As Hillary Clinton leaves her job as secretary of state, Kim Ghattas asks if there is more to come from the globetrotting stateswoman.
Arno Neumann's insight:
Hilary Clinton , diplomat Extraordinaire !
"From day one on the job, Clinton spoke of the need to apply the concept of so-called smart power, using "the full range of tools at our disposal - diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal and cultural - picking the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation", as she put it."
Retired Canadian diplomat who was abducted by African terrorists accuses Ottawa of ignoring UN Security Council ruling
..."Mr. Fowler came face-to-face with the threat that is currently destabilizing Mali and its West African neighbours when he and a fellow Canadian diplomat, Louis Guay, were kidnapped in 2008 and held for 130 days by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
At the time, Mr. Fowler was the UN special envoy to Niger, where he and Mr. Guay were abducted.
“We’re going to have to intervene now or later. And it will be a lot more expensive and a lot bloodier later,” Mr. Fowler said.
“Quite often I’m asked, ‘How are you doing?’ And my usual answer is: ‘I’m doing fine, and so too is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.’ They now have a country. They have a base, and they are doing what they told me they would do.
“They told us that their objective was to spread the chaos and anarchy of Somalia across the Sahel region from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic, and in that chaos their jihad would thrive. And that’s what they’re doing.”"
Arno Neumann's insight:
One is reminded of the old anecdote that whilst Rome was burning....the fiddle was being played. People is what politics is about....politics should never be a "game"that is played.....
(Press Conference: Ambassador Wittig on Germany's tenure at the Security Council - near-verbatim transcript) (Available in the article ) "Let me sum up our approach to conflict resolution over those two years:
First, as I said before: we believe that whenever conflicts arise, the international community, especially the Security Council should act early on. We are staunch advocates of a preventive diplomacy. The later we act, the harder it gets. Syria is a very clear and, if I may say so, depressing showcase in this regard.
Second: solutions have to be build on regional expertise, local and regional players need to be involved. There won’t be any sustainable solutions against the regional actors.
And third: human rights and accountability are no obstacles to peace but they are necessary requirements for any durable and stable conflict solution.
Now a very final word on how we tried to conduct our work: We are Europeans, we are convinced multilateralists, so we have pursued a partner-based policy in the Security Council, with a strong emphasis on cooperation, we tried to be as transparent as possible and to build confidence among the various groups in the United Nations.
Germanyof course remains beyond the time at the Security Council an important contributor to the maintenance of international peace and security. When we were elected to the Council two years ago, we wanted to create an added value for the wider membership. It is of course not for us to make a final judgement, but we did our best to make that happen, myself and my very able first-grade staff that I had. We tried our best to add value to the work of the Security Council."
Arno Neumann's insight:
UN , and the Security Council in particular, has a key role in the world of International affairs. Germany has fininhed a two year rotation and the address summates the German Ambassador's tenure and insights.
At Washington Institute gala, Dennis Ross, Elliott Abrams and outgoing US ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey insist the president will strike next year if diplomacy doesn’t succeed...
"If the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program is not resolved diplomatically in the coming year, it will be resolved militarily by the end of 2013, two top US foreign policy officials told The Times of Israel on Thursday.
“I think there’s the stomach in this administration, and this president, that if diplomacy fails [to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons] — to use force,” according to Dennis Ross, a former Mideast envoy during the Clinton administration, and until November 2011 President Obama’s top advisor and planner on Iran in the National Security Council.
James Jeffrey, a former deputy national security advisor and, for the past two years, the US ambassador to Iraq, agreed with Ross’ assessment.
“I think [Obama’s] first choice will be a negotiated settlement. Failing that, I think that we’re going to strike,” Jeffrey said.
“One way or the other, these guys [the Iranian regime] are either going to stop their program or, before we’re halfway through 2013, they’re going to have enough [enriched nuclear materiel] to go critical in a few weeks,” he added. “I think if we don’t get a negotiated settlement, and these guys are actually on the threshold [of weaponization capability], as Obama said during the campaign, then the president is going to take military action.”
The two officials spoke with The Times of Israel at the gala dinner of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, held Thursday night at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The event honored Ross and Elliott Abrams, a former deputy national security advisor to George W. Bush. Jeffrey, who was in attendance, recently joined the institute as a visiting fellow.
During an on-stage discussion with Ross and Abrams halfway through the evening, Washington Institute director Robert Satloff asked the former officials, “Will either America or Israel employ preventive military action against Iran’s nuclear program – yes or no?”
The two replied in unison, “yes.”
“Will this happen in 2013?” Satloff pressed.
“Yes,” said Ross.
“Yes, I agree,” added Abrams.
Obama’s “preference is to have diplomacy succeed,” Ross clarified to The Times of Israel after the panel discussion. But, he added, Obama is able and willing to carry out a military strike.
“If [Obama’s] position was going to be not to use force, he would have accepted the objective of containment [of a nuclear Iran]. He did not. He adopted the objective of prevention. That doesn’t mean you want force to be the case. What it means is, fundamentally, that if diplomacy doesn’t succeed you’re prepared to do it. And I believe he is.” "
AN : sobering. When time runs out and diplomacy fails...military action entails.
"To begin to make sense of the escalating conflict in Gaza, we need to go back to the night of Oct. 23 in Khartoum. Around 11 p.m. that night, the Yarmouk weapons facility in the Sudanese capital was attacked, presumably by the Israeli air force. There were indications that Iran had been using this facility to stockpile and possibly assemble weapons, including anti-aircraft missiles, guided anti-tank missiles and long-range Fajr-5 rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem from Gaza."
AN : going behind the headlines in the Gaza conflict.....
Next week, Beijing will open its 18th party congress at which the Communist Party will select the country's new leader. One of the core issues at the meeting will be the role in China of a military that has gained considerable influence.
"In the run-up to the 18th party congress, which begins in Beijing next Thursday, the Communist Party leadership is experiencing substantial turnover. Of the top nine members of the leading body in the People's Republic, the Standing Committee of the Politburo, seven are to be replaced. A struggle is underway over the country's direction -- and for power.
Hu Jintao, 69, will step down as party leader and, at the end of his term in March, will hand over the presidency to current Vice President Xi Jinping, 59. But in all likelihood, he will not give up his chairmanship of the Central Military Commission, thus retaining control over the military until at least 2014."
AN : insight into China's power shift ...internal and external.
"Many of the elements of this combination aren’t new, and Full Planet, Empty Plates provides ample history of the threats agriculture has faced before. Previous civilizations have destroyed the fertility of their soil, for instance, and the US Dust Bowl occurred because of poor land and soil management practices. We understand those problems, and have recovered from them. But now we’re adding new threats: a population of over 7 billion people, falling water tables, climate change, and deforestation. These threats aren’t just environmental: as we’ve already seen in the Middle East, these challenges to food security threaten the very structure of society itself. And the means by which we’re trying to address these threats only deal with the symptoms of the problem: the global “land rush,” for instance, may provide some temporary respite from food supply worries in some countries, but ultimately contributes to the larger challenges."
AN : review of " Full Planet, Empty Plates ...the new geopolitics of food security. "
Yet, despite the bloody and costly catastrophe in Iraq, the heart of the neocon dream is still beating – and Romney’s comment indicates that he shares its illusions. Dating back at least to the mid-1990s, the neocon idea has been to use violent or coercive “regime change” in Muslim countries to secure Israel’s security.
The neocons’ first target may have been Iraq, but that was never the endgame. The strategy was to make Iraq into a military base for then removing the governments of Iran and Syria. Back in the heady days of 2002-2003, a neocon joke posed the question of what to do after ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq – whether to next go east to Iran or west to Syria. The punch-line was: “Real men go to Tehran.”
According to the neocon grand plan, once pro-Israeli governments were established in Iran, Iraq and Syria, Israel’s hostile neighbors, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, would lose their benefactors and shrivel up, without money or weapons. Then, Israel could dictate its terms for peace and security.
This neocon strategy emerged after the lopsided U.S. victory in Kuwait, in which President George H.W. Bush demonstrated the leaps-and-bounds advantage of the high-tech U.S. military over the Iraqi army whose soldiers were literally blown to bits by U.S. missiles and “smart bombs” while American casualties were kept to a minimum.
After that 1991 victory, it became conventional wisdom in Washington that no army on earth could withstand the sophisticated killing power of the U.S. military. That belief – combined with frustration over Israel’s stalemated conflicts with Hamas and Hezbollah – led American neocons to begin thinking about a new approach, “regime change” across the Middle East.
The early outlines of this aggressive concept for remaking the Middle East emerged in 1996 when a group of neocons, including Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, went to work for Israel’s Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu during his campaign for prime minister.
The neocon strategy paper, called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” advanced the idea that only regime change in hostile Muslim countries could achieve the necessary “clean break” from the diplomatic standoffs that had followed inconclusive Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations....."
AN : interesting analysis of the US foreign policy from a view of the partisan geopolitical power ideologies behind the Republicans and Democrats . Something to reflect upon and understand for Americans in their upcoming Presidential election and vote in November.
..."This idea of neutral Switzerland as a model is a pretty modest vision of the future to which Europe should aspire. But it’s also surely unrealistic. Switzerland is protected by the EU states that surround it; Europe’s neighbourhood, on the other hand, includes states with great-power ambitions such as Russia and an unstable Middle East and North Africa – and in the future, possibly, a nuclear Iran. I left the discussion in Riga wondering whether, if the unstrategic vision that some senior figures in the German foreign-policy establishment seem to have becomes a reality, India would replace Europe as the United States’ most valuable and perhaps even closest partner in solving global problems as it rebalances towards Asia."
AN : the decline of Europe as a segway to becoming a neutral Swiss like entity is simplistic. The underlying reasons for decline need to be discerned and addressed. Switzerland has chosen a wise route of neutrality and because of where and who they are, they can get away with it. Canada once held such semi neutrality but is mistakeningly trying to emulate what it is not...the USA.
AN : absolutely fantastic series of photos of progress of the building of One WOrld Trade Ceneter in New York City.
The 104th floor...the floor level of the former World Trade Center Towers...has a signed beam with, amonst others one from President Barack Obama with the note: "We remember, We rebuild, We come back stronger!"
Energy from shale gas will staunch rising oil prices and diminish the geopolitical clout of major oil producers.
Arno Neumann's insight:
"....many supporters of energy independence miss a key point: The major geopolitical impact of shale extraction technology lies less in the fact that America will be more energy self-sufficient than in the consequent displacement of world oil markets by a sharp reduction in U.S. imports. This is likely to be reinforced by the development of shale oil resources in China, Argentina, Ukraine and other places, which will put additional pressure on global oil prices."
It is important to look at the context to all resources and commodities...their supply or lack thereof is usually linked to alot of other geopolitical factors.
Most of us still look at China, the world’s second-largest economy, as the undisputed leader among major developing countries. In the long run, however, I’m betting on India to emerge as the more significant global economy. http://goo.gl/I2S33
Arno Neumann's insight:
AN : demographics are influencing economics in these two large population countries. The shift in power and influence may be subtle but global trade in goods and services is dynamic and should never be taken for granted.
Africa's democratic transition is back in the spotlight. The concern is no longer the stranglehold of autocrats, but the hijacking of democratic process by the tribal politics, argues Kenyan academic Calestous Juma.
"Much attention over the last two decades has been devoted to removing autocrats and promoting multiparty politics.
But in the absence of efforts to build genuine political parties that compete on the basis of ideas, many African countries have reverted to tribal identities as foundations for political competition.
Leaders often exploit tribal loyalty to advance personal gain, parochial interests, patronage, and cronyism.
But tribes are not built on democratic ideas but thrive on zero-sum competition.
As a result, they are inimical to democratic advancement.
In essence, tribal practices are occupying a vacuum created by lack of strong democratic institutions.
Tribal interests have played a major role in armed conflict and civil unrest across the continent."
I"F THE latest round of violence between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian Islamists who run Gaza, were to end this weekend, everyone involved—except for the families of the score or more people who have been killed or maimed in the destruction—could claim to have come out ahead. But it is possible that the bombing and rocketing will drag on into next week, with the threat growing of a full-scale ground assault by Israel and the inevitable carnage and destruction that that would entail."
AN : this is a short but highly important backgounder on the dynamics in the Israel - Gaza conflict.
We investigate whether the much-feared communist-era Securitate still controls the country from the shadows.
"It has been quite a year in Romania with the resignation of two prime ministers and near-impeachment of a president. This coupled with nationwide riots and a growing sense of injustice means that next month's parliamentary elections will be the most bitterly contested for decades.
The power struggle between Traian Basescu, the right-wing president, and Victor Ponta, the left-wing prime minister, has grabbed all the headlines, but the story behind this struggle stretches back to Romania's communist past – and to the very moment when a firing squad put an end to Nicolai Ceausescu, Europe's last Stalinist dictator."
AN : Romania is a beautiful country. The capital, Bucharest , because of "the city's elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned Bucharest the nickname of "Little Paris" (Micul Paris) " ( Wikipedia with reference). But what secrets lie behind the political turmoil ?
The following is the complete transcript of President Obama’s press conference on Wednesday in Washington. (Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service.)
AN : It is interesting, as a Canadian , to listen and read of the USA President's thoughts and also, his demeanour. The USA holds one of the most significant geopolitical roles in the World . I might say : " what goes on in Washington needs to be heard , but not necessarily heeded to ". We are our own Nation(s) and we may be influenced but certainly not dictated to. Bilaterally, there USA and Canada have what is deemed the largest unguarded border in the world. May it thus ever stay.
"One of the reasons why Obama has always been so hard to draw an ideological bead on is that the "engagement" paradigm -- which he hit on during the 2008 campaign, and made his watchword once he took office -- can be understood both as a form of "realism" and as a form of "idealism," as both right and left. The willingness to put values aside in the hopes of finding common ground even with America's most inveterate adversaries is classic realism, which is why figures like Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell felt, and continue to feel comfortable with Obama. But the belief that through gestures of respect and deference you can bring rogue states like Iran or North Korea to a rational discussion of shared interests constituted a form of idealism in the face of George W. Bush's unyielding bellicosity."
AN : interesting to see how Obama has outflanked his political opposition via an " engagement " paradigim .
According to Lusine Badalyan, the energy pipelines that cross the Caucasus region have provided Georgia and Azerbaijan with much needed revenues and added political leverage against Russia.
"The South Caucasus, after the demise of the Soviet Union, emerged at the crossroads of strategic energy supply routes, making the region increasingly important for global as well as regional actors. This role has been particularly enhanced with the construction of new energy export pipelines, particularly the BTC and the BTE, that connect landlocked Azerbaijani energy resources with international markets. These pipelines altered the status quo of power relations in the region. They marked the end of Russia’s monopolistic control over the energy transportation routes from the Caspian region and helped both Azerbaijan and Georgia move away from the Russian sphere of influence. The pipelines helped to strengthen their political and economic autonomy, enabling them to choose their own foreign policy and security orientation. As a result they became significant regional actors."
Kiev’s plan to raise tariffs on hundreds of imported goods could undermine global trading system...
" “If Ukraine just goes ahead and raises the duty and the others can’t do anything then there would be a systemic failure,” said Mr. Hoda, whose 2001 book Tariff Negotiations and Renegotiations under the GATT and the WTO is regarded as an authority on this area of the WTO rules."
AN : trade balance is literally that. An imbalance in trade and abberation to the system puts at risk the mechanisms that nations rely on for exchange of goods and services. Systematic failure is not that far away in such a case as this Ukrainian notice of tariff increases.