situations where freedom of association comes under attack. Well, that can’t happen soon enough. When NGOs come under threat, we should provide protection where we can, and amplify the voices of activists by meeting with them publicly at home and abroad, and citing their work in what we say and do. We can also provide technical training that will help activists make use of new technologies such as social networks. When possible, we should also work together to provide deserving organizations with financial support for their efforts.

Now, there are some misconceptions around this issue, and I would like to address it. In the United States, as in many other democracies, it is legal and acceptable for private organizations to raise money abroad and receive grants from foreign governments, so long as the activities do not involve specifically banned sources, such as terrorist groups. Civic organizations in our country do not need the approval of the United States Government to receive funds from overseas. And foreign NGOs are active inside the United States. We welcome these groups in the belief that they make our nation stronger and deepen relationships between America and the rest of the world. And it is in that same spirit that the United States provides funding to foreign civil society organizations that are engaged in important work in their own countries. And we will continue this practice, and we would like to do more of it in partnership with other democracies.

As part of that commitment, today I am announcing the creation of a new fund to support the work of embattled NGOs. We hope this fund will be used to provide legal representation, communication technology such as cell phone and Internet access, and other forms of quick support to NGOs that are under siege. The United States will be contributing $2 million to this effort, and we welcome participation and contribution from like-minded countries, as well as private, not-for-profit organizations.
The persecution of civil society activists and organizations, whether they are fighting for justice and law, or clean and open government, or public health, or a safe environment, or honest elections, it’s not just an attack against people we admire, it’s an attack against our own fundamental beliefs. So when we defend these great people, we are defending an idea that has been and will remain essential to the success of every democracy. So the stakes are high for us, not just them.

For the United States, supporting civil society groups is a critical part of our work to advance democracy. But it’s not the only part. Our national security strategy reaffirms that democratic values are a cornerstone of our foreign policy. Over time, as President Obama has said, America’s values have been our best national security asset. I emphasized this point in December and January, when I delivered speeches on human rights and Internet freedom. And it is a guiding principle in every meeting I hold and every country I visit.

My current trip is a good example. I have just come from Ukraine, where I had the opportunity not only to meet with the foreign minister and the president, but with a wonderful group of young, bright Ukrainian students, where I discussed the importance of media freedom, the importance of freedom of assembly, and of human rights. Tonight I will leave for Azerbaijan, where I will meet with youth activists to discuss Internet freedom, and to raise the issue of the two imprisoned bloggers, and to discuss civil liberties. From there I will go to Armenia and Georgia, where I will be similarly raising these issues, and sitting down with leaders from women’s groups and other NGOs. This is what we all have to do, day in and day out around the world.

So, let me return to that three-legged stool. Civil society is important for its own sake. But it also helps prop up and stabilize the other legs of the stool, governments and markets. Without the work of civic activists and pluralistic political discourse, governments grow brittle and may even topple. And without consumer advocates, unions, and social organizations that look out for the needs of societies’ weakest members, markets can run wild and fail to generate broad-based prosperity.

We see all three legs of the stool as vital to progress in the 21st century. So we will continue raising democracy and human rights issues at the highest levels in our contacts with foreign governments, and we will continue promoting economic openness and competition as a means of spreading broad-based prosperity and shoring up representative governments who know they have to deliver results for democracy.

But we also believe that the principles that bring us here together represent humanity’s brightest hope for a better future. As Foreign Minister Geremek wrote in his invitation to the inaugural meeting of the Community of Democracies 10 years ago, “Regardless of the problems inseparably associated with democracy, it is a system which best fulfills the aspirations of individuals, societies, and entire peoples, and most fully satisfies their needs of development, empowerment, and creativity.”
So, ultimately, our work on these issues is about the type of future we want to leave to our children and grandchildren. And anyone who doubts this should look at Poland. The world we live in is more open, more secure, and more prosperous because of individuals like Lech Walesa, Adam Michnik, others who worked through the solidarity movement to improve conditions in their own country, and who stand for freedom and democracy.

I think often about the role of journalists. Journalists are under tremendous pressure. But a journalist like Jerse Tarovich, a son of Krakow, asked tough questions that challenged Poland to do better. And Pope John Paul II, who, as Stalin would have noted, had no battalions, marshaled moral authority that was as strong as any army. We all have inherited that legacy of courage. It is now up to us.

Every Fourth of July Americans affirm their belief that all human beings are created equal, that we are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Today, as a community of democracies, let us make it our mission to secure those rights. We owe it to our forebears, and we owe it to future generations to continue the fight for these ideals.

Thank you all very much.


Posted on on June 21st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Saturday, June 19, 2010

U.S. and India must move beyond symbolism.

Special to The Japan Times

LONDON — The United States held its first ever strategic dialogue with India early June. It covered a whole gamut of issues including high technology trade, science and technology cooperation, civil nuclear cooperation, human resource development and security issues.

U.S. President Barack Obama attended a reception hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. This was reportedly done to counter a growing perception that India does not figure as prominently in the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda as it was during the Bush period.

At the reception, Obama underlined that New Delhi was “indispensable” to the world order as the U.S. hopes to build. Obama had also called the Indian prime minister before the Krishna-Clinton meeting and the two had agreed that the strategic dialogue was an important milestone in the development of the U.S.-India strategic partnership.

Recently the Obama administration released its National Security Strategy (NSS) and a central part of the new strategy is expanding U.S. engagement with “other key centers of influence — including China, India and Russia, as well as increasingly influential nations such as Brazil, South Africa and Indonesia.”

The new NSS describes a world in which emerging powers are beginning to erode some elements of American influence around the globe. It describes an America “hardened by war” and “disciplined by a devastating economic crisis.” It insists that the U.S. “will maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades.”

The document’s treatment of China and India is markedly different. Though it welcomes a China “that takes on a responsible leadership role in working with the U.S. and international community,” it makes it clear that the U.S. “will monitor China’s military modernization program and prepare accordingly to ensure that U.S. interests and allies regionally and globally, are not affected.”

The treatment of India, meanwhile, is all positive. The NSS says “the U.S. and India are building a strategic partnership that is underpinned by our shared interests, our shared values as the world’s two largest democracies and close connections among our people.” It also underlines that “India’s responsible advancement serves as a positive example for developing nations.”

The U.S.-India strategic dialogue, therefore, took place in a context where Washington seems to be putting in a lot of effort to impart a new dynamism to its ties with New Delhi. But most of it is at the level of symbols. It is time to move to substance.

The focus of the dialogue was on strengthening cooperation on energy, climate change, education, trade and agriculture, and strategic issues. Predictably, the “Singh-Obama 21st Century Knowledge Initiative” was prioritized, and bilateral cooperation in the areas of food security and health got a boost. A global disease-detection center in India is being planned as one of the flagship science and technology ventures between the U.S. and India.

On two crucial issues, terrorism and Afghanistan, the joint statement issued at the end of the dialogue struck all the right notes. The U.S. not only committed itself to bringing the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks to justice but also assured India of its continued support in counterterrorism investigations. India has been given access to David Headley, the Lashkar operative who has confessed to its role in the Mumbai attacks.

Welcoming India’s vital contribution to “reconstruction, capacity building and development efforts in Afghanistan,” Washington has also undertaken to regularly consult Delhi on Afghanistan.

But clearly this will not be enough and a lot of work will be needed to impart momentum to flagging Indo-U.S. ties. The soaring rhetoric of the joint statement needs to get converted into tangible steps that the two sides can take to strengthen their mutually important relationship.

The two nations need to realize the full potential of bilateral defense trade by moving ahead on export-control issues. If the U.S. considers India as a strategic partner then it should give serious consideration to changing its export control laws that continue to hurt India. For New Delhi, it is also imperative that there is greater clarity on the role of Pakistan in Afghanistan, especially in the emerging reconciliation plans with the Taliban.

U.S. officials have signaled that India’s role in Afghanistan has not been helpful and Pakistan’s sensitivities in Afghanistan should be given greater prominence. India also seeks clarification on the U.S. stand on the recently announced China-Pakistan nuclear reactor deal as there are signs the U.S. position toward China-Pakistan nuclear cooperation may be softening.

The Bush years are a tough act to follow, but the Obama administration has made some diplomatic gaffes that were clearly avoidable. New Delhi should be looking beyond rhetoric and should resist getting flattered by the atmospherics. It should not be afraid to raise issues that have complicated Indian ties with the Obama administration over the last year and a half.

Most significantly, for this strategic dialogue to have any meaning, India will have to first figure out what it wants out of its relationship with the U.S. For far too long the U.S. has driven the Indo-U.S. relationship. It is now time for India to get some clarity on its own strategic agenda.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College.


Posted on on June 21st, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Takla Boujaoude <>

FROM:            Women’s Dialogue for Action / Cecilia Attias Foundation

CONTACT:     Rubenstein Commuications

Tom Chiodo (212) 843.8289

Iva Benson (212) 843.8271



More than 100 NGO’s,

50 Public & Private Sector Executives,

20 Media Leaders

Including Cindi Leive of Glamour Magazine,

Sade Baderinwa of ABC News,

Alison Smale of the International Herald Tribune,

Gisel Khoury of Al Arabiya and

Pamela Gross of Avenue Magazine

To Participate In

Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women’s Dialogue for Action


Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women’s Inaugural gathering will unite NGO’s, media, civic and business leaders from around the world to define and work towards solving the most pressing issues affecting women across all five continents.


New York, NY – (June 10, 2010) – The Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women’s Dialogue for Action, being held June 24 in New York City, today announced that Cindi Leive, Editor, Glamour Magazine, Dina Powell, Chairwoman, Goldman Sachs Foundation, Sila Calderon, Former Governor of Puerto Rico, Minister of State Innocence Ntap, Senegal, Zeinab Salbi, President, Women for Women International and Dr Edit Schlaffer, President, Women Without Borders will join the many other leaders who be taking part of the Round Table discussions at the inaugural Dialogue for Action.

“I am pleased that so many prominent individuals have recognized the need to immediately gather around the same table and collaborate to find solutions to the many dire issues affecting women,” said former First Lady of France and Foundation President Cecilia Attias, “We need to work now to find implementable solutions and give a voice to the millions of women who are not able to speak out on their own.”

The first annual Dialogue for Action to take place in conjunction with the New York Forum ( will bring together an exceptional group of NGO leaders, experts and influencers from the private and public sectors.  This unique, interactive format provides a new platform, where action-driven discussions will focus exclusively on identifying and finding solutions to the main issues facing women per continent.

Following the Dialogue for Action, The Cécilia Attias Foundation for Women will see that dedicated initiatives are implemented where needed.  Local regional meetings will be organized as part of the follow-up in the field to assess the progress of each initiative.

The International Herald Tribune is the Official Media Sponsor of The Dialogue for Action. WANGO, The World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations is the strategic partner of the Dialogue for Action whose global network of NGOs and affiliates has become an international leader in tackling issues of serious global concern.



2:00 – 6:00pm
Park Avenue Room, Mezzanine Level
109 East 42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal  Tel: +1 212 883 1234

Park Avenue Room, Mezzanine Level

Welcome Coffee
Ballroom Level


Key Note Address by Cecilia Attias, Founder and President, The Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women


Facilitated by Sade Baderinwa, Anchor/Reporter WABC-TV

· Bazaiba Masudi Eve, Senator and President of Congolese Women League for Election
· Esther Ibanga, Pastor Women on the Plateau Peace Initiative
· Molly Melching, Executive Director Tostan
· Promise Mthembu, Executive Director Her Rights Initiative

· Letty Chiwara, Chief of the Africa Division for UNIFEM
· Innocence Ntap, Minister of Civil Service, Labor and Professional Organizations, Senegal
· Prinitha Pillay, Medical Doctor, Doctors without Borders

With the Support of:
· Fatou Sow Sarr, Professor at Dakar University

Special Closing Address by: Sophie Delaunay, Executive Director Doctors Without Borders


Facilitated by Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief Glamour Magazine

· Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Hour Children
· Rosario Perez, CEO, Pro Mujer
· Sima Quraishi, Executive Director, Muslim Women Resource Center
· Dale Standifer, Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Women and Children

· Adrienne Germain, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition
· Pamela Gross, Editor at Large, The Hill
· Ambassador Craig Stapleton, Former Ambassador to France
· Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of Partnership for New York City

Special Closing Address by: Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking

12:30-2:00pm LUNCH BALLROOM I


Facilitated by Anita Pratap, Documentary Filmmaker, Author, Journalist
· Sakena Yacoobi, Executive Director, Afghan Institute of Learning
· Dr. Basmah Omair, CEO of Khadija Bint Khawilid Center for Businesswomen
· Manju Kochar, Chairman, Prasad Chikitsa
· Guy Jacobsen, Founder Redlight Children

With the Support of:
· Lucky Chherti, Founder and Program Director, Empowering Women of Nepal
· Bandana Rana, President, SAATHI

· Chékéba Hachemi, President, Afghanistan Libre
· Dina Powell, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Global Head of the Office of Corporate Engagement
· Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International
· Mu Sochua, Member of Cambodian Parliament and Human Rights Advocate


Facilitated by Alison Smale, Executive Editor, International Herald Tribune

· Sophie Romana, Executive Director, PlaNet Finance
· Edit Schlaffer, Chairman and Founder, Women Without Borders, SAVE – Sisters Against Violent Extremism
· May de Silva, Director, Women into Politics
· Inna Tymchyk, Board Member, Faith, Hope and Love

· David Arkless, President, Global Corporate & Government Affairs, Manpower Inc.
· Kat Rohrer, Director/Producer, GreenKat Productions
· Fernando Villalonga, Consul General of Spain

Closing remarks Cecilia Attias, Founder and President, The Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women


Posted on on June 10th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

With the EU unraveling by the day and global money having moved elsewhere, it is natural that the US is following a policy of enlarging its circle of friends. From among the newly industrialized economies, China, Brazil, India, South Korea and other larger relative-newcomers including now also Turkey, it seems that the fact India is the largest democracy in the world may give it an advantage in closeness to the US. But this was not always easy, and may not be any easier today – except when compared to the alternatives. And worse, as we heard today from Professor Charles Kupchan, who at UN University told us his findings on “The Sources of Stable Peace” – compatible regimes are not really needed for successful cooperation between States.

President Bush already started driving nearer to India and President Obama took this on from the start of his Administration. it was no coincidence that the first gala evening in the Obama White House was the State Dinner, November 24, 2010, with India (the second such dinner, so far, was with Mexico May 19, 2010).

Since then there was a series of meetings – in the US and in India, and now we just witnessed something that was defined as the Inaugural US-India Strategic Dialogue that involved Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the US Department of State June 1-4, 2010 in Washington DC. A very impressive list of Indian guests participated. It was led by Ms. Clinton’s counterpart – Minister of External Affairs Sri S. M. Krishna.

The obvious topics of discussion revolved around a Strategic future in US-India cooperation in India’s immediate region – that includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Iran. We bet that China was also being discussed, but we wondered what about the follow up to Copenhagen – both – in preparation for Cancun but also on the bilateral level.

We had our chance to satisfy partly this curiosity when we had the chance to ask questions from Ambassador Robert Blake Jr. who is at present Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, and coincidentally was prior to his present position – US Ambassador to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. As such, we knew that already January 2007, Mr. Blake Jr., a professional diplomat, son of a professional diplomat, met with then President of The Maldives, Maumon Abdul Gayoom, to discuss renewable energy in the Maldives, and we assume they touched also upon the whole issue of global warming/climate change.  We thought it was fortunate to have him as spokesman for the meeting, as the prominence of the Maldives was clear at the run-up to Copenhagen.

A second topic we wanted to ask about is the issue we already brought up in –… and this is the potential of a financial US – India – Arab Gulf States triangle with a renewable energy orientation; US and Indian technology and Arab (former oil) money.

We were lucky, and because of the quality of the answers we got – I will copy in the full transcript of our two questions and the answers we got From The Read-out of the  U.S.-India Strategic Dialogue:

FPC (Foreign Press Centers in Washington DC and in New York City) Briefing.

by Ambassador Robert Blake Jr.
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs

June 7, 2010

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let’s go to New York so we don’t ignore them.

(A) Sustainable Development Media: I’m Pincas Jawetz from Sustainable Development Media:  I understand that you personally were ambassador to the Maldives before this position, and you had discussions with President Gayoom on renewable energy and our energy global problems.

Now India was part of the group with Brazil and South Africa and China and President Obama that saved somehow the Copenhagen meeting so it was not the disaster of the way how it was described, but actually there was some kind of a road map that came out of there.

But my question is now, thus with the Maldives, that were very prominent in Copenhagen, and India, what has actually happened since Copenhagen? And if this past week you had any discussions with India here in Washington?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Thank you for that question. As you say, I was accredited for the Maldives while I was ambassador in Sri Lanka and we had a number of good areas of cooperation with the Maldives that we started during that time, particularly in the solar and wind area. And we’re going to build on that cooperation with the Maldives going forward because President Nasheed and his team have really made climate change a very high strategic priority for their country because of the threats that they face from climate change if the current trends continue. I think all of us have been very grateful to the leadership that President Nasheed has shown, in addition to the leadership that Prime Minister Singh has shown.

As you correctly noted, the President welcomed the very important role that Prime Minister Singh played in the Copenhagen negotiations, to help bring those to a successful conclusion, and since then our two governments have been working very closely together, and India has formally now associated itself with that accord. India wants to work very closely with the United States and other countries to achieve a successful outcome in Mexico City.

So we had a conversation about this. Our climate change negotiator, Todd Stern, made a presentation during the Strategic Dialogue. Minister Jairam Ramesh was not, unfortunately, here for those talks. But he and Todd Stern remain in very close touch and I’d say that this is one of the many areas in which the United States and India are cooperating productively and closely on global issues.


Moderator: We have time for two more questions. We’ll go to New York and take our last question here in Washington.

Sustainable Development Media: This is a different kind of strategic question. India has strong financial relationships in the Gulf area, especially with Dubai and Abu Dhabi; even in renewable energy. Now is there any chance for a triangular relationship between the United States, Emirates, maybe Qatar and India in these areas? My question is really on energy.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: We haven’t really discussed that yet, but that’s not a bad idea. What we have done, I’d say we have common interests in talking to the countries of the Gulf because many of those countries, not the governments themselves but elements within those countries, are providing support for the Taliban and for LET and for other groups like that. So I think we have a very important common interest in working together to address that financial threat. Again, indeed, that is a great focus in what we’re doing already with respect to the Taliban in Afghanistan. But I think there is scope for greater cooperation in that area.


Looking at the above – the first cringe came when I learned that Indian Minister Jairam Ramesh was not in Washington for these June 2010 meetings.

Jairam Ramesh has been an elected member of the Indian Parliament representing Andhra Pradesh  since June 2004. He is the Indian Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Environment and Forests since May, 2009. He is also a member of the National Advisory Council. From January 2006 to February, 2009, he was the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry and from April 2008 to February, 2009 was also the Minister of State for Power in the Congress Party-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. He was the most prominent Indian Minister involved in the Copenhagen daily events.

From his biography we learned:

Ramesh bided his time after the Congress Party lost the 1989 elections and resurfaced in 1991 to provide intellectual inputs into Rajiv Gandhi’s election campaign. In recent years he has advised Sonia Gandhi, leader of the Congress party.

Following his 2009 re-election to the Indian Parliament, on May 28, 2009 Ramesh was given independent charge of Environment and Forests as Minister of State in the Congress-led administration. He was chief negotiator for India at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark, between 7 to 18 December 2009.

Also – regarding the recent Bhopal verdict, a subject that is very much in India’s mind, Jairam Ramesh just said yesterday – June 9th, 2010:” The Verdict is Very Unsatisfactory.” In his 50’s now, Ramesh is a main factor when it comes to the environment.

NEW DELHI – by IANS –… – Terming the verdict in the Bhopal gas disaster “very unsatisfactory”, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh Tuesday said his ministry will focus on strictly implementing the environment protection law to ensure such incidents do not occur in future.

“It is a matter of deep anguish for me personally, and it has taken so long, and the verdict clearly is very unsatisfactory from every point of view. It has caused understandable furor, particularly among people affected by the tragedy, and civil society groups,” Ramesh told reporters here.

He said his ministry was concerned with implementing the Environment Protection Act, 1986, brought in by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in the wake of the 1984 tragedy that killed thousands of people.

“What I can assure people is we will be strict without fear and favour in implementing the act so that future Bhopals don’t occur,” Ramesh said.


We bring this up as we thought he should have been in Washington in order to help align a joint US-India approach ahead of Cancun. But then we learned from another Indian source that – “On July 19-20, 2010 US Energy Secretary Chu will host a meeting of 20 of his colleagues (Ministers of Energy),  including India.    At that time he proposes to offer an invitation to join an initiative to promote white roofs to delay climate change, plus their familiar virtues.”   I assume thus that even without Mr. Ramesh, the presence of the Ministers of Energy at the meeting was helpful in coming up with practical ideas on climate issues.

But let us not sound negative. There is going to be on June 22, 2010 a meeting to receive the recommendations of a bilateral revitalized CEO Forum when U.S. and Indian cabinet secretaries gather again to meet with the CEOs and hear their thoughts on how our two governments can further relax restrictions and improve opportunities for trade and investment. It seems that above was said in context of joint developments in the energy sector using private enterprise and innovation – and “the United States plans to send a high level delegation of high tech and other innovation entrepreneurs to Delhi in the fall to develop new partnerships and initiatives in this area in advance of President Obama’s visit in November.”

So, there seems to be activity in those areas of our interest and agreements will be readied for President Obama’s trip to New Delhi in November 2010. This seems an extremely fast schedule when judged against the slow usually behaviour in Washington DC.




FPC Briefing
Robert Blake Jr.
Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
June 7, 2010

Over the last ten years we’ve made a systematic, bipartisan effort to improve relations between the United States and India, probably highlighted by the civil nuclear deal in the last administration.

President Obama and Prime Minister Singh decided they would try to elevate our partnership further by establishing this Strategic Dialogue between the United States and India. It was announced last year during Secretary Clinton’s visit to India that you’re familiar with.

Our meetings on June 2nd and June 3rd marked the inauguration of our first Strategic Dialogue. Those meetings featured a wide range of both plenary sessions and bilateral meetings between the U.S. and Indian delegations. Let me just focus on the plenary session.

Secretary Clinton and Minister Krishna led a very wide-ranging two and a half hour discussion that was then followed by a lunch session. I think it was notable because for the first time in our history we had large numbers of cabinet level secretaries on our side and ministers on the Indian side to share ideas and to consider strategic initiatives on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

The Secretary and Minister Krishna asked the delegations to use the opportunity to really conduct a strategic look at how we could focus our future cooperation. Obviously many of the ideas that surfaced will now be worked, but let me just touch briefly on some of the matters that were discussed.

Security and counterterrorism cooperation was a top priority. We discussed collaboration on a Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative to further improve information sharing and capacity building between our two countries, and we agreed to look at expanding cooperation in cyber security.

Energy cooperation was also a major focus. Charting a clean and lower carbon energy future is obviously very very important both to the United States and to India. The Indian side reaffirmed their commitment to moving forward with putting in place a nuclear liability regime that will open the door for U.S. companies to export civil nuclear technology to India.

We also discussed ways that the United States can help India to ensure that the massive infrastructure investments that will be made over the next two decades in India can benefit from Indo-U.S. cooperation on things like energy efficiency, smart grids, and many, many other new ideas that are being pioneered in both of our countries.

The United States also shared a draft Memorandum of Understanding with India on shale gas cooperation that both sides believe offers great promise in India.

On the economy, we discussed the importance of sustaining momentum in our trade growth which has doubled over the last five years. As you heard the Secretary say in her public remarks, she mentioned the important boost that India could give to trade and investment by raising some of the foreign direct investment caps that exist in areas such as retail, defense and insurance.

Both sides also look forward to receiving the recommendations of our revitalized CEO Forum when U.S. and Indian cabinet secretaries gather again on June 22nd to meet with the CEOs and hear their thoughts on how our two governments can further relax restrictions and improve opportunities for trade and investment.

The delegations also discussed a wide range of steps our two governments can take to ensure that innovation is a source of growth and dynamism for our two knowledge economies.

The United States plans to send a high level delegation of high tech and other innovation entrepreneurs to Delhi in the fall to develop new partnerships and initiatives in this area in advance of President Obama’s visit in November.

Minister Sibal, the Minister of Human Resources Development, also briefed on India’s hope to see passage this year of legislation that would allow foreign universities to establish campuses and offer degrees for the first time in India. We think this would open enormous new opportunities for American institutions of higher learning of all kinds and help drive new science and technology and other kinds of innovation.

One of the areas where we agreed that we will seek closer scientific collaboration is in the area of food security. Both sides agreed to establish working groups to develop concrete proposals for the United States and India to enhance food security in third countries; to strengthen farm to market links and food processing inside India; and also to develop an initiative to expand weather and crop forecasting.

The common theme underlying all of these discussions was what Secretary Clinton said in her remarks at the concluding press conference. How can the U.S. and India intensify our already wide cooperation to focus on how to deliver results that will make a difference in the lives of the people of the United States, of India, and of the wider world?

We capped the visit and the day with a very sparkling visit by our President who came over for a rare visit to the State Department to honor External Affairs Minister Krishna and his delegation. President Obama, as you all know, announced that he will visit India in November. And he emphasized that our partnership with India is one of his highest strategic priorities.

In sum, as the President says, the United States sees India as an indispensable partner as we move forward in the 21st Century. The Strategic Dialogue that we initiated last week took U.S.-India relations to unprecedented new levels of cooperation that will be highlighted during the President’s visit in November.





India Abroad News Service: Aziz Haniffa, India Abroad.

You spoke about a high level innovation delegation preceding
President Obama’s trip to India. Is this going to be sort of a private/public partnership kind of delegation? And Foreign Minister Krishna on his first stop spoke about innovation in terms of his keynote speech at the USIBC.

What exactly are you looking for in terms of the innovation that you are talking about? In terms of this high-level delegation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I don’t want to get into too much detail because this is really up to them to decide, but the idea is to bring together mostly private sector entrepreneurs and to have them take a fairly wide look at where they see the big opportunities as we’ve done with the CEO Forum and other kinds of groups that we have. And for them to then make recommendations to the two governments, but also to our two private sectors about how we can further develop innovation partnerships between, mostly between our private sectors. But if there are steps that the governments can take to kind of nurture that and help that we certainly welcome those suggestions as well.


What I am asking, Mr. Ambassador, what is the outcome from this visit? Because President Clinton opened the doors between U.S. and India relations and President Bush widely opened the doors by this signing the civil nuclear agreement with India. What do we expect anything new from President Obama’s visit to India?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well, that’s exactly what we’re starting to work on right now is the details of what the President’s visit will entail, what will be the key areas of strategic focus, where will he visit, and all of these many important questions. But I can tell you that the President himself is looking forward to ambitious results, and again, sees our relations with India as one of the most consequential and indispensable of our partnerships in the world of the 21st Century. So we are going to develop a schedule and a series of results to match that.


The Hindu: Hi Ambassador, it’s nice to see you here.

My question is on a remark that the Secretary made during the course of the dialogue at one of the briefings, I think, where she said that doubts still remain on both sides regarding some aspects of the relationship. Just looking at the U.S. side of things, she did say that doubts remain on the U.S. side about whether India was ready to take up a certain position in the world and in this relationship, and specifically she mentioned loosening regulations in a wide range of areas. The economy, for example, but I would see that as applying also to the nuclear liability question, possibly the education sector.

So how serious are these doubts which the Secretary very clearly enunciated? And how do you see them being dispelled over the course of the next few months or this year?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think the Secretary made reference to those doubts because there are doubters within our strategic community about the whole relationship. We’ve heard those doubts before.

I think the dialogue really helped to dispel many of those doubts. As I said earlier, the External Affairs Minister and his delegation reaffirmed their intention to seek passage of the Nuclear Liability Law this year. The same with the education bill that I referred to that would open India up to foreign investment by foreign universities. So I think those were helpful.

But obviously India is a democracy, and often a complicated one, so they’re going to have to wrestle with many of these issues. But from our side I have to say, just speaking as a government representative, a senior government representative, we don’t have any doubts that India’s going to be one of our most important partners in the 21st Century and already there’s been tremendous progress in our relations just in the last ten years. We expect that progress to continue as the Indian economy grows, as more and more Indians come to the United States to study here, as more and more Americans hopefully go to India to study, as the Indian-American community here continues to grow in importance and in size.

So we feel we have these common values and common interests that unlike almost any other country in the world we will really be able to use and benefit to help the peoples of our two countries and also increasingly the peoples of the world. So that’s a quite profound statement that you heard from the Secretary and from the President himself. That’s why I think we have mostly optimism about the future course of our relations. Certainly there are these short term obstacles that we’ve got to overcome, but again, I think there’s great and substantial optimism about the future.



CNN IBN: Welcome Secretary Blake. This is Indira Kannan from CNN IBN. I have two questions.

The first one is about David Headley. I want to understand if India and the U.S. have any sort of mechanism to verify any information that is being received from David Headley. Is he required to give this information under oath? If so, who is administering that oath?

As you’re aware, an Indian court has delivered a verdict on the Bhopal gas tragedy, and I understand that an earlier request by the Indian government to extradite Warren Anderson, the former Chairman of Union Carbide, was turned down by the U.S. Would the U.S. now be more receptive to any request for extradition of Warren Anderson or other American officials? And would the U.S. also be willing to exert any pressure on Dow Chemical in terms of compensation in the way that you are intending to do in the case of BP for instance?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: On the matter of Bhopal and the announcement that was made today by the Indian courts, that is an internal matter to India. So if you have any questions about that I’d just refer you to the courts themselves about that decision.  The question of extradition: as a matter of policy we never discuss extradition, so I can’t comment on that.

Times of India: Why is there such lack of clarity and candor? And do you realize that it leads to all kinds of suspicions in India? If you look at the kind of feedback that stories on this get, that the U.S. is protecting him, that you’re shielding him, that he’s a double agent, triple agent, and so on. And in fact since India mentioned Warren Anderson, for those of us who covered Bhopal and its aftermath, it actually reminds us of the kind of cooperation or non-cooperation that the U.S. administration offered when the terms were made to get at Mr. Anderson.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just say that there’s been a great deal of transparency and close cooperation between our two governments. For obvious law enforcement reasons there are many things that we can’t share with the press, but again, I think we’ve had very good and close cooperation on this particular issue, and I think our Indian friends would confirm that.

Times of India: If I can follow-up, Ambassador. There are 172 families who lost members of families here, so I really wonder why is it necessary to hide it from the press or keep this from the press?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well it’s because the case is still going on. It’s much better not to comment on these things while such cases are ongoing. So again, there’s cooperation taking place that’s very constructive between our two governments that we can’t necessarily describe to the press.

News X: Ambassador Blake, Anirudh Bhattacharyya. I represent a couple of Indian news organizations, News X and the Sun Times. I have two questions. Unfortunately, the second one is about Headley, but I’ll come to the first one. It’s about Bhopal.

You know, this is a follow-up to a previous question. You’ve been putting pressure on BP in terms of the Gulf oil spill. Will there be pressure put on Dow in terms of reparations with regard to the Bhopal disaster? Is that going to happen from the U.S. side at this point in time?

The second question about Headley is, there have been a lot of reports in the Indian media about how he may not have been cooperating fully with the Indian investigators. My question is indirect. My question is basically, if he doesn’t cooperate fully, doesn’t that invalidate the terms of the plea bargain agreement itself? That says that he needs to cooperate fully with investigators.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Again, I’m not going to comment on Headley. I’m neither a lawyer nor a Department of Justice expert, so anything I say will probably not be well placed.

With respect to Bhopal, obviously that was one of the greatest industrial tragedies and industrial accidents in human history. Let me just say that we hope this verdict today helps bring some closure to the victims and their families. But I don’t expect this verdict to reopen any new inquiries or anything like that. On the contrary we hope this is going to help bring closure.



Washington Trade Daily: Thank you. Jim Berger from Washington Trade Daily.

One item that was high in the Indian agenda for these talks anyway was easing of U.S. export controls as a follow-on to the nuclear agreement and the calls for high technology and so on. But the U.S., the administration is in the midst of reforming its controls as well as Congress. Were there any discussions of how India might be treated in a new export controls regime? Or is it just too early?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Well as you say, there are two separate processes going on here. One is a wider review on the part of the administration of the overall export control regime. I think you’ve heard Secretary Gates and others have made some quite detailed statements about that.

The second is the India-specific review that also is underway and in fact we will probably split off from the wide review. As you all know, we have made a great deal of progress over the last six years or so in reducing the export controls that apply to India. Now less than one-half of one percent of all exports require any sort of a license at all, and most of those are presumed to be approved. So again, there’s been a lot of progress, but there still are some controls and so there’s a reciprocal process underway now to seek the necessary assurances from the Indians about the strengthening of their own export control regime that would enable us to relax our restrictions.

So I anticipate that there is going to be further good progress on this and we had a good exchange during the Strategic Dialogue in which we shared ideas about how we could achieve that good progress. So I expect there will be some positive announcements to be made before the President’s visit, hopefully well before.


India Globe and Asia Today: Thank you, Mr. Blake. Raghubir Goyal, India Globe and Asia Today.

Mr. Ambassador, this was a very high level meet between the two countries, largest and oldest democracies, and many call it a big drama in Washington. But what I’m asking you, my question is that there is a triangle — India, Pakistan and the United States. Many people are concerned in India as there is terrorism across the border into India from Pakistan. What they are saying is that until, unless that is solved, they feel that U.S. may be a little soft as far as dealing with the terrorism against India is concerned. People in India live in fear, and people in the United States live under the fear of terrorism.

Where do we go from here? Because this is the most important issue for both countries. And I think around the globe for everybody.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: First of all let me say that the United States will never be soft on terrorism. This is our highest priority and this is the area that we have probably made the greatest progress in terms of our cooperation with India in terms of not only law enforcement cooperation, but also intelligence cooperation.

We take extremely seriously the threats against both of our countries because we believe that there is increasingly a syndicate that is operating in countries like Pakistan that threatens both of our countries. It also threatens Pakistan itself, and that’s a point that I’ve made frequently not only here but during my recent trip to Pakistan.

So we feel it’s in the interest of all three countries to address this very critical problem, to work together. So we have been in the forefront of countries urging Pakistan to not only continue the progress it has been making in Swat and South Waziristan, but also to address the problem in the Punjab, namely the Punjab based groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba that are operating against India, that have also targeted the United States in the Mumbai bombings and elsewhere.

Again, this will remain a very very high priority for us and you should not doubt the sincerity of that statement.

India Globe and Asia Today: May I have one more, Mr. Ambassador?


India Globe and Asia Today: As far as the presidential announcement to India is concerned, this will be President Obama’s first official visit to India and he was looking forward even before he was senator. This announcement was taken very seriously and with joy toward India. They are looking forward to welcome him.

VOA Pashto/Urdu: Thank you very much. Iftikhar Hussain for Voice of America Pakistan, Afghanistan, border region service.

First of all the Strategic Dialogue of the United States with India was in broader terms, but India is indispensable partner. Pakistan is a strategic ally. Was there any concern from India in respect to relations with Pakistan in the current situation? Or in some way it is hindering the U.S. efforts in the region? Did it come up during talks with the United States officials?

And secondly, we have been listing in media reports last week about the Shazad, the New York failed plot accused. Did any take on the U.S. [inaudible] was traced back to Pakistani soil? And there is an option if Pakistan in a sense doesn’t cooperate fully on that. So what we are hearing on that front from Pakistan to cooperate with the United States. And I’m not sure if you can tell us on.

On the third question, the jirga, consultative peace jirga three-day, which is held in Kabul, in Afghanistan, and just ended and issued a statement demanding peace and also talks with the Taliban. So how the United States is looking to the developments in the region?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me just stick to the topic at hand which is the Strategic Dialogue. Let me say there was a discussion that was chaired by our Under Secretary Burns and Foreign Secretary Rao in which they touched briefly on Pakistan, but again, this is an area that really, as you know, our longstanding position is that this is something that needs to be resolved by India and Pakistan, and the pace and scope and character of that dialogue between your two countries is really up to your two countries to decide.

I said earlier that we’ve taken a strong position on terrorism that is emanating from Pakistan soil. That remains our very strong conviction, that it’s in Pakistan’s own interest to address that and we’ll continue to encourage our Pakistani friends to do that.

But really in terms of the Strategic Dialogue, there was much more time spent on issues like Afghanistan where, again, I think our two countries are working very productively together not only to help with the civilian reconstruction of Afghanistan and to help build the Afghan economy and provide capacity building, but also to discuss the very important reconciliation process that is now beginning.

I think we had a very good conversation in which the Indian side I think had many of their questions answered. Obviously I’ll let them speak for their own concerns, but again, I think it was a good and productive discussion.
VOA Afghanistan: Thank you. This is Ashiqullah, Voice of American Afghanistan Services. Thank you, sir.

My question is particularly about the proxy war that there have been reports of proxy war going on in Afghanistan, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. A couple of places have been attacked in Afghanistan for which Pakistan was accused, and the same thing happened in Pakistan for which India was accused. And we understand that Afghanistan being on the top priority of foreign policy of the United States and the United States has always asked the support of regional countries, of which India is one, and the neighboring countries, Pakistan is one. And this burden cannot be taken by the U.S. alone. It has to be shared by the regional countries and also the international community.

The proxy war of India and Pakistan is undermining U.S. and international efforts in Afghanistan. Was this issue in any way discussed in the Strategic Dialogue between the U.S. and India, or on the sidelines of the Strategic Dialogue? Thank you.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I wouldn’t say it was a major focus of what we talked about. Again, we were much more focused on the future of Afghanistan and how the training effort is going and the reconciliation process and the whole process of rebuilding the economy and so forth. But in the past we have talked about it. The United States has expressed its condolences to India for the losses that it suffered in the attacks on the guest house that you mentioned and also the attacks on its own emabassy that have taken place. But we also have reaffirmed our support for the very important work that India has undertaken there and our determination to see if we can find ways to work together more in Afghanistan. Because we do believe that India is playing a constructive role. So that may be a new area of cooperation for us.

AFP: Shaun Tanden with AFP.

I know this isn’t the topic at hand, but I was wondering if you had any perspectives on developments in Nepal. There was —

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Let me stick to India, but I’d be happy to talk about Nepal another time, or we can have a separate interview about that if you want to.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: Ma’am. And then we’ll go to New York afterwards.

India This Week & Express India: Geeta Goindi with India This Week and Express India.

You just mentioned a lot of reasons, you just praised India a lot. Given its phenomenal progress and it’s the largest democracy with over a billion people. It’s difficult to comprehend why it doesn’t have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. I want to ask you, given that the U.S. is supporting India’s rights and being so vocal about that, shouldn’t it be more vocal about India’s seat on the council?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BLAKE: I think Under Secretary Burns addressed that question in the very important speech that he gave last Monday, a week ago now, at the Council on Foreign Relations in which he said that India’s expanding global influence will naturally make it an important part of any future consideration of UN Security Council reform. And that’s I think the most forward leaning statement we’ve made so far about this. But it does reflect, again, our growing confidence in India’s positive influence in the world.

But we’ve also made clear that there’s an ongoing process within our government about the whole question of UN Security Council reform and how to expand the council while at the same time maintaining the effectiveness of the council. And that’s really where the debate is now focused within our own government.


Indian-American community here continues to grow in importance and in size.

So we feel we have these common values and common interests that unlike almost any other country in the world we will really be able to use and benefit to help the peoples of our two countries and also increasingly the peoples of the world. So that’s a quite profound statement that you heard from the Secretary and from the President himself. That’s why I think we have mostly optimism about the future course of our relations. Certainly there are these short term obstacles that we’ve got to overcome, but again, I think there’s great and substantial optimism about the future.


Posted on on May 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The different levels of demeaning a woman in the Islamic world:

Burqa is a most complete body-cover – the covering of the eyes may or may not be also required.

Hijab is a legal term in Islamic law – “curtain” or “cover” that covers everything except face and hands in public.

Niqab is just a veil – least offensive.

Khimar is a headscarf or veil as mentioned in the Quran. This is the way women should cover themselves as per the Quran.


ADC (The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee) Congratulates Rima Fakih as Miss USA 2010

Washington, DC | May 17, 2010 | | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) extends its wholehearted congratulations to Ms. Rima Fakih of Dearborn, Michigan, who was crowned Miss USA 2010 on May 16th at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
You can read more about Ms. Rima Fakih, who is of Lebanese descent, by visiting the links to the following articles:
Last night, Rima competed against 50 other contestants, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Rima will go on to compete for the title of Miss Universe this summer.  She will spend the next year traveling the globe to promote the Miss Universe organization.
ADC President, Ms. Sara Najjar-Wilson, stated that, “we are very proud of Rima Fakih.  She is a very intelligent as well as a very beautiful young woman.  We are elated by her success, and are confident that she will honor all Americans in representing the United States in the Miss Universe Pageant.”
Rima, who is 24-years old, is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, earning a degree in Economics and Business Management.  She began competing in beauty pageants while in college, as a way to earn scholarship money.  After her reign, Rima aspires to attend law school.
ADC wishes Rima much success and happiness as Miss USA, and extends to her continued best wishes in all her future endeavors. (so does our website –
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), is non-profit and non-sectarian and is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States, and to promote the cultural heritage of Arabs.
ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.


Posted on on May 17th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

India-China competition dims hopes for regional cooperation.

The Japan Times online, Monday, May 17, 2010.
LONDON — Established in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) had its 16th summit meeting in Thimpu, Bhutan, late last month. Apart from the fact that Bhutan hosted its first SAARC summit, there was hardly anything that inspired confidence in this largely moribund organization that is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its founding this year.

Covering at least 1.5 billion people across India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives and Afghanistan, SAARC is one of the largest regional organizations in the world. But its achievements so far have been so minimal that even its constituents have become lackadaisical in their attitudes toward it. The state of regional cooperation in South Asia can be gleaned from the fact that Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani went to Bhutan via Nepal, using Chinese territory in Tibet rather than the straightforward route through India.

Bhutan chose climate change as the theme of the summit, and the eight-nation grouping delivered a Silver Jubilee declaration titled “Toward a Green and Happy South Asia.” The focus, however, was the agreement on trade in services signed during the summit. Intraregional trade in South Asia remains far below its potential despite the member states’ signing the South Asian Free Trade Agreement, which went into force in 2006.

For long, the dominant narrative of SAARC has been how the India-Pakistan rivalry hampers the group’s evolution into something significant. That is now losing salience amid China’s growing dominance of the South Asian landscape.

China entered SAARC as an observer in 2005, supported by most member states; India could do little about it and so acquiesced. Now, much to India’s consternation, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal are supporting China’s full membership in SAARC. China’s rising profile in South Asia is not news. What is astonishing is the diminishing role of India and the rapidity with which New Delhi is ceding strategic space to Beijing on the subcontinent.

Even as China becomes the largest trade partner of most states in South Asia, including India, New Delhi is busy repeating the old mantra of South Asia being India’s exclusive sphere of influence.

Of course, no one takes note of that anymore. Pakistan’s all-weather friendship with China is well-known, but the reach of China in other South Asian states has been extraordinary. Bangladesh and Sri Lanka view India as more interested in creating barriers against exports than in spurring regional economic integration. India’s protectionist tendencies have allowed China to don the mantle of regional economic leader. Instead of India emerging as the facilitator of socio-economic development in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, it is China’s developmental assistance that has impact.

India’s attempts to keep China out of the subcontinent have clearly not worked, and it’s time to re-evaluate its South Asia policy. China’s strategy toward South Asia is premised on encircling India and confining her within the geographical coordinates of the region. This strategy of using proxies started with Pakistan and has gradually evolved to include other states in the region, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. China is entering markets in South Asia more aggressively through trade and investment, improving linkages with South Asian states through treaties and bilateral cooperation.

It is following up on this by establishing a ring of road and port connections in India’s neighborhood and deepening military engagements with states on India’s periphery. This quiet assertion of China has prompted various smaller countries in South Asia to play China off against India. Most states in the region now use the China card to try to offset the influence of India. India’s structural dominance in South Asia makes it a natural target of resentment among its smaller neighbors.

Yet, there is no hope for regional economic cooperation in the absence of Indian leadership. The failure of India to counter China’s rise has made it even more unlikely that such cooperation will evolve productively. As the two regional giants compete with each other in the near future, they will be more focused on relative gains vis-a-vis each other than on the absolute gains that regional cooperation can bestow.

Liberals in South Asia have long taken their inspiration from extraordinary developments in the European Union (EU), arguing that South Asia could also go down a similar path of regional economic and political cooperation.

That comparison is fundamentally flawed, however. The states in Western Europe arrived at the EU only after resolving persistent security dilemmas. And the U.S. security umbrella continues to ensure that European political rivalries do not raise their ugly heads again.

In South Asia, the security dynamics between a large India and its smaller neighbors ensures that the road to economic and political cooperation will be a bumpy one. And that road will become even more difficult to traverse with the emergence of China.

Harsh V. Pant teaches at King’s College London.


Posted on on February 8th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Volume 57, Number 3 · February 25, 2010 , The New York Review of Books

A Deal With the Taliban?
Ahmed Rashid
The war in Afghanistan now faces a pivotal moment: at stake is whether the US and its allies are willing to talk to the Taliban. General Stanley McChrystal has a special fund of $1.5 billion to provide incentives to Taliban fighters who put down their arms. Senior Pakistani officials now say they have offered to help broker talks between Taliban leaders, the Americans, and Karzai. For their part, the Taliban have shown the first hint of flexibility, following secret talks in Saudi Arabia last year. But talking to the Taliban requires more than just secret cooperation among intelligence agencies or the CIA handing out bribes. What can be done?

A Deal with the Taliban?
By Ahmed Rashid

My Life with the Taliban.
by Abdul Salam Zaeef,

translated from the Pashto and edited by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn
Columbia University Press, 331 pp., $29.95

For thirty years Afghanistan has cast a long, dark shadow over world events, but it has also been marked by pivotal moments that could have brought peace and changed world history.

One such moment occurred in February 1989, just as the last Soviet troops were leaving Afghanistan. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze had flown into Islamabad—the first visit to Pakistan by a senior Soviet official. He came on a last-ditch mission to try to persuade Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the army, and the Interservices Intelligence (ISI) to agree to a temporary sharing of power between the Afghan Communist regime in Kabul and the Afghan Mujahideen. He hoped to prevent a civil war and lay the groundwork for a peaceful, final transfer of power to the Mujahideen.

By then the Soviets were in a state of panic. They ironically shared the CIA’s analysis that Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah would last only a few weeks after the Soviet troops had departed. The CIA got it wrong—Najibullah was to last three more years, until the eruption of civil war forced him to take refuge in the UN compound in April 1992. The ISI refused to oblige Shevardnadze. It wanted to get Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the seven disparate Mujahideen leaders and its principal protégé, into power in Kabul. The CIA had also urged the ISI to stand firm against the Soviets. It wanted to avenge the US humiliation in Vietnam and celebrate a total Communist debacle in Kabul—no matter how many Afghan lives it would cost. A political compromise was not in the plans of the ISI and the CIA.

I was summoned to meet Shevardnadze late at night and remember a frustrated but visibly angry man, outraged by the shortsightedness of Pakistan and the US and the clear desire of both governments to humiliate Moscow. He went on to evoke an apocalyptic vision of the future of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the region. His predictions of the violence to come turned out to be dead right.

At that pivotal moment, if Shevardnadze’s compromise had been accepted, the world might well have avoided the decade-long Afghan civil war, the destruction of Kabul, the rise of the Taliban, and the sanctuary they provided al-Qaeda. Perhaps we could have avoided September 11 itself—and much that has followed since, including the latest attempt by a Nigerian extremist to blow up a transatlantic airliner, the killing of seven CIA officers at an Afghan base, and the continuing heavy casualties among NATO troops and Afghan civilians in Afghanistan.

With Obama’s controversial and risk-laden plan to first build up and then, in eighteen months, start drawing down US troops in Afghanistan, every nation and political leader in the region now faces another pivotal moment. At stake is whether the US and its allies are willing to talk to the Afghan Taliban, because there is no military victory in sight and no other way to end a war that has been going on for thirty years.

When that moment comes—as it must—will the US and NATO be ready to talk with the Taliban or will they be internally divided, as they are now? Will President Hamid Karzai have the credibility to take part in such talks and deliver on an agreement that might be reached? Will the ISI demand that their own Taliban protégés return to power? Will the Taliban hard-liners, now scenting victory, even agree to talks and, as a consequence, be prepared to dump al-Qaeda? Or will they sit out the next eighteen months waiting for the Americans to begin to leave?


The Afghan Taliban are now a country-wide movement. During the last year they expanded to the previously quiet west and north of Afghanistan. Their leadership has safe havens in Pakistan. Casualties on all sides have risen dramatically. According to the UN, in 2009 there were an average of 1,200 attacks a month by Taliban or other insurgent groups—a 65 percent increase from the previous year. Over the twelve-month period, 2,412 Afghan civilians were killed, an increase of 14 percent; of those, two thirds were killed by the Taliban, a 40 percent increase. In addition, US and NATO combat deaths rose 76 percent, from 295 in 2008 to 520 in 2009.

Adding to the challenges facing the Afghan government, over the years it has been difficult to recruit Pashtuns for the Afghan army and police from the southern Pashtun provinces that are largely controlled by the Taliban, although recently Pashtun recruitment has increased following a pay rise for security forces. Even so, the Taliban have infiltrated parts of the Afghan army and police—the key components of the US plan to start the handover of power to local forces by July 2011. In large parts of Afghanistan, development programs have come to a halt and nearly half of the UN staff assigned to Afghanistan have been relocated to Dubai and Central Asia because of security concerns.

According to Major General Michael Flynn, the NATO military chief of intelligence in Afghanistan, the Taliban now have shadow governors in thirty-three out of thirty-four provinces—they serve to organize the movement at a provincial level and disrupt government initiatives in their area—and the movement “can sustain itself indefinitely.” Flynn has described US intelligence in Afghanistan as “clueless” and “ignorant.”*

Taliban commanders have stepped up their vicious campaign to intimidate or kill any Afghan civilians working for the Karzai government, aid agencies, women’s groups, and even the UN. On January 18, militants launched a double suicide attack just yards from the presidential palace in central Kabul, provoking a gun battle in which three soldiers and two civilians were killed and more than seventy wounded. “We are now at a critical juncture…. The situation cannot continue as is if we are to succeed in Afghanistan,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the UN Security Council earlier in the month. “There is a risk that the deteriorating overall situation will become irreversible,” he added.

The prevailing view in Washington is that many Taliban fighters in the field can eventually be won over, but that the present US troop surge has to roll them back first, reversing Taliban successes and gaining control over the population centers and major roads. According to the current American strategy, the US military has to weaken the Taliban before negotiating with them. The commander of US and NATO forces, General Stanley McChrystal, has both a special fund of $1.5 billion to provide incentives and other forms of support to Taliban who put down their arms, and a group of British and American officers who are drawing up plans to win over Taliban commanders and fighters as the troop surge tilts the battlefield back in favor of the US. General McChrystal told me in Islamabad in early January that he is confident that many Taliban will be won over in the field. This US reconciliation effort would be led by Karzai, who for several years has called for talks with Taliban leaders.

There is another way of looking at the present crisis. Despite their successes, the Taliban are probably now near the height of their power. They do not control major population centers—nor can they, given NATO’s military strength and air power. There are no countrywide, populist insurrections against NATO forces as there were against the coalition forces in Iraq. The vast majority of Afghans do not want the return of a Taliban regime despite their anger at the Karzai government and the general international failure to deliver economic progress. Many Afghans believe that as long as Western troops remain, there is still the hope that security can return and their lives change for the better.

Thus the next few months could offer a critical opportunity to persuade the Taliban that this is the best time to negotiate a settlement, because they are at their strongest.


Both Generals McChrystal and David Petraeus, the head of the US military’s Central Command, have said that they cannot shoot their way to victory. Obama is clear about defeating al-Qaeda, but he is more inclined toward negotiations with the Taliban. In his West Point speech in December, Obama said he supported Kabul’s efforts to “open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.”

The present US military strategy aims to peel away Taliban commanders and fighters and resettle them without making any major political concessions or changes to the Afghan constitution. But Washington remains deeply divided about talking to the Taliban leaders. The State and Defense Departments, the White House, and the CIA all have different views about it, and there are also divisions between the US and its allies.

General McChrystal told me that many mid-level Taliban commanders and their men are waiting for Karzai to announce a reconciliation strategy before offering to change sides. “The reintegration of former Taliban into society offers a good chance to reduce the insurgency in Afghanistan…while al-Qaeda needs to be hunted and destroyed.” Whether the US and its allies should hold talks with the Taliban leadership, he said, is a political decision to be made by Washington. In December Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told me that in his estimation some 70 percent of the Taliban fight for local reasons or money rather than because of ideological commitment to the movement, and they can be won over.

Meanwhile the Taliban have shown the first hint of flexibility, as suggested in a ten-page statement issued in November 2009 for the religious festival of Eid. The Taliban leader Mullah Omar, while urging his fighters to continue the jihad against “the arrogant [US] enemy,” also pledged that a future Taliban regime would bring peace and noninterference from outside forces, and would pose no threat to neighboring countries—implying that al-Qaeda would not be returning to Afghanistan along with the Taliban. Sounding more like a diplomat than an extremist, Omar said, “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to take constructive measures together with all countries for mutual cooperation, economic development and good future on the basis of mutual respect.”

A week later, the Taliban’s response to Obama’s West Point speech again suggested a changed attitude. There was not a single mention of jihad or imposing Islamic law. Instead the Taliban spoke of a nationalist and patriotic struggle for Afghanistan’s independence and said they were “ready to give legal guarantee if the foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.” In a New Year’s message the Taliban, while condemning the US surge, even seemed to empathize with Obama, observing that the American president faces “a great many problems and opposition” at home.

The Taliban’s new tone can be traced to secret talks in the spring of 2009. Sponsored by Saudi Arabia at Karzai’s request, the talks included former (or now retired) Taliban, former Arab members of al-Qaeda, and Karzai’s representatives. No breakthrough took place, but the talks led to a series of visits to Saudi Arabia by important Taliban leaders during the rest of 2009. The US, British, and Saudi officials who were indirectly in contact with the Taliban there quickly encouraged them to renounce al-Qaeda and lay out their negotiating demands. In turn, the Taliban said that distancing themselves from al-Qaeda would require the other side to meet a principal demand of their own: that all foreign forces must announce a timetable to leave Afghanistan.

Istakhbarat, the Saudi intelligence service, is not set up to produce political results, but it has given the Taliban a safe venue to meet and it has acted as an interlocutor with Afghan government and Western officials. Significantly the ISI, which has demanded a key part in the negotiations from its erstwhile Saudi allies, has so far been left out at the request of both the Taliban and the Afghan government—neither of whom trust it. That now may be about to change. The key to more formal negotiations with Taliban leaders lies with Pakistan and the ISI.


Tensions between the US and Pakistan have escalated in recent months as Washington demands that the Pakistani military “capture or kill” Afghan Taliban leaders as well as top militants in Pakistan. These include the Afghan Taliban leadership living in Quetta and Karachi, as well as their allies such as Jalaluddin Haqqani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who live in North Waziristan in the tribal areas abutting Afghanistan. Pakistan says it is too busy dealing with its own acute problems with the Pakistani Taliban and a growing number of terrorist attacks by various insurgent groups. Its forces are overstretched, it has little money, and it will oblige the Americans only when it is ready to do so. In fact Pakistan would never launch a military offensive against the Afghan Taliban leaders since it has viewed them as potential allies in a post-American Afghanistan, when the US will probably ditch Pakistan as well.

Pakistan’s military is deeply fearful of a US withdrawal from Afghanistan; the result could be civil war and mayhem in its backyard once again. “We want the American surge to succeed in Afghanistan, because if they don’t we will pay the price,” a senior Pakistani military officer told me. The army is also convinced that the US will eventually align itself with India and that it has allowed India to strengthen its influence in Kabul at Pakistan’s expense. Despite all the sacrifices it has made for the Afghans over thirty years, supporting them against the Soviets, Pakistanis are now friendless in Afghanistan—except for the Afghan Taliban, who are more wary than friendly toward the ISI.

To regain influence in Afghanistan and drive the Indians out once the Americans leave, the Pakistan military could, as an alternative, back the Taliban in a plan to retake Kabul and set up a government that would do Pakistan’s bidding. However, that possibility is now too risky; the international community would never tolerate it, and such a regime would also provide a base from which the Pakistani Taliban could launch further attacks in Pakistan.

In a major policy shift, senior Pakistani military and intelligence officials say they have offered to help broker talks between Taliban leaders, the Americans, and Karzai. “We want the talks to start now, not in eighteen months when they are leaving; but the Americans have to trust and depend on us,” a senior military officer told me. There is a deep lack of trust between the CIA and the ISI, and other countries may also balk at Pakistan’s insistence that all negotiations should be channeled through the ISI. Pakistani officials suggest that if the ISI helps arrange talks, then independent contacts between Taliban leaders and the CIA, British intelligence (MI6), and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) would have to stop. In return, Pakistani officials say only that they want to be sure “that Pakistan’s national interests in Afghanistan are looked after”—interests that have yet to be clearly spelled out to the Americans and Afghans.

This is an important change in the official position of Pakistan. For the past nine years—despite the well-known connections between the ISI and the Afghan Taliban—Pakistan has denied that it has influence over the Taliban leaders, and openly playing host to them was considered out of the question. Pakistan will have to make serious efforts to gain the confidence of the US and the Afghans if it is to sponsor negotiations with the Taliban; but their differences could be worked out through arrangements made between the various intelligence agencies and governments involved. Senior US officials say that Pakistan is showing itself to be “more flexible” on Afghan policy than before.

How will the Taliban leaders respond? Many of them are fed up with years of ISI manipulation and strategizing on their behalf and would prefer to keep the ISI out of such talks. Some members of the Taliban have built up a rapport with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, the domestic intelligence agency of the Kabul government. The NDS and the ISI loathe and mistrust each other, and the NDS would be extremely reluctant to allow the ISI a central part in negotiations. Moreover, the crucial acceptance of reconciliation with the Taliban has to come from the non-Pashtun population in the north who are extremely hostile to the Taliban and the ISI. If the northern ethnic groups who make up just over 50 percent of the population do not accept the reconciliation plan, there could be a renewed civil war as in the 1990s.

But the ISI has power and influence over the Taliban. Not only are the Taliban able to resupply their fighters from Pakistan, and seek medical treatment and other facilities, but the families of most Taliban leaders live in Pakistan where they own homes and run businesses and shops. Taliban leaders travel to Saudi Arabia on Pakistani passports. All this makes them vulnerable to ISI pressure. Even before the US military can consider coopting mid-level Taliban commanders, both sides would have to ascertain how this would play with the ISI.

The Pakistani army’s desperate desire to have some control over future events in Afghanistan is partly due to its strategic aim of avoiding encirclement by India; but it is also a result of the setbacks it has received since 2001. The military is still smarting from former President Bush’s decisions to allow the anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance to take Kabul in 2001, to ignore Islamabad’s later requests for consultations on US strategy in Afghanistan, and to treat all Afghan Pashtuns as potential Taliban. This helped radicalize Pakistan’s own Pashtun population, which is more than twice the size of Afghanistan’s. (There are 12 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan and 27 million in Pakistan.)


Talking to the Taliban requires more than just secret cooperation among intelligence agencies or the CIA handing out bribes to Taliban commanders to change sides—as it did with the Northern Alliance in 2001. There is an urgent need for a publicly promoted strategy involving concrete efforts to build political institutions and provide humanitarian aid in ways that do not require intrusive Western control—a strategy that could attract many members of the Taliban, reduce violence, and placate Afghans who are opposed to all such compromises. Obama officials have talked up the need for such a public strategy but accomplished little during his first year in office. Yet such goals are of paramount importance.

Here are some suggestions of steps that should be taken in advance of talking to the Taliban. Almost all these points have theoretically been accepted by the US and NATO but none have been acted upon:

Convince Afghanistan’s neighbors and other countries in the region to sign on to a reconciliation strategy with the Taliban, to be led by the Afghan government. Creating a regional strategy and consensus on Afghanistan was one of the primary aims of the Obama administration; but little has been achieved. From Iran to India, regional tensions are worse now than a year ago.
Allow Afghanistan to submit to the UN Security Council a request that the names of Taliban leaders be removed from a list of terrorists drawn up in 2001—so long as those leaders renounce violence and ties to al-Qaeda. Russia has so far refused to entertain such a request; but Obama has not tried hard enough to extract this concession from Russian leaders.
Pass a UN Security Council resolution giving the Afghan government a formal mandate to negotiate with the Taliban, and allow the US, NATO, and the UN to encourage that process. This would mean persuading reluctant countries like Russia and India to support such a resolution. (On January 27, a UN Security Council committee announced, with Russian agreement, that it has lifted sanctions against five former Taliban officials who are said to support the Karzai government.)
Have NATO and Afghan forces take responsibility for the security of Taliban and their families who return to Afghanistan, enlisting the help of international agencies such as the UN High Commission for Refugees or the International Committee of the Red Cross to work with the Afghan government to assist these returning Taliban members, arranging for compensation, housing, job training, and other needs they may have in facing resettlement.
Provide adequate funds, training, and staff for a reconciliation body, led by the Afghan government, that will work with Western forces and humanitarian agencies to provide a comprehensive and clearly spelled-out program for the security of the returning Taliban and for facilities to receive them.
Encourage the Pakistani military to assist NATO and Afghan forces in providing security to returning Taliban and their families and allow necessary cross-border support from international humanitarian agencies. Encourage Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to help the Taliban set up a legal political party, as other Afghan militants—such as former members of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami party—have done. This would be a tremendous blow to al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban and it would give concrete form to Obama’s repeated pledge that he is ready to reach out to foes in the Muslim world.
The Taliban leadership should be provided with a neutral venue such as Saudi Arabia or elsewhere, where it can hold talks with the Afghan government and NATO. The US should release the remaining Afghan prisoners held at Guantánamo and allow them to go to either Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia.
Unless such publicly announced policies are carried out, the Taliban may well conclude that it is better and safer to sit out the next eighteen months, wait for the Americans to start leaving, and then, when they judge Afghanistan to be vulnerable, go for the kill in Kabul—although that would only lead to a renewed civil war.


Just as Afghanistan faces a crucial choice, we have a book that for the first time places readers at the heart of the Taliban’s way of thinking—My Life with the Taliban, by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban minister and ambassador to Pakistan, who spent over four years in Guantánamo prison. Originally published in Pashto, the language of the Pashtuns, the book has been beautifully translated and extensively edited for easier understanding by Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn, two researchers who live in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban.

Zaeef was born in 1968 and grew up in a small dusty village in Kandahar province. Like many Taliban, he came from a family of mullahs and grew up an orphan, having lost his parents at an early age. Economic development never penetrated such Afghan villages as his and daily life was centered on learning at the madrasa, farming, and sustaining the Pashtun tribal code of honor and revenge. His extended clan fled to Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion, but at the age of fifteen he secretly returned home to fight the Soviets. In the 1980s he served under several commanders, including Mullah Omar.

Zaeef dramatically brings to life the extremely harsh conditions under which the Afghans fought—without food, medical aid, or enough ammunition, and under constant Soviet bombardment:

When I first joined the jihad I was fifteen years old. I did not know how to fire a Kalashnikov or how to lead men. I knew nothing of war. But the Russian front lines were a tough proving ground and…I eventually commanded several mujahedeen groups.
After the Soviets left Afghanistan, Zaeef became a mullah in a small village near Kandahar. He describes how the situation deteriorated in the south as warlords and criminals extracted tolls from trucks on the road, kidnapped and raped women, and held young boys captive to become their forced lovers. Zaeef was one of the original Taliban; in the winter of 1994 he joined with like-minded young men to work out a strategy for dealing with the warlords.

He was and remains intensely loyal to Mullah Omar, who would, he writes,

listen to everybody with focus and respect for as long as they needed to talk, and would never seek to cut them off. After he had listened, he then would answer with ordered, coherent thoughts.
When Zaeef attended the founding meeting of the Taliban, each man took an oath of loyalty to Omar. That oath is still in effect, which is why no senior Taliban commander has ever betrayed the whereabouts of Omar. As the Taliban started to conquer Afghanistan, Zaeef was promoted from one job to the next.

fter the Taliban capture of Kabul in 1996, Zaeef was moved to the defense ministry where, he writes, the weekly budget for the various Taliban militias fighting the Northern Alliance was $300,000 a week, or just $14 million a year. By 1999, when the Taliban controlled 80 percent of the country, their entire annual budget was just $80 million—from the Islamic taxes the Taliban imposed as well as donations from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and, after 1996, Osama bin Laden (although Zaeef does not mention his contribution). He describes a chaotic and uncoordinated government:

The budget didn’t even come close to what was needed in order to start any serious development; it was like a drop of water that falls on a hot stone, evaporating without leaving any trace.
Early in his book Zaeef describes his intense hatred for the ISI, which deepened in 2000 when he was appointed Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. He claims he resisted being recruited by the ISI. “In my dealings with them I tried to be not so sweet that I would be eaten whole, and not so bitter that I would be spat out.” He describes how “the ISI extended its roots deep into Afghanistan like a cancer puts down roots in the human body,” and how “every ruler of Afghanistan complained about it, but none could get rid of it.” Zaeef set up his own clandestine network of Pakistani officials who provided him information about what the ISI was planning regarding the Taliban.

What Zaeef omits or fudges is significant. He makes no mention of the ISI’s financial and material support to the Taliban, and says hardly anything about al-Qaeda or how his hero Mullah Omar became so close to Osama bin Laden. He has nothing to say about the Taliban’s repressive attitudes toward women, including the ban on their education, and he makes no mention of the Taliban’s harsh punishments, including public stonings.

By 2001, after UN sanctions restricted the Taliban’s international contacts, Zaeef became the only Taliban leader who could meet with US and Western envoys. His relationship with the US embassy in Islamabad was dominated by American demands to hand over Osama bin Laden. In the days after September 11, he frantically tried to stave off the impending US attack on his country by appealing to Western embassies, writing letters to the UN, and trying to enlist support from Islamic countries. He met with Mullah Omar, who was convinced that the Americans would not dare attack. In Omar’s mind, Zaeef writes, “there was less than a 10 percent chance that America would resort to anything beyond threats and so an attack was unlikely.”

In January 2002 he was turned over to the Americans by the ISI—sold, according to him—and ended up in Guantánamo. He now lives in Kabul under government protection and his final plea is for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan. He says he does not believe in al-Qaeda, but speaks as an Afghan patriot with strong Islamist leanings toward the Taliban. Afghanistan, he writes, is “a family home in which we all have the right to live…without discrimination and while keeping our values. No one has the right to take this away from us.” Can Afghanistan ever be a peaceful home for all Afghans? They certainly deserve it.

—January 27, 2010

*See Noah Shachtman, “‘Afghan Insurgency Can Sustain Itself Indefinitely’: Top U.S. Intel Officer,”, January 8, 2010. General Flynn’s briefing, called ” State of the Insurgency: Trends, Intentions and Objectives,” was presented on December 23, 2009. Also see “NATO Official: US Spy Work Lacking in Afghanistan,” Associated Press, January 5, 2010.


Posted on on February 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Sunday, Feb. 7, 2010

U.S. Afpak path comes full circle

NEW DELHI, for the Japan Times online  — What U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has been pursuing in Afghanistan for the past one year has now received international imprimatur, thanks to the well-scripted London conference. Four words sum up that strategy: Surge, bribe and run.

Obama has designed his twin troop surges not to militarily rout the Afghan Taliban but to strike a political deal with the enemy from a position of strength. Without a deal with Taliban commanders, the United States cannot execute the “run” part.

The Obama approach has been straightforward: If you can’t defeat them, buy them off. Having failed to rout the Taliban, Washington has been holding indirect talks with the Afghan militia’s shura, or top council, whose members are holed up in Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s sprawling Baluchistan province, including the one-eyed chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar. The talks have been conducted through the Pakistani, Saudi and Afghan intelligence agencies.

Obama, paradoxically, is seeking to apply to Afghanistan the Iraq model of his predecessor, George W. Bush, who used a military surge largely as a show of force to buy off Sunni tribal leaders and other local chieftains. But Afghanistan isn’t Iraq, and it is a moot question whether the same strategy can work, especially when Obama has not hidden his intent to end the U.S. war before he comes up for re-election in 2012.

In a land with a long tradition of humbling foreign armies, payoffs are unlikely to buy peace. All that the Pakistan-backed Taliban has to do is to simply wait out the Americans. After all, popular support for the Afghan war has markedly ebbed in the U.S., even as the other countries with troops in Afghanistan exhibit war fatigue.

If a resurgent Taliban is now on the offensive, with 2008 and 2009 proving to be the deadliest years for U.S. forces since the 2001 American intervention, it is primarily because of two reasons: the sustenance the Taliban still draws from Pakistan; and a growing Pashtun backlash against foreign intervention.

The Taliban leadership — with an elaborate command-and-control structure oiled by Wahhabi petrodollars and proceeds from opium trade — operates from the comfort of sanctuaries in Pakistan. Fathered by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and midwifed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in 1994, the Taliban emerged as a Frankenstein’s monster.

Yet President Bill Clinton’s administration acquiesced in the Taliban’s ascension to power in Kabul in 1996 and turned a blind eye as the thuggish militia, in league with the ISI, fostered narco-terrorism and swelled the ranks of the Afghan war alumni waging transnational terrorism. With 9/11, however, the chickens came home to roost. The U.S. came full circle when it declared war on the Taliban in October 2001. Now, desperate to save a faltering military campaign, U.S. policy is coming another full circle as Washington advertises its readiness to strike deals with “moderate” Taliban (as if there can be moderates in an Islamist militia that enforces medieval practices).

In the past year, the U.S. military and intelligence have carried out a series of air and drone strikes and ground commando attacks from Afghanistan in Pakistan’s tribal Waziristan region against the Pakistani Taliban, the nemesis of the Pakistani military. The CIA alone has admitted carrying out a dozen drone strikes in Waziristan to avenge the bombing of its base in Khost, Afghanistan, by a Jordanian double agent, who in a prerecorded video said he was going to take revenge for the U.S. attack — carried out at Pakistan’s instance — that killed the Pakistani Taliban chief, Baitullah Mehsud.

Yet, the U.S. military and intelligence have not carried out a single air, drone or ground attack against the Afghan Taliban leadership in Baluchistan, south of Waziristan. The CIA and the ISI are again working together, including in shielding the Afghan Taliban shura members so as to facilitate a possible deal.

Obama’s Afghan strategy should be viewed as shortsighted and apt to repeat the very mistakes of American policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past three decades that have come to haunt U.S. security and that of the rest of the free world.

Washington is showing it has not learned any lessons from its past policies that gave rise to monsters like Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and to “the state within the Pakistani state,” the ISI, which was made powerful during Ronald Reagan’s presidency as a conduit of covert U.S. aid for Afghan guerrillas fighting Soviet occupiers.

To justify the planned Faustian bargain with the Taliban, the Obama team is drawing a specious distinction between al-Qaida and the Taliban and illusorily seeking to differentiate between “moderate” Taliban and those that rebuff deal-making.

The scourge of transnational terrorism cannot be stemmed if such specious distinctions are drawn. India, which is on the frontline of the global fight against international terrorism, is likely to bear the brunt of the blowback of Obama’s Afpak strategy, just as it came under terrorist siege as a consequence of the Reagan-era U.S. policies.

The Taliban, al-Qaida and groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba are a difficult-to- separate mix of soul mates who together constitute the global jihad syndicate. To cut a deal with any constituent of this syndicate will only bring more international terrorism. A stable Afghanistan cannot emerge without dismantling the Pakistani military’s sanctuaries and sustenance infrastructure for the Afghan Taliban and militarily decapitating the latter’s command center in Baluchistan. Instead of seeking to achieve that, the U.S. is actually partnering the Pakistani military to win over the Taliban.

Even if the Obama administration managed to bring down violence in Afghanistan by doing a deal with the Taliban, the Taliban would remain intact as a fighting force, with active ties to the Pakistani military. Such a tactical gain would exact serious costs on regional and international security by keeping the Afpak region as the epicenter of a growing transnational-terrorism scourge and upsetting civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan, where Japan and India are two of the largest bilateral aid donors.

Regrettably, the Obama administration is falling prey to a long- standing U.S. policy weakness: The pursuit of narrow objectives without much regard for the interests of friends.

Brahma Chellaney, professor of strategic studies at the privately funded Center for Policy Research in New Delhi, is a regular contributor to The Japan Times.


Posted on on February 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (



Militarism in Afghanistan is not enough: The U.S. Afghanistan policy needs a revision, given realities on the ground.
PUBLISHED: 01/31/2010 –

President Barack Obama’s announcement in December 2009 of the deployment of 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan has received mixed reactions at home and abroad.

Military compulsion on the ground and political expediency at home are apparently in collision; frustration and anger are growing. Allies in the Afghan war such as France, Germany and Australia have reportedly opposed Obama’s announcement. However, the United Kingdom, Poland and Italy promised to send a small number of additional troops.

By June 2010, the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is expected to be 98,000. There were 29,950 U.S. troops in the International Security Assistance Force under NATO command, which has 64,500 troops, most supplied by the NATO member countries.

Though Obama had promised “change you can believe in” following his landslide victory in the 2008 presidential election, in the meantime he’s faced criticism for his decision to deploy additional troops to Afghanistan. The president announced that he will begin to withdraw troops in Afghanistan by July 2011 to bring an end to the decade-long war; however, the timeline has not convinced the American people, especially those on the left of the president’s own Democratic Party, who are increasingly demonstrating in front of the White House against the war.

Analysts and media in the region of South Asia are also critical of Obama’s new plan. The influential Indian daily The Hindu observes that sending additional troops to Afghanistan may provide “tactical relief to American commanders on the ground;” however, there is no guarantee that this new deployment would bring any “victory against terrorism and extremism.” For this, innovative strategies must be devised.

In a Dec. 3, 2009 editorial, The Hindu identified four deficits in America’s war against the Taliban and al-Qaida: the political consideration or attention, military doctrine, Afghan capability and a commitment from Pakistan where both the Taliban and al-Qaida allegedly have bases. Flurries of questions will continue to surround the comprehensiveness of U.S. policy and military actions in Afghanistan in the Asian media.

Given the reality on the ground, Pakistan is now in a crisis of sectarian conflict and a rising religious militancy. There is also reported presence of al-Qaida members in its territory; thus, Pakistan’s stability, politics, economy and military power are under great threat, as observes the Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Ittefaq.

Analysts comment that it is likely impossible for the United States to win the war in Afghanistan by merely raising the number of troops. On the contrary, it may prolong the war with serious casualties on both sides.

Analysts recommend improving the conditions of the Afghan people by investing in poverty reduction, education and health. But the country has been further devastated by a war that has brought insufferable civilian casualties. Any investment in social sectors would facilitate to decrease the anger of the Afghan people toward the United States. Without this infrastructure, the poverty- and illiteracy-ridden country will not be able to get on its feet.

The U.S. policy should also engage resources to other countries in the region where al-Qaida is reportedly trying to spread its “ideology.” The presence of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment, natural challenges and displacements all contribute to the people’s vulnerability, which catalyses the spread of ideological organizations like al-Qaida. Reportedly, a swath of religious schools in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh — allegedly beyond the reach of government monitors — are working as bases for the spread of the militaristic, ideological challenge to the West, especially the United States. To offset this trend, governments need to engage civic institutions, but this deserves investment.

In the latest development, a London conference on Afghanistan has drafted a recommendation to initiate dialogues between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with an aim to dislodge al-Qaida from the country. The Taliban extremist Islamic group is essentially ideologically distinct from the terrorist al-Qaida and seized power in Afghanistan in 1996.

However, the international community must monitor such dialogues to ensure they are strategic and to guard against the Taliban using it as a legitimization and recruitment tool.

These dimensions in the Afghanistan conflict make a challenging situation all the more difficult, but for now, the deployment of more troops to the region seems only to increase our dependence on military strategy. What is needed most desperately in the region, however, is stability, investment and infrastructure.


Robert NaimanPolicy Director of Just Foreign Policy
Posted: February 2, 2010 –

Eat Your Spinach: Time for Peace Talks in Afghanistan – What’s Your Reaction:

In the last week the New York Times and Inter Press Service have reported that the Obama Administration is having an internal debate on whether to supports talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Muhammad Omar, as a means of ending the war in Afghanistan. Senior officials like Vice President Biden are said to be more open to reaching out because they believe it will help shorten the war.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable if this remained merely an “internal debate” within the Obama Administration? Wouldn’t you expect that the part of public opinion that wants the war to end would try to intervene in this debate on behalf of talks in order to end the war?

As an administration official told the New York Times,

“Today, people agree that part of the solution for Afghanistan is going to include an accommodation with the Taliban, even above low- and middle-level fighters.”
And in fact, US and British officials have been saying for months that the “endgame” in Afghanistan includes a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban.

Now, suppose you tell Mom that you want to have ice cream. And Mom says, you can have ice cream when you’ve eaten your spinach. Wouldn’t you eat your spinach? If you don’t eat your spinach now, you didn’t want ice cream very badly.

So if U.S. and British officials say the endgame includes a negotiated political settlement with the Afghan Taliban, and you figure, extrapolating from the last five thousand years of human history, that a negotiated political settlement typically does not just drop down from the sky, but in fact is generally preceded by political negotiations, and you want to end the war as soon as possible, wouldn’t you be clamoring for political negotiations to start as soon as possible? Because the longer political negotiations are delayed, the longer the war will last. If you don’t support political negotiations now, you don’t want to end the war very badly.

If you consider peace negotiations with the Afghan Taliban “distasteful,” consider this: every month that the war continues, every month that U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, is another month in which U.S. soldiers will die horrible deaths, be horribly maimed, and be horribly scarred psychologically, perhaps for life. It’s also another month in which the U.S. military is likely to “accidentally” kill Afghan government soldiers (such episodes “are not uncommon,” the New York Times notes) and kill Afghan civilians, as they have done at least twice in the last week, according to the reporting in the New York Times and the Washington Post.

I put the word “accidentally” in quotation marks, not of course because I believe that the U.S. military is killing Afghan soldiers and Afghan civilians “on purpose,” but because when you repeatedly take an action (continuing the war) that leads to a predictable result (killing Afghan government soldiers and civilians) you lose the exoneration otherwise conferred by the word “accidentally.”

Is this not also “distasteful”? Is killing innocent people not more “distasteful” than peace talks?

Gareth Porter, writing for Inter Press Service, reports that an official of the Western military coalition says there has been a debate among U.S. officials about “the terms on which the Taliban will become part of the political fabric.” The debate is not on whether the Taliban movement will be participating in the Afghan political system, Porter reports, but on whether or not the administration could accept the participation of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar in the political future of Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban has insisted in published statements that it will not participate in peace talks that would not result in the withdrawal of foreign troops, Porter notes. That raises the question of whether the administration would be willing to discuss the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan as part of a negotiated settlement to the conflict.

The Obama Administration has stated publicly that it has no long-term interest in maintaining U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Therefore, should not the U.S. be willing to agree to a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops as part of a negotiated settlement? We’re leaving anyway, according to U.S. officials – what’s holding us back from agreeing, as part of a negotiation, to do what we plan to do anyway?

U.S. officials have said that the war is all about the relationship between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda. When the Afghan Taliban breaks with al Qaeda the war is over, say these officials. Some say that Mullah Omar is ready to break with al Qaeda, including the Pakistani intelligence officer who trained him; while Osama bin Laden’s son Omar says Al Qaeda and the Taliban are only “allies of convenience.” Why wouldn’t we put these propositions to the test through negotiations?

If you think, for the sake of peace, the United States should be willing to agree to do on a timetable that which it claims it intends to do anyway, tell President Obama.

Follow Robert Naiman on Twitter:


Lesson from Somalia echoes in Afghanistan
By Adam Folken – Contributing Columnist –

|Published: Thursday, February 4, 2010

Last Thursday, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hosted a conference in London regarding NATO’s plans in Afghanistan.  In attendance were U.S. General Stanley McChrystal, commander of NATO operations in Afghanistan, and Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special emissary to Afghanistan and Pakistan.  According to CTV News, both officials expressed plans to advocate peace and negotiations with Taliban forces.  Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s plan of “reconciliation and reintegration” of potential Taliban defectors complements McChrystal and Holbrooke’s strategies.  These plans represent a growing trend in emphasizing political action over the use of force to suppress the militant insurgency plaguing Afghanistan.  This switch comes nearly nine years after the beginning of the United States’ Operation Enduring Freedom, though it is  better late than never.

The Taliban was the power in Afghanistan prior to 2001, and their ranks draw from various Pashtun clans.  The Pashtun people represent the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan and have dominated Afghan politics for centuries.  It is therefore the appropriate move to include Taliban members in negotiations and going the step further in allowing their involvement in the new Afghan government. This was one of many lessons taken from U.S. involvement in the United Nations’ intervention in Somalia.

The fall of Said Barre’s regime in 1991 created a power vacuum in Somalia that resulted in vicious inter-clan fighting.  The collateral damage was devastating to the Somali people, who suffered the conflict and widespread famine.

For the U.N., what began as an international effort to deliver humanitarian aid evolved into a struggle to stabilize and democratize Somalia.  General Mohamed Farrah Aidid, with the support of members of his clan – the Habr Gidr – and other militant factions, repeatedly assaulted U.S. and U.N. forces to drive them out of Somalia.  Many U.S. and U.N. officials wanted Aidid and his supporters marginalized in the new government.  Rather than work with the local power, the U.S. wished to create a more ‘ideal’ system that had little focus on clannism.  The attempts to remove Aidid’s influence served to unite Somalis against the U.S., culminating in a humiliating retreat from Somalia.

The parallels with the situation in Afghanistan are clear.  Local power structures, such as clannism in Somalia and Afghanistan, must be considered when creating a functional government.  If powerful players are not given incentive to play the game, they won’t have to.

Further Recommended Articles:

Canada and Germany’s mission in Afghanistan (The Concordian)
Fein: ‘Graveyard of empires’ challenge for Obama (The Daily Northwestern)


Posted on on February 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

FEBRUARY 3, 2010, Posted by Seymour M. Hersh who wrote this for the New Yorker
I spoke to Bashar Assad, the president of Syria, this winter in Damascus. Assad assumed the presidency after his father’s death, in 2000, when he was thirty-four years old, and he expressed some empathy for President Barack Obama, who, like Assad, was confronted with a steep learning curve.

One note: a transcript of our talk, provided by Assad’s office, was generally accurate but it did not include an exchange we had about intelligence. A senior Syrian official had told me that, last year, Syria, which is on the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, had renewed its sharing of intelligence on terrorism with the C.I.A. and with Britain’s MI6, after a request from Obama that was relayed by George Mitchell, the President’s envoy for the Middle East. (The White House declined to comment.) Assad said that he had agreed to do so, and then added that he also has warned Mitchell “that if nothing happens from the other side”—in terms of political progress—“we will stop it.”

Quotes from our conversation follow.

President Barack Obama:

Bush gave Obama this big ball of fire, and it is burning, domestically and internationally. Obama, he does not know how to catch it.

The approach has changed; no more dictations but more listening and more recognition of America’s problems around the world, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq. But at the same time there are no concrete results…. What we have is only the first step…. Maybe I am optimistic about Obama, but that does not mean that I am optimistic about other institutions that play negative or paralyzing role[s] to Obama.

If you talk about four years, you have one year to learn and the last year to work for the next elections. So, you only have two years. The problem, with these complicated problems around the world, where the United States should play a role to find a solution, is that two years is a very short time…. Is it enough for somebody like Obama?

Hillary Clinton:

Some say that even Hilary Clinton does not support Obama. Some say she still has ambition to be President some day—that is what they say.

The press conference of Hillary with [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu [in which she appeared to walk away from the Administration’s call for a freeze on settlements] was very bad, even for the image of the United States.

Israel and the United States:

To be biased and side with the Israelis, this is traditional for the United States; we do not expect them to be in the middle soon. So we can deal with this issue, and we can find a way if you want to talk about the peace process. But the vision does not seem to be clear on the U.S. side as to what they really want to happen in the Middle East.

Negotiations with Israel:

I have half a million Palestinians and they have been living here for three generations now. So, if you do not find a solution for them, then what peace you are talking about?

What, I said, is the difference between peace and a peace treaty? Peace treaty is what you sign, but peace is when you have normal relations. So, you start with a peace treaty in order to achieve peace…. If they say you can have the entire Golan back, we will have a peace treaty. But they cannot expect me to give them the peace they expect…. You start with the land; you do not start with peace.

The Israelis:

You need a special dictionary for their terms…. They do not have any of the old generation who used to know what politics means, like Rabin and the others. That is why I said they are like children fighting each other, messing with the country; they do not know what to do.

[The Israelis] wanted to destroy Hamas in the war [in December, 2008] and make Abu Mazen strong in the West Bank. Actually it is a police state, and they weakened Abu Mazen and made Hamas stronger. Now they wanted to destroy Hamas. But what is the substitute for Hamas? It is Al Qaeda, and they do not have a leader to talk to, to talk about anything. They are not ready to make dialogue. They [Al Qaeda] only want to die in the field.

Europe and the Iranian nuclear negotiation:

This is not European but Bush’s initiative adopted by the Europeans. The Europeans are like the postman; they pretend that they are not like this but they are like a postman; they are completely passive and I told them that. I told the French when I visited France.


Imposing sanctions [on Iran] is a problem because they will not stop the program and they will accelerate it if you are suspicious. They can make problems to the Americans more than the other way around.

If I am Ahmadinejad, I will not give all the uranium because I do not have a guarantee [in response to American and European insistence that most of Iran’s low-enriched uranium be sent abroad for further enrichment to make it usable for a research reactor, but not for a bomb]…. So, the only solution is that they can send you part and you send it back enriched, and then they send another part…. The only advice I can give to Obama: accept this Iranian proposal because this is very good and very realistic. [Note: the Iranian position appeared to be shifting this week.]


The civil war in Lebanon could start in days; it does not take weeks or months; it could start just like this. One cannot feel assured about anything in Lebanon unless they change the whole system.

Cooperating with the United States in Iraq:

They [American officials] only talk about the borders; this is a very narrow-minded way. But we said yes. We said yes—and, you know, during Bush we used to say no, but when Mitchell came [as Obama’s envoy] I said O.K.… I told Mitchell by saying this is the first step and when find something positive from the American side we move to the next level…. We sent our delegation to the borders and [the Iraqis] did not come. Of course, the reason is that [Nouri] al-Maliki [the Prime Minister of Iraq] is against it. So far there is nothing, there is no cooperation about anything and even no real dialogue.

George Mitchell:

I told him, you were successful in Ireland, but this is different…. [Mitchell] is very keen to succeed. And he wants to do something good, but I compare with the situation in the United States: the Congress has not changed…. But the whole atmosphere is not positive towards the President in general. And that is why I think his envoys cannot succeed.

Criticisms of some Israeli policies at the J-Street founding conference:

Ahh … that is new!… But we should educate them that if they are worried about Israel, then the only thing that can protect Israel is peace, nothing else. No amount of airplanes or weapons could protect Israel, so they have to forget about that.

Pakistan’s government:

They supported [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and realized he cannot deliver. I do not know why they supported him and why—nobody knows why.

American power:

Now the problem is that the United States is weaker, and the whole influential world is weak as well…. You always need power to do politics. Now nobody is doing politics…. So what you need is strong United States with good politics, not weaker United States. If you have weaker United States, it is not good for the balance of the world.


Posted on on February 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

With President Karzai going to Saudi Arabia to plead for an intervention with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda forces that endanger his regime in Afghanistan, in Washington DC a report was released to the press that A U.S. military investigation into a battle last October in eastern Afghanistan, that cost eight American soldiers their lives, has concluded that the small outpost was worthless, the troops there didn’t understand their mission, and intelligence and air support were tied up elsewhere in the province.

According to an unclassified executive summary of the report that was released to McClatchy and other news organizations Friday, “There were inadequate measures taken by the chain of command, resulting in an attractive target for enemy fighters.”

A statement accompanying the summary said that the report, called an AR 15-6, suggests sanctions on higher-ranking officers and “also recommended administrative actions for some members of the chain of command to improve command oversight.”

But really – is this serious? The whole mess came into existence when the US told the Saudis to finance and organize the rebellion of the Afghan warlords against Soviet occupation of their land. It was the Al-Qaeda forces backed by Saudi money that backed the Taliban fight the Soviets – all of it the brain-product of US CIA in its Washington headquarters where non-Afghan speakers manned the desk that promoted Islamic unity against the Soviet infidel, and inherited now the fight of the same people against the US infidel. Karzai showed now for the first time in his reign that he understands the situation by going to the source of direct backing of his opponents and by-passed the bungling Americans with whom he developed a mutual mistrust.

Yes. lots of people in Washington should be demoted – that is retoactively – for having cost American lives in battles that were started by American lack of understanding of consequences while digging for oil at the outskirsts of an incendiary Middle East.


From BASHAR ASSAD, President of Syria, being interviewed by Seymour M. Hersh, of the New Yorker.

On Pakistan’s government:

They supported [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai and realized he cannot deliver. I do not know why they supported him and why—nobody knows why.

On American power:

Now the problem is that the United States is weaker, and the whole influential world is weak as well…. You always need power to do politics. Now nobody is doing politics…. So what you need is strong United States with good politics, not weaker United States. If you have weaker United States, it is not good for the balance of the world.


Posted on on February 2nd, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

U.N. Looks for Diplomatic Breakthroughs: U.N. looks for diplomatic breakthroughs in 2010.
Posted By Colum Lynch   Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Ban Ki-moon and his diplomatic envoys have been scouring the globe this week in search of a promising peace settlement for 2010, pursuing talks with Kim Jong Il’s government in North Korea, Afghanistan’s Taliban, and Turkish and Greek Cypriot leaders.

These latest diplomatic initiatives follow a year that brought few breakthroughs on the mediation front as the U.N. strained to advance democracy in Burma, head off mass rights abuses in Sri Lanka, and manage a crisis that threatens to trigger a resumption of civil war in Sudan.

U.N. officials say the proliferation of new initiatives is largely coincidental, the product of months, if not years, of preparation, but that it provides the U.N. with an opportunity to show that it can achieve some diplomatic wins. “There’s no grand strategy here,” said one official. Here’s a survey of key U.N. diplomatic initiatives for 2010 and their prospects for success {cynics at the UN say that this is propelled by the wish to secure a reappointment for a seconf term at the UN – editor}:

1. Cyprus. Ban traveled to Cyprus this weekend to nudge Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, the parties representing the ethnic Greek and Turkish sides of the island, into a breakthrough in a conflict that has lasted more than 35 years despite repeated efforts at mediation. Ban said that he is confident that a political settlement “is within reach.” But the two Cypriot leaders appeared more downbeat about the prospects for a deal. Cyprus has been split since 1974. Talks between the two sides during the past 17 months have produced some results, including an agreement to open a pedestrian crossing in Nicosia, the divided capital. But there is concern that April elections in the Turkish section may bring a hard-liner to power. “Time is not on the side of settlement,” the two leaders acknowledged in a joint statement Monday.

2. North Korea. Ban, a former South Korean diplomat, has been seeking a role in the North Korea crisis since he first took office in January 2007. A confidential U.N. policy paper, produced on April 25, 2007, called for “intensifying and expanding engagement” with Pyongyang, and possibly for the appointment a special North Korea coordinator. But initial attempts to start talks faltered after North Korea launched its missile test and detonated its second nuclear explosive last April and May. On Sunday, Ban announced that he would send his top political advisor, B. Lynn Pascoe, a former U.S. diplomat, to Pyongyang to restart high level U.N. talks later this month. He will be joined by Ban’s top Korean aide, Kim Won-soo. Can Ban be far behind?

3. Afghanistan. The U.N.’s outgoing special representative, Kai Eide, held secret talks with members of the Taliban sometime last year. Eide has been pursuing such contacts with the Taliban since he first started his job. U.N. sources described those talks as highly preliminary, and said that they do not have the approval of the Taliban leadership, which claims that its movement is not negotiating with the U.N. But an official close to the talks confirmed that they had in fact taken place and that Eide’s successor, Staffan di Mistura, would likely continue pursuing those contacts. While these discussions offer little hope of providing a breakthrough, they could provide a useful back channel over the long haul.

4. Sudan. The U.N. faces perhaps its greatest diplomatic challenge in Sudan, which is preparing for presidential elections this year and a referendum in 2011 that will determine whether the country remains unified or whether Sudan’s southerners decide to vote for independence. Ban has said Sudan will be one of his top priorities in 2010, and he has just assigned his two top Africa specialists, Ibrahim Gambari and Haile Menkerios, to manage U.N. operations on the ground. Success in Sudan will largely be measured by the U.N.’s ability to stop the referendum from triggering a renewed civil war. “Partitioning the country without violence: that will be a miracle,” said one Security Council diplomat. “I don’t know how they are going to do it.”

5. Burma. U.N. diplomatic efforts in Burma have pretty much run aground. Ban has reassigned his top Burma envoy, Gambari, to Sudan, and made his chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar of India, his temporary point man on Burma. The Burmese military junta recently rebuffed a U.N. request to invite Gambari back to the country for a final visit. U.N. diplomats say that Burma has little interest in meeting with the U.N.’s diplomatic placeholders, particularly now that the Americans are looking to engage the regime directly.


Posted on on January 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

From the latest news coming from Washington – “Under the new airport
rules, all citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq,
Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen must receive a pat
down and an extra check of their carry-on bags before boarding a plane
bound for the United States, officials said. Citizens of Cuba, Iran,
Sudan and Syria — nations considered ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ —
face the same requirement.”

That means Cuba and thirteen Muslim states: Afghanistan, Algeria,
Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia,
Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

These news caused a lot of comments, but we think the wrong comments.

We assume obviously that Washington is ready finally to address the
terrorism issue. Airplane terrorism, as we learned on 9/11, is not
about transport of weapons but about terrorists – to be specific since
9/11 – we speak here about Islamic terrorists. If you want to catch
terrorists you must look for terrorists. Looking for baby formula is
not the answer – but looking for those passengers whose profiles are
suspicious might be a better bet. Sure, obviously, not all Muslims are
terrorists, and profiling is terrible – even illegal, but if you want
to catch terrorists you start with the profile that most fits Islamic
terrorists, and you bet – they are Muslims of any color. Even though
they may be traveling with documents issued by non-Islamic States,
i.e. the UK, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, France, Switzerland, or even the

So, it is not easy to define exactly what papers are carried by the
terrorists, but you can have some guidelines to increase your chance
of catching them. looking for a profile of an Asian or African Muslim.
Then, learn from the Israelis how to talk to them – you may even find
out that they are so convinced that their cause is the right one, that
they will lower their guard and just plainly disclose that what you
see is all they got.

There may be a Jamaican convert to Islam who preached terrorism in the UK
and resides now in Kenya – a case in point. Kenya does want him either and
he will be sent back to Jamaica a second time. yes, this is a problem if you
are American and Jamaica does not cooperate – but he is a Muslim and no
Anti-Defamation league is enrtitled to tell you Mr. President that he should
not be stripped and searched if he wants to travel via the US to Jamaica.
This is simple.

But what about Cuba? Fidel Castro is more atheist then Catholic, surely
no Muslim. Whatever went on in the past is history to me and I do not believe
prologue to Mr. Castro. So why mix him and his country up with 13 Islamic
States involved in Islamic Terrorism? That is unless someone in the US longs
to see him give cover to such terrorists in the future so they get new reasons
to be after him? If the Jamaica case has anything to teach us – it is that the
US is better off reinsuring its rear parts from anger caused by mistreatment
and friendship is not achieved by mulling over past grief. Specially, as several
hundred former sugar baron families living in Florida should not be allowed to
hold hostage the US when it comes to real US interests.

Mr. President, I watched Bolivia and Venezuela leaders speak in Copenhagen,
they fumed and brimmed with words – no stones or missiles. Their ALBA is,
I think, the natural ally of a US that manages to disengage from the Islamic
world of oil. So, it is the US self interest that calls for you, Mr. President, to
invite Fidel Castro to Washington for a tete-a-tete and start on a way that
eventually will give the US the wall of safety it needs when addressing the 21st
Century centers of terror – the Islamists’ terror cancer that will continue to ooze
as long as we use oil.

Please start by taking him of that list!

The thirteen on that list include the obvious Iran – Syria – Lebanon
trio of the Shii’a Islam, it includes the Afghanistan/Pakistan US
theater of operations and Iraq, as well as the other US theater Saudi
Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan that misses Egypt and the Gaza strip. A
fourth historic region includes Libya and Algeria, then with Nigeria,
these are newer sources of oil for the US, and as such clear potential
sources of unhappy Islamists who complain about the changes in their
countries as fueled by oil money. In very few countries terrorism
against the US was actually started by rulers decree. Libya, Iran,
Syria, Sudan, Somalia may be the exceptions, but Saudi Arabia and
Yemen may have seen rulers who deflected anger against themselves into
anger against foreigners. In the majority of cases the terrorist is a
person of convictions and the situation could have been avoided had
the US and the rest of the Western World, tried to be less squanderous
with the oil we got addicted to.

Having said the above – let us get now to the point – MR PRESIDENT –
LIST IN 2010.

* * * *

Please look – I am posting here four reference – links to news
articles of today’s New York Times.…
New Air Security Checks From 14 Nations to U.S. Draw Criticism…
In Yemen, U.S. Faces Leader Who Puts Family First…
Behind Afghan Bombing, an Agent With Many Loyalties…
Kenya Seeks to Deport Muslim Cleric to Jamaica



We have received a comment on this post and it presents a very valid point supposedly made at the UN General Assembly by the Foreign Minister of Cuba: “I mean if they were going to include us, then they should have at least thrown in North Korea.”

Even if the e-mail we received from ajay –   akazif at  as presented by www. in… were a made up story, the argument holds water nevertheless. DID THE US INCLUDE CUBA ON THAT LIST BECAUSE IT WANTED TO AVOID BEING SEEN AS GOING AFTER A RAG-TAG OF ISLANIC COUNTRIES? Now, we believe that US security should be spoken here – not again US appeasement-for-oil please!


Posted on on January 6th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Michael Klare, The Blowback Effect, 2020
Posted by Michael Klare, January 5, 2010, on…

You can already see a new style of writing about China emerging in our American world.  The New York Times set it off recently by publishing a front-page piece on a $3.4 billion Chinese investment in one of the planet’s last great copper reserves — in Afghanistan.  In passing, reporter Michael Wines also pointed out that Chinese energy companies had gained a stronger foothold in the future exploitation of Iraq’s massive oil reserves than had U.S. multinationals.  The ironies were legion and painfully visible.

Our two wars have been sucking us dry in two countries where state-owned Chinese companies have just scored significant economic victories.  “While the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda [in Afghanistan],” wrote Wines, “China is securing raw material for its voracious economy. The world’s superpower is focused on security. Its fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce.”

Already, the follow-up pieces are starting to come out and heady cocktails they are:  one part awe and one part bitterness mixed with one part despair.  In Esquire online, Thomas P.M. Barnett put it this way:  “Worse still: Will the rest of the world end up profiting from our blood and money?… The reason why Obama neglects to mention any regional interests like Pakistan’s? Admitting the larger logic of regionalization would make too painfully obvious the nature of our current strategic bankruptcy. Because it would suggest that the only ‘victory’ to be found would be ‘won’ by those neighboring powers who did nothing to stabilize the situation. In other words, their ‘treasure’ and our ‘blood.'”  At Foreign Policy online, Stephen M. Walt chimed in:  “While we’ve been running around playing whack-a-mole with the Taliban and ‘investing’ billions each year in the corrupt Karzai government, China has been investing in things that might actually be of some value, like a big copper mine.”

Under George W. Bush, the U.S. set out, in part, to turn the Greater Middle East into an American “lake” of energy reserves via two invasions, and you know how that worked out.  The Chinese, on the other hand, only last year sent their warships abroad — to hunt pirates as part of an international flotilla in the Gulf of Aden — for the first time since the eunuch Zheng He commanded a Ming dynasty armada that reached Africa six centuries ago.  Unfortunately, as Michael Klare, TomDispatch regular and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy, makes clear below, China’s leaders are as unlikely to learn from our deepest mistakes as they were 30-odd years ago when China’s post-Cultural Revolution leadership looked our way and made a logical but calamitous decision: that the auto industry — all those millions of individual cars burning fossil fuels — would be a crucial pillar of their future industrial development.

Right now, they may still seem to be acting out a key lesson of this American moment:  Stay off the hard stuff.  You know, all that advanced weaponry (and the military-industrial complex that goes with it), all those aircraft carrier battle groups, all those “expeditionary forces” ready to be sent thousands of miles from home to fight “little wars.”  Once again, however, as Klare suggests, our present symbols of “power” are likely to be their paragon and the future will be a mess.  It’s not enough, it seems, to make money, not war.  Once you have the money, it has to be spent on something and our imaginations remain so limited.

Too bad.  Here’s where you could only wish the future might be a little less predictable.  No such luck, Klare tells us, when it comes to military power as the measure of greatness on planet Earth in the second decade of the twenty-first century.  Tom

The Second Decade
The World in 2020

By Michael T. Klare

As the second decade of the twenty-first century begins, we find ourselves at one of those relatively rare moments in history when major power shifts become visible to all.  If the first decade of the century witnessed profound changes, the world of 2009 nonetheless looked at least somewhat like the world of 1999 in certain fundamental respects:  the United States remained the world’s paramount military power, the dollar remained the world’s dominant currency, and NATO remained its foremost military alliance, to name just three.

By the end of the second decade of this century, however, our world is likely to have a genuinely different look to it.  Momentous shifts in global power relations and a changing of the imperial guard, just now becoming apparent, will be far more pronounced by 2020 as new actors, new trends, new concerns, and new institutions dominate the global space.  Nonetheless, all of this is the norm of history, no matter how dramatic it may seem to us.

Less normal — and so the wild card of the second decade (and beyond) — is intervention by the planet itself.  Blowback, which we think of as a political phenomenon, will by 2020 have gained a natural component.  Nature is poised to strike back in unpredictable ways whose effects could be unnerving and possibly devastating.

What, then, will be the dominant characteristics of the second decade of the twenty-first century?  Prediction of this sort is, of course, inherently risky, but extrapolating from current trends, four key aspects of second-decade life can be discerned: the rise of China; the (relative) decline of the United States; the expanding role of the global South; and finally, possibly most dramatically, the increasing impact of a roiling environment and growing resource scarcity.

Let’s start with human history and then make our way into the unknown future history of the planet itself.

The Ascendant Dragon

That China has become a leading world power is no longer a matter of dispute.  That country’s new-found strength was on full display at the climate summit in Copenhagen in December where it became clear that no meaningful progress was possible on the issue of global warming without Beijing’s assent.  Its growing prominence was also evident in the way it responded to the Great Recession, as it poured multi-billions of dollars into domestic recovery projects, thereby averting a significant slowdown in its economy.  It spent many tens of billions more on raw materials and fresh investments in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, helping to ignite recovery in those regions, too.

If China is an economic giant today, it will be a powerhouse in 2020.  According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), that country’s gross domestic product (GDP) will jump from an estimated $3.3 trillion in 2010 to $7.1 trillion in 2020 (in constant 2005 dollars), at which time its economy will exceed all others save that of the United States.  In fact, its GDP then should exceed those of all the nations in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East combined.  As the decade proceeds, China is expected to move steadily up the ladder of technological enhancement, producing ever more sophisticated products, including advanced green energy and transportation systems that will prove essential to future post-carbon economies.  These gains, in turn, will give it increasing clout in international affairs.

China will undoubtedly also use its growing wealth and technological prowess to enhance its military power.  According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), China is already the world’s second largest military spender, although the $85 billion it invested in its armed forces in 2008 was a pale shadow of the $607 billion allocated by the United States.  In addition, its forces remain technologically unsophisticated and its weapons are no match for the most modern U.S., Japanese, and European equipment.  However, this gap will narrow significantly in the century’s second decade as China devotes more resources to military modernization.

The critical question is:  How will China use its added power to achieve its objectives?

Until now, China’s leaders have wielded its growing strength cautiously, avoiding behavior that would arouse fear or suspicion on the part of neighbors and economic partners.  It has instead employed the power of the purse and “soft power” — vigorous diplomacy, development aid, and cultural ties — to cultivate friends and allies.  But will China continue to follow this “harmonious,” non-threatening approach as the risks of forcefully pursuing its national interests diminish?  This appears unlikely.

A more assertive China that showed what the Washington Post called “swagger” was already evident in the final months of 2009 at the summit meetings between presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao in Beijing and Copenhagen.  In neither case did the Chinese side seek a “harmonious” outcome:  In Beijing, it restricted Obama’s access to the media and refused to give any ground on Tibet or tougher sanctions on key energy-trading partner Iran; at a crucial moment in Copenhagen, it actually sent low-ranking officials to negotiate with Obama — an unmistakable slight — and forced a compromise that absolved China of binding restraints on carbon emissions.

If these summits are any indication, Chinese leaders are prepared to play global hard-ball, insisting on compliance with their core demands and giving up little even on matters of secondary importance.  China will find itself ever more capable of acting this way because the economic fortunes of so many countries are now tied to its consumption and investment patterns — a pivotal global role once played by the United States — and because its size and location gives it a commanding position in the planet’s most dynamic region.  In addition, in the first decade of the twenty-first century Chinese leaders proved especially adept at nurturing ties with the leaders of large and small countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America that will play an ever more important role in energy and other world affairs.

To what ends will China wield its growing power?  For the top leadership in Beijing, three goals will undoubtedly be paramount: to ensure the continued political monopoly of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), to sustain the fast-paced economic growth which justifies its dominance, and to restore the country’s historic greatness.  All three are, in fact, related:  The CCP will remain in power, senior leaders believe, only so long as it orchestrates continuing economic expansion and satisfies the nationalist aspirations of the public as well as the high command of the People’s Liberation Army.  Everything Beijing does, domestically and internationally, is geared to these objectives.  As the country grows stronger, it will use its enhanced powers to shape the global environment to its advantage just as the United States has done for so long.  In China’s case, this will mean a world wide-open to imports of Chinese goods and to investments that allow Chinese firms to devour global resources, while placing ever less reliance on the U.S. dollar as the medium of international exchange.

The question that remains unanswered:  Will China begin flexing its growing military muscle?  Certainly, Beijing will do so in at least an indirect manner.  By supplying arms and military advisers to its growing network of allies abroad, it will establish a military presence in ever more areas.  My suspicion is that China will continue to avoid the use of force in any situation that might lead to a confrontation with major Western powers, but may not hesitate to bring its military to bear in any clash of national wills involving neighboring countries.  Such a situation could arise, for example, in a maritime dispute over control of the energy-rich South China Sea or in Central Asia, if one of the former Soviet republics became a haven for Uighur militants seeking to undermine Chinese control over Xinjiang Province.

The Eagle Comes in for a Landing

Just as the rise of China is now taken for granted, so, too, is the decline of the United States.  Much has been written about America’s inevitable loss of primacy as this country suffers the consequences of economic mismanagement and imperial overstretch.  This perspective was present in Global Trends 2025, a strategic assessment of the coming decades prepared for the incoming Obama administration by the National Intelligence Council (NIC), an affiliate of the Central Intelligence Agency.  “Although the United States is likely to remain the single most powerful actor [in 2025],” the NIC predicted, “the United States’ relative strength — even in the military realm — will decline and U.S. leverage will become more constrained.”

Some unforeseen catastrophe aside, however, the U.S. is not likely to be poorer in 2020 or more backward technologically.  In fact, according to the most recent Department of Energy projections, America’s GDP in 2020 will be approximately $17.5 trillion (in 2005 dollars), nearly one-third greater than today.  Moreover, some of the initiatives already launched by President Obama to stimulate the development of advanced energy systems are likely to begin bearing fruit, possibly giving the United States an edge in certain green technologies.  And don’t forget, the U.S. will remain the globe’s preeminent military power, with China lagging well behind, and no other potential rival able to mobilize even Chinese-level resources to challenge U.S. military advantages.

What will change is America’s position relative to China and other nations — and so, of course, its ability to dominate the global economy and the world political agenda.  Again using DoE projections, we find that in 2005, America’s GDP of $12.4 trillion exceeded that of all the nations of Asia and South America combined, including Brazil, China, India, and Japan.  By 2020, the combined GDP of Asia and South America will be about 40% greater than that of the U.S., and growing at a much faster rate.   By then, the United States will be deeply indebted to more solvent foreign nations, especially China, for the funds needed to pay for continuing budget deficits occasioned by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon budget, the federal stimulus package, and the absorption of “toxic assets” from troubled banks and corporations.

Count on this, though:  in an increasingly competitive world economy in which U.S. firms enjoy ever diminishing advantages, the prospects for ordinary Americans will be distinctly dimmer.  Some sectors of the economy, and some parts of the country, will certainly continue to thrive, but others will surely suffer Detroit’s fate, becoming economically hollowed out and experiencing wholesale impoverishment.  For many — perhaps most — Americans, the world of 2020 may still provide a standard of living far superior to that enjoyed by a majority of the world; but the perks and advantages that most middle class folks once took for granted — college education, relatively accessible (and affordable) medical care, meals out, foreign travel — will prove significantly harder to come by.

Even America’s military advantage will be much eroded.  The colossal costs of the disastrous Iraq and Afghan wars will set limits on the nation’s ability to undertake significant military missions abroad.  Keep in mind that, in the first decade of the twenty-first century, a significant proportion of the basic combat equipment of the Army and Marine Corps has been damaged or destroyed in these wars, while the fighting units themselves have been badly battered by multiple tours of duty.  Repairing this damage would require at least a decade of relative quiescence, which is nowhere in sight.

The growing constraints on American power were recently acknowledged by President Obama in an unusual setting:  his West Point address announcing a troop surge in Afghanistan.  Far from constituting a triumphalist expression of American power and preeminence, like President Bush’s speeches on the Iraq War, his was an implicit admission of decline.  Alluding to the hubris of his predecessor, Obama noted, “We’ve failed to appreciate the connection between our national security and our economy.  In the wake of the economic crisis, too many of our neighbors and friends are out of work and struggle to pay the bills…. Meanwhile, competition in the global economy has grown more fierce.  So we simply can’t afford to ignore the price of these wars.”

Many have chosen to interpret Obama’s Afghan surge decision as a typical twentieth-century-style expression of America’s readiness to intervene anywhere on the planet at a moment’s notice.  I view it as a transitional move meant to prevent the utter collapse of an ill-conceived military venture at a time when the United States is increasingly being forced to rely on non-military means of persuasion and the cooperation, however tempered, of allies.  President Obama said as much:   “We’ll have to be nimble and precise in our use of military power…. And we can’t count on military might alone.”  Increasingly, this will be the mantra of strategic planning that will govern the American eagle in decline.

The Rising South

The second decade of the century will also witness the growing importance of the global South:  the formerly-colonized, still-developing areas of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  Once playing a relatively marginal role in world affairs, they were considered open territory, there to be invaded, plundered, and dominated by the major powers of Europe, North America, and (for a time) Japan.  To some degree, the global South, a.k.a. the “Third World,” still plays a marginal role, but that is changing.

Once a member in good standing of the global South, China is now an economic superpower and India is well on its way to earning this status.  Second-tier states of the South, including Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, and Turkey, are on the rise economically, and even the smallest and least well-off nations of the South have begun to attract international attention as providers of crucial raw materials or as sites of intractable problems including endemic terrorism and crime syndicates.

To some degree, this is a product of numbers — growing populations and growing wealth.  In 2000, the population of the global South stood at an estimated 4.9 billion people; by 2020, that number is expected to hit 6.4 billion.  Many of these new inhabitants of planet Earth will be poor and disenfranchised, but most will be workers (in either the formal or informal economy), many will participate in the political process in some way, and some will be entrepreneurs, labor leaders, teachers, criminals, or militants.  Whatever the case, they will make their presence felt.

The nations of the South will also play a growing economic role as sources of raw materials in an era of increasing scarcity and founts of entrepreneurial vitality.  By one estimate, the combined GDP of the global South (excluding China) will jump from $7.8 trillion in 2005 to $15.8 trillion in 2020, an increase of more than 100%.  In particular, many of the prime deposits of oil, natural gas, and the key minerals needed in the global North to keep the industrial system going are facing wholesale depletion after decades of hyper-intensive extraction, leaving only the deposits in the South to be exploited.

Take oil:  In 1990, 43% of world daily oil output was supplied by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (the major Persian Gulf producers plus Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Libya, Nigeria, and Venezuela), other African and Latin American producers, and the Caspian Sea countries; by 2020, their share will rise to 58%.  A similar shift in the center of gravity of world mineral production will take place, with unexpected countries like Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Niger (a major uranium supplier), and the Democratic Republic of Congo taking on potentially crucial roles.

Inevitably, the global South will also play a conspicuous role in a series of potentially devastating developments.  Combine persistent deep poverty, economic desperation, population growth, and intensifying climate degradation and you have a recipe for political unrest, insurgency, religious extremism, increased criminality, mass migrations, and the spread of disease.  The global North will seek to immunize itself from these disorders by building fences of every sort, but through sheer numbers alone, the inhabitants of the South will make their presence felt, one way or another.

The Planet Strikes Back

All of this might represent nothing more than the normal changing of the imperial guard on planet Earth, if that planet itself weren’t undergoing far more profound changes than any individual power or set of powers, no matter how strong.  The ever more intrusive realities of global warming, resource scarcity, and food insufficiency will, by the end of this century’s second decade, be undeniable and, if not by 2020, then in the decades to come, have the capacity to put normal military and economic power, no matter how impressive, in the shade.

“There is little doubt about the main trends,” Professor Ole Danbolt Mjøs, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, said in awarding the Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore in December 2007:  “More and more scientists have reached ever closer agreement concerning the increasingly dramatic consequences that will follow from global warming.”  Likewise, a growing body of energy experts has concluded that the global production of conventional oil will soon reach a peak (if it hasn’t already) and decline, producing a worldwide energy shortage.  Meanwhile, fears of future food emergencies, prompted in part by global warming and high energy prices, are becoming more widespread.

All of this was apparent when world leaders met in Copenhagen and failed to establish an effective international regime for reducing the emission of climate-altering greenhouse gases (GHGs).  Even though they did agree to keep talking and comply with a non-binding, aspirational scheme to cut back on GHGs, observers believe that such efforts are unlikely to lead to meaningful progress in controlling global warming in the near future.  What few doubt is that the pace of climate change will accelerate destructively in the second decade of this century, that conventional (liquid) petroleum and other key resources will become scarcer and more difficult to extract, and that food supplies will diminish in many poor, environmentally vulnerable areas.

Scientists do not agree on the precise nature, timing, and geographical impact of climate-change effects, but they do generally agree that, as we move deeper into the century, we will be seeing an exponential increase in the density of the heat-trapping greenhouse-gas layer in the atmosphere as the consumption of fossil fuels grows and past smokestack emissions migrate to the outer atmosphere.  DoE data indicates, for example, that between 1990 and 2005, world carbon dioxide emissions grew by 32%, from 21.5 to 31.0 billion metric tons.  It can take as much as 50 years for GHGs to reach the greenhouse layer, which means that their effect will increase even if — as appears unlikely — the nations of the world soon begin to reduce their future emissions.

In other words, the early manifestations of global warming in the first decade of this century — intensifying hurricanes and typhoons, torrential rains followed by severe flooding in some areas and prolonged, even record-breaking droughts in others, melting ice-caps and glaciers, and rising sea levels — will all become more pronounced in the second.  As suggested by the IPCC in its 2007 report, uninhabitable dust bowls are likely to emerge in large areas of Central and Northeast Asia, Mexico and the American Southwest, and the Mediterranean basin.  Significant parts of Africa are likely to be devastated by rising temperatures and diminished rainfall.  More cities are likely to undergo the sort of flooding and destruction experienced by New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.   And blistering summers, as well as infrequent or negligible rainfall, will limit crop production in key food-producing regions.

Progress will be evident in the development of renewable energy systems, such as wind, solar, and biofuels.  Despite the vast sums now being devoted to their development, however, they will still provide only a relatively small share of world energy in 2020.  According to DoE projections, renewables will take care of only 10.5% of world energy needs in 2020, while oil and other petroleum liquids will still make up 32.6% of global supplies; coal, 27.1%; and natural gas, 23.8%.  In other words, greenhouse gas production will rage on — and, ironically, should it not, thanks to expected shortfalls in the supply of oil, that in itself will likely prove another kind of disaster, pushing up the prices of all energy sources and endangering economic stability.  Most industry experts, including those at the International Energy Agency (IEA) in Paris, believe that it will be nearly impossible to continue increasing the output of conventional and unconventional petroleum (including tough to harvest Arctic oil, Canadian tar sands, and shale oil) without increasingly implausible fresh investments of trillions of dollars, much of which would have to go into war-torn, unstable areas like Iraq or corrupt, unreliable states like Russia.

In the latest hit movie Avatar, the lush, mineral-rich moon Pandora is under assault by human intruders seeking to extract a fabulously valuable mineral called “unobtainium.”  Opposing them are not only a humanoid race called the Na’vi, loosely modeled on Native Americans and Amazonian jungle dwellers, but also the semi-sentient flora and fauna of Pandora itself.   While our own planet may not possess such extraordinary capabilities, it is clear that the environmental damage caused by humans since the onset of the Industrial Revolution is producing a natural blowback effect which will become increasingly visible in the coming decade.

These, then, are the four trends most likely to dominate the second decade of this century.  Perhaps others will eventually prove more significant, or some set of catastrophic events will further alter the global landscape, but for now expect the dragon ascendant, the eagle descending, the South rising, and the planet possibly trumping all of these.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet: The New Geopolitics of Energy (Owl Books). A documentary film version of his previous book, Blood and Oil, is available from the Media Education Foundation at

Copyright 2010 Michael T. Klare


Posted on on January 4th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Dick Cheney refuses to get out of the media’s eyes – this after having been for several decades the “dark (Darth) vader” of US politics. Now he speaks, and speaks, as if he was not the US President 2000-2008 in disguise of a Vice President’s mantle that he got bestowed on his shoulders by a weakling called G.W. Bush. after having been asked by him to make a recommendation for that job. He actually had then the Chutzpah to define that job by lines he drew around his own image. Good Job – Dick.
Now he blames it all on President Obama – the man whose most glaring mistake is that he retained in his administration some people that worked previously with Dick Cheney and as such are clearly not catalysts for change. We assume that Obama did this in order to lessen attacks from Dick, but as we see this was not appreciated by Mr. Cheney. He goes on shooting from his mouth even at previous friends – as he did at that infamous Texas range were he aimed and injured his fellow hunter.
We find thus the following end-of-year Washington Post article as a bundle of outburst. But that is not the end. Cheney continued to talk and now President Obama himself was dragged into answering him. What waste of energy needed rather for efforts to sweep the policy barn that the Bush/Cheney people left behind. Why do I waste time on this? The answer – half of America are still listening to him.

Dick Cheney’s lies about President Obama.
Thursday, December 31, 2009

It’s pathetic to break a New Year’s resolution before we even get to New Year’s Day, but here I go. I had promised myself that I would do a better job of ignoring Dick Cheney’s corrosive and nonsensical outbursts — that I would treat them, more or less, like the pearls of wisdom one hears from homeless people sitting in bus shelters.

But he is a former vice president, which gives him a big stage for his histrionic Rottweiler-in-Winter act. It is never a good idea to let widely disseminated lies and distortions go unchallenged. And the shrill screed that Cheney unloosed Wednesday is so full of outright mendacity that, well, my resolution will have to wait.

In a statement to Politico, Cheney seemed to be trying to provide talking points for opponents of the Obama administration who — incredibly — would exploit the Christmas Day terrorist attack for political gain. Cheney’s broadside opens with a big lie, which he then repeats throughout. It is as if he believes that saying something over and over again, in a loud enough voice, magically makes it so.

“As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war,” Cheney begins.

Flat-out untrue.

The fact is that Obama has said many times that we are at war against terrorists. He said it as a candidate. He said it in his inaugural address: “Our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” He has said it since.

As Cheney well knows, unless he has lost even the most tenuous grip on reality, Obama’s commitment to warfare as an instrument in the fight against terrorism has won the president nothing but grief from the liberal wing of his party, with more certainly to come. Hasn’t anyone told Cheney that Obama is sharply boosting troop levels in Afghanistan in an attempt to avoid losing a war that the Bush administration started but then practically abandoned?

Cheney knows this. But he goes on to use the big lie — that Obama is “trying to pretend we are not at war” — to bludgeon the administration on a host of specific issues. Here is the one that jumps out at me: The president, Cheney claims, “seems to think that if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war.”

Interesting that Cheney should bring that up, because it now seems clear that the man accused of trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was given training — and probably the bomb itself, which involved plastic explosives sewn into his underwear — by al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. It happens that at least two men who were released from Guantanamo appear to have gone on to play major roles as al-Qaeda lieutenants in Yemen. Who let these dangerous people out of our custody? They were set free by the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

The former vice president expresses his anger that the Obama administration is bringing Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to trial in New York. Cheney is also angry that Obama does not use the phrase “war on terror” all the time, the way the Bush administration used to. But Obama just specifies that we’re at war against a network of terrorists, on the sensible theory that it’s impossible to wage war against a tactic.

Toward the end of his two-paragraph statement, Cheney goes completely off the rails and starts fulminating about how Obama is seeking “social transformation — the restructuring of American society.” Somehow, this is supposed to be related to the president’s alleged disavowal of war — which, of course, isn’t real anyway. It makes you wonder whether Cheney is just feeding the fantasies of the paranoid right or has actually joined the tea-party fringe.

I can find reasons to criticize the administration’s response to the Christmas Day attack. Obama and his team were slow off the mark. Their initial statements were weak. Obama shouldn’t have waited three days to speak publicly, and when he did he should have shown some emotion.

But using a terrorist attack to seek political gain? I have a New Year’s resolution to suggest for Cheney: Ahead of your quest for personal vindication, put country first.


We post this after having watched the Sunday, January 3, 2010 TV programs where John Brennan, who has 20 years experience in counter-terrorism, the President’s Personal Adviser on Terrorism now, was dispatched to explain/defend to all channels, the US President’s Administration in the light of the Nigerian Underwear Bomber’s apprehension by a mere Dutch movie-maker.

Later, we watched on the Fareed Zakarya CNN/GPS program how people with intelligence experience analyzed these events.

Governor Thomas Kean, a Republican, was Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. When asked if he sees progress in the interrelation between the US intelligence agencies, he said we should be thankful to this disturbed Nigerian youngster who did us a favor by alerting us to what more terrible things could happen. Kean contended that, though the people working for the Administration are all exceptionally good individuals, it is understandable that the transition had its focus on other issues, but now the anti-terrorism issue must be brought back – center stage. So, one could infer that the preoccupation with health care, climate change, the economy, blurred Obama’s attention to terrorism.

Then Michael Scheuer, former CIA Agent, in charge of following Al Qaeda, said outright – STOP DEPENDING ON FOREIGN DICTATORS when it comes to US security. He clearly said that pouring in money to a Yemeni dictator or a Saudi King will not provide the US with security as they do not see the world with the same eyes as we do. But then, Mr. Scheuer, a professional and not a party-man, said something really to the point: “It is Mr. Brennan’s history that we should depend on the Saudis to take care of the problem.” Mr. Scheuer must have said more, but the program had blanked out for some moments – was this US CENSORSHIP I WITNESSED? Then, when he picked up I heard Cheney’s name mentioned at the CIA.

This, and our old understanding that there are no Yemeni or Saudi Nations, but only one big Arab people in that Arab Peninsula, carved up between various rulers, and held together by Islam, There indeed are not different “Qaedas” (“religious bases”) but one Al-Qaeda that hates the rulers because of the deviation from religion they can afford thanks to our oil-money, it is indeed the Cheney direct involvement with the Saudi monarchy, as shown in the way he sprinted out from the US members of the Bin Laden family after 9/11, that leads now, under the Obama Administration the shutting up of Michael Scheuer, when he points out that the same Bush Administration people are still in charge.


Fareed Zakarya had further stars on his program.

Tom Ricks, Senior Fellow at the Washington Center for New American Security spoke on the Afghanistan topic when analyzing lessons from the Wanat Village disaster that led to the death of 49 Americans because of lack of coordination between US forces. That resonated in my mind when reading about 9 CIA operatives having been killed right now across the border in Pakistan, and that the dead included a relative of the Jordanian king – but then horror strikes, by today we learn that this Jordanian is suspected of being actually the suicide bomber!

Are the Americans supposed now to get involved in the Pakistan-Afghanistan internal dissensions? Are they going to hunt after Jalaluddin Haqqani, an Afghan warlord who turned sour? And what do you do with Karzai whose 17 out of 24 nominees for his cabinet got rejected by the Afghan Parliament?

Even UN’s Kai Eide, who fired Peter Galbright rather then accepting his opinion that Karzai’s election was fraudulent, said now that it could take weeks before Karzai could form a government. Will the US and its few allies in Afghanistan from among the NATO countries have to fight in a country that cannot set up a government? Does one expect Afghanistan with its rotten neighbor, Pakistan, to turn eventually into another miracle pseudo-democracy like Iraq?

Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, is convening January 28th a conference to renew the west’s commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan – this while Karzai will be arriving without a government. Is it not nice? We hope that the UN Secretary-General we be at the meeting and help fill in the void.

The CNN/GPS program was then ended by an interview with Prof. Kishore Mahbubani who is with the University of Singapore and one of the wisest analysts of the changing world – specially, the ascendancy of new Asian powers – China and India.

Asked how he evaluates the Obama Administration, Mahbubani said that the reflexive Anti-Americanism from previous US Administrations, was gone in Asia.

They believe Obama is trying to do the right thing, so about Hillary Clinton at State.

Iraq seems to be going in the right direction, but the world is afraid of a direct attack on Iran. For the Middle East it is hoped for a two state solution.
China has come out from the economic crisis with a 2.3 trillion reserve – more then ever – and much stronger then the rest of the world. The crisis has thus shifted the balance of power in Asia and China’s interest is obviously China – so it can be expected they will ready to be a responsible global citizen. If the US does right with China we can expect to be out for 3-4 good decades.
China’s foreign policy, having seen they did well with the US and it benefited China, will continue the same way.
One last word about Dick Cheney’s days in government and the retainment of previous experience by the Obama Administration as evidenced these days, besides Mr. Brennan we mentioned earlier, this weekend came to the forefront also Mr. Ben S, Bernanke, the continuing Federal Reserve Chairman, who came out saying that Lax Oversight Caused the Financial Crisis – as if we did not know this all the time along. Now, was this statement, while looking forward to what he will be doing with this, a recognition of the misery that started back with the Reagan administration, or a first acknowledgement that if we do not act right now, whatever was achieved last year was only a down payment on the belief that Obama will bring about change, and that without real change the future is bleak and we will see a relapse. Should we be drawn into accepting that Obama was much wiser than us, and he leads his effort at change slowly, so by retaining some of the wrong for a while he can maneuver in the field of multiple needs without causing the whole structure to tumble down of us had he actually started to work on everything at the same time? Dick Cheney is the last person in the world to try to answer this question.


Posted on on December 23rd, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What it Will Mean for Our World.
Vali Nasr introduced by Joanne J. Myers at the Carnegie Council, New York, December 7, 2009.

Forces of Fortune.JPG
Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What it Will Mean for Our World


JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I’m Joanne Myers, Director of Public Affairs Programs. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I would like to thank you all for joining us.

Today it is my pleasure to welcome the renowned Middle East expert, Vali Nasr. Some of you may recall listening to Professor Nasr when he spoke here a few years ago. At that time he discussed his widely acclaimed book, The Shia Revival, in which his insightful analysis reframed the debate over the Iraq War and taught us a great deal by explaining how the Sunni-Shia rift was driving the insurgency.

Today when he discusses Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What It Will Mean for Our World, I believe he will once again shine a beacon of understanding on the complex landscape that is the Middle East.

As one of the foremost scholars and original thinkers on Muslim society, Vali has a reputation for painting a picture of the Middle East that is different from the one you may read or hear about in the media. In Forces of Fortune, he has once again produced a work in which he encourages us to reshape our opinions and increase our understanding of the broader changes taking place within the Muslim world.

He writes that, although we must be vigilant against fundamentalism and extremism, there are other forces at work in this region. What he is referring to is a new business-minded middle class that has tied its future to commerce. These upwardly mobile individuals of entrepreneurs, investors, professionals, and avid consumers are reshaping religion, social, and political life and tipping the scale away from extremist belligerence. He reveals how this is happening in Iran and has already taken place in Turkey and Dubai, last week’s news notwithstanding.

He makes a compelling argument that the way to win over the Muslim world and to counter the threat from the Islamic extremists is to engage it over business, capitalism, and trade, and not to fight it over religion. As he poignantly says, we will do ourselves a disservice if we think only in terms of extremist ideologies in determining how the Middle East interacts with the world.

To help us look inside this unfolding phenomenon, please join me in welcoming a very special guest, my friend Vali Nasr.

Thank you for joining us.


VALI NASR: Good morning. Thank you, Joanne, for that very generous and wonderful introduction. It’s very good to be back at the Council for one of these sessions.

Let me begin by saying that it’s very clear that, although we are dealing with very different issues today than we did a few years ago—with a very different war, with a very different set of circumstances—the Muslim world still occupies a great deal of the United States’ attention. It continues to be an important foreign policy issue, not only an immediate issue, but a much longer-run issue. We are as a nation worried about extremism, about what it means, about what its potential is. But more so, we still grapple with this larger issue of what the future of relations between the West, the United States, and the Muslim world would be.

A good deal of thinking, particularly in the public arena, has gone into the issue of extremism: Where does it come from? What do they say? What do they want? How to deal with them? The other side of this argument is, how do we get the Muslims to sort of snap out of this fetish with extremism, how to get them to think about the future differently.

These are very important issues. They are important for us to think about, to consider, et cetera. But they have also, in my opinion, completely dominated the entirety of the universe of our thinking about 1.3 billion people spread from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Dealing with these issues, traveling in the region, talking to people, it was clear to me that extremism is not the only story in the Muslim world. It is the story that most preoccupies us, but it clearly is not the only story. In fact, the long-run way in which to get past extremism actually lies in those stories that we are not paying attention to.

Let me begin by saying that when we look at the Muslim world, there are some things that strike Westerners most obviously—for instance, the religiosity in the Muslim world or their penchant for particularly harsh anti-Western political attitudes or what the West believes to be support for acts of violence, although this is not as pervasive as the media make it sound.

But one of the most important and interesting issues is the following: Large parts of the Muslim world sit outside of the global economy. Where that’s the case, extremism is worse. Where the Muslim world is most integrated into the global economy, extremism is a lesser problem.

By integration into the global economy, I don’t mean selling oil and buying military aircraft. That’s not the kind of economic engagement I’m talking about. I’m talking about the phenomenon of globalization that we all understand, that dominated the global economy from the 1990s on, brought new parts of the world—Latin America, East Asia, Eastern Europe, India ultimately—into its fold, integrated those economies into, if you would, one single supply chain, where things that are made in one part of the world are consumed in another part of the world.

Most of the Muslim world is not part of this picture. If you went to Walmart, you are not going to find many things saying “Made in Saudi Arabia” on them. But you will find things that say “Made in Malaysia” on them or “Made in Turkey” on them.

My argument is that that’s actually a very, very striking issue. There is a cross-section between the two major global trends of the past two decades. One is the rise of a single global economy because of increasing trade and integration of economies, which is a major story of our time. The other one is the rise in extremism. In the Muslim world, these two trends have a trajectory which is quite interesting. The problem in the Muslim world, in my opinion, is not too much religion; it’s too little global economy.

If we look at the Muslim world, we see many parts of it. The heartland of the Middle East is dominated by government-run closed economies. Some are wealthy; some are not. But the economic structure is fairly simple: The government dominates the majority of economic activity. The public sector is huge. The majority of the population relies on government entitlement programs, government contracts, government salaries. Entrepreneurs don’t matter much, in the sense that it’s not their taxes that are running the economy. So their opinion doesn’t matter much.

When, for instance, we look at a country like Pakistan, taxes, in a country of 180 million people, account for only 3 percent of the GDP. Something like a percent of the population pays real taxes. If you look at a country like Turkey, which is actually integrated into the global economy much more, that percentage approximates advanced economies.

Remember recently, about a year ago, when the Turkish military was considering intervening in Turkish politics because the ruling party nominated a presidential candidate who, in their opinion, was too Islamically oriented, which is the current president, Abdullah Gül. I asked a very wealthy Turkish tycoon what would happen.

He said, “Nothing. Whoever rules Turkey has to listen to us. We pay for the government.”

That’s the way it is here. That’s the way it is in Europe. That’s the way it is in many places. In the Muslim world, that’s not the case.

When we say that’s not the case, what are you missing in the Muslim world? It is a very, very important class. Call them entrepreneurs, call them middle class, call them a bourgeoisie. They go by different names, but in the West, it’s a very familiar class. It’s the class that accounts for wealth generation, for innovation, and for social transformation.

You can go all the way back to 16th-century Europe. What produced modernity in Europe was the middle class. We all think about Reformation, for instance, in Scotland and Germany. Well, Reformation in Scotland was kind of like Taliban’s Kabul. It was a highly puritanical, rigid place. It was not that puritanical attitude that made Scotland into the seat of the Industrial Revolution, the place whereAdam Smith and David Hume came from. It was trade, it was commerce, and it was the social classes that were connected with commerce that made that transformation.

So conclusion number one is that the big problem in the Muslim world is this missing class. This class is missing because the economies are not set up right and not integrated into the global economy. We are trying often to force open Islam to modern ideas. We forget that you have to first force open the economies to modern economics before the economic forces make that transformation.

How do we know that that is right? It’s a question I grappled with a lot. There is plenty of evidence. It is happening, on a small scale, in places. Where it’s happening, it is showing positive results. What we see is that when it happens, Muslims can be just as capitalist as the next guy and behave in ways that are embracing of the world, not rejecting of the world.

There are countries, from Iran to Pakistan—and I’ll talk to you about that—where there is evidence of that. But there are some parts of the Muslim world where there is a lot of evidence of that. You can go to Southeast Asia, to Malaysia or Indonesia or to Turkey or Dubai in the Middle East, and there’s plenty of evidence of that.

Let’s consider, for instance, Indonesia. For most Americans, Indonesia appeared on the Islamic map with the Bali bombings. We had the same kinds of fears for Indonesia that we had for Pakistan or the Arab world.

There were these religious schools, equivalents of madrasas, that were training people we believed to be too conservative and violent. There was a very big organization called Jemaah Islamiyah who we believed to have ties with al-Qaeda, who was committed to violent overthrow of the Indonesian government, was anti-Western, and carried out heinous acts of terrorism—the Bali bombings, attacks on hotels in Jakarta, et cetera.

Fast-forward to 2009. It’s very clear that Indonesia has moved in a very different direction than was expected. In the last elections in the country,President Yudhoyono‘s party defeated the fundamentalist party. By and large, the country as a whole voted for, if you would, much more moderate political choices.

Terrorism is still in Indonesia. Only this last summer, there was another attack on the same Marriott Hotel in Jakarta. But what’s clear is that the Indonesians are not interested in supporting terrorism as a whole.

What happened in Indonesia is that Indonesia has been steadily integrating into the global economy. It’s going the way of Asia rather than the way of the Middle East. Its oil income now accounts a lot less for its national income. It relies on producing things that we buy at Walmart. Therefore, it’s part of the global supply chain.

Why does that work? Let me take another country, Turkey. Turkey is now one of the world’s top 20 economies. When the Pittsburgh meeting happened, Turkey was one of the G-20 countries. It has produced a relatively stable democracy that at least is better than anything else we see in the Muslim world. It has a very robust economy that is integrated into the European economy. Istanbul has become a prime destination, not just for tourism, but for business. It has become a global city in the context of Caucasus, Eastern Europe, Europe. Turkey did have a secular legacy, but Turkey did not get to where it did because of being a rigid secular state. That brought Turkey so far, but it couldn’t get it to where it is.

What happened was that Turkey was virtually bankrupt as a country in the 1980s. It had high inflation, high unemployment. It was a lot like Mexico or Argentina or Brazil in the same time period. So it did the same thing as those countries did. It went to the World Bank and IMF and asked for loans, and they gave it money, conditional that Turkey would change its economy to begin to integrate into the global economy. The Turks did that. There was profound change. Turkey became an export-oriented economy.

There is a little town in the middle of Turkey called Kayseri, from which the Turkish president comes. I don’t know if you have been to the tourist site, Cappadocia, in Turkey. It’s literally maybe 50 kilometers south of Cappadocia.

It’s a very small town. I would say, in an American context, it’s like South Bend, Indiana. If Istanbul stands for New York, where all the power elite and the old businessmen tied to the government are, Kayseri was nowhere.

Now if you go to Kayseri, it is a sort of industrial hub of Turkey. When Turkey reformed its economy, these small businessmen, who were not part of the elite, began to set up factories using labor, producing things that they sold abroad. For instance, about 6 to 7 percent of all denim that goes into blue jeans in the world is produced in Kayseri. One company alone produces 1 percent of all the denim jeans in the world. The city is a massive exporter of leather, of furniture, et cetera.

It’s now a very wealthy city, a very wealthy small city. It’s very conservative. People go to mosques. Women abide by traditional ways. But it’s wealthy and it’s capitalist and religious exactly the way in which Middle America is. Its moral values are very strong, but it’s also very capitalist.

And there is no interest in jihad in Kayseri. It’s very simple. In talking to these businessmen, if you are selling leather to Ferragamo, you know jihad is not good for business. You do care about Turkey’s image. They are interested in religion as moral values, not as political action. They are interested in religion the same way that many American businessmen are—as pro-capitalist, life-embracing, moral values about a code of ethics in our daily lives, and the dos and don’ts that get you to heaven. They are not interested in agitation and social action.

It is not because we came up with a program to reform them. It’s not because we preached it to them. It came from within. It is the same dynamic that we see in other world religions, that we saw in the history of Europe. The dynamic is very clearly there.

This is not happening among people who were already secularized by Kemalismin Turkey. These people were always religious. They were always living in a very small town—except that they became part of the global economy in a way in which Arab businessmen are not part of the global economy.

This businessman I was talking to who sells directly to Ferragamo made the deal himself. It’s not a government-to-government deal. He doesn’t owe anything to the Turkish government. He owes as much to the Turkish government for this deal as an American businessman feels that he owes to the U.S. government for a deal. He believes that actually he is providing money for Turkey; it’s not the other way around. When you go to countries like Saudi Arabia, it’s very clear that the government is providing money to the businessmen. Therefore, the government doesn’t owe them anything. Here it’s very clear that the dynamic is very different.

So when you look at Turkey, you see that when you have businessmen and a middle class that looks like other middle classes, then it actually behaves like other middle classes.

I think this is reflected nowhere better than in Dubai. I know Dubai is not a good investment opportunity now. I’m not touting Dubai as an investment opportunity. I would just say that capitalists everywhere, including in this city, make bad decisions and everybody else pays for it. Even in that, the Muslims have proven that they are not an exception to the rule. When there is too much money, as happened in NASDAQ, as happened elsewhere, you make bad decisions and you have to pay for them.

But what fascinated me about Dubai was not whether or not it could continue to deliver double-digit rates of return on investment. What it was, was that Dubai didn’t have much money, like Turkey or Indonesia. It’s actually the poorest of the Persian Gulf emirates. Its oil was never too much and it has been declining. It had to earn its keep. So it came up with the idea that if it created a regulatory environment and it created the right situation, other people would come and do business in Dubai. It actually became a virtual business place.

Who did business in Dubai? There were Americans and Europeans and Indians and Chinese, et cetera. But a lot of Muslims went to Dubai. What you saw in Dubai was that when they were freed from the rigid economies of their own countries, they behaved exactly like the businessmen in Kayseri, which means that they engaged the global economy in meaningful ways.

But also equally interesting is that Dubai, for a time period, became the most desired destination for Muslims to go to, for holiday or to live in. Why did the Muslims love Dubai? It’s not because it’s a Taliban-like Shariah land. It’s because it was a cross between Las Vegas, Rodeo Drive, and Disneyland. That’s what they liked about it.

Who would go to Dubai? It was the upwardly mobile Muslim middle class. So the consumption habits of Muslim middle classes is not jihad. They don’t go to Dubai to die. They go to Dubai to eat well, live well, stay in chic hotels.

I quote in my book one businessman who said, “What I love about Dubai is that you stay at five-star hotels and you pray at five-star mosques.”

It’s the mark of affluence. When middle classes emerge and they are affluent, they behave like middle classes everywhere else. They want quality of life. It doesn’t mean they automatically secularize overnight. But it means that their consumption choices, what they demand, are in tune with their station in life.

This should be intuitive to us, because we clearly understand that part of the problem with extremism is frustration and lack of opportunity and lack of jobs. I remember a few years ago, I asked the father of somebody who had gone to jihad in Kashmir from Pakistan why he would want his son to risk his life and go fight a jihad.

He said, “Let him go and die in a jihad. There is absolutely no future for him, no life for him.”

At least if he died in a jihad, he would bring honor to his family and to his village. That’s the best thing he can actually hope for. It was a rational choice he was making.

But we often don’t understand the obverse of this. We say we need to create jobs for these young people and we need to clean up poverty as a form of social action. But we don’t look at the other side. When there is wealth in society and when you actually do have a middle class, then societies will begin to stabilize. They will be much more likely to be open. You will even get a very different discussion about religion.

For instance, there is now ubiquity of satellite television in the Arab world. It’s something like 280 channels. If you look farther afield to Turkey and Malaysia, there are even more. There is plenty of religious programming on this TV, and a lot of it is the same old material.

But what’s interesting is that some of the most popular religious television programs are by a new breed of televangelists, who dress in three-piece suits or in polo shirts and don’t speak from mosques, but in town halls or in chic hotels, address much more affluent audiences. The message is conservative, but it is pro-globalization and it’s pro-business. It’s the kind of religiosity, again, that the affluent would favor.

The phenomenon is there because there is a market for it. We know where a phenomenon is by looking at its footprints. You look at this television phenomenon and you say, who watches these? Who goes to these town halls to listen to these New Age televangelists? It’s those same middle classes that also like to go vacation in Dubai. That’s their vacation destination; it’s their choice of religiosity.

Is it sizable? It is growing. It’s not growing as fast as we would like, but it is growing. We are not doing much to help it, let’s put it that way. Even though we are worried about the Muslim world, we’re not quite on par with what needs to be done.

If you looked at another interesting indication in the Muslim world, we would see what the potential is. Religion of Islam, much like medieval Catholicism, does not allow you to charge interest. You have to have banking services, financial services, that are interest-free. That makes for very difficult banking. For a very long time, sort of woolly-brained clerics would come with half-baked ideas in Pakistan and Egypt about interest-free economics. And it never worked. It never worked until Citibank and Deutsche Bank and Bank Paribas, et cetera, decided to make it work. They made Islamic finance profitable.

Why would bankers do that? Bankers would only do that if there is a market. Bankers would always look for new products to sell to a niche market, where there is money. Western banks understood that there was a huge demand for Islamic finance. Why is this demand growing? This demand is growing, obviously, because there are people who have money to put there. It’s not just oil money.

The point is that there is a middle class that is growing, that would like to mix capitalism with religion. In the past years, Islamic finance has been the most rapidly growing segment of global finance. It’s still a drop in the bucket, but it has been growing. Even last year during the downturn in the global economy, the size of the Islamic finance market grew by 30 percent globally.

And it’s not just banking; it’s insurance, it’s mutual funds, and it’s also Islamic bonds. In other words, there are plenty of people in the Muslim world who will not buy regular bonds, because they pay interest.

If you want their money, if you want to bring their money into the system, you have to give them a product that they will buy. Plenty of companies and countries are doing that. Ford Motor Company financed the purchase of Aston Martin partly by issuance of Islamic bonds. Caribou Coffee, which is America’s second-largest specialty coffee retailer after Starbucks, was purchased by a company in the Persian Gulf with issuance of Islamic bonds. There are now governments that are issuing Islamic bonds as sort of solvent bonds to raise money for a variety of projects.

Kuala Lumpur and Dubai have been so far the capitals of Islamic finance. The city that is most aggressively competing for Islamic finance is London, which is trying to become a hub for Islamic finance activity.

Islamic finance is one area, but again it shows the importance of this phenomenon in the Muslim world.

We want the Muslim world to follow the history of Europe, basically, which means to go through Reformation and Enlightenment and arrive at secularism, at some level. We hope that it will follow the same historical trajectory. But whether that’s right or wrong, there’s one big piece of this which we have factored out. This didn’t happen in Europe because of an intellectual debate. Europe did not go through this process because of an intellectual debate.

In other words, a very big part of the process in the West was the rise of capitalism and what capitalism and markets did to societies. Within society, what was the engine of change?

It wasn’t the poorest of the poor. It wasn’t the peasants that were championing new ideas and new ways of doing things and pushing for technology and ideas. It was the middle class. And “middle class” does not just mean the middle belt of society. It means a social class that’s tied to the market.

In a lot of parts of the Muslim world, the market is missing. It’s not tied to the global economy. Therefore, you don’t have a middle class—the right kind of middle class. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that the Muslim world is not embarking on the historical process that the West would like to happen.

When you look at countries like, for instance, Iran—you look at the elections last summer. We only looked at the political end result of the process. The Iranian economy has been opening up from the 1990s to greater privatization. It gave rise to a middle class in Iran. It’s not all-powerful. But if you look at who supports reform in Iran, it’s the middle class. They are the ones who, because they are wealthier, want to consume better culture, have more opportunities, have access to the world. They want to do trade with the world. They want to get financing with the world. They have an interest in transformation. They have the knowledge, skills, they have literacy, et cetera.

Who resists this change are those who depend on government entitlements, who have no interest in the market, have no interest in any change in the current status quo.

Ultimately, the force for change there, too, has to do with the market.

Just in conclusion, none of this is really rocket science. It’s not new. We’ve had many parts of the world go through this process. We have Latin America going through this process in the 1990s. We have Eastern Europe going through this process, Asia going through this process. We single-handedly helped Mexico, in a sense, to hitch its wagons to globalization and transform that area of the world.

It doesn’t mean that the problems everywhere have been solved. There is plenty of poverty in Mexico, even though the country’s economy is part of the global economy and it’s developing a democracy. Still there is a massive drug problem in Mexico. The state has a lot of weaknesses.

India, similarly, is a great story but still has to solve a lot of poverty and social issues.

But we understand the process. When it comes to the Muslim world, in my opinion, we don’t look at it in the right way. If we really were to think long-run about how you get the Muslim world from where it is to a completely different plane, you have to think about how you would open their economies to the global economy, how you would make more countries go the way of Turkey or Indonesia, and how you would want to create a middle class across the Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaysia, who would be vested in the global economy, who would want to vacation in Dubai, whose views would be much more in tune with global views.

We shouldn’t care so much that the Muslim world is secular. We should care a lot more that the Muslim world is capitalist. That matters a lot more.

Thank you.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION: You’ve used the word “we” over and over again in your remarks: “We aren’t doing the right thing.” “We have to do something different to transform the Muslim world.” Most people talking these days about Iran, Afghanistan talk about the government, the United States government or the European Union governments.

Could you talk a little bit more about what you mean by “we”? Then you put a verb next to it—”should do” this, that, or the other to develop a capitalist economy. Is this the banking system of the West that you’re talking about? Is there a role for governments or multilateral institutions? Maybe you could just explain this a little more.

VALI NASR: Sure. The process that we have experience with is a process in which a combination of Western governments, international financial agencies, like the IMF, and private banks deal with governments as a whole to help them reform. The basis of this reform, very generally put, is that they need to remove their tariff barriers, change their laws, become receptive to direct foreign investment, change the regulatory environment, change their currency levels—so to go from being a protected economy to a much more open economy.

In response to that, then you would begin to encourage direct foreign investment in those countries, based on what they can produce. Then you also have to open your markets to them.

That’s what we did when the Mexican economy was collapsing in the 1980s, to force on Mexico a devaluation of the peso, the removal of the tariff barriers. That went hand in hand with giving close to $40 billion in loans and other forms of immediate support to stabilize the Mexican economy, but also opening global markets—in this case, particularly the American market—to Mexican goods.

Sure, there are political costs associated with this. But there are political costs associated with not doing it as well. That’s a debate one ought to have.

The same happened in Eastern Europe. How Germany there led the way, with Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, et cetera, was to infuse a huge amount of money into their industrial infrastructure, to rebuild it, rejuvenate it. Money went in to take those Soviet-era industries and retool them, build them up, in exchange for which those countries agreed to reform their laws, their economic structures, and then Western Europe opened itself to goods that came from those economies.

QUESTION: Vali, you mentioned at the beginning that this kind of thing has to come from within, that it can’t be imposed from the outside. Then you also, fascinatingly, talked about the televangelists and the amount of communication in the Muslim world. Is the word getting to some of the hard nutcases? You mentioned Iran, but how about Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia? Are there individual people in those societies who are looking at the examples of Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey that you have talked about this morning?

VALI NASR: Some are. For instance, Morocco has been looking at Turkey, very clearly. Morocco is a little bit farther along because it has some kinds of arrangements for economic integration with Europe. Jordan, similarly, has a free-trade deal with the United States. But these haven’t gone forward. These are sort of the first steps that have been taken.

Countries are most interested in doing something that are in the same spot that Mexico or Argentina or Brazil was in the 1980s. Countries that are very oil-rich or get a lot of money from the outside tend not to have an incentive for change. First of all, change is painful and it’s difficult. Nobody wants to do it unless you have to. A lot of these countries—changing them is kind of like trying to restructure GM. You’re not going to do it unless you really have to do it, and then there is a lot of difficulty managing it.

Let me put it this way. It does help if you have more Turkeys and Indonesias in the Muslim world. That means that we should look for cases that are not near success and help them become successful. That means that Yemen or Somalia is not a good place to start, because that’s such an uphill battle. There are plenty of countries that have relatively good industrial infrastructure, large economies. They are more like where Argentina and Brazil were 15, 20 years ago. You want to create a sort of wave effect over there.

The other countries that are not good to go after are places like Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is too oil-wealthy to really need a middle class. If the government doesn’t really need the money that the business community would generate from trade, why exactly would it want to open up?

That actually goes to the heart of the debate in Iran. Iran began to privatize its economy when oil was $30 a barrel in the 1990s. When oil went to $140 a barrel, it decided that it can just have a very simple economy. The government gets the money and it funds the entitlement programs. Even if you thought about what would eventually make the decision in Iran, it will be decided by the economics of the country.

QUESTION: Thank you for being so perceptive and so encouraging. I just thought of another question. The first one is about Iran, which you know very well. You talked about present-day Iran. But there was the Iran under the shah, where the middle class became quite influential. Here you have a case study where the middle class was doing fine, but other things intervened, and now there are new possibilities.

The second question is about history. If we talk about Turkey, you have to remember the Ottoman Empire, when Turkey was the center of a vast trading network and was very wealthy. This is true throughout the area.

A country you haven’t mentioned is Syria or Lebanon—very much on the trading routes, very influential centers, Aleppo, Damascus, whatever it is, that have had influence in the past. Is this strengthening the possibilities for the middle class in these countries?

VALI NASR: Let me answer your second question first. When you meet a Lebanese, you understand what a businessman ought to be. The Lebanese, as you said, have a long history of business. In fact, it’s very clear that the problem is not that they don’t understand business or they have woolly-brained ideas about abandoning the world. They’re all about business. The problem is not them. It’s not their ethics. It’s not their culture or their abilities. The problem is the environment in which they operate. Lebanon had a relatively open state. It could do very well. The problem is the fractured nature of the country. In other words, you don’t have a state. There is no agreement about the state. You cannot do business or build a business economy where you don’t have an actual country.

It’s the same problem in Iraq right now. There is a boundary, but there’s no functioning political society there.

Syria is a rigid dictatorship. It’s not open to the world. If you were to open up Syria, you would have to tell them to remove tariff barriers, change their laws, make Syria business-friendly, let outside investors come and build things. You would have an impact. Some of this, actually, Turkish businessmen, as they are becoming wealthier, are beginning to do. Western businessmen don’t go into Syria, but Turkish businessmen have begun to expand their horizons and do this.

The wealth and history of Levant—this is the sort of the Mediterranean area—and the Ottoman Empire does matter. It makes them more receptive.

But it’s true of everywhere. You have places that have more tendency of inventing the wheel; there are the right circumstances. But once the wheel is invented, you don’t need to invent it again; you just need to copy it and borrow it. So the Turks may have been better positioned to do what they did. But others can merely copy that model. They don’t need to do all of it again.

The country that would have been closest to Turkey is Iran. In fact, my book deals extensively with the middle class under the shah. It was the wrong kind of middle class. It was a middle class that was wealthy and secular, and it became Marxist and it became religious and it essentially destroyed its own future in that country. Why did it do that? Because it had no relationship to markets. It was a middle class that became wealthy because the country had oil. It was a lot more like the Saudi middle class.

So the lesson of Iran is that it doesn’t matter if your middle class is secular. It matters that it’s a real middle class. The problem with Iran was that they were all secular. But so what? They had no relationship to global markets. They had no relationship to capitalism. They turned left and they became a facilitator for the Islamic Revolution.

QUESTION: As far as trade and development and the subjects that you were discussing are concerned, what is the OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] position? What is their influence on doing exactly what you say?

VALI NASR: Not much on these issues. OIC works as an international organization, much like an Islamic subcategory, say, to a United Nations. It does more in terms of conflict resolution, getting consensus on issues, whether they are medical issues, health issues, or political issues. But organizations of this kind don’t interfere in one another’s domestic affairs. They are much better at solving international-conflict issues than dealing with domestic issues.

So not much. Actually, OIC doesn’t have anything similar to, say, UNDP, the United Nations Development Programme, which then, you would say, has been charged specifically with helping with economic issues. For instance, there are no funds in the Muslim world that were created to help countries who want to undergo financial restructuring, to provide them with the kinds of things that the IMF provides to others.

At the end of the day, every Muslim country that wishes to embark on this—or we, say, at some point, force them to embark on this—would have to deal with the same international bodies, which are the World Bank and the IMF, Western banks, and then Western economies.

This may change in the future. If you begin having a Turkey that becomes a much bigger global, regional player, then it may play a much more influential role in the economies of countries where you have a lot of Turkish businesses functioning. These are typically, right now, countries like Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, et cetera, where now a lot of Turkish multinationals are very active. But we’re not there yet.

QUESTION: I think your example of Turkey is quite instructive, in the sense that it is indeed a Muslim country that is far more modern and advanced than many in the region. However, there are two tendencies in Turkey, the way I see it. You have two rising modern middle classes. One is, traditionally, the secular class that also represented the military, which was promoting secularism in the tradition of Kemal Ataturk. At the same time, it was really behind the scenes, I would say, running the economy. Today we have a Muslim-rooted new middle class, which is becoming very wealthy. It’s Islamic, but it’s wealthy.

In the first case, the military, of course, in my view, used, to some extent, religion, Islam, as an instrumental value, not necessarily for modernization, but for Turkish nationalism. In the second case, the new rising middle class, which is Muslim-rooted, is using modernity, if you wish, also as an instrument for Turkish nationalism.

So one is tempted to apply the Huntingtonian kind of view, where a country is becoming more modern or wants to apply modernity, but not necessarily become Western in the sense of liberal democracy as such. In both cases, the military and the Islamic-rooted government, you have more resistance at the same time as you have a tendency to engage in globalized economy and become more modern. There is a resistance to what we term Islam liberal democracy.

VALI NASR: You are very correct in your assessment. I would say liberal democracy in Turkey would have to come over time. It has to come with practice. In other words, the longer the experiment continues, the more elections you have, the more the process goes through, the more likely it is that it would improve and become open and better.

Clearly, the door of Europe being closed has not been good, because it was a compass and a set of criteria that kept the Turks in line. I think Turkey may have made a turning point and at least it’s on the right path. It may not get there as fast as it would have if it was joining Europe, but it may still get there.

About the two middle classes, it’s absolutely true. Nowhere else do you see this other than in Turkey, that you have an old middle class, which is similar to the one that existed in Iran, that was created by Kemalism, is very secular. It was the culture of Kemalism. It was very connected to the Turkish state and to the old Turkish economy, which was these large enterprises. Then you have this new middle class that came. They didn’t have a seat at the table when you had government-controlled economies. Only when the economy opened up did they get the opportunity. They are sort of your Kayseri businessmen, whereas the other ones are your Istanbul businessmen.

There is a lot more cross-fertilization. They are culturally very different. In other words, one is secular. The women would not be wearing any headscarves. They would be Westernized. They would see Turkey as very European. The other ones would be culturally much more traditional, if not Islamic, at least a sort of conservative Anatolian culture.

But what’s important is that the businessmen in these communities have a set of shared interests. One is that they have shared interests around what is good for the Turkish economy. An economy that in the past five, six years brought in $50 billion of direct foreign investment or has so many exports—whether you’re secular or you’re religious, you have a vested interest in that. That comes up in issues of whether or not the Turkish military should intervene. For instance, the secular businessmen also now begin to say no, because as much as they like it, the military’s culture may not be favorable to the impact it might have on the economy.

The second one is that there is a consensus between them over democracy. A global economy ultimately functions best if you have a certain political openness. But democracy, by definition, brings all kinds of views out. If you’re religious, you’re going to vote for somebody who is more religious. Democracy cannot keep you out of the process, unless you violate a particular law.

So what we have in Turkey—they are negotiating. There is consensus and there is disagreement. But the main driver here is business, capitalism, which has sort of created this dynamism. Turkey is not done yet. We’re not at the end. But the important thing is that the experiment continues.

QUESTION: I have a question about the difference between the two banking systems that you talked about. Can you explain that a little better, the banking system in the Muslim world and the banking system in the Western world?

VALI NASR: Most of the banking system in the Muslim world is secular banking here. It’s just that there is now a niche market that is emerging that is catering to pious Muslims, who do not want to engage in banking practices that they believe are against their religion.

What it is that the Muslims most have a problem with is interest rates. In Islam it’s forbidden to charge interest or to give interest, because in Islam the belief is that you can only make money based on effort and skill, and interest as seen as usury. Catholicism found a way around this. The Muslims have not theologically found a way around it. But the banking system has found a way around it, which is to make banking compatible with finance.

In Islam also it says that you cannot speculate on—well, I’ll explain. First of all, financial products are made like profit sharing. In other words, the bank won’t give you an interest. It essentially treats you as a partner in a venture, and then you are subject to risk and reward accordingly. It’s much more like putting money in a company. It’s much more like venture capital than finance.

If you take out an Islamic car loan—and there are plenty now available in Chicago, in the West—and some of this may be sleight of hand at times, but the point is that there is a need to do that—they can structure all the payments into a deferred payment. At the end of the day, they end up paying the same amount for the car, except it’s not interest. The price of the car is a lot higher, and you just get a deferred payment on it.

There’s a lot of debate about which of these work, which don’t work. Most financial institutions now have a CSO, which is a chief Shariah officer. It rhymes with “CFO.” They give verdicts on things that are a bit shady.

In Islam you are not allowed to speculate on speculation. In other words, all financial activity has to be tied to something tangible, which means assets. That’s why real estate figures so importantly. That’s one of the problems that caused difficulty for Dubai—overinvestment in real estate.

So, yes, it has limits. Nobody is saying that Islamic finance is a great solution and we ought to do it. I look at it essentially as an indicator of a certain kind of demand, which then signals to you the presence of a particular class.

There are all kinds of innovative ways of allowing Muslims to engage in economy without paying interest rates. When you put your money in a bank, the bank also turns around and loans the money. The bank essentially doesn’t loan the money. The bank invests in the business, and you are part investor with the bank in that business. You cannot invest in air. You cannot invest in a lot of the speculative financial products we do. Most often it has to be connected to some kind of tangible business. Either it’s a factory or it’s real estate or it’s something else.

In the case of Dubai, there was so much money coming in because of the boom in the region that there were not enough tangible businesses. It was much easier to keep putting the money in real estate. So you created a real estate bubble because of the absence of the ability to lend, for instance, to interest-bearing banks in the West, et cetera.

QUESTION: Thank you for your very invaluable comments.

Based on my experience as ambassador to Kuwait, I buy your arguments as very useful tools for prediction of the future of Muslim society. Generally speaking, the financial crisis has some adverse impact in terms of dismantling or weakening the middle class. That is a general observation. It varies in terms of how it could terminate the middle class. But based on such kind of a negative impact of the financial crisis in the middle class, I wonder if that kind of general observation could be applicable to the Middle East case.

VALI NASR: That’s a very good point.

QUESTIONER: That’s my first question. I have one comment.

I narrow down my comment on why people go to Dubai. The expansion of Dubai was accelerated in the wake of 9/11. There are many reasons. But they tried to find other spots to visit. In the wake of 9/11, the issues of visas were very cumbersome for the Arab countries. Even though they got some U.S. visas, they do not want to be understood as neighbors of extreme terrorists. That’s why they were seeking some other place as an alternative to going to the United States.

My observation is that Dubai is kind of a byproduct of U.S. policy in the wake of 9/11. That’s why the U.S. foreign policy has some great impact on that issue. That’s my general comment.

On your first point, you’re correct. There are two things that make it much more difficult for this process to happen. One is the downturn in the global economy, for the reason that there’s less money to invest and it does create certain protectionist tendencies. Also there is less demand available in the West with which to support the rise of a middle class where it doesn’t exist. That’s a challenge.

But one ought to think that ultimately, post the global financial downturn, when there is the opportunity—one ought to look at how the global economy can solve this problem in the Muslim world.

The other issue is that, whether there is a downturn in the global economy or upturn, in my opinion, there’s no other way for the Muslim world. Really, when you look at these countries—Egypt, Yemen, Bangladesh, Pakistan, each with over 60 percent population under 25, with their economies not generating jobs, and also with no middle class that would provide for innovation, for culture, for the kinds of directions that you want—these countries are going to lag further and further behind other areas of the world that have globalized.

You look at social composition—take Korea. You say in Korea the middle class is this percentage of the economy and this percentage of the population. You look at a similar-size country in the Muslim world, and you say the middle class is absent altogether.

So unless we come around and say, “You know what? We’re not going to solve extremism and fundamentalism. We just have to find a way to live with it”—that’s one answer. But if we are looking for a solution, in my opinion, there is no solution outside of an economic solution. Even if the global downturn causes a challenge to us because a lot of automatic mechanisms are not there, we have to still think of ways to persevere.

Your point about Dubai is actually correct. There are others who benefited from this. For instance, Qatar’s Education City also benefited because a lot of people don’t want to get or cannot get student visas. The education system in Australia and New Zealand benefited enormously from the closure of the American education market to many aspirants.

Your point is well-taken. There are two things that helped Dubai. One was that not as many Muslims could go to the West, and also not as many Muslims wanted their money in the West, either because of the Patriot Act or because they were angry. Dubai was smart enough to understand that there was business opportunity in both of these.

But, still, the class that is most affected by the U.S. policy is the middle class and above. In other words, whether it’s education, visas, travel, it’s not the poor in Egypt or in Yemen or in the Arab countries which will be going to Geneva or London or Washington for vacation. It would have been this middle class. So the fact that this middle class then turned to Dubai, either to invest its money or to do business or to go on vacation, allows us to see its footprint and its behavior.

Yes, Dubai became the Mecca for the Muslim middle class, initially because it took advantage of the opportunity, but then it ultimately became idealized. But the interesting point is that when you see a particular market, you tend to generate your product in the direction of that market. If the Muslims coming to Dubai only wanted religion, then you would have had to create something very different for them. But it was very clear that those who came really wanted a middle-class quality of life, and that’s what Dubai had to produce for them.

But you’re right. Dubai was a beneficiary of that and then of a higher oil price boom as well.

Thank you very much.


Posted on on November 6th, 2009
by Pincas Jawetz (

Troubling Portrait of Suspect Emerges.

WASHINGTON (Nov. 5) – His name appears on radical Internet postings. A fellow officer says he fought his deployment to Iraq and argued with soldiers who supported U.S. wars. He required counseling as a medical student because of problems with patients.
There are many unknowns about Nidal Malik Hasan, the man authorities say is responsible for the worst mass killing on a U.S. military base. Most of all, his motive. But details of his life and mindset, emerging from official sources and personal acquaintances, are troubling.

For six years before reporting for duty at Fort Hood, Texas, in July, the 39-year-old Army major worked at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center pursuing his career in psychiatry, as an intern, a resident and, last year, a fellow in disaster and preventive psychiatry. He received his medical degree from the military’s Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., in 2001.
While an intern at Walter Reed, Hasan had some “difficulties” that required counseling and extra supervision, said Dr. Thomas Grieger, who was the training director at the time.
Grieger said privacy laws prevented him from going into details but noted that the problems had to do with Hasan’s interactions with patients. He recalled Hasan as a “mostly very quiet” person who never spoke ill of the military or his country.
“He swore an oath of loyalty to the military,” Grieger said. “I didn’t hear anything contrary to those oaths.”
But, more recently, federal agents grew suspicious.
At least six months ago, Hasan came to the attention of law enforcement officials because of Internet postings about suicide bombings and other threats, including posts that equated suicide bombers to soldiers who throw themselves on a grenade to save the lives of their comrades.
They had not determined for certain whether Hasan is the author of the posting, and a formal investigation had not been opened before the shooting, said law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the case.
One of the officials said late Thursday that federal search warrants were being drawn up to authorize the seizure of Hasan’s computer.
Retired Army Col. Terry Lee, who said he worked with Hasan, told Fox News that Hasan had hoped President Barack Obama would pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq. Lee said Hasan got into frequent arguments with others in the military who supported the wars, and had tried hard to prevent his pending deployment.
Hasan attended prayers regularly when he lived outside Washington, often in his Army uniform, said Faizul Khan, a former imam at a mosque Hasan attended in Silver Spring, Md. He said Hasan was a lifelong Muslim.

“I got the impression that he was a committed soldier,” Khan said. He spoke often with Hasan about Hasan’s desire for a wife.
On a form filled out by those seeking spouses through a program at the mosque, Hasan listed his birthplace as Arlington, Va., but his nationality as Palestinian, Khan said.
“I don’t know why he listed Palestinian,” Khan said, “He was not born in Palestine.”

Nothing stood out about Hasan as radical or extremist, Khan said.
“We hardly ever got to discussing politics,” Khan said. “Mostly we were discussing religious matters, nothing too controversial, nothing like an extremist.”

Hasan earned his rank of major in April 2008, according to a July 2008 Army Times article.
He served eight years as an enlisted soldier. He also served in the ROTC as an undergraduate at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg. He received a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry there in 1997.
Associated Press writers Lara Jakes, Pam Hess, Lolita C. Baldor and Brett Zongker in Washington and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Press Release from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee:
ADC Appalled by Attack on Fort Hood, Community Urged to Take Safety Precautions.

Washington, DC | November 5, 2009 | | The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is appalled by the attack that took place earlier today against soldiers and others at Fort Hood, Texas. Preliminary news reports have indicated that a rogue Army Major Malik Hasan and two others shot and killed at least 12 people and injured numerous others.

ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said, “This attack is absolutely deplorable. ADC has been consistent and on record in condemning any attacks aimed at innocents, no matter who the victims or the perpetrators may be.  Such violence is morally reprehensible and has nothing to do with any religion, race, ethnicity, or national origin.  ADC urges the FBI and law enforcement agencies to make every effort to see that justice is served.” Oakar continued, “ADC also calls upon law enforcement agencies to provide immediate protection for all Mosques, community centers, schools, and any locations that may be identified or misidentified with being Arab, Muslim, South Asian or Sikh as a clear backlash has already started.  The actions of a few should not invite a backlash on innocent members of any community and we urge law enforcement and others to keep that in mind.

Additionally, due to these tragic developments, ADC is releasing the following advisory statement to members of the Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and Sikh American communities. ADC feels it prudent to issue this advisory statement due to the potential of a backlash against these communities and given the historically documented acts of hate-motivated violence including vandalism against these communities.

ADC would like to emphasize that it is issuing this advisory based on experiences in the community in recent years, and purely as a precautionary measure. ADC presents these suggestions for the consideration of the Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and Sikh American communities, to be evaluated by each family and individual according to their own best judgment and in the context of their own situation and relationship with their local community. ADC urges everyone to exercise common sense and rely on their own best judgment, but offers the following as suggestions should the need arise:


Call the police (dial 911 in most communities)

Contact the local FBI office, It is the FBI’s job to investigate hate-motivated crimes and specific threats of violence. A list of FBI field offices is included on our website, please see:

If the threat is imminent, go to a safe location such as a police station or church.

If you feel threatened in your home or community, move to a friend’s house, or a hotel for as long as necessary.

Contact ADC to file a complaint by emailing the ADC Legal Department at<  legal at > or by calling (202) 244-2990.


Make sure the location has an open line of communication with law enforcement.

Make sure you know all the exits to your building.

Make sure the location has a current emergency plan that is defined and can be implemented should the need arise.


Make sure you discuss the events with your children and that they feel comfortable speaking with an adult if they face harassment by others.

Make sure your children know what steps to take to avoid confrontation with other students.

Work with your children’s school to implement an anti-discriminatory policy.

Click on the following link for a list of the FBI Field Offices across the country:

ADC would like to emphasize that it is issuing this advisory based on experiences in the community in recent years, and purely as a precautionary measure. ADC presents these suggestions for the consideration of the Arab, Muslim, South Asian, and Sikh American communities, to be evaluated by each family and individual according to their own best judgment and in the context of their own situation and relationship with their local community.
NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.

The ADC Research Institute (ADC-RI), which was founded in 1981, is a Section 501(c)(3) educational organization that sponsors a wide range of programs on behalf of Arab Americans and of importance to all Americans. ADC-RI programs include research studies, seminars, conferences and publications that document and analyze the discrimination faced by Arab Americans in the workplace, schools, media, and governmental agencies and institutions. ADC-RI also celebrates the rich cultural heritage of the Arabs.