World Developments

WORLD DEVELOPMENTS:

Environmental Developments

World Overview

Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan

Asia (including the Middle East) and Pacific Developments

European Developments

Africa developments

Latin America Developments

United State and Canadian Developments

WORLD DEVELOPMENTS

 

    Stephen M. Sachs

 

Environmental Developments

The terrible earthquake, of March 11, 2011, the largest ever recorded in Japan, and the fifth largest world wide in the last century, which shut down several of Japan’s nuclear power reactors, and the massive tsunami which followed, flooding out the diesel generators that provide emergency power to the reactor cooling systems, have created a cascade of accumulating problems in three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan that suggest that radioactive releases of steam from the crippled plants could go on for weeks or even months while emergency crews work to prevent current partial, meltdowns of reactor cores from becoming greater, and even full meltdowns. Unfortunately, the situation has grown worse since the Earthquake in early March, and the danger of a major meltdown has increased. If one reactor core melts down, it would be impossible to maintain crews to keep pumping seawater into the others, and they would meltdown. Reactor number 4 at Fukushima Daiichi had been shut down for repairs for months, but removed fuel rods lost cooling after some time and caught fire, releasing large amounts radiation. The fire was put out and the pool the rods were again flooded with water, but keeping the roods in that and other pools covered with water has been a continuing struggle. While it takes at least several days for the water in the pools of removed rods to boil away, it does have to be replaced, and the power outage ended the normal flow of water, which was replaced as well as possible with more limited water pumping capability fire equipment. When power was restored to the plant, the pumps were found inoperable, and in need of repairs or rebuilding. There were other removed rods being stored in ponds high up in reactor buildings that periodically need to be provided with additional cooling water. Areas for miles around the plants have been evacuated, and the evacuated areas have been expanded, and it may not be possible for many thousands of people to return for many, many months, even if the situation does not become worse. As of March 14, some radioactivity was detected in the air 60 miles east of Japan by helicopters, that on landing were washed off to remove the radiation. The radioactive plume spreading across the pacific is being monitored. On March 13, the U.S. White House stated that modeling done by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had concluded that at current levels of radiation release, “Hawaii, Alaska, the U.S. Territories and the U.S. West Coast are not expected to experience any harmful levels of radioactivity.” In Japan, shifts in the wind could carry radiation that is now going out to sea toward cities.  On March 16, rector #3 gave out a much higher level of radiation, causing a pulling back of 750 of 800 workers at the site and canceling a helicopter delivery to roof top cooling pools. Japanese officials said that it was possible that the #3 reactor’s containment may have been damaged, and it was later confirmed that the containment vessels at two of the plants had suffered damage. At the end of March, Japanese officials conceded that the battle to salvage the four crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been lost, and that those reactors would have to be scrapped, once the continuing struggle to control the situation allowed that, which could still take many months. Critics of the Japanese nuclear regulation arrangements complain that links between unities and those who regulated them crated a culture of complicity resulting in lax rules and enforcement, as well as a cover up of what was actually occurring. Nuclear electric power generators in the U.S. are subject to the same potential problem, and several are of the same basic design as the Japanese reactors in question (David E. Sanger and Mathew L. Wald, “Radioactive Releases in Japan Could Last Months, Experts Say,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-reactor.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Norimitsu Onishi, “Seawalls Offered Little Protection Against Tsunami’s Crushing Waves,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/asia/14seawalls.html?ref=todayspaper; Hiroko Tabuchi, David E. Sanger and Kieth Bradsher, “Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise,” The New York Times, March 14, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/asia/15nuclear.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp; William J. Broad and Hiroko Tabuchi. “In Stricken Fuel-Cooling Pools, a Danger for the Longer Term,” The New York Times, March 14, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/asia/15fuel.html?src=me&ref=world; and Hiroko Tabuchi and Keith Bradsher, “Japan Says 2nd Reactor May Have Ruptured With Radioactive Release,” The New York Times, March 16, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/world/asia/17nuclear.html; Justin McCurry, “Japan Says Battle to Save Nuclear Reactors Has Failed: Tepco says it has ‘no choice’ but to scrap reactors No 1-4, but hopes remaining two can continue to operate,” The Guardian/UK, March 31, 2011, http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/3; Ken Belson, “From Safe Distance, U.S.-Japanese Team Draws Up Plan to Demolish Reactors,” The New York Times, April 7, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/asia/08toshiba.html?ref=world; James Glanz and William J. Broad, “U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan’s Nuclear Plant,” The New York Times,  April 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/asia/06nuclear.html?ref=world; Norimitsu Onishi and Ken Belson, “Culture of Complicity Tied to Stricken Nuclear Plant,” The New York Times, April 27, 2011). Investigative reporter, Greg Palast on the Stephanie Miller Radio show, March 16, stated the back up nuclear generators at Fukushima Daiichi did not fail because of the Tsunami, but, like other back up generators at some U.S. reactors, were not adequately designed for the task.

Norimitsu Onsishi and James Glanz, “Japanese Rules for Nuclear Plants Relied on Old Science,” The New York Times, March 26, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/world/asia/27nuke.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper, commented, “In the country that gave the world the word tsunami, the Japanese nuclear establishment largely disregarded the potentially destructive force of the walls of water. The word did not even appear in government guidelines until 2006, decades after plants — including the Fukushima Daiichi facility that firefighters are still struggling to get under control — began dotting the Japanese coastline. The lack of attention may help explain how, on an island nation surrounded by clashing tectonic plates that commonly produce tsunamis, the protections were so tragically minuscule compared with the nearly 46-foot tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima plant on March 11. Offshore breakwaters, designed to guard against typhoons but not tsunamis, succumbed quickly as a first line of defense. The wave grew three times as tall as the bluff on which the plant had been built.” “The intensity with which the earthquake shook the ground at Fukushima also exceeded the criteria used in the plant’s design, though by a less significant factor than the tsunami.” “Based on what is known now, the tsunami set off the nuclear crisis by flooding the backup generators needed to power the reactor cooling system.” “Japan is known for its technical expertise. For decades, though, Japanese officialdom and even parts of its engineering establishment clung to older scientific precepts for protecting nuclear plants, relying heavily on records of earthquakes and tsunamis, and failing to make use of advances in seismology and risk assessment since the 1970s.”

The combination of the horrendous earthquake-tsunami and the ongoing long term serious nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have been causing serious economic problems in Japan that is also impacting business and economies abroad. Radiation from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan has contaminated to dangerous radiation levels some produce, including spinach, being grown in the general region of the plant, as well as milk and drinking water in the region, causing sales of these products produced in the affected areas to be banned. Unexpectedly high levels of radiation have been found in some spots as much as 25 miles from the plant. High levels of radioactive contamination have also been found in the sea near the Fukashima power plant, and fishing has been band in those waters, as continuing leaks of highly radioactive water from the plants – some of it more than 100,000 times more radioactive than normal cooling water – have occurred.  At the same time, the combination of direct damage to manufacturing facilities and transportation infrastructure, and the electricity shortages following the shut down of a number of electric generating facilities, bringing rolling blackouts, has caused drops in production and distribution of many items, that will likely continue, though possibly to a lesser extent, as it will take Japan months to restore adequate electric generating capacity. The slow down of exports from Japan has been felt round the world, particularly in the automobile industry, including in the United States, as the slow down in receiving parts from Japan has slowed automobile production, causing some temporary plant closures (Karyn Poupee, “Tokyo Water Unsafe for Babies, Food Bans Imposed,” Common Dreams, March 23, 2011, http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/23-1; Keith Bradsher, “shipping Lines Pull Back From Japan,” The New York Times, Mach 26, 2011; Michael Wines, “Japan Nuclear Crisis Erodes Farmers’ Livelihoods,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/world/asia/30farmers.html?ref=todayspaper; Justin McCury, “Radiation Rises in Seawater Near Fukushima Plant: Japanese officials concede they are no closer to resolving nuclear crisis as high level of radiation is detected in ocean,” The Guardian/UK, March 30, 2011, http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/30-0’ and Mathew L. Wald and David Jolly, “Dangerous Levels of Radioactive Isotope Found 25 Miles From Nuclear Plant,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/asia/31japan.html?ref=todayspaper; David Jolly, Hiroko Tabuchi and Keith Bradsher, “Tainted Water at 2 Reactors Increases Alarm for Japanese,” The New York Times, March 27, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/28/world/asia/28japan.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Elisabeth Rosenthal and William J. Broad,  “Marine Life Faces Threat From Runoff,” The New York Times, March 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/world/asia/29safety.html?ref=world; Hiroko Tabuchi and Ken Belson, “Japan Releases Low-Level Radioactive Water Into Ocean,” The New York Times, April 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/asia/05japan.html?ref=todayspaper).

Testimony before a U.S. Senate Committee, in late March, indicated that not only are many atomic power facilities in the United States subject to the same problems that erupted at the Fukushima reactors, in Japan, but in numerous instances the U.S. nuclear facilities are even more vulnerable to catastrophic occurrences. For example, a nuclear expert testified that almost all American nuclear power plants have backup batteries that would last only half as long as those at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant after a tsunami drowned out power there. David Lochbaum, a nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists, which generally takes a critical tone toward nuclear reactors, said that just 11 of the nation’s 104 plants had eight-hour batteries, and 93 had four-hour batteries. The batteries are not powerful enough to run pumps that direct cooling water, but they can operate valves and can power instruments that give readings of water levels, flow and temperatures. Industry experts said  that increasing battery backup time was one area of nuclear power operations that could be improved (Mathew L. Wald, “Lessons From Fukushima Taught on Capitol Hill,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/us/30safety.html?ref=todayspaper).

A CBS News poll, taken March 18-21, found that what had been growing support for nuclear power in the United States has eroded sharply in the wake of the nuclear crisis in Japan, with support for building nuclear power plants dropping to a point somewhat lower than it was immediately after the accident at the Three Mile Island plant in 1979, with only 43% of those polled after the failure of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan saying they would approve building such new facilities in the United States to generate electricity, compared to  in 2008, at a time of high and rising gasoline prices and mounting concerns about global warming that led to calls for a new national energy policy that drove popular support for nuclear power to its highest level in 30 years. The CBS survey found that nearly 7 in 10 Americans think that nuclear power plants in the United States are generally safe. But nearly two-thirds of those polled said they were concerned that a major nuclear accident might occur in this country — including 3 in 10 who said they were “very concerned” by such a possibility. 58% of those polled stated that they did not believe the federal government was adequately prepared to deal with a major nuclear accident. Never-the-less, 47% of those polled said that, over all, the benefits of nuclear power outweighed the risks, opposed to 38% who said they did not. Even before the Japanese nuclear crisis, there were major financial challenges for any new construction, and the number of plants that were expected to be built in the near future was small. The poll showed that finding places to build new plants could be difficult, as more than 60% of those polled said they would not approve of a nuclear plant in their community. Support was highest in the South, where plans are under way for new plants in South Carolina and Georgia, and in the Midwest. The study found that attitudes about nuclear power varied along partisan and gender lines, with a slim majority of Republicans said they approved of building more nuclear plants, while majorities of Democrats and independents disapproved (Michael Cooper and Dalia Sussman, “Nuclear Power Loses Support in New Poll,” The New York Times, March 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/us/23poll.html?ref=todayspaper).

On government land along the Savannah River in South Carolina, the U.S. government has been building: a plant to safeguard at least 43 tons of weapons-grade plutonium taken from decommissioned nuclear weapons by mixing it into fuel for commercial power reactors. Following atomic arms reduction agreements with the Russians, the plant at the Savannah River Site, once devoted to making plutonium for weapons, would now turn America’s lethal surplus to peaceful ends, blending the usual reactor fuel, uranium, with plutonium creating a new fuel called mixed oxide, or mox. But 11 years after the government awarded a construction contract, the cost of the half finished project has soared to nearly $5 billion, and the government has yet to find a single customer, despite offers of lucrative subsidies. This spring, the nuclear crisis in Japan has intensified a long-running conflict over the project’s rationale. One of the stricken Japanese reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant uses the mox fuel, and while there has been no evidence of dangerous radiation from plutonium in Japan, the situation there is volatile, and nuclear experts worry that a widespread release of radioactive material could increase cancer deaths. In the current situation, possible mox buyers have been distancing themselves from the project, while critics question its health risks and its ability to keep the plutonium out of terrorists’ hands. The most likely customer, the Tennessee Valley Authority, has been in discussions with the federal Department of Energy about using mox to replace a third of the regular uranium fuel in several reactors — a far greater concentration than at the stricken Japanese reactor, Fukushima Daiichi’s Unit No. 3, where 6% of the core is made out of mox. But the T.V.A. now says it will delay any decision until officials can see how the mox performed at Fukushima Daiichi, including how hot the fuel became and how badly it was damaged (Jo Becker and William J. Broad, “New Doubts About Turning Plutonium Into a Fuel, The New York Times, April 10, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/us/11mox.html?ref=world).

Large demonstrations have taken place against nuclear power in Europe, in the wake of Japan’s nuclear disaster – particularly in Germany against extending the life of existing older nuclear plants. With the crisis in Japan raising fears about nuclear power (and also in the U.S., particularly objecting to the extension of the Vermont Yankee plant, that the state legislature has voted to tell the nuclear regulatory commission to shut down, and which is of essentially the same design as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in Japan) Chancellor Angela Merkel announced, March 15, that she will temporarily shut down seven German nuclear power plants that began operations before the end of 1980 while officials undertake a three-month safety review of all of the nation’s 17 plants. At the same time, European energy ministers in Brussels considered the introduction of stress tests in order to see how the EU’s 143 nuclear plants would react in emergencies (Judy Dempsey, “Germany Shuts 7 Reactors for 3-Month Review,” The New York Times, March 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/europe/16euronuke.html?ref=world). Italy’s government, April 19, proposed following Germany in putting on hold indefinitely plans for atomic power development while investigating other sources of energy (“Nuclear energy plans in doubt after Japan disaster,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2011).

India, China and some other developing countries plan to construct new nuclear energy plants, despite the Japanese disaster, while more developed nations are generally backing away form atomic electrical generation (Heather Timmons and Vikas Bajaj, “Energy Needs Sustain Nuclear Push: India and China Move Ahead While Advanced Nations Back Off,” The New York Times, March 15, 2011).

The United States signed an agreement, in mid-March, to assist Chile develop nuclear energy (Alexi Barrionuevo, “Undeterred by Fallout Fears, U.S. and Chile Sign Nuclear Accord, The New York Times, M arch 19, 2011).

A recent report has confirmed earlier scientific findings that global warming is increasing earthquake and volcanic activity as a result of the huge change in pressures in the Earth take place as glaciers melt and oceans rise. Scientists are warning that that the increased volcanic activity will further intensify climate change (Terry J. Allen, “The Global Volcanic Feedback Loop,” In These Times, June, 2010).

China’s leaders announced a new five-year economic plan, at the beginning of March, setting high goals to raise ordinary people’s incomes, rein in pollution and energy use, and build advanced-science industries in fields such as biotechnology and environmental protection. Following an average 11.2% annual growth over the past five years, the plan projected an average 7% percent annual increase in gross domestic product through 2015, as the government pledged a war on inflation, officially at 4.9% in January but believed by foreign experts to be considerably higher. The plan aims at shifting China’s economic base away from factory exports toward an economy rooted in demand for goods and services by increasingly affluent consumers. The report acknowledged, “we still have a serious problem in that our development is not yet well-balanced, coordinated or sustainable,” including a widening gap between the rich and poor, an “irrational industrial structure,” sharply rising land and housing prices, and illegal seizures of people’s land and the demolition of their homes by state-backed developers. The related annual report announced with the plan showed a 19.1% reduction in the amount of energy used per unit of economic growth, a rapidly expanding service economy and a boom in the high-technology sector. Continued improvement in energy efficiency is part of a set of goals for improving environmental protection, energy conservation and technology. The plan aims to further reduce energy consumption per unit of G.D.P. by 16%, and carbon dioxide emissions per unit by 17%, while for the first time the government will place a cap on total energy use, limiting consumption to the equivalent of four billion tons of coal by 2015. The government also promised to build “well-equipped statistical and monitoring systems” to gauge greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate construction of sewage treatment plants, retrofit coal-fired power plants with pollution controls and continue a pilot program to develop low-carbon cities. China’s military spending is planned to rise 12.6% percent in 2011 to 583.6 billion renminbi, or about $88.6 billion, a separate Finance Ministry report announced, just under the 12.7% increase announced on previously by a legislative spokesman. That resumes a long string of double-digit annual increases in military spending that was interrupted in 2010, when spending rose only 7.5%, perhaps, analysts said, because money was diverted to address the global economic crisis. Since 1989, the military budget has risen by an average of 12.9% a year, according to GlobalSecurity.org. Many analysts, including those in the Pentagon, say that China’s actual military spending is probably considerably greater than reported (Michael Wines, “China Unveils Economic Plan With Focus on Raising Incomes and Reining in Pollution,” The New York Times, March 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/world/asia/05china.html?ref=world).

The first large-scale project to sequester carbon dioxide, placing it in the ground and out of the atmosphere, in North America, on the banks of the Ohio River in New Haven, W.Va., is close to complete its mission, finding that in at least one kind of rock, carbon dioxide seems to slip into the small open spaces more easily than projected, indicating that carbon capture may be easier to achieve than anticipated. Meanwhile, near Meredosia, Ill., a larger test project to attempt injecting carbon into sandstone, a more common kind of rock, is moving toward start-up. In almost all cases, the aim is to replace water, which is too saline to be of economic value, with carbon dioxide (Mathew L. Wald, “Tucking Carbon Into the Ground,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/business/energy-environment/31CARBON.html?ref=todayspaper).

Experiments in improving the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, that would use less fuel and create less pollution, are underway at Pinnacle Engines, near San Francisco Bay, which is testing an opposed piston engine. In this design, two pistons face each other, the space between them forming a combustion chamber. Eliminating the traditional cylinder head results in a lighter, cheaper and more efficient engine. Pinnacle is one of several start-ups backed by prominent Silicon Valley venture capitalists attempting to reinvent the century-old internal combustion engine, greatly improving in fuel economy and reducing greenhouse gas and other polluting emissions at a lower cost (Todd Woody, “Start-Ups Work to Reinvent the Combustion Engine,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/business/energy-environment/31ENGINE.html?ref=todayspaper).

There have been many objections including lawsuits, to building large scale green energy projects in environmentally sensitive areas in the U.S. There is a movement to have them in places that are not environmentally fragile, while some environmentalists believe they should be placed, so far as possible, in already environmentally compromised locations. For example, see Todd Woody, “Solar Energy Faces Tests On Greenness,” The New York Times, February 24, 2011.

EPA released new air pollution rules for power plants, in late February, that are less stringent than the tough standards proposed last spring, that brought major objections from businesses (John M. Broder, “After Business Outcry, E.P.A. Significantly Revises Emission Rules on Boilers,” The New York Times, February 24, 2011).

A recent study by the Canadian Water Network finds that, world wide, nearly a billion people do not have good access to safe fresh water, and that number could double in a generation as growing demands for water will exceed the available and sustainable supply by 40%. “Peak water” has already come and gone. Humanity now uses more water than can be sustained, drawing on non-renewable reserves of water accumulated over thousands of years in deep aquifers. In many countries and regions water scarcity is a fundamental challenge to development, as a lack of access to water can bring starvation, disease, political instability and even armed conflict. Margaret Catley-Carlson, Margaret Catley-Carlson, a former senior official with both the Canadian government and at the United Nations, a renowned global authority on water issues, and a director at the Canadian Water Network, commented, “Governments see their role as delivering water to the public and industry. This has to change to sustainably managing water resources for society and the natural environment.” She noted that policy-makers have not treated water as a valuable resource and as a result water is wasted, with leaky water infrastructure losing 20% to 50% of the water it is supposed to deliver. Even water-poor countries in the global south do not make water a top priority because water availability is mainly an issue for women and the poor and they are not well represented in government. Instead limited public funds are spent on the military and other priorities. In late March, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments to make pro-poor investments in water and sanitation, particularly in urban areas where the need is acute and has grown by 20% in the last decade. With the world population and economy growing, the water challenge is becoming significantly greater. By 2030 the global water demand will be 40% higher than today’s “accessible, reliable, environmentally sustainable supply” according to the U.S.-led study “Charting Our Water Future” by consultants McKinsey and Company. The report indicated that around one-third of the population, concentrated in developing countries, will live in basins where this water deficit is larger than 50%. 71% of the world’s water use is in agriculture, where inefficient and inappropriate irrigation accounts for much of this water use. Thirsty crops, such as maize, are grown in dry places like Spain, requiring enormous amounts of irrigated water. Even a low-value crop such as sugar cane is grown under irrigation in some places, which Catley-Carlson calls “ludicrous”. She says that poor policies, subsidies, such as those for biofuels, trade agreements and bad habits are collectively responsible for much of the world’s water misuse in food production. Domestic water use is just 8% of overall water consumption. Industrial use is the other major user of water. All products have a water component, often called “virtual water”, to describe the volume used to make something. The annual global trade in “virtual water” today is said to exceed 800 billion tons, the equivalent of 10 Nile Rivers. Nicholas Parker, chairman of the Cleantech Group, an international firm that works to accelerate the development and market adoption of clean technologies, states, “What people don’t often realise is how much water there is in everything we make and buy, from t-shirts to wine.” (Stephen Leahy, “Peak Water Has Already Come and Gone,” Common Dreams, March 23, 2011, http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/23-2).

A major problem with the rapid development of biofuels has been their replacing food crops and causing serious food price inflation. This has been the case in Thailand, where the cassava root has long been an important ingredient in everything from tapioca pudding and ice cream to paper and animal feed. In 2010, however, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled. Recently, every year, an ever larger portion of the world’s crops, particularly of cassava, corn, sugar, rapeseed, and palm oil, is being diverted for biofuels as developed countries pass laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels and as emerging economies, such as China’s, seek new sources of energy to keep their transportation and industries running. With food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to reduce their rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability. Earlier this year, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that its index of food prices was the highest in its more than 20 years of existence, with prices rising 15% from October 2010 to January 2011, “throwing an additional 44 million people in low- and middle-income countries into poverty,” according to the World Bank. Rising food prices have triggered riots or contributed to political turmoil in numerous poor countries in recent months, including Algeria, Egypt and Bangladesh, where palm oil, a common biofuel ingredient, provides crucial nutrition to a desperately poor populace. During the second half of 2010, the price of corn rose steeply, 73% in the United States, an increase that the United Nations World Food Program attributed in part to the greater use of American corn for bioethanol. Higher prices also mean that groups like the World Food Program can buy less food to feed the world’s hungry. Another example of the problem is that European biofuels developers are buying large tracts of what they call “marginal land” in Africa with the aim of cultivating biofuel crops, particularly the woody bush known as jatropha. Advocates say that promoting jatropha for biofuels production has little impact on food supplies. But some of that land is used by poor people for subsistence farming or for gathering food like wild nuts. Indeed, another problem with rapid biofuel development is that it is causing land grabs and deforestation (Elisabeth Rosenthal, “Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears,” The New York Times, April 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/science/earth/07cassava.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper).

Rising prices for cotton have caused many U.S. farmers in the South to grow cotton instead of food (William Neuman, “Amber Waves To Ivory Bolls,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011).

Alfredo Acedo, “Monsanto Uses Latest Food Crisis to Push Transgenic Corn in Mexico,” Americas Program, March 28, 2011, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/4244, reports, “Monsanto has turned the drop in international corn reserves and the havoc wreaked on Mexican corn production by an unexpected cold snap into an argument for speeding up commercial planting of its genetically modified (GM) corn in Mexico. The transnational is claiming that its modified seeds are the only solution to scarcity and rising grain prices.”

Natural gas, seen as a crucial fuel in the effort to move the U.S. away from dirtier fossil fuels and reduce global warming, now has been found to be causing more global warming than coal, because of current practices, according to two recent studies, that say in the rush to increase natural gas production, producers and transporters are allowing larger quantities of extremely planet-warming methane, the chief component of natural gas, to escape into the atmosphere. As much as 7.9% percent of natural gas is currently escaping from shale gas wells, intentionally vented or flared, or seeping from loose pipe fittings along gas distribution lines. This offsets natural gas’s most important advantage as an energy source: it burns cleaner than other fossil fuels and releases lower carbon dioxide emissions (Tom Zeller Jr., “Studies Say Natural Gas Has Its Own Environmental Problems,” The New York Times, April 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/business/energy-environment/12gas.html?hp). An earlier report in these pages indicated that this loss is extremely expensive, and that some gas companies have begun to be moved by the economic incentive to take comparatively inexpensive measures to greatly reduce leaks at well heads and in pipelines.

Ian Urbina, ”Regulation Lax as Gas Wells’ Tainted Water Hits Rivers,” The New York Times, February 27, 2011, reports that with the large number of natural gas wells being developed using fracking, one of which can produce as much as a million gallons of waste water contaminated with highly toxic chemicals, rivers are being seriously polluted across the United States. Sometime the gas drilling waste water is taken to sewage plants that are not designed to treat it, and that discharge it into drinking water. The gas drilling waste water also contains much greater levels of radioactivity than is considered safe for people. Ian Urbina, “Gas Wells Recycle Water, but Toxic Risks Persist,” The New York Times, M The New York Times, M The New York Times, March 2, 2011, reports that, particularly in Pennsylvania, gas companies are recycling water from fracking wells, that can leave behind salts or sludge that is highly radioactive and contains concentrated pollutants.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has increased testing of water in Pennsylvania Rivers because of contamination from natural gas drilling (Ian Urbina, ”E.P.A. Steps Up Scrutiny of Pollution in Pennsylvania Rivers,” The New York Times, March 8, 2011.

Two gas drilling companies, Chesapeake Energy, based in Oklahoma, and Clarita Operating of Little Rock, AR, agreed to suspend specific operations at high-pressure wells, which are used to dispose of waste water from natural gas drilling, near Greenbrier and Guy AR, after their work was linked to nearby earthquakes. Some 800 earthquakes have hit the area in the past six months and one, with a magnitude of 4.7, was the strongest in Arkansas in 35 years. Previous studies have shown that pumping water deep into the earth near faults, lubricates them, increasing earthquake activity (Drilling Companies Agree to Suspend Operations after Work at Wells in Arkansas Linked to Causing Earthquakes,” Daily Mail/UK, March 8, 2011, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1363814/Drilling-companies-linked-causing-earthquakes-suspend-work-Arkansas.html).

In Wyoming, natural gas wells in rural areas far from cities are creating serious smog, including ozone alerts, from dangerous smog levels (“Plenty of Sky and Pollution Too,” The New York Times, March 10, 2011).

Ian Urbina, “Pressure Limits Efforts to Police Drilling for Gas,” The New York Times, March 4, 2011), reports that as a result of political pressure from gas companies, findings from professional staff of dangerous pollution from natural gas drilling have often failed to be included in EPA reports, and EPA studies of drilling have been narrowed, for at least 25 years.

The destruction from the BP Deep Water Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to be much higher than originally believed.  A report by an international team of marine mammal specialists finds that 50 times more whales and dolphins have died from the massive oil spill than would appear to be the case from simply counting the animal corpses washing ashore, which has been the standard method for estimating whale and dolphin losses (Margaret Munro, “BP Gulf Disaster Impact Could Be Much Worse Than Expected: Report: Whale and dolphin deaths may be 50 times higher than believed,” by PostMedia News, March 30, 2011, http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/30-1). Much of the current and long term environmental damage from the Deepwater Horizon cataclysm remains uncertain, and is momentarily subtle. For example, on Cat Island, pelicans have returned to nest, but the mangrove bushes that protect the nests and reduce erosion are considerably thinned, and in some areas in precarious condition. Most areas of the gulf have been reopened for fishing, with only a small percentage of ocean sand samples collected having oil compounds at levels harmful to aquatic life. Since the start of the oil disaster some 300 dolphins, most of them dead, have washed ashore between Texas and Florida, and there has been a large increase in turtle deaths this spring. Yet on the surface of things, the Gulf area habitat seems largely in tact, though 80% of the spilled oil is believed still on the Gulf floor, and the location of millions of gallons of toxic oil dispersants dumped into the Gulf is unknown (Bettina Baxall, “Environmental Toll Remains Unknown,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2011).

U.S. District Court Judge Martin Feldam, in New Orleans, ordered the Obama Administration, in mid-February, to move quickly to resume issuing deep water oil drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico.

A US embassy cable by then U.S. ambassador to Peru, James Struble, published by Wikileaks revealed the Peruvian government had knowledge of the illegal harvest and export of up to 90% of its mahogany timber. The secret cable also revealed that Peru’s government is aware that the illegal timber is being ‘laundered’ using ‘document falsification, timber extraction outside the concession boundaries and links to bribes‘. Survival International reports that this news follows only weeks after international headlines reported that that loggers in Peru infiltrated protected areas inhabited by uncontacted tribes, forcing them to flee across the border into Brazil. Moreover, the Broad leaf mahogany that Peru exports is an endangered species under Appendix II of the International endangered species under Appendix II of the International Convention against Trafficking in Endangered Species Convention Against Trafficking in Endangered Species (CITES).  (Beth Buczynski, “Wikileaks: 70 Percent Of Peruvian Timber Felled Illegally,” Care2, March 6, 2011, http://www.care2.com/causes/environment/blog/peru-wikileaks-reveal-illegal-mahogany-exports/).

The giant oil company, Chevron Corp. won a temporary injunction in a U.S. federal court, in New York, March 6, halting enforcement of an $18 billion judgment by a court in Ecuador for oil pollution of the Ecuadorian Amazon. U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan ruled that the judgment won by Ecuadorean indigenous plaintiffs could not be enforced until Chevron’s racketeering case against the Ecuadoreans and their lawyers are decided. On February 1, Chevron sued the Ecuadorian plaintiffs in U.S. District Court in New York, accusing them of fraud, interfering with contracts, trespass, unjust enrichment, and conspiracy. Chevron levied even more serious charges against their main U.S. lawyer Steven Donziger, expert witnesses and affiliated organizations, accusing them of racketeering (“Chevron Wins Halt to $18 Billion Judgment in Ecuador Pollution Case,” Environment News Service, Mach 7, 2011, http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2011/2011-03-07-02.html).

A major spill of more than 800 tons of heavy crude oil from a wrecked freighter, March 16, coated an estimated 20,000 endangered penguins on a remote South Atlantic island chain, local authorities and environmental groups said, after the Maltese-registered ship, M.S. Oliva, ran aground on Nightingale Island, part of the Tristan da Cunha archipelago, a British territory, early in the morning of March 16, local officials said. The ship broke in half and an additional 800 tons of fuel oil was believed to be leaking from the front section of the hull (John Collins Rudolf, “Oil Spill in South Atlantic Threatens Endangered Penguins,” The New York Times, March 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/science/earth/23spill.html?ref=todayspaper).

A study published in Nature, in mid-February, shows that heavier precipitation in many parts of the world since about 1950 is connected to human acts. The research found that the chance of heavy precipitation on any given day in the Northern hemisphere rose by 7% from the previous norm (Justin Giles, “Study Says Rise in Precipitation Is Connected To Human Acts,” The New York Times, February 17, 2011).

Extreme weather consistent with global warming induced climate change continues. Here in Albuquerque, NM, we experienced record high temperatures for the date, at the beginning of April. On April 17, 2011, a huge storm threw an unusually large number of tornadoes, 241, across 14 states – including in places where they are very rare – from Oklahoma to Virginia, killing at least 44 people, disrupting power and transportation, and causing widespread damage that left many homeless (in early reports). (Richard Fausset and Christi Parsons, “Dozens killed as tornadoes slam South,” The San Francisco Chronicle, April 18, 2011; Brock Vergakis and Mitch Weiss,  “In hurricane country, twisters a deadly surprise,” The San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2011). On April 27, an even worse storm – the most damaging in 40 years – killed at least 339 people in six southern states as 137 tornadoes were reported, with 104 of them from Alabama and Mississippi. Over all, there have been 297 confirmed tornadoes this month, breaking a 36-year-old record.  (Campbell Robertson and Kim Severson, “Obama Tours Wreckage of Deadly Storm,” The New York Times, April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/us/30storm.html?_r=1&hp; and “Storms’ Toll Rises as Scale of Damage Becomes Clear” The New York Times, April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/us/30storm.html?ref=us). These very wide spread storms have also brought record flooding to places across the Midwest and South, which is expected to become even worse with a new large storm on the way on May 2 (Malcolm Gay, “Plan to Breach Levee in Missouri Advances,” The New York Times, May 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/us/02levee.html?ref=todayspaper). West Texan, and parts of Oklahoma, have been experiencing its worst Drought in half a century, opening the way for wild fires that by April 19 had burned over 1 million acres, that have affected or threatened all but two of the state’s 254 counties, and burned 105 homes in just the previous few days, as there seems no short term end to the fire season (Sarah Wheaton, “Relentless wild fires burn 1 million acres,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2011). Vermont was pilled up with one of the five largest snow storms to hit the state, in March, shutting the state down (Katie Zezima, “Vermont Shuts Down With Snow Over the Top,” The New York Times, March 8, 2011). Unusually warm water helped Maine achieve a record lobster harvest last year of 93 million pounds, up form 81 million pounds in 2009 (Abby Goodnough, “After a Record Haul in Maine, Try the Lobster Mac and Cheese,” The New York Times, February 24, 2011).

Unusually cold temperatures, in January and February, across northern Mexico left a path of crumpled crops, pummeled harvests and dashed dreams in the countryside. Hardest hit was the northwestern state of Sinaloa, known as the ”Bread Basket of Mexico,” where about 750,000 acres of corn crops were reported destroyed (“Mexico’s New Agricultural Crisis,” Americas Updater, February 15, 2011, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/3999). Increased and unpredictable rains have sharply reduced the coffee harvest in Colombia and other Latin American nations (In Colombia, Coffee Source Suffers Setbacks,” The New York Times, March 10, 2011). Heavy rains in La Paz, Bolivia caused mudslides that destroyed more than 400 homes in poor neighborhoods and left more than 100,000 people without running water (Bolivia: Severe Damage From Landslide,” The New York Times, March 3, 2011).

Return of rain and snow to China, at the end of February and the beginning of March eased the long drought, reducing fears of a wheat crisis (Keith Bradsher, “Rain and Snowfall Ease Drought in China, and Fears of a Wheat Crisis Recede,” The New York Times, March 8, 2011).

Thailand was hit by unseasonable storms, in late March, that inundated six southern provinces, killing at least 17 people as torrential rains, floods, mudslides and rough seas swamped seaside villages in the past week and trapped local and foreign tourists on islands. The Thai government sent its only aircraft carrier to rescue stranded residents and tourists (Seth Mydans, “Thailand Mounts Rescue Effort After Powerful Storms,” The New York Times, March 31, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/world/asia/01thai.html?ref=todayspaper).

Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet team has highlighted the need for innovations in indigenous vegetable production to improve food security and raise incomes in the long term, in the face of rising world food prices throwing an increasing number of people into poverty and threatening millions with malnutrition and even starvation. The Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet shows that diversifying food production to include local and indigenous vegetables can help communities boost their self-sufficiency and protect vulnerable populations from price shocks. Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of Worldwatch’s Nourishing the Planet project (www.NourishingthePlanet.org) said, “The solutions to the price crisis won’t necessarily come from producing more food, but from listening to farmers, investing in indigenous vegetables, and changing how foods are processed and marketed.” Over a 15-month period, researchers with Nourishing the Planet traveled to 25 countries in sub-Saharan Africa highlighting stories of hope and success in agriculture. The project’s on-the-ground research unearthed hundreds of environmentally sustainable solutions for reducing hunger and poverty. “The project aims to create a roadmap for the funding and donor community to ensure that agricultural funding is directed to projects that really work,” said Brian Halweil, Nourishing the Planet co-director. Mainstream agricultural approaches have tended to focus on a handful of staple crops, such as rice, wheat, and maize, and to promote the use of expensive, high-tech inputs, creating an unsustainable and vulnerable food system. Last year’s drought in Russia that damaged a third of the country’s wheat harvest, together with widespread flooding in Pakistan and Australia, caused price shocks around the world. Skyrocketing food prices are especially destabilizing in poor, import-dependent countries such as those in Africa, where households spend up to 80% of their income on food. In Egypt, the world’s leading wheat importer, a 70% rise in wheat prices helped trigger the recent wave of protests that swept the country. Subsequent unrest across the region is raising fears about global instability. Investing in agricultural development, especially indigenous vegetable crops, could help feed communities in Africa and worldwide, boosting their resilience to price shocks while helping farmers protect biodiversity and mitigate the impacts of climate change. “There is no other single sector of the global economy that is so central to meeting the needs of the nearly 7 billion people on the planet, while also protecting the health of the environment,” said Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. Food security is not only about the quantity of food we eat, but also about the quality and diversity of food sources. In contrast to the staple grains that receive disproportionate attention from development aid, vegetables can offer a sustainable solution for a diverse and balanced diet. Growing vegetables can help address the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiencies that affects some 1 billion people worldwide, and also brings multiple benefits for farmers. “Vegetables have shorter cycles, are faster-growing than cereal crops, and require little space,” says Abdou Tenkouano, director of AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center’s Regional Center for Africa and State of the World 2011 contributing author. The small-scale “revolution of greens” that is currently underway in Africa deserves greater attention from the global funding and donor communities. Researchers, nongovernmental organizations, and farmers across the continent are rediscovering traditional diets, improving the availability of nutritious indigenous vegetables (such as moringa and lablab), and reigniting interest in traditional vegetable dishes. Nourishing the Planet’s on-the-ground research offers three major policy recommendations to boost worldwide interest in and availability of indigenous vegetable varieties: Listen to farmers. Organizations like AVRDC and the International Development Research Centre hold periodic workshops and field days, bringing together farmers, consumers, businesses, and communities to identify varieties of onion, tomato, eggplant, and okra that grow the best, taste the best, and perform best at local markets. This helps researchers develop more nutritious and locally adapted varieties that enhance and complement specific food preparations. Get seeds treducedo farmers. The seeds of preferred vegetable varieties are being made more widely available in Africa and elsewhere. Better seeds mean more vitamins in the food, better-tasting food, and ultimately less hunger and malnutrition. After scientists at AVRDC developed two higher-yielding tomato varieties with thicker skins-making them less vulnerable to pests and damage-farmers growing these varieties raised their incomes by 40 percent. Take advantage of what’s local. As the impacts of climate change become more evident, indigenous vegetables that have been neglected for decades are regaining attention because of their tolerance to drought and resistance to pests. Researchers have developed improved varieties of amaranth, African eggplant, African nightshade, and cowpea that are now widely available in many parts of Africa. In Uganda, Project DISC (Developing Innovations in School Cultivation), supported by Slow Food International, is reigniting an interest in these foods by teaching students how to grow and cook indigenous vegetables. The project’s findings are being disseminated to a wide range of agricultural stakeholders, including government ministries, agricultural policymakers, and farmer and community networks, as well as the increasingly influential nongovernmental environmental and development communities (“A ‘Revolution of Greens’ and Innovations in Local, Diversified Food Production Needed to Curb Food Price Crisis,” Worldwatch Institute, March 23, 2011, www.NourishingthePlanet.org). For more information contact: Janeen Madan, jmadan@worldwatch.org, (+1) 202-452-1999 x514
For copies outside of USA, Canada & India: Gudrun Freese, gudrun.freese@earthscan.co.uk, (207) 841-1930.

A study released by the International Union for Conservation, April 19, found that overfishing, pollution, and loss of habitat have greatly reduced the populations in the Mediterranean of 40 fish species, including 12 bony fish species, and almost half the species of sharks and rays, which vanish from that sea in the next few years (“Vanishing Fish,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2011).

Population growth is a major contributor to the climate change and environmental degradation, over-use of resources, and inflation crisis. New census data shows India’s population has grown to 1.21 billion, second to only China, and though it has grown more slowly in the last decade, 17.6% from 2001-2011, down from 21.5% in the preceding 10 years, India still gained 181 million new people over that period, roughly the entire population of Pakistan. The government’s efforts to improve conditions for Indian women seemed to be borne out in some of the data, including an increase in female literacy that was higher than the country’s overall improvement, up about 9% to a nationwide literacy rate of 74% percent. But the ratio of girls six years and younger to boys of the same age fell over the past 10 years, from 927 girls per 1,000 boys in 2001 to 914 per 1,000 in 2011. That raised worries that despite laws to prohibit it, many families are still using abortion to ensure that they have sons (Hari Kumar, “India: To 1.21 Billion, but More Slowly,” The New York Times, March 31, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/world/asia/01briefs-ART-India.html?ref=todayspaper). China’s population has also continued to grow at a slower rate of 5.8% between 2000 and 2010, to reach 1.34 billion people (Michael Wines and Sharon LaFraniere, “New Census Finds China’s Population Growth Has Slowed,” The New York Times, April 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/world/asia/29census.html?src=recg).

The United Nations population division issued a report, May 3, finding that the world population, long projected to stabilize just above 9 billion around mid century, will instead continue to increase, possibly reaching 10.1 billion by 2100. Population growth in Africa, already struggling to provide food and water for its people, continues to be so high that its population could more than triple, expanding from the current 1 billion to 3.6 billion, before 2100. Much of the Arab world is experiencing rapid population growth also.  Yemen, for example, has had its population has quintupled since 1950, to 25 million, and is projected to see the population quadruple again, to 100 million, by century’s end. Yemen already depends on food imports and faces critical water shortages. A few wealthy nations are also experiencing a small population growth, including the United States, Britain and Denmark. The United States is growing faster than many rich countries, largely because of high immigration and higher fertility among Hispanic immigrants. The new report projects that the United States population will rise from today’s 311 million to 478 million by 2100. Meanwhile, China, which has for decades enforced restrictive population policies, could soon enter the ranks of countries with declining populations, peaking at 1.4 billion in the next couple of decades, then falling to 941 million by 2100. One of the factors in the higher projections is that since the 1980s there has been a decrease in international family planning programs. Over the past decade, foreign aid to pay for contraceptives, $238 million in 2009, — has remained at approximately the same level. The United States has long been the biggest donor, but the budget compromise in Congress last month cut international family planning programs by 5%. Well-designed programs can bring down growth rates even in the poorest countries. Provided with information and voluntary access to birth-control methods, women have chosen to have fewer children in societies as diverse as Bangladesh, Iran, Mexico, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Some studies suggest that providing easy, affordable access to contraceptives is not always sufficient. A trial by Harvard researchers in Lusaka, Zambia, found that only when women had greater autonomy to decide whether to use contraceptives did they have significantly fewer children. Other studies have found that general education for girls plays a critical role, in that literate young women are more likely to understand that family size is a choice. A demographic milestone is expected in late October, when the world population is expected to exceed 7 billion in late October, only a dozen years after it surpassed 6 billion. Demographers called the new projections a reminder that a problem that helped define global politics in the 20th century, the population explosion, is far from solved in the 21st. The projections in the report are based on the assumption that other factors will not impact them. Major questions are whether there will be sufficient food and water available where it is needed for the billions yet unborn, and whether potential catastrophes, including climate change, wars or epidemics will not diminish population growth (Justin Gilelis and Celia W. Dugger, “U.N. Forecasts 10.1 Billion People by Century’s End,” The New York Times,” May 3, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/04/world/04population.html?ref=todayspapehttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/04/world/04population.html?ref=todayspaper).

Brazil’s government, in early April, refused to suspend work on a huge Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in the Amazon, despite pleas that the project would likely displace tens of thousands of indigenous people and cause extensive environmental damage. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States, ’had asked Brazil  to halt construction of the dam, projected to become the world’s third largest, until it complied with its legal obligations to consult with indigenous groups. The commission pronounced that the consultations needed to be “free, prior, informed, of good faith and culturally appropriate.” Among its requests were measures to prevent the spread of diseases that could result from the population movement during construction. However, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ’called the demands “premature and unjustified,” saying the government had complied with its obligations under Brazilian law. The $17 billion dam would divert the flow of the Xingu River along a 62-mile stretch in Pará state, largely for purposes of generating electric power. Environmental groups point out it would flood more than 120,000 acres of rain forest and local settlements, displacing 20,000 to 40,000 people and releasing large quantities of methane. Brazil claims the number of displaced would be much lower. President Dilma Rousseff, who was chief of staff and energy minister under her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has expressed a continuing commitment to Belo Monte despite her stated desire to be more sensitive to human rights. Higher federal courts in Brazil have rejected legal challenges to the project. Groups allied against Belo Monte have continued the fight. The director James Cameron has traveled to the Xingu region three times to meet with indigenous leaders; last month he was accompanied by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California. At a sustainability conference in Manaus, in March, former President Bill Clinton called on Brazil to show leadership in finding alternative energy solutions, saying he was “naturally sympathetic with indigenous peoples.” “I want you to lead the rest of the world into the 21st century on this” (Alexi Barionuevo, “Brazil Rejects Panel’s Request to Stop Dam,” The New York Times, April 5, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/americas/06brazil.html?ref=world).

Laos announced, April 19, that it would delay a decision on building the first of a series of projected dams on the Mekong River to discuss the matter with neighboring nations, especially Vietnam, who along with environmentalists and many people living along the river, who object to the project.  Many fear that the $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam would open the way for as many as ten more, damaging the area’s fragile eco system and the lives of millions who depend on the Mekong for their livelihood (“Laos delays dam, “San Francisco Chronicle,” April 20, 2011).

A new study, published the week of April 18 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that levels of mercury in some Pacific sea birds has increased substantially over the last 120 years, indicating that industrial emissions of the metal that caused fetal an brain damage are likely moving up the food chain, and increasing dangers to people who are consuming increasing amounts of tainted seafood (Kelly Zito, “Mercury in seabirds shows perils are growing,” Sam Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2011).

India reported, March 27, that it was making progress in saving endangered tigers, with a new nationwide survey estimating a 20% percent increase in their numbers in the wild over the last five years. India is home to about half of the world’s wild tigers. Their numbers had declined sharply for decades, largely because of poaching and the pressures of development encroaching on their natural habitat (Jim Yardley, “India Reports an Increase In Wild Tiger Population,” The New York Times, March 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/world/asia/29tiger.html?ref=world).

World Overview

International Crisis Group (ICG), CrisisWatch N°93 May 1, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/crisiswatch/2011/crisiswatch-93.aspx, found: “The situation deteriorated in Sudan (Northern) as both North and South appear to be militarizing Abyei ahead of the South Kordofan elections scheduled for May. Tensions triggered militia attacks in el-Faid town leaving at least seventeen dead and over 250 houses burned. President Bashir’s removal of Salah Gosh from the national security committee signaled growing divisions in the ruling party. Fighting intensified in Sudan (South) between government and rebel militias where mid-month clashes saw more than 165 casualties over a seven-day period. Tensions increased as a 27-28 April meeting of political party leaders to review the draft constitution failed to reach consensus. The five-month stand-off in Côte d’Ivoire ended as forces loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara arrested former president Laurent Gbagbo on 11 April. While the arrest opens up political space for Ouattara, reports of his allies carrying out reprisal attacks against the Gbagbo camp, along with the outbreak of heavy clashes among forces supporting Ouattara, illustrate the scale of the challenges ahead. Violence sharply escalated in Syria, where over a hundred anti-government protesters were reported killed on 22 April, the worst day of bloodshed so far in the regime’s violent crackdown on dissent. There are fears of further violence as the government deployed troops across the country and used tanks to lay siege to the city of Deraa where the revolts began. In Bahrain repressive measures against pro-democracy activists continued despite the marked decline in protests following the government’s crackdown in March. Amidst a wave of arrests reports emerged that prisoners had been beaten and tortured by security forces. There was no clear prospect for an end to fighting in Libya, which this month saw NATO bombing of government forces and installations, including an airstrike on Tripoli that reportedly killed Colonel Qadaffi’s youngest son and three grandchildren. Qadaffi’s calls for a ceasefire and negotiations were dismissed as a disingenuous ploy by rebels as Libyan forces continued shelling rebels and urban centers. Rebels claimed over 1,000 people have been killed in the besieged city of Misrata and the UN stated that government use of cluster munitions and targeting of medical facilities could amount to war crimes. CrisisWatch again identifies a conflict risk alert and a conflict resolution opportunity in the coming month for Yemen. Both the government and the opposition have now, in principle, agreed to sign a power-transfer deal to get the country out of the crisis. With spoilers on both sides and youth groups rejecting the plan there is still a real risk of civil war. A further wave of unrest swept Burkina Faso in mid-April as members of the presidential guard mutinied in Ouagadougou and looting and rioting spread to at least three other cities. Shopkeepers and students also staged violent protests. In an attempt to end the unrest, President Blaise Compaoré dismissed the government and military leaders. A subsequent police mutiny in the capital 27-28 April spread to several other cities and 34 opposition parties have called for Compaoré to step down. Tensions escalated in Uganda where at least two were killed and dozens injured during Kampala riots on 29 April triggered by the violent arrest of opposition leader Kizza Besigye for defiance over the government ban on “walk to work” protests against surging food and fuel costs. Violence flared along the border between Thailand and Cambodia towards the end of the month, with at least fifteen soldiers killed in clashes and tens of thousands displaced on both sides. In Bosnia the ongoing political crisis intensified, in Belarus thirteen people were killed in a suspected terrorist attack on a Minsk subway station, and in Northern Ireland a police officer was killed in a car bomb attack by dissident republicans in Omagh at the beginning of the month. CrisisWatch also highlights Sri Lanka, following the 26 April release of the report of the UN panel of experts finding “credible evidence” that violations were committed during the civil war by both government forces and the Tamil Tigers (LTTE) likely cost “tens of thousands” of civilian lives and may have amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. The panel called for an “international mechanism” to probe the allegations further.” Considered Unchanged Situations were: 
Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Basque Country (Spain), Benin, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Côte d’Ivoire, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Caucasus (Russia), North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

Looking back over the proceeding two months, International Crisis Group (ICG), CrisisWatch N°91, March 1, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/crisiswatch/2011/crisiswatch-91.aspx, finds, “popular revolt continued to convulse the Arab world in February. The rapid spread and escalation of unrest underlined the magnitude of events, but their pace makes the direction of change uncertain. After almost three weeks of massive protests Egypt‘s President Hosni Mubarak stepped down on 11 February. The Supreme Military Council took control and promised presidential and parliamentary elections within six months. On 22 February a new civilian cabinet was sworn in. Just days after Mubarak’s downfall protests broke out in Libya against Muammar Qaddafi’s four-decade rule. Hundreds of civilians were feared killed and thousands injured as Qaddafi launched a brutal crackdown, prompting senior members of the regime and military to defect. By the end of the month Libya was in the throes of a full-scale rebellion, with large parts of the country under opposition control. The UN Security Council unanimously voted to impose sanctions and refer Libya to the International Criminal Court. Several states are reportedly considering military intervention. Amid fears of a further escalation of violence, the UN warned of a humanitarian emergency as over 100,000 refugees fled the country. Protests intensified in Yemen, where dozens were killed in daily clashes between protesters and security forces from the middle of the month. The opposition has rejected President Saleh’s offer of a national unity government and is supporting protests demanding his resignation and immediate regime change. But hopes for dialogue remain, and so CrisisWatch also identifies a conflict resolution opportunity. Demonstrations for political reform in Bahrain also saw several protesters killed by security forces. Following international condemnation of the crackdown Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa ordered the withdrawal of security forces and offered dialogue with the opposition. Anti-government protests also took place in Oman and Djibouti. In Afghanistan, the standoff continued between President Hamid Karzai and the opposition over the flawed September parliamentary election. A controversial special tribunal set up by Karzai – which the opposition condemns as unconstitutional – has started recounting votes in several provinces. With concerns growing over renewed tension if the tribunal reverses results, CrisisWatch identifies Afghanistan as a conflict risk alert for March. The political crisis came amid an upsurge of insurgent violence across the country. Three Muscovite tourists were killed in a guerrilla attack on a North Caucasus ski resort, one of several attacks in the region’s Kabardino-Balkaria Republic. The attack underlined the degree to which the previously relatively peaceful republic has become a target of Islamic guerrilla activity. Conflict in Somalia escalated as government troops backed by AU peacekeepers battled against Islamic militant al-Shabaab in Mogadishu, and Ethiopian troops were reportedly involved in border clashes. In Somaliland, tensions increased in oil-rich Sool, Sanaag and Cayn region as government forces fought with rebel militia. The collapse of a six-year ceasefire led to heightened tensions in Côte d’Ivoire and further warnings of an outbreak of civil war. Forces Nouvelles rebels backing President-elect Alassane Ouattara fought with the army in the western region, while in Abidjan troops loyal to ex-President Laurent Gbagbo clashed for the first time with army defectors now supporting Ouattara. The situation in Thailand also deteriorated as hostilities broke out along the border with Cambodia in the disputed area near Preah Vihear temple. Compromised elections in Uganda saw President Yoweri Museveni win a fourth term.” Deteriorated Situations were: Afghanistan, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, North Caucasus (Russia), Somalia, Somaliland, Thailand, Uganda, and Yemen. An Improved Situation occurred in Egypt, while Unchanged Situations were: Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia, Burma/Myanmar, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuril Islands/Northern Territories (Russia/Japan), Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Sudan (Northern), Sudan (South), Syria, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, and  Zimbabwe.

International Crisis Group (ICG), CrisisWatch N°92, April 1, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/publication-type/crisiswatch/2011/crisiswatch-92.aspx, finds, “In Côte d’Ivoire, the security and humanitarian situation deteriorated as civil war reignited. The month saw continued heavy clashes between forces backing internationally-recognized president Alassane Ouattara and those loyal to former president Laurent Gbagbo, with reports of sexual violence, summary executions, and direct shelling of civilians. Gbagbo’s hold on power appears to be unraveling, as Ouattara loyalists took control of strategic towns and, at the end of the month, entered Abidjan, attacking the presidential residence, seizing control of state television, and triggering high level army defections. The potential escalation of violence in the coming days is cause for grave concern; events are unfolding rapidly as CrisisWatch goes to press. In Libya clashes between rebels and Muammar Qaddafi’s security forces escalated into full-scale civil war. The UN Security Council authorized international military action to protect civilians; an international coalition initially led by the U.S., France and the UK launched missile and air strikes against the regime’s military installations and ground and air forces, reversing its earlier gains. Heavy fighting continues, raising the specter of a protracted conflict. The UN reports that some 350,000 refugees have already fled the country, amid fears that the crisis will continue to intensify. The wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world reached Syria in March. Dozens were killed as security forces suppressed anti-regime protests. In an inflammatory speech at the end of the month, President Bashar al-Assad accused “foreign conspirators” of fomenting unrest, dampening hopes of reform. Despite concessions by the government and the cabinet’s resignation, demonstrations continue, and CrisisWatch identifies Syria as another conflict risk alert for April. Scores of protesters were killed in Yemen as nationwide anti-regime protests continued for a second month. The deadly crackdown has prompted a series of defections of prominent government officials. Talks between weakened President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the opposition broke down, creating a dangerous political impasse and raising fears of civil war. However, as indirect dialogue continues and hopes for reconciliation and a unity government remain, CrisisWatch identifies Yemen as both a conflict risk alert and a conflict resolution opportunity for the coming month. Violence flared in Bahrain in a new military crackdown on anti-government protests, which saw several protestors killed and hundreds more injured or arrested. In a move that observers fear may complicate rather than help resolve the political crisis, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates dispatched troops and police to help maintain order. Iran strongly criticized the move. In Nigeria, an increase in communal and sectarian violence threatened the prospects of credible and peaceful general elections in April. As security forces deployed across the country, CrisisWatch identifies a risk of violence around the polls. Tensions escalated in Benin as opposition supporters rejected the results of the 13 March presidential election, and police forcibly dispersed opposition protests in Cotonou. In neighboring Burkino Faso, army grievances surfaced as gunfire broke out between soldiers in the capital Ouagadougou. In Bosnia, the struggle for control of government at the state and entity level continued, raising the prospect of institutional paralysis and a deepening of the country’s political crisis. In Niger, however, the situation improved. The transition to civilian rule following last year’s military coup was consolidated by a peaceful run-off presidential election on 12 March. Opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou was declared winner with 58 per cent of the vote; his opponent Seini Oumarou, accepted defeat. ECOWAS commended the polls and lifted economic sanctions in place since late 2009.” Found Deteriorated Situations were: Bahrain, Benin, Bosnia, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Libya, Nigeria, Syria, and Yemen. An Improved Situation: Niger. Unchanged Situations were: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Basque Country (Spain), Belarus, Bolivia, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Colombia, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea, Haiti, India (non-Kashmir), Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuril Islands/Northern Territories (Russia/Japan), Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar/Burma, Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan), Nepal, Nicaragua, North Caucasus (Russia), North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan (Northern), Sudan (South), Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ugan da, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Western Sahara, and Zimbabwe.

In agreement with what a number of other analysts are saying, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates said at a Pentagon press briefing, “I think, first of all, the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and the protests elsewhere that are leading to reforms for a number of governments are an extraordinary set back for al-Qaida. It, basically, gives the lie to al-Qaida’s claim that the only way to get rid of authoritarian governments is through extremist violence.” The non-violent protests – that only involve violence if the protestors are attacked – are showing that al-Qaida is wrong – and indeed it and other extremist organizations have played no role in any of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle east, as of early March. Gates also said that he believes the wave of reform is a set-back for Iran, stating, “The contrast of the behaviors of the militaries in Tunisia and Egypt and, except for a brief flurry of violence, in Bahrain, contrast vividly with the savage repression that the Iranians have taken against anyone who dares to demonstrate in their country.” He cautioned that It will take months or years before the full results and consequences of the revolutions are known. Meanwhile, ordered the USS Kearsarge and the USS Ponce – now in the Red Sea – to the Mediterranean, saying the Navy vessels “will provide us with capability for both emergency evacuations and humanitarian operations” (Jim Garamone “Middle East Revolutions Undermine al-Qaida, Iran, Gates Says,” GlobalSecurity.org).

President Obama announced, May 1, that Osama Bin Laden was killed by a U.S. military operation in Pakistan(Peter Baker, Helene Cooper and Mazzetti, “Bin Laden Is Dead, Obama Says,” The New York Times, May 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/asia/osama-bin-laden-is-killed.html?ref=todayspaper). Stephen Zunes (zunes@usfca.edu) commented on the PJSA List Serv, May 2, 2011, “While I certainly have problems with triumphalism and celebration of bin Laden’s death, in many respects his demise was handled relatively well, given the political and tactical realities of the situation.  Obviously, it would have been better if he had been captured alive and tried before an international tribunal.  But it could have been worse.  It appears he killed in a firefight, not as a result of assassination by an anonymous drone launched in a control center thousands of miles away.   There was clearly some cooperation with Pakistani authorities, so it was not a unilateral American operation.  It appears that there were no civilian casualties.  Bin Laden was buried in accordance with Muslim ritual, rather than having his body unceremoniously displayed in a crude propaganda show. I think it would be far better to emphasize that, in terms of weakening the threat of the mega-terrorism of Al-Qaeda and like-minded groups, Bin Laden’s death is far less significant than the nonviolent pro-democracy insurrections that have been sweeping the Arab world empowering civil society, instilling hope, and creating conditions that are much less likely to breed terrorists.”

The world economic slowdown and related politics have slowed efforts to reduce poverty around the globe. The world leaders’ meeting at L’Aquila, Italy in late 2009 promised $20 billion over three years to assist the world’s poorest farmers feed themselves, but by November 2010 only $1 billion has actually been donated. Since the end of 2009 many nations have moved previously pledged aid funds into their L’Aquila accounts, so that the new pledges only constitute about $6 billion, and it has been politically difficult to actually have most that money transferred to poor farmers (Helene cooper, “Economic Crisis Sidelines Fate of World’s Poorest,” The New York Times, November 11, 2010).

David Leonhardt, “Hopeful Message About the World’s Poorest, The New York Times, March 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/business/economy/23leonhardt.html?ref=todayspaper, notes, in a new book Getting Better, Charles Kenny, a British development economist based in Washington, argues that life in much of Africa and in most of the impoverished world has improved at an unprecedented rate in recent decades, even if economic growth has not. He writes, “The biggest success of development has not been making people richer but, rather, has been making the things that really matter — things like health and education — cheaper and more widely available.” Kenny makes a good case that the world has paid too much attention to economic numbers and ended up with some misleading caricatures as a result: China great, India good, Latin America mediocre, Africa bad. In fact, life expectancy is longer, and has risen more lately, in Libya and Syria than in China. The average lifespan in Libya — 74 years — is now only four years behind that of the United States. Among the seven major regions into which the World Bank divides the world, life expectancy has grown more since 1980 in the Middle East and North Africa than anywhere else (12.2 years). South Asia has had the second greatest gain (9.6 years), Latin America (8.9 years) is third and East Asia fourth (8.1 years). Yemen — the latest political hot spot — has closed almost its entire longevity gap with India since just 1990. Liberia has closed nearly half its gap with India over the same span. The main reason is that health and well-being are cheaper than they used to be. Africa and large parts of Asia and Latin America remain abjectly poor, but they can often still afford antibiotics, immunizations and clean water. So even as African countries have fallen further behind economically, some have begun to catch up in other areas. In addition, Kenny points out, their citizens, who are better educated than their ancestors and have far better access to information, often have the political power to demand better basic services. Compared with past decades, vastly more people today live under a political system that at least resembles democracy. It was only 40 years ago that women in Switzerland could not vote. Leonhardt says, “One caveat to Mr. Kenny’s argument is that progress in Africa has slowed over the last decade or so, largely because of the scourge of H.I.V. And by any definition, the quality of health and education in sub-Saharan Africa remains horribly low. Several countries there still have a life expectancy of only about 45 years. By comparison, life expectancy in the Stone Age was about 34 years, notes Gregory Clark, the University of California, Davis economist who wrote ‘A Farewell to Alms,’ an economic history of the world” Clark said, “Despite the creation 60 or more years ago of cheap medical interventions that can dramatically reduce infant mortality and despite considerable medical aid and assistance from the rich countries, the poorest countries in Africa have advanced life expectancy 10 years from conditions in 200,000 B.C.” “Mr. Kenny responds that H.I.V. is akin to a modern plague. The fact that sub-Saharan Africa has made even modest progress while battling the plague is remarkable. Much of the rest of the world, meanwhile, continues to make great progress on health, education, infrastructure and even human rights.” “The most hopeful part of Mr. Kenny’s hopeful message is that progress in health, education and human rights may ultimately bring economic progress as well. He is cautious on this point, noting that economists have failed time and time again to come up with consistent explanations for economic growth. But African growth has accelerated over the last decade, and the acceleration followed improvements in education and other basics. It’s true that Africa’s growth is unimpressive compared with the Asian miracle, but the growth is still the most rapid in Africa’s recorded history.”

Chris Hedges, “The Collapse of Globalization,” Truthdig.com, March 28, 2011, http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/03/28-0, commented, “The uprisings in the Middle East, the unrest that is tearing apart nations such as the Ivory Coast, the bubbling discontent in Greece, Ireland and Britain and the labor disputes in states such as Wisconsin and Ohio presage the collapse of globalization. They presage a world where vital resources, including food and water, jobs and security, are becoming scarcer and harder to obtain. They presage growing misery for hundreds of millions of people who find themselves trapped in failed states, suffering escalating violence and crippling poverty. They presage increasingly draconian controls and force—take a look at what is being done to Pfc. Bradley Manning—used to protect the corporate elite who are orchestrating our demise. We must embrace, and embrace rapidly, a radical new ethic of simplicity and rigorous protection of our ecosystem—especially the climate—or we will all be holding on to life by our fingertips.”

Dan Bilefsky, “Recent U.N. Actions Show Policy Shift, Analysts Say,” The New York Times, April 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/africa/06nations.html?ref=world, notes, “The unusual military strikes by the United Nations against military bases of the Ivory Coast’s strongman, Laurent Gbagbo, represent a seminal moment in which an organization generally disinclined to intervene forcefully in the affairs of member states is showing a new willingness to take bold action to save lives, diplomats and analysts said. After weeks of the United Nations’ equivocating, Alain Le Roy, head of the organization’s peacekeeping operations, on Monday night framed the decision to intervene both as a moral choice and military and legal imperative: Mr. Gbagbo should be stopped from using mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns against civilians and international peacekeepers. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also said intervention was necessary to protect lives, even as he sought to emphasize that the United Nations was not a party to the conflict. While both officials stressed the encroaching urgency on the ground, United Nations diplomats and analysts said Tuesday that the organization’s intervention also was part of a fundamental political shift in which military action against Libya — backed by two Security Council resolutions and the vocal support of the Obama administration — had provided an important spur.” “The emerging consensus to take action to prevent violence against civilians should be viewed against the backdrop of a resolution adopted in 2005 to help the United Nations intervene to stop genocide. The resolution held nations responsible for shielding citizens from atrocities and established the right of international forces to step in if nations did not fulfill this ‘responsibility to protect.’ The resolution was supposed to overcome debates within the organization between those who argue that the international community has the right to intervene to prevent atrocities and those who say the concept of state sovereignty, recognized in the United Nations Charter, is sacrosanct.” Stéphane Crouzat, spokesman for the French mission to the United Nations, Invoking past conflicts in Rwanda, Darfur and Bosnia, stated, “There is a new trend in the Security Council in which the responsibility to protect principle is gaining a new hold. There is a desire to intervene before war crimes or ethnic cleansing can take place.”

“Study Proves: Peace Education Promotes Readiness for Peaceful Conflict Settlement,” University of Heidelberg, February 9, 2011, http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/presse/news2011/pm20110209_friedenspaedagogik_en.html, reports a study by the Heidelberg University’s Institute for Education Studies which has demonstrated that participants in peacebuilding education projects in countries with armed conflicts differ often distinctly in the extent to which they are prepared to envisage peaceful conflict settlement, but that peace education work in crisis and conflict areas does help make hostile groups more peaceable.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has told senior UN managers to work toward cutting the next UN budget by 3% (“Secretary General Calls for Budget Cuts,” The New York Times, March 10, 2011).

 

Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan

 

Both the situation concerning Iran’s nuclear development, including the impasse in negotiations with nations objecting to Iran’s nuclear program, and the state of repression of opposition to the government, appear to be fundamentally unchanged in the past few months. However, Iran reported to the International Atomic Energy Commission, February 25, that it had experienced difficulties with its new Bushehr nuclear plant, and was removing fuel rods from the reactor (William J. Broad and David E. Sanger, “Setback is Reported at an Iranian Nuclear Plant, as Fuel Rods Are Removed, The New York Times, February 26, 2011). In late April, it was reported that Iran’s nuclear program had been hit by a second espionage computer virus. The first one is considered to have significantly set back Iran’s atomic bomb development (Akbar Dareini, “’Espionage virus’ infects computers – 2nd in 8 months,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2011).

 

As conflicts continue in Iraq – though at a significantly lower level than several years ago – as the U.S. has ended its combat role, withdrawn most of its forces, and contemplates removing the remainder, Tim Arango, “Clashes Fuel Debate Over U.S. Plan to Leave Iraq,” The New York Times, March 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/world/middleeast/29kirkuk.html?pagewanted=1&ref=todayspaper, comments from Kirkuk, “Many in this divided city want American troops to stay longer than the Obama administration has said they will, and a tense standoff on the southern and western edges of town last week showed why. Here, on a bridge, behind the mud brick walls of an abandoned mill and inside a hospice, Kurdish troops from the north were in positions on the outskirts of Arab neighborhoods. To calm the latest flare-up of the longstanding ethnic rivalries here has required a rush of high-level diplomacy, including phone calls from Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to Kurdish leaders and, a rarity in Iraq today, the deployment of American troops. The confrontation did not turn violent — precisely, many believe, because of the presence of American troops. But they will leave by the end of the year, if the current schedule stands, and many here fear that could lead to ethnic strife, even civil war. The Kurdish soldiers, known as the pesh merga, were deployed last month by leaders in the semiautonomous northern region worried about Sunni Arab insurgents attacking peaceful demonstrators in the streets. But the action was viewed by local Arabs, American diplomats and military officials and the Iraqi government as provocative and illegal.” “Perhaps the greatest unfinished chapter of America’s war in Iraq will be the status of Kirkuk, an ancient city that today is fought over by its three main ethnic groups, Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, each making historical claims to the land and the oil that flows beneath.” “Not only do American diplomats and military leaders argue for troops to stay, but outside experts do as well. A recent book written by six Iraq experts, led by Kenneth M. Pollack of the Brookings Institution, called peacekeeping in Kirkuk ‘by far the most important U.S. military mission now’ and suggested that troops stay to ‘be a crucial substitute for the trust that undergirds stable societies.’ “At the Kirkuk Provincial Council building, where recently a column of American armored vehicles were parked outside, the ethnic groups try to settle their differences through politics. But if democracy has emerged slowly in Iraq, it has come even more slowly here. When the rest of the country held provincial elections in 2009, Kirkuk did not. A constitutional provision that mandated a referendum on Kirkuk’s status in 2007 has not been held.”

Tim Arango, “Changes in Scale of Violence in Iraq,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011, noted that in the past months Iraq has seen a drop in the number of large scale, coordinated bombings aimed at innocent civilians, and an increase in assassinations and robberies.

International Crisis Group, (ICG), “Iraq and the Kurds: Confronting Withdrawal Fears, Middle East Report N° 103, March 28, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iraq-syria-lebanon/iraq/103%20Iraq%20and%20the%20Kurds%20Confronting%20Withdrawal%20Fears.aspx, finds, “Iraq’s government was long in the making, but its inclusive nature and the way in which it was formed offer hope that it can make progress in the struggle between Arabs and Kurds. The conflict, which has left a devastating imprint on the country’s twentieth-century history, could cause political paralysis or, worse, precipitate Iraq’s break-up. Coalition partners have a unique opportunity to make headway. Failure to seize it would be inexcusable. Both sides should build on the apparent goodwill generated by efforts to establish a government to lay the foundations for a negotiated and peaceful settlement. In particular, they should immediately resume talks over the status of Kirkuk and other disputed territories. They also should use their January 2011 agreement to export Kurdish oil through the national pipeline as a basis for negotiations over a revenue-sharing law and a comprehensive hydrocarbons law. As protests throughout the country have shown, Iraq is not immune from the revolutionary fervor that is coursing through the Middle East and North Africa. Nor should it be, as successive governments’ inability to provide essential services, most importantly a steady supply of electrical power, has given rise to legitimate grievances. In what will be an early test for the new government, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will have to find an effective response to protesters’ demands as a top priority, certainly before the arrival of the hot summer months. The same holds true for the Kurdistan regional government (KRG), which has long been buffeted by complaints concerning poor service delivery and widespread corruption. Protests in Suleimaniya in February and March 2011 show it is overdue in taking persuasive remedial action and thus faces the risk of escalating and spreading unrest. Arab-Kurdish relations remain a tinderbox. In late February, the Kurdistan regional government sent military forces into Kirkuk in a transparent attempt to both deflect attention from events in Suleimaniya and rally the Kurdish population around the supremely emotive issue of Kir­kuk’s status. In doing so, it dangerously inflamed an already tense situation and exacerbated ethnic tensions. This should serve as a reminder of the need for leaders in Baghdad and Erbil to urgently attend to the structural Arab-Kurd fault line. In joining the coalition government, Kurdish leaders presented conditions on power-sharing and outstanding claims over resources and territory. Maliki says he agreed to most, but to the Kurds the ultimate proof lies in whether and how he fulfils them. It is doubtful that the prime minister can or even would want to satisfy their every demand, and both sides will need to show flexibility in hammering out the required deals – notably on completing government formation, hydrocarbons and revenue-sharing legislation and the delineation of the Kurdistan region’s internal boundaries. In the past, Crisis Group has argued that Kirkuk should gain special status as a stand-alone governorate, under neither Baghdad’s nor Erbil’s direct control, for an interim period, with a mechanism for ultimately resolving its status, and with a power-sharing arrangement in which political representatives of the main ethnic and religious groups are represented fairly. A deal along these lines appears within reach, and now is the time to pursue it. In January, building on their success in forming the coalition government, Baghdad and Erbil negotiated a tactical agreement on oil exports from the Kurdistan region whose implementation should prove beneficial to both. They ought to take this a step further by starting talks on the range of issues that have plagued their post-2003 relationship. In June 2009, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) set up a high-level task force whose stated goal was to work toward a negotiated solution – initially through confidence-building mechanisms – for the disputed territories, the broad swathe of land from the Syrian to the Iranian border that Kurds claim as historically part of Kurdistan. UNAMI realized full well, however, that the task force was unlikely to make progress in the months leading up to and following legislative elections, so its real objective was to keep the parties at the table until a new government was formed. This period, which lasted a year and a half, has now come to an end; today, the initiative should be invested with new life. At the core of the territorial dispute lies the disposition of Kirkuk, the name for three separate but overlapping entities – city, governorate and super-giant oil field – that are subject to competing claims. The 2005 constitution lays out a process for resolving the status of Kirkuk and other disputed areas, but it has run aground on profound differences over interpretation and lack of political will. Meanwhile, the situation in the disputed territories has been left to fester. In areas with a rich ethnic mix, such as Kirkuk city and several districts of Ninewa governorate, this has produced strong tensions and politically-motivated provocations aimed at sparking inter-communal conflict. To prevent small incidents from escalating into a broader conflagration, the U.S. military in 2009 established so-called combined security mechanisms along the trigger line – the line of control between the Iraqi army and the Kurdish regional guard force, known as the peshmergas, that runs along the disputed region’s spine. The mechanisms’ key features are joint checkpoints and patrols involving army and guard force personnel with embedded U.S. officers, as well as coordination centers designed to improve communication and build trust between the two sides. Moreover, Baghdad and Erbil agreed to a set of rules governing the deployment of their respective security forces in these areas. Together, these steps have reduced tensions, but the security forces’ presence and posture in their designated sectors remind a weary population the conflict is far from resolved. The standoff between the army and the peshmergas in Kirkuk’s environs, in particular, and provocative conduct of the Kurdish security police, the asaesh, inside the city augur trouble for the period after U.S. withdrawal, scheduled for the end of 2011. Events in late February-early March, when peshmerga forces deployed around Kirkuk city over the vehement protestations of local Arab and Turkoman leaders, were another warning that the security situation, relatively stable since 2003, may not hold. The combined security mechanisms were intended to buy time for negotiations over the disputed territories’ status. So far, measures fashioned to break the deadlock, such as a process to organize provincial elections in Kirkuk, have reinforced it, increasing frustration and mutual recrimination. The impact has not been limited to the immediate area: a nationwide census has been postponed indefinitely because of disagreements over its application in the disputed territories. Without progress, conflict threatens to erupt as U.S. troops prepare to leave Iraq, including positions along the trigger line. This causes anxiety all around, especially among Kirkuk residents, who appear unanimous in calling for continued U.S. military protection. There are no easy fixes. Although Maliki’s government might seek to negotiate a troop extension, the likelier scenario is that the U.S. troop presence in the north will be severely curtailed if not ended within a few months. UNAMI has begun to explore Baghdad’s and Erbil’s readiness to re-engage on core issues, but delays in filling key government posts, such as the defense and interior ministers, militate against an early resumption of talks. The U.S. takes the position that its forces are leaving, so Iraqis will have to sort out problems along the trigger line without the psychological security blanket its military presence has provided. It also appears to believe the impending departure itself might concentrate Iraqi minds and produce political will to agree on the disposition of Kirkuk and other territories. That could be a logical wager, but it also is a risky one. At a minimum, the U.S. should provide strong diplomatic and financial support to UNAMI as it prepares for talks, including by making continued military aid conditional on stakeholders’ constructive participation in negotiations and commitment to refrain from unilateral military moves. UNAMI should propose specific confidence-building steps in the disputed territories based on its impressive (unpublished) April 2009 report. In so doing, it should make every effort to involve political representatives from the disputed territories. Both the Maliki and Kurdistan regional governments should encourage economic activity in the territories and, in Kirkuk, impartial use of extra revenue from oil sales on projects benefiting the entire community. Most of all, leaders in Baghdad and Erbil need to ask themselves: will they be persuaded to pursue a negotiated solution by the realization they cannot attain their objectives either by letting the matter linger or by using force? Or will they be prompted only by the outbreak of a violent conflict neither side wants and whose outcome they could not control?” ICG recommends: To the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government: 1. Commit publicly to a negotiated solution to the status of disputed territories. 2. Resume negotiations on the full range of pertinent issues, including the status of disputed territories, a hydrocarbons law, a revenue-sharing law, provincial elections in Kirkuk and a national census; discuss in particular disputed territories as part of the high-level task force established under UN auspices; and institute confidence-building steps in individual districts, per recommendations in UNAMI’s April 2009 report. 3. Include in such talks leaders of parties representing all ethnic and religious groups in the disputed territories. 4. Continue joint army-peshmerga checkpoints, patrols and operations in the disputed territories, based on the U.S.-sponsored combined security mechanisms, after a U.S. troop withdrawal; maintain and fully staff the Joint Coordination Centers in the disputed territories; and create a Baghdad-Erbil monitoring team to investigate disputes involving joint security operations. 5. Issue clear instructions to security forces deployed in disputed territories to remain in designated separate areas, except in jointly agreed-upon joint checkpoints, joint patrols and joint operations against violent groups outside the political process; appoint a non-voting official from each side to, respectively, the Iraqi cabinet and the KRG’s council of ministers to promote early flagging of disputes; and a senior military officer from each side to, respectively, the National Operations Centre in Baghdad and the KRG’s equivalent in Erbil. 6. Encourage provincial authorities in the disputed territories to recruit additional police personnel from all ethnic and religious groups in order to achieve a force that fairly reflects the local community’s diversity. 7. Continue efforts to integrate Kurdish peshmergas and police (including the paramilitary zerevani) under the respective defense and interior ministries within the national security architecture. 8. Move toward police primacy in the disputed territories with the aim of turning these areas into a demilitarized zone in which neither the Iraqi army nor Kurdish peshmergas or zerevanis are authorized to operate. 9. Accept the Supreme Court decision that the census mentioned in Article 140 of the constitution is not the same as the decennial population count and proceed, initially by asking parliament to amend the 2008 census law, on that basis with the latter, excluding the inflammatory and – for national purposes – unnecessary question regarding people’s ethnicity. 10. Promote economic development in the disputed territories and, in Kirkuk, encourage the effective use of extra revenue from oil sales on projects benefiting the entire community. To the Kurdistan Regional Government: 11. Finalize legislation and step up implementation of the plan to unify security forces (peshmergas, zereva­nis, asaesh, parastin, zanyari) belonging to the Kur­distan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan under its direct and exclusive authority. 12. Instruct the asaesh (party-controlled security police) deployed in Kirkuk city and other parts of the disputed territories characterized by religious and ethnic diversity to operate in close coordination with the local police and stay within the limits of Iraqi federal law; and develop a plan to restructure the asaesh deployed in such areas by recruiting personnel from all religious and ethnic groups in order to achieve a force that fairly reflects the local community’s diversity. To Local Governments in Kirkuk, Ninewa, Diyala and Salah al-Din: 13. Ensure that local projects funded from the central Iraqi budget, including extra revenues from locally-produced and/or refined oil and gas (the so-called petrodollars), are distributed fairly throughout the governorate and/or benefit citizens without prejudice. 14. Recruit additional police personnel from all ethnic and religious groups in order to achieve a police force that fairly reflects the local community’s diversity. To the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI): 15. Revive the high-level task force, at least to address flare-ups along the trigger line; support negotiations between Iraqi stakeholders on disputed internal boundaries by providing technical expertise and political advice at all levels; propose specific confidence-building steps in the disputed territories based on its April 2009 report; and make every effort to involve leaders of parties representing all ethnic and religious groups in the disputed territories in the talks. To the U.S. Government: 16. Support the early start of negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government on the full range of issues listed above and provide full financial and diplomatic backing to UNAMI in mediating stakeholder talks. 17. Encourage and support – in the event that no U.S. troop extension is negotiated – Iraqi joint mechanisms in the disputed territories designed to reduce the chances of armed conflict. 18. Use military assistance as leverage to press the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government to refrain from unilateral steps in disputed territories, including by army and peshmerga units, and to ensure proper regulation of their respective security forces, these forces’ continued cooperation in joint security mechanisms and their respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The military situation in Afghanistan is complex, and variable, making it difficult to obtain a clear picture of its condition. On the surface, the NATO-Afghan government position seems considerably improved since before the U.S. brought in an additional 30,000 troops, made some technological updates, and undertook some strategic and tactical adjustments. The U.S. has moved into the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar Province and is training local police units there, and American forces remain in Helmand Province, despite continued combat losses. While there is debate over the insurgents’ overall strength, Pakistanis with deep knowledge of the Afghan Taliban say that they have suffered heavy losses in the last year and that they are struggling in some areas to continue the fight. Both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a number of mid level Taliban have been killed or arrested. It has also been reported that some mid-level Taliban leaders, tired of nine years of war, are reluctant to follow orders from high level leaders – in sanctuary in Pakistan – to return to some areas. Carlotta Gall, “War-Weary Midlevel Taliban Admit Rift With Top Leaders,“ The New York Times, February 27, 2011, reports that interviews reveal that some mid-level Taliban leaders, tired of nine years of war, are reluctant to follow orders from high level leaders – in sanctuary in Pakistan – to return to some areas. However, U.S. commanders admit that the gains are fragile. With U.S. forces scheduled to start pulling out in July, with a complete U.S.-NATO withdrawal in 2014, the Afghan army will have to take over more of the security. While training of Afghan troops and police has been increasing their numbers, and possibly their quality, in general Afghan forces do not have a good reputation. Already, Afghan troops have taken over security in some areas. Most of these have been fairly peaceful for some time. But in the one case where Afghan forces recently replaced U.S. troops in a strategic area, in the Pech valley, they have been ineffective. There, in the second major loss in two days, the Taliban seized control of a district in eastern Nuristan Province, chasing the governor and the police from the district capital. Also, There has been a resurgence of the Taliban in some areas, including in Kunduz and Baghlan provinces. In addition, Afghanistan’s borders remain porous, with the Pakistani frontier largely a safe haven for the Taliban. Perhaps more important the legitimacy of the Afghan government is very low with much of the population. Scandals, such as fraud at the Kabul Bank, which processes government salaries, and wide spread corruption tied to President Hamid Karzai’s government, seriously undermine the government’s efforts against the insurgents. With winter over, the Taliban are beginning their spring offensive, and intelligence reports that In areas that NATO forces have taken control of, the Taliban spring offensive includes high casualty suicide bombings and assassination to sow terror in the local population and undermine belief in the Kabul supported local governments (C.J. Chivers, “Putting Afghan Plan Into Action Proves Difficult,” The New York Times, March 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/world/asia/09ghazni.html?_r=1&hp; Elisabeth Buhmiller, “Gates Sees Crucial Test for U.S. in Afghanistan,” The New York Times, Published: March 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/world/asia/09gates.html?ref=world; Thom Shanker, “Petraeus Says Afghan War Progress Is ‘Fragile’,” The New York Times, March 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16petraeus.html?ref=world; Rod Nordland and Sangar Rahimi, “Taliban Seize District in Eastern Afghanistan,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/world/asia/30afghanistan.html?ref=world; Carlotta Gall, “Losses in Pakistani Haven Strain Afghan Taliban,” The New York Times, March 31, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/world/asia/01taliban.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Alissa J. Rubin, “Taliban Bet on Fear Over Braun As a Tactic,” The New York Times, March 27, 2011; Rod Nordland, “Taliban Exploit Tensions Seething in Afghan Society,” The New York Times, April 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/asia/06afghanistan.html?ref=todayspaper: Thom Shanker, “Afghanistan War Report Cites Progress by Troops,” The New York Times, April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/world/asia/30military.html?ref=todayspaper;  and Ray Rivera and Rod Nordland, “Afghans to Take Over Security in 7 Areas, Mostly Peaceful, by July,” The New York Times, March 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/world/asia/23afghanistan.html?ref=todayspaper).

“Deaths of civilians from NATO forces in Afghanistan, especially from air attacks, continue to be a major cause of tension between the Afghan government and foreign military, stemming from the deep resentment of many Afghan’s, which also makes such killings a potent al Qeada recruiting aid. President Karzai called insufficient the apology by the American commander in Afghanistan for the deaths from a helicopter gunship attack of nine Afghan children in Kunar Province, March 1. Protests have taken place in both Kabul and in the capital of Kunar province, over the incident. In actuality, far more civilians are killed by the insurgents than by NATO, according to the most recent United Nations report, which said that more than three-quarters of civilian casualties are now caused by the insurgents. However, those that are caused by NATO troops appear to be felt more deeply because of underlying animosity about foreigners in the country. Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, March 9, called for better protection of Afghan civilians, saying that the rising number of civilian deaths was unacceptable and emphasizing that the Taliban, held responsible for the vast majority of the casualties, must do more to protect noncombatants. The annual United Nations civilian casualty report jointly authored by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission reported a 15% rise in civilian casualties from 2009-2010 (Alisia J. Rubin, Afghan Leader Calls Apology in Boys’ Deaths Insufficient, The New York Times, March 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/world/asia/07afghanistan.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; and Alissa J. Rubin, “U.N. Calls for Better Protection of Afghan Civilians,” The New York Times, March 9, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/world/asia/10afghanistan.html?ref=world).

Derrick Crowe, Robert Greenwald and the Brave New Foundation team, April 5, 2011, http://act.bravenewfilms.org/go/88?akid=1518.242045.hBIghf&t=6, report that the “Afghanistan War alone costs us roughly $2 billion per week.” “When you include the Iraq War and other military spending, it turns out that more than 27% percent of your income taxes will be spent on war.” As of April 28, 2011, U.S. War Casualties Afghanistan (by date), http://citizenjournalistreview.wordpress.com/us-war-casualties-afghanistan-by-date/, says the Pentagon reports in the Afghan war to date, there have been 2,443 coalition deaths –1567 United States, 23 Australia, 1 Belgium, 155 Canada, 3 Czech, 40 Denmark, 8 Estonia, 2 Finland, 56 France, 7 Georgia, 49 Germany, 4 Hungary, 36 Italy, 1 Jordan, 3 Latvia, 1 Lithuania, 25 Netherlands, 2 New Zealand, 10 Norway, 26 Poland, 2 Portugal, 17 Romania, 1 South Korea, 30 Spain, 5 Sweden, 2 Turkey and 364 United Kingdom in the war on terror as of May 4, 2011 been reported by the government, with at least 11,191 U.S. personnel having been wounded in action.

A top Afghan official confirmed, in early April, that the Afghan government has been engaged for some time in serious ongoing reconciliation negotiations with some Taliban leaders (Rod Nordland, “Top Afghan Official Confirms Talks With Taliban, The New York Times, April 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/world/asia/07afghanistan.html?ref=world).

The burning of a Koran at a Florida church, at the end of March, was responded to by thousands of protesters in Sharif Afghanistan, April 1, who overran the compound of the United Nations in that northern Afghan city, killing at least 12 people. The attack was the deadliest for the United Nations in Afghanistan since 11 people were killed in 2009, when Taliban suicide bombers invaded a guesthouse in Kabul. It also underscored the latent hostility toward the nine-year foreign presence here, even in a city long considered to be among the safest in Afghanistan — so safe that American troops no longer patrol here in any numbers. Unable to find Americans on whom to vent their anger, the mob turned instead on the next-best symbol of Western intrusion — the nearby United Nations headquarters (Enyat Najafizada and Rod Nordland, “Afghans Avenge Florida Koran Burning, Killing 12,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/asia/02afghanistan.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper). Since April 1 additional protests and riots have occurred in Afghanistan over the Koran burning.

The government of Afghanistan, in mid-March, set a time table for most private security firms to leave, replacing them with its own forces over the following 12 months (Ray Rivera, “Afghanistan Sets Time Table for Phasing Out Most Private Security Companies,” The New York Times, March 17, 2011).

International Crisis Group (ICG), “Afghanistan’s Elections Stalemate,” Asia Briefing N°117, February 23, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-asia/afghanistan/B117-afghanistans-elections-stalemate.aspx, warns, “The prolonged crisis over Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections has further undermined President Hamid Karzai’s credibility. He is now even more isolated politically than he was after his dubious re-election in 2009. The Wolesi Jirga was inaugurated on 26 January 2011, following a lengthy standoff that exposed sharp political fault lines, which could plunge the country deeper into not just political but armed conflict. Clashes between the executive, legislature and judiciary over the results of the polls are paralyzing government and weakening already fragile institutions. Constitutional review is long overdue, and failure to implement changes that reinforce the separation of powers will only further weaken the state’s ability to provide security or good governance. If public confidence is to be restored, the president and Supreme Court must disband a special tribunal that was created to adjudicate elections complaints but lacks a clear legal mandate. The new parliament must also immediately place electoral and constitutional reform at the top of its agenda. If left unaddressed, the current political crisis will stoke ethnic tensions and could drive disenfranchised Afghans into the arms of the Taliban. By the time Karzai returned to office on 19 November 2009, the destabilizing effect of the flaws in the electoral system was readily apparent. Nonetheless, in the haste to push ahead with an ill-conceived agenda of putting an ‘Afghan face’ on the transition process, international stakeholders, in particular the leadership of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), allowed Karzai to hijack the debate inside and outside parliament over electoral reform and to manipulate the political process. By insisting that the 18 September 2010 Wolesi Jirga (the lower house of the National Assembly) elections go forward, they backed Karzai’s ill-considered wager that an irrational system could somehow produce rational results. The president’s 18 February 2010 decree on the electoral law was one of many unheeded signs that the parliamentary polls would likely end in disaster if not postponed. The decree sharply limited the authority of the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), increased ambiguity over the role of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) and created confusion over candidates’ right of appeal in the event of disqualification. In a rare show of unity, the Wolesi Jirga rejected the decree on 31 March. Karzai, however, bypassed the lower house, ensuring that the Meshrano Jirga (the upper house) essentially endorse the decree by voting to take no action on the issue on 3 April. Meanwhile, vetting processes designed to keep known criminals and members of armed groups off the ballot broke down, raising the risk of candidate rivalries turning violent. The Wolesi Jirga elections were thus held against a backdrop of heightened political tensions and deteriorating security. Absent electoral reform, the result was unsurprisingly a repeat of previous election debacles. As in the August 2009 presidential and provincial council polls, violence and insecurity created tremendous obstacles for both candidates and voters. Election day violence hit record highs, leaving at least 24 dead. Insecurity left wide swathes of the population unable or unwilling to vote, particularly in regions where the insurgency has spiked, with many disenfranchised after the last minute closure of hundreds of polling stations. Systemic fraud, including intimidation and ballot stuffing, was witnessed countrywide, resulting in the IEC ultimately throwing out 1.3 million ballots, an estimated quarter of total votes cast. The ECC subsequently disqualified 21 winning candidates for electoral fraud, prompting losing candidates – many from Karzai’s Pashtun political base – to hold street protests and to press their case through back channels at the presidential palace. Karzai’s politically calculated capitulation to the demands of losing candidates prompted a criminal inquiry into the conduct of the polls. Days after the preliminary results were announced on 20 October, the attorney general filed a broad indictment against more than a dozen senior elections officials and also against dozens of parliamentary candidates, after receiving information from the ECC about suspected fraud involving hundreds of candidates. The Supreme Court appointed a special tribunal on elections in late December. Tasked with investigating electoral fraud and corruption, the tribunal claimed it was empowered to annul the elections. The newly established Independent Commission for the Supervision of the Implementation of the Constitution (ICSIC), reportedly in correspondence with the president, rejected this presumption but never publicly announced its position. With the commission’s role as an arbiter of constitutional disputes still unclear, the president was free to seek other, more favorable interpretations of the special tribunal’s authority. On 19 January 2011, at the tribunal’s request, Karzai announced that he would delay parliament’s inauguration by a little more than a month. The tribunal said it needed time to adjudicate electoral fraud complaints. Angered by the delay, more than 200 newly elected parliamentarians announced the next day that they would defy the president’s order and inaugurate parliament with or without him. Ultimately caving to strong international pressure, Karzai inaugurated the parliament on 26 January, but continues to abuse his authority by retaining the special tribunal. Although the tribunal has initiated recounts in several provinces, IEC officials announced on 21 February that they would not cooperate with the process. The dispute between the executive and the electoral institutions runs the risk of escalating violence at the local level at a time when ethnic tensions have never been higher. The outlook for resolving the crisis, absent meaningful electoral and constitutional reform, does not look promising. It is unlikely that Karzai’s opposition will accept the special tribunal’s judgments. Nor will the dubiously elected parliament be viewed as legitimate. Karzai could be tempted to use the tribunal against his opponents, in a bid to bend the National Assembly to his will. As this briefing was published, fourteen election officials had been indicted along with dozens of sitting members of parliament. With the lower house also deeply divided over the selection of the speaker, Afghanistan’s government is in a state of near paralysis. The Wolesi Jirga’s call, in a resolution passed on 12 February, for the president and Supreme Court to dissolve the special tribunal, has increased the risk of an escalated clash between the three branches of government. The international community and Afghan leaders must recognize the gravity of the current impasse. Karzai must heed parliament’s call to disband the special tribunal. The Afghan government as a whole must move swiftly to mend fragile institutions, to initiate substantial electoral reform and to adopt constitutional amendments to strengthen the checks and balances between the executive, legislature and judiciary. Provincial and district-level government institutions must be empowered to deliver services to the Afghan people. The president and parliament, with the support of the international community, should: dissolve the special elections tribunal immediately and refer election-related criminal charges to the primary courts in the original jurisdictions in which they were allegedly committed; convene a loya jirga for constitutional reform that reinforces the separation of powers by enhancing the independence of the judiciary and legislature; reducing the executive’s ability to resort to rule by decree; and strengthening provincial and district level governance through greater devolution of administrative and political authority; pass legislation clarifying the role of the Independent Commission for the Supervision of the Implementation of the Constitution and fully defining its competence and authority in relation to the Supreme Court; and repeal the 18 February 2010 presidential decree on the electoral law and enact wide-reaching electoral reforms to broaden political participation, including by rationalizing the elections calendar; removing barriers to political party participation; reducing opportunities for fraud by implementing district delimitation and cleaning up the voter registry; clarifying the authorities of the electoral commissions; and standing up a permanent electoral complaints commission.”

Fighting between government forces and Taliban and other militants groups continues in the tribal areas of Pakistan, near Afghanistan, as exemplified by a two day battle, in early April, in the Mohmand tribal region in which the government said more than 80 militants and several civilians had been killed (“Pakistan: Battle Rages on Border,” The New York Times, April 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/asia/09briefs-Pakistan.html?ref=world).

Tensions continue between Pakistan and the U.S. military over deaths of civilians from U.S. operations, particularly drone air attacks, inside Pakistan, even though those operations are generally helpful to the Pakistan military. Those tensions  increased, in January, when Raymond A. Davis, a C.I.A. security officer killed two men in broad daylight during a mugging attempt, was arrested by Pakistani authorities,  held for an extended period, and released after the U.S. paid the deceased men’s relatives reparations, who then forgave Davis. In April, Pakistan demanded that the United States steeply reduce the number of Central Intelligence Agency operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it put on hold C.I.A. drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan, a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies. About 335 American personnel, C.I.A. officers and contractors and Special Operations forces, were being asked to leave the country. The U.S. military believes the cuts threatened to badly hamper efforts to combat militants who use Pakistan as a base to fight American forces in Afghanistan and plot terrorist attacks abroad. A U.S. drone strike, April 22, in North Waziristan, that killed 35 people, two days after the head of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff conferred with the chief of the Pakistani Army, signaled that the U.S. attacks in Pakistan will continue. While an April 23 demonstration against U.S. attacks on militants in Pakistan by a Pakistani group on the main road in Pakistan to the nearby Afghan border caused NATO to temporarily stop shipments traversing Pakistan into Afghanistan (Jane Perlez and Ismail Khan, “Tells U.S. It Must Sharply Cut C.I.A. Activities,” The New York Times, April 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/world/asia/12pakistan.html?_r=1&hp; and Alex Rodriguez, “U.S. aims to continue drone strikes despite protests,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 23, 2011).

Geoffrey Weichselbaum and Katherine Vittum, “Democracy at the local level in Pakistan,” Common Ground News Service (CGNews), March 29, 2011, http://www.commongroundnews.org, notes, “While Pakistan has made significant gains in deepening the democracy that its people worked hard to achieve during the 2008 general elections, democratic institutions still require serious reforms in order to empower citizens and ensure sustained civilian rule. Perhaps most significantly, local government elections have not taken place since 2005, and the local government system is in flux. Provinces have been slow to prepare new legislation for local governance and local elections. These are urgent issues for Pakistan’s emerging democratic credentials.”

ICG, “Reforming Pakistan’s Electoral System,” Asia Report No 203, March 30, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-asia/pakistan/203-reforming-pakistans-electoral-system.aspx, finds, “Electoral rigging has hampered Pakistan’s democratic development, eroded political stability and contributed to the breakdown of the rule of law. Facing domestic pressure for democracy, successive military governments rigged national, provincial and local polls to ensure regime survival. These elections yielded unrepresentative parliaments that have rubber-stamped extensive constitutional and political reforms to centralize power with the military and to empower its civilian allies. Undemocratic rule has also suppressed other civilian institutions, including the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), which is responsible for holding elections to the national and four provincial assemblies, and local governments. With the next general election in 2013 – if the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government completes its full five-year term – the ruling party and its parliamentary opposition, as well as the international community, should focus on ensuring a transparent, orderly political transition through free, fair and transparent elections. General Pervez Musharraf’s eight-year rule gravely eroded the ECP’s already limited independence, impartiality and competence, reducing the institution to providing a façade of legitimacy to military rule. Handpicked chief election commissioners (CECs) oversaw widespread rigging of two local government elections, a presidential referendum, and a general election. Musharraf’s Legal Framework Order, enshrined in the constitution though the seventeenth amendment, massively distorted the political system, tilting the electoral playing field towards the military’s civilian allies, including the Islamist parties. These constitutional distortions were repealed in April 2010, when parliament unanimously passed the eighteenth amendment to the constitution, undoing Musharraf’s political legacy and introducing new provisions to strengthen parliamentary democracy. The amendment package enhanced the ECP’s independence by making the appointment of its key officials more transparent and subject to parliamentary oversight. The CEC and other ECP members, previously appointed by the president, will now be selected through consultations between the prime minister and the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, and subsequently vetted and approved by a joint parliamentary committee comprising, equally, government and opposition members. While encouraging, this is only the first step in a longer process of electoral reform. To curtail opportunities for the military to manipulate the political process, the ECP must be made independent, impartial and effective. The commission remains poorly managed, inadequately resourced, under-staffed and under-trained. Promotion prospects for ECP personnel are limited, and recruitment policies fail to attract strong candidates; top positions tend to be filled by civil servants from the regular federal bureaucracy, primarily because ECP officials lack the necessary skills. There are no systematic training programs for ECP staff, and the organization devotes few if any resources to researching and analyzing past elections and raising important electoral issues. Electoral reform on all fronts is urgently needed. Highly inaccurate voters lists are responsible for disenfranchising millions. Polling procedures are often manipulated; accountability mechanisms for candidates and political parties seldom employed; and the electoral code of conduct routinely flouted. Dysfunctional election tribunals, characterized by corruption and prolonged delays, prove incapable of resolving post-election disputes. Such internal weaknesses constrain the ECP from overseeing credible elections and an orderly political transition. The ECP has taken some steps to address these problems. In May 2010, it produced a strategic five-year plan, with significant international assistance, listing fifteen broad electoral reform goals, divided into 129 detailed objectives with specific timeframes, which range from improvements in voter registration and election dispute management procedures, to the creation of a comprehensive human resource policy. Although there were some, albeit limited, steps towards meeting targets for 2010, more substantive progress is unlikely unless parliament assumes political ownership over the plan, oversees its implementation, and holds the ECP accountable for unsatisfactory progress. Credible elections, however, require far more than just structural reforms. Many discriminatory laws remain in place, including easily manipulated qualification criteria requiring electoral candidates to be of good Islamic character. Moreover, an interventionist military high command appears bent on shaping the political order to its liking. Although the PPP’s main opposition, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) has repeatedly expressed its support for the democratic transition and refusal to unseat the elected government via unconstitutional means, it must match rhetoric with action. In the past, both the PML-N and the PPP have instead chosen to collude with the military at times. A new population census, originally due in 2008, is scheduled for August-September 2011, presumably followed by a large-scale redistricting exercise. The last redistricting, under Musharraf in 2002 and 2005, ahead of national and local elections respectively, was designed to serve narrow political objectives. Political violence and ethnic conflict could be sparked countrywide by a flawed census, gerrymandering and a rigged election. The international community, too, particularly the U.S. and EU, should realise that a flawed general election in 2013, if not sooner, would pose a serious threat to Pakistan’s stability. Donors and Western capitals should immediately shift their programs and advocacy to support for a smooth political transition, rather than wait for the election season to begin.” ICG Recommends, “To the National and Provincial Governments of Pakistan: 1. Transform the parliamentary subcommittee on electoral reform to a permanent, full committee. 2. Increase the independence and improve the functioning of the ECP by: a) appointing without delay new members of the ECP, according to the provisions of the eighteenth and nineteenth constitutional amendments; b) granting the ECP complete financial autonomy by passing legislation providing for budgetary allocation to the commission, reflecting to the extent possible its determination of needs; c) making the ECP’s code of conduct part of the electoral law, and requiring the ECP to revise it for each electoral cycle; d) requiring that the ECP’s nominees for election tribunals be approved by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform; e) ensuring that all federal and provincial executive authorities assist the ECP, as required by law, particularly in enforcing the code of conduct, including provisions relating to the use of government resources for electoral purposes; f) ensuring that all executive officers deputed to electoral duties are subject to ECP supervision, and not of their parent department; and g) removing the condition that the CEC and members of the ECP be retired judges, instead opening up the selection process to people of integrity and experience. 3. Submit the ECP’s five-year strategic plan for review and a vote by the permanent parliamentary committee on electoral reform which should make amendments where necessary; require regular reports by ECP officials on steps taken to achieve the plan’s objectives; and hold ECP officials accountable for unsatisfactory progress. 4. Ensure that a new population census is carried out in August-September 2011, as scheduled, as well as a credible redistricting exercise ahead of the next local or general election, based on the new census; empower the permanent committee on electoral reform in the National Assembly, and similar committees in the provincial assemblies, to hold public hearings on the ECP’s redistricting exercise, to review and approve the redistricting plan for national and provincial constituencies; and subject final approval to vote in the relevant legislature. 5. Remove all qualification criteria for electoral candidacy that are based on vague definitions of moral suitability, including adherence to Islamic injunctions. To the Election Commission of Pakistan: 6. Prioritize the timely implementation of the Five-Year Strategic Plan (2010-2014). 7. Enhance accountability of voting processes, election officials and electoral candidates by: a) ensuring to the extent possible that all electoral constituencies are roughly equal in population size, and abide by other criteria in the Delimitation of Constituencies Act, 1974; b) revising the code of conduct for each electoral cycle; c) barring temporary election staff from officiating in their home districts, and taking action against those found guilty of corruption or bias; d) instituting an independent mechanism for challenging the appointment of polling officials; e) providing election observers unfettered access to polling stations; f) rejecting the proposed incorporation of electronic voting machines (EVMs), and instead improving the existing system of paper ballots and manual counts through better training and neutral observation; g) simplifying complaints and appeals procedures by reducing the number of administrative personnel tasked with processing petitions, and streamlining all relevant administrative mechanisms; and h) introducing robust measures for scrutinizing annual statements of assets and liabilities filed by parliamentarians, and prescribing punishments, to be administered by the ECP, for elected officials filing false statements. 8. Improve the polling process by: a) prohibiting candidates from contesting elections in more than one constituency; b) implementing complete computerization of the voter registration process, including photographs of voters as a further guarantee against bogus voting; publishing the final voters list on the ECP’s website; and abiding by the new constitutional requirement for revising the list annually; c) preparing a permanent list of polling stations through consultations with all stakeholders, providing their locations on the ECP website and providing written explanations for any changes made by district returning officers; and d) expediting the pilot project on computerized electoral rolls and expanding it countrywide. 9. Improve infrastructure, enhance training and research, and increase human resource capabilities by: a) implementing a comprehensive human resource policy, preparing job descriptions for all positions and devising a clearly defined path of career progression for all permanent staff; b) recruiting ECP officials in Basic Pay Scale (BPS)-17 through the Federal Public Service Commission, and establishing an Electoral Service of Pakistan along the lines of other occupational groups in the federal civil service; c)  recruiting qualified people from the non-govern­ment sector as temporary staff for election day duties, rather than strictly from the executive; and determining the terms and conditions for temporary staff recruitment, investigating misconduct and taking disciplinary action against polling officials found guilty of misconduct; d) developing specialized courses in electoral administration, taught by professional instructors; e) expanding the role of the Federal Election Academy by equipping it with trained staff and improved facilities; f) adopting a comprehensive training program with two components: a basic orientation course that familiarizes recruits with the history, functions and powers of the ECP, and its conduct of previous elections; and specialized instruction in specific areas of electoral administration, such as the preparation of electoral rolls, delimitation of constituencies and electoral dispute resolution; and g) establishing training programs for all temporary staff recruited for electoral duties on the role and functions of the ECP, responsibilities in managing assigned polling stations, and effective response to poll-related violence. To the International Community: 10. Support a still fragile democratic transition by prioritizing democratization programming, sending unambiguous signals to the military high command that any interference in the political process will be unacceptable and would result in the suspension of military assistance; and shift the focus of programming and engagement towards ensuring a credible and orderly political transition after the next general election. 11. Acknowledge that elections are not a purely technical but an intensely political process and adjust programming to engage beyond the bureaucracy with the full spectrum of stakeholders, including parliament and political parties, and secure political ownership at the national and provincial levels over election-related programs. 12. Support the development of specialized training programs for dedicated instructors in electoral administration. 13. Provide the ECP with technical support towards timely completion of its five-year strategic plan, with particular focus on: a) developing a comprehensive ECP information technology (IT) policy, including modernizing the ECP’s IT Directorate, as well as supporting a strong IT infrastructure at the ECP secretariat, provincial election commission offices and field offices; b) computerizing electoral rolls and building a serviceable electronic voter database; c) establishing linkages between all polling stations, and between polling stations and the computerized voter rolls; d) building a serviceable electronic database to track electoral complaints; and e) providing geographical information systems to digitally map electoral areas and ensure that constituency delimitation takes place along scientific lines. 14. Insist that the Strategic Plan Management Committee (SPMC) and the Review, Assistance and Facilitation Team (RAFT), be activated and made accountable to donors.”

The death of Osama Bin Laden is raising questions, particular in the U.S. government, Afghanistan and in India, about Pakistan’s trustworthiness. Although there is indication that there was Pakistani assistance and collaboration in locating Bin Laden, it appears that, at least since 2005, he was living right next to a major military facility in Pakistan, not far from the capital, suggesting to many that at least some in the Pakistani military may be harboring terrorists (Jim Yardley, “India Sees New Reason to Distrust Pakistan,” The New York Times, May 3, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/04/world/asia/04india.html?ref=todayspaper).

 

Asian (including the Middle Easy) and Pacific Developments

 

Scott Shane, “Al Qaeda Sees History Fly By,” The New York Times, February 28, 2011, notes that al Qaeda has played absolutely no role in any of the movements to end authoritarian regimes in North Africa and the Middle East.

 

Saif Shahin, “Arab Uprisings as a War on Error,” Foreign Policy in Focus, April 5, 2011, http://www.fpif.org/articles/arab_uprisings_as_a_war_on_error, comments, “Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, along with their ilk in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and Jordan, are not the only victims of the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. The flame lit by Mohamed Bouazizi‘s self-immolation that fateful morning of December 17 has also engulfed some myths about the region and beyond. Half-truths and untruths that have long masqueraded as reality have been laid bare. Once the smoke begins to clear up, this will have a profound impact on the domestic and foreign policies of the new governments that emerge from the ongoing upheaval and the old regimes that survive the upheaval as well as the rest of the world when it deals with the region.” The first Myth is that Arab Nationalism Is Dead. For nearly a century, Arabs have been divided into artificial nation-states that have little historical, cultural, or linguistic basis. “The secular Arab nationalist movement of the mid-20th century, which sought to destroy these false boundaries, was crushed after its purveyors were defeated in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. As disenchantment with the West and its local stooges began to take an Islamist turn toward the end of the century, Arab nationalism was proclaimed dead. But the ongoing unrest belies that claim. Arabs across the region have been inspired by each other to rise in revolt against autocrats. They have been able to do so because — despite attempts to impose divisive religious and sectarian identities on them for all these years — their innate sense of being Arab remains strong. Christians stood guard while fellow Muslim protesters prayed in Egypt; the Shiias of Bahrain and the Ibadis of Oman were stirred by the victories of the Sunnis in Tunisia and Egypt to start protests in their own countries. People across the region rejoiced in the streets when Ben Ali and Mubarak stepped down. They did so because they felt not Muslim, Christian, Sunni, Shiia, or Coptic — but Arab. To be sure, no protester is demanding a unified Arab nation. They are mostly asking for the right to govern themselves in their separate countries. This isn’t Arab nationalism in the old sense of the term — at least not yet. But the domino effect in the region shows that the Arab political community is not dead. Nationalism, which cuts across religious, sectarian, and state boundaries, survives.” The second Myth is that Allying with the United States Guarantees Regime Security. Both Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Israel were close allies of the United States. “Although Ben Ali’s departure was rather sudden, the United States was desperate to keep Mubarak in power and tried for days to help him weather the storm of protests.” But, eventually (with U.S. acquiescence), Mubarak had to go. Meanwhile, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi fights on, despite the U.S. wanting him out. “The success of the Tunisian and Egyptian protests shows that being a “friendly” and having U.S. troops stationed nearby does not guarantee regime security. The relationship can help rally diplomatic support — as it is doing for Bahrain and Yemen —  and limit media coverage of the democratic protests as well as the crackdown that follows. But the United States sending its troops to crush an uprising for democracy is too much to ask. Even in Bahrain, it is the Saudi and Emirati armies that have come to do the dirty work, despite the U.S. Fifth Fleet being based right there.” “This shows the limits of hard power and will play on the minds of the regimes that survive the ongoing upheaval, particularly in the Gulf. Ironically, it may eventually lead to large-scale weapons purchases by the surviving regimes as they realize that they need to become self-dependent to prolong their rule. More significantly, a new race for acquiring nuclear weapons could begin in the region and around the world. Eight years ago, Gaddafi gave up Libya’s nuclear weapons program in the hopes of improving relations with the West. Had he not done so, Obama would have thought twice before initiating launching strikes on him today. The military action against Libya has buttressed the belief that the nuclear option is the only guarantee against all contingencies — for Washington’s enemies as well as its friends.”  Third is the Myth that a Clash of Civilizations Is On. “The Arab groundswell negates both of the essential tenets of Samuel P. Huntington’s celebrated thesis — that religion forms the primary identity of people in the post-Cold War world and that these identities create the basis of civilizations that will clash with each other. Muslims, according to this theory, were not supposed to be concerned with democracy and human rights, the two cornerstones of the Christian Western civilization. But lo and behold: Muslims are clashing, not with the West, but with their own rulers, demanding democracy and their basic rights as human beings — and they are doing so with Christians standing by their side. The clash of civilizations theory had helped create a metaframe that violence mongers on all sides could exploit to sell wars to the public or recruit foot soldiers for terrorism. Osama bin Laden could find young Muslims willing to sacrifice their lives in what they believed was a battle sanctioned by religion against a “Great Satan,” while President George W. Bush could invade Muslim lands in the name of bringing democracy to the wretched of the earth. That metaframe has now developed cracks, and may crash if genuine democracies emerge from the upheaval, making it difficult for both state and non-state actors to manufacture and sell grand conflicts. – at least until a new metaframe can be created to divide the world into Good and Evil.” Myth 4 is that the Free Market Cares about Democracy. For many, capitalism, free market economics, and democracy are synonymous, with each reinforcing the other. “The so-called free market’s reaction to the Arab unrest reveals the fallacy of this assumption. Instead of jumping with joy at the imminent fall of the last bastion of autocracy, the free market is lying flat on its face. Democratic upsurge has upended consumer and investor sentiment worldwide. Stock markets are slipping, commodity prices are on the rise, and financial advisors fear the upheaval might upset the recovery from the economic crisis of two years ago.” The fifth Myth is that Democracies Care About Democracy. “Tens of thousands of supposedly extremist and undemocratic Arabs have thrown caution to the wind and put their lives in danger to join the campaign for democracy. But curiously, the champions of people’s rule across the globe don’t seem all that eager to support them. U.S. double standards couldn’t be clearer. Although it backed Mubarak and continues to turn a blind eye to the brutal suppression of peaceful protesters by friendly regimes in Bahrain and Yemen, Washington has launched military action because “the people… must be protected” in Libya — one country in the region where the oil has largely remained out of the reach of U.S. energy corporations. But why single out the United States? Then French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie was vacationing in Tunisia when the revolt happened; she later even offered Ben Ali support to quell the uprising as it spread. Both France and Britain are equal partners in U.S. hypocrisy on democratic transition — joining the attack on Libya while overlooking protest movements in friendly countries. Most other countries that routinely swear by democracy have maintained close ties with many Middle Eastern and North African despots; today, they can hardly issue a word of encouragement in favor of the protest movements. But this also raises a larger question. If this is how democracies behave, then what is the future of the Arab democratic movements themselves? How will they behave if they succeed and form governments? Some of the regimes that are facing protests today, as well as the two ousted dictatorships, themselves started out as popular revolts against erstwhile autocracies. Mubarak was the third president from the Free Officers Movement, which overthrew Egypt’s King Farouk in an army coup in 1952 that was widely supported by the people. Ben Ali brought down Habib Bourguiba’s 30-year rule in Tunisia in 1987 in what was then a very popular change, while Bourguiba himself had once been a popular independence leader who had helped bring down the French-backed Tunisian monarchy. Only time will tell if the regimes wrought by Bouazizi’s self-immolation will fare any better.”

In Bahrain, opposition trying to oust the government does not believe the U.S. supports its push for democracy. There, protests growing to well over a 100,000 peaceful people filled the streets, including in the capital, despite violent actions by security forces, while the U.S. has only called on the royal family to respect peaceful protestors and make needed reforms. When the protests filled the financial district of the capitol, shutting it down, Saudi Arabia sent 1000 troops with armored vehicles, and 500 police officers came from the United Arab Emirates who worked with the Bahrain authorities to suppress the protests, which on a smaller scale have reoccurred periodically, mostly, in villages. The main opposition party complained, April 23, that the government had destroyed 16 Shiite Mosques, over the last month, as part of the crackdown. The government mostly represents the Sunni minority, who are the main holders of political and economic power, while most of the opposition are Shiites demanding a fare share of opportunity (Thomas fuller, “Bahrainis Fear the U.S. Isn’t Behind Their Fight for Democracy,” The New York Times, March 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/05/world/middleeast/05bahrain.html?_r=1&hpw; Ethan Bronner, “Antigovernment Protesters Seal Off Bahrain’s Financial Center,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/middleeast/14bahrain.html?ref=world; Eathan Bronner, “Saudi Troops Enter Bahrain to Help Put Down Unrest,” The New York Times, March 14, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/middleeast/15bahrain.html?ref=world; and “Bahrain Crackdown,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 2011).

ICG, “Popular Protests in North Africa and the Middle East (III): The Bahrain Revolt,” MENA Report N°105, April 6, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iran-gulf/bahrain/105-popular-protests-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east-iii-the-bahrain-revolt.aspx, states, “Manama’s crackdown and Saudi Arabia’s military intervention are dangerous moves that could stamp out hopes for peaceful transition in Bahrain and turn a mass movement for democratic reform into an armed conflict, while regionalizing an internal political struggle. They could also exacerbate sectarian tensions not only in Bahrain or the Gulf but across the region. Along with other member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Saudi Arabia purportedly is responding to dual fears: that the popular uprising could lead to a Shiite takeover, and a Shiite takeover would be tantamount to an Iranian one. Both are largely unfounded. It also is concerned protests might inspire similar movements among its own Eastern Province Shiites, oblivious that its involvement is likelier to provoke than deter them. Bahrain’s brutal crackdown and Saudi interference fan flames both want to extinguish. The most effective response to the radical regime change threat or greater Iranian influence is not violent suppression of peaceful protests but political reform. Time is running short and trends are in the wrong direction. The small island kingdom has long been a place of popular ferment, owing in part to its relatively open society – relative, that is, to the low standards set by its immediate neighbours – and in part to the disenfranchisement of its majority-Shiite population by a Sunni monarchy. Intermittent uprisings have resulted in scant progress in broadening the political arena; instead the regime has been accused of importing adherents of Sunni Islam from other regional states, including non-Arab states such as Pakistan, inducting them into the security forces and offering an undetermined number among them Bahraini citizenship. To the extent that such a policy is in place, the predominantly Shiite opposition has rightfully denounced demographic manipulation that is clearly aimed at perpetuating an unequal state of affairs. Taking their cue from protesters in Tunisia and Egypt, young Bahrainis fed up with politics as usual took to the streets on 14 February and, following a week of skirmishes with security forces, occupied Pearl Square, the heart of the capital. Over the next three weeks their activism was joined by opposition groups, both legal – in the sense of holding an official license to operate – and illegal. Over time, this medley of opposition groups, emergent political movements and unaffiliated youths extended their control of the streets in both Manama and other towns and villages and developed a set of demands that ranged from political and constitutional reform to outright regime removal. Their protest has been largely non-violent. The regime initially answered the protests with force, opening fire at demonstrators in Pearl Square and allowing pro-regime thugs to attack them. Responding to pressure, notably from the U.S., it subsequently allowed peaceful protest to take place. A three-week period of behind-the-scenes discussions and continued demonstrations relatively free of violence failed to yield meaningful steps toward change. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, visiting Manama on 12 March, criticized the regime for its “baby steps” toward reform. This apparent stalemate, coupled with increasingly provocative protester tactics and Riyadh’s view that protecting the regime was a red line, likely triggered the intervention of Bahrain’s partners. On 14 March, invoking a GCC security agreement, an estimated 1,000 Saudi troops crossed the causeway from the Saudi mainland, accompanied by some 500 United Arab Emirates police and some Qatari troops. The next day, dozens of tanks and over 100 army trucks, as well as armored personnel carriers, also rumbled into Bahrain. Most disappeared into barracks, invisible to Bahraini citizens. But the warning was clear: desist or be made to desist. King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa accompanied this show of force with the announcement of a three-month “state of national safety”, including a partial curfew, a ban on rallies and broad powers for the military. In continued protests that day and next, Bahraini security forces and pro-regime thugs armed with swords and clubs attacked demonstrators throughout the kingdom, killing seven in the first three days and injuring many more. Since then, opposition leaders have been jailed. Saudi Arabia’s intervention led leaders of Bahrain’s largest opposition group, al-Wifaq, to state that dialogue would not be possible as long as foreign forces remain on national soil. It prompted an immediate response from Iran, which called the intervention an unacceptable interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs. It put Bahrain’s U.S. ally in an awkward position, prompting the secretary of state to characterize the developments as “alarming”. It almost certainly further alienated Bahrain’s Shiite majority – with many Shiite officials resigning in protest – and, if anything, increased their sympathy for Tehran. It arguably inflamed Saudi Arabia’s own Shiite population. In Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the most senior Shiite religious authority, gave his support to peaceful protest in Bahrain, triggering Shiite demonstrations in solidarity with their Bahraini brethren there, in Kuwait and indeed in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, which has a significant Shiite population. In short, the intervention likely achieved precisely the opposite of what it intended. The military intervention and Bahrain’s subsequent tough line have made peaceful resolution of the country’s political crisis immensely more difficult and the regional context significantly tenser. It is unclear how meaningful, peaceful dialogue can be resumed, but it is long overdue and remains absolutely necessary. Given the level of distrust, involvement of a credible third party facilitator appears to be both essential and urgent. The goal would be to work out a plan for gradual but genuine reform toward a constitutional monarchy, with real parliamentary powers and redress of sectarian discrimination. In this context, Saudi Arabia and the other contributing Gulf states should withdraw their security forces and equipment from the island. Protesters should continue to use peaceful means to express their grievances and demands while agreeing to negotiate with the regime. As for the U.S., anxious about its relationship with Saudi Arabia and the GCC, it nonetheless should understand that repression in Bahrain will do neither it nor its allies any good in the longer term. Bahrain’s post-colonial history lends at least some hope to the possibility of dialogue and compromise, as despite its obvious problems the country has also known a degree of pluralism and a vibrant civil society. But the window of opportunity is fast closing.

Although Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh agreed, April 22, to resign in 30, days, in a deal negotiated by the Gulf Cooperation Council, that if the details are completed and the deal accepted, would have Saleh turn over the government to a subordinate in return for he and his family to be free from prosecution, on May 1, Saleh was delaying signing, leaving the deal in limbo. It may be difficult for human rights and youth activists at the leadership of the original protests to accept immunity from prosecution for Salleh and his family. Also, shortly after the agreement was announced, government troops fired on protesters, killing 2. The crisis in Yemen had deepened over the past months as anti-government protesters, demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh resign immediately resisted attacks by security forces and pro-Saleh groups. The cabinet had resigned along with some top officers, a number of whom joined the protestors, as some troops joined the dissenters. Meanwhile, government forces abandoned their posts across the country, including areas where northern rebels have long challenged the military and southern provinces where Al Qaeda’s Arabian branch has maintained sanctuaries. President Ali Abdullah Saleh told a committee from his political party, in late March, that 6 of Yemen’s 18 provinces “have fallen.” The collapse of government authority in the south was punctuated by an explosion tearing through a crowd of looters at an abandoned government weapons factory in the south, killing at least 110 people. Opposition parties, known as the J.M.P., released a statement saying of the factory explosion: “This horrible crime came after the order of the authority to openly withdraw its military and security in favor of Qaeda and other armed groups, in a desperate attempt of President Saleh to confirm his argument that Yemen is just a ticking time bomb.”  The huge demonstrations in cities across Yemen have strained the capacities of Yemen’s fragile state, pushing police officers and soldiers back from town centers and testing their loyalties. The strains have grown worse since government supporters opened fire on protesters in the capital on March 18, killing at least 50 and igniting outrage across the country. International actors, including the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, had been pushing for a negotiated transition. The Saudis were involved in efforts to secure a “dignified exit” of Saleh from power, and refused a plea for support from the Yemeni foreign minister. However, The Saudis “are not coordinating their initiatives with the Americans,” in part because of lingering anger over the way the United States handled the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Also there appears to be increased tension between the U.S. and the Saudi government over Saudi intervention in Bahrain. The Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation regional coalition whose member states are Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, in a shift of policy, became involved, in early April, in efforts to obtain an agreement with the Yemeni president to step down. One aspect of the Yemeni crisis is that counterterrorism operations in Yemen have ceases, allowing Al Qaeda’s deadliest branch outside of Pakistan to operate more freely inside the country and to increase plotting for possible attacks against Europe and the United States, American diplomats, intelligence analysts and counterterrorism officials say  (Laura Kasinge and Scott Shane, “Key Supporters Are Forsaking Yemen Leader,” The New York Times, March 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/world/middleeast/22yemen.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Laura Kasinof and Robert F Worth, “Factory Explosion Follows Yemeni Forces’ Pullout,” The New York Times, March 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/world/middleeast/29yemen.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper;  Laura Kasinof and David E. Sanger, “U.S. Shifts to Seek Removal of Yemen’s Leader, an Ally,” The New York Times, April 3, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/04/world/middleeast/04yemen.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Eric Schmitt, “Unrest in Yemen Seen as Opening to Qaeda Branch,” The New York Times, April 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/middleeast/05terror.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Laura Kasinof, “Gulf Nations Repeat Offer to Mediate Crisis in Yemen,” The New York Times, April 10, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/world/middleeast/11yemen.html?ref=world; Laura Kasinof, “Persian Gulf Coalition Joins in Seeking Ouster of Yemeni President,” The New York Times, April 7, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/middleeast/08yemen.html?ref=world; and Jeb Boone and Sudarsan Raghavan, “Yemen: President could step down under tentative pact,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 2011; Laura Kasinof, “Protesters Distrust Deal For Yemen Leader To  Quit,” The New York Times, April 25, 2011; Robert F. Worth, “Deal to End Yemen Crisis Is Faltering as Talks Bog,” The New York Times, May 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/middleeast/02yemen.html?ref=todayspaper; and Ahned Al-Haj, “Troops open fire on protesters killing 2,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2011).

ICG, “Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (II): Yemen between Reform and Revolution,” Middle East/North Africa Report N°102, March 10, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/iran-gulf/yemen/102-popular-protest-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east-II-yemen-between-reform-and-revolution.aspx, comments, “Even before the popular wave from Tunisia and Egypt reached Yemen, President Saleh’s regime faced daunting challenges. In the north, it is battling the Huthi rebellion, in the south, an ever-growing secessionist movement. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is showing mounting signs of activism. Sanaa’s political class is locked in a two-year battle over electoral and constitutional reforms; behind the scenes, a fierce competition for post-Saleh spoils is underway. Economic conditions for average Yemenis are dire and worsening. Now this. There is fear the protest movement could push the country to the brink and unleash broad civil strife. But it also could, and should, be a wake-up call, a catalyst for swift, far-reaching reforms leading to genuine power-sharing and accountable, representative institutions. The opposition, reformist ruling party members and civil society activists will have to work boldly together to make it happen. The international community’s role is to promote national dialogue, priorities political and economic development aid and ensure security aid is not used to suppress opposition. Events in Tunisia and Egypt have been cause for inspiration with a speed and geographic reach that defies imagination. In Yemen, their effect has been to transform the nature of social mobilization, the character of popular demands and elites’ strategic calculations. They emboldened a generation of activists who consciously mimicked their brethren’s methods and demands, taking to the streets and openly calling for Saleh’s ouster and regime change – aspirations many quietly backed but few had dared openly utter. The official opposition, tribal leaders and clerics at first mostly stood on the sidelines. But as protests steadily grew in size – and as the regime security forces resorted to heavy-handed violence – they played catch-up and have come to espouse some of the demonstrators’ more ambitious demands. Largely caught off guard, the regime’s response was mixed. It has employed harsh tactics, particularly in the south, arresting, beating harassing and even killing activists. By most accounts, supporters donning civilian clothes took the lead, wielding sticks, clubs, knives and guns to disperse demonstrations. Police and security personnel at best failed to protect protesters, at worst encouraged or even participated in the repression. The events on 8 March, when the army used live ammunition against demonstrators, represent a worrisome escalation. The regime also mobilised supporters, organizing massive counter-demonstrations. Some likely joined due to financial inducements, yet it would be wrong to dismiss them so readily. Saleh still enjoys genuine support born of tribal loyalties and nurtured by a deep patronage system that doles out benefits. He benefits from a large wellspring of negative legitimacy, given the absence of a clear or popular alternative leader. Finally, the president has been compelled to make a series of unprecedented concessions, notably regarding presidential term limits and hereditary succession. None of these tactics appears to have worked. Violence boomeranged, enraging the youth movement and attracting more supporters to the protesters’ side. Regime efforts to rally supporters have met with some success, yet every day sees more defections from traditional pillars of support, including tribal heads and clerics. Saleh’s concessions, impressive as they might have seemed to him, are viewed as both insufficient and unworthy of trust by protesters who continue to come out in force. What comes next? It is easy to look at Tunis and Cairo and predict the regime’s rapid demise. Some traits are shared. Far more even than Tunisians or Egyptians, Yemenis suffer from poverty, unemployment and rampant corruption; if economic disparity and injustice are an accurate predictor of unrest, the regime has reason to worry. As in those preceding cases, the demonstrators have condensed their demands into a call for the leader’s unconditional departure, and they are displaying remarkable resilience and ability to expand their reach in the face of regime counter-measures. Still, Yemen is neither Egypt nor Tunisia (though, for that matter, nor was Egypt like Tunisia, which says something about how oblivious popular protests are to societal differences and how idle is speculation about what regime might be the next to go). Its regime is less repressive, more broadly inclusive and adaptable. It has perfected the art of co-opting its opposition, and the extensive patronage network has discouraged many from directly challenging the president. Moreover, flawed as they are, the country has working institutions, including a multi-party system, a parliament, and local government. Qat chews are a critical forum for testing ideas and airing grievances. Together, these provide meaningful outlets for political competition and dissent, while preserving space for negotiation and compromise. Other significant differences relate to societal dynamics. Tribal affiliations, regional distinctions and the widespread availability of weapons (notably in the northern highlands) likely will determine how the transition unfolds. There is nothing resembling a professional military truly national in composition or reach. Some parts of the security apparatus are more institutionalized than others. Overall, however, it is fragmented between personal fiefdoms. Virtually all the top military commanders are Saleh blood relatives, who can be expected to stand by his side if the situation escalates. Then there is the matter of opposition cohesion, which has proved critical in successful regional uprisings. Preserving unity of purpose amid the ongoing Huthi rebellion and tensions between northerners and southerners will be challenging. In the south, the movement best equipped to mobilize protesters, the Hiraak, promotes secession, an agenda around which other Yemenis hardly can be expected to rally. While Hiraak supporters recognize that a strong protest movement in the north benefits their cause by distracting the security apparatus, the link thus derives from strategic opportunity, not cooperation in pursuit of a common goal. This may be changing: youth activists are seeking to transcend geographic divides, and the umbrella opposition group – the Joint Meeting Parties (JMP) – is building closer ties with rebels in both north and south. It is too early to predict the outcome, which could well determine Saleh’s fate. The specter of descent into tribal warfare likewise makes many Yemenis nervous. A potentially bloody power struggle looms between two rival centers within the Hashid tribal confederation – one affiliated with the president, the other with the late Sheikh Abdullah bin Hussein al-Ahmar’s sons. Rules of the game are in flux, presenting an uncommon opportunity for serious reform – but also for violent conflict. The protesters, with the wind at their backs, expect nothing less than the president’s quick ouster. The president and those who have long benefited from his rule are unlikely to give in without a fight. Finding a compromise will not be easy. The regime would have to make significant concessions, indeed far more extensive than it so far has been willing to contemplate. To be meaningful, these would have to touch the core of a system that has relied on patron-client networks and on the military-security apparatus. The opposition and civil society activists have a responsibility too. A democratic transition is long overdue, yet they should be mindful of the risk of pushing without compromise or dialogue for immediate regime change. The outcome could be a dangerous cycle of violence that jeopardizes the real chance that finally is at hand to reform a failing social contract.” ICG recommends: “To the Opposition Parties: 1. Continue to support youth- and civil society- led peaceful protests both rhetorically and, on a case by case basis, through official participation by the Joint Meetings Parties (JMP). 2. Pursue negotiations with the ruling General People’s Congress (GPC) and religious leaders on a plan for the peaceful transfer of power. 3. Propose a specific timeline and prioritized agenda for an inclusive national dialogue. 4. Suggest far-reaching, immediate reforms to: a) ensure implementation of regime promises not to extend the president’s term or pass the office to his son; and b) shift power from the presidency and the military-security establishment to a more representative civilian government. 5. Keep a distance from the increasingly acrimonious power struggle pitting the Saleh and al-Ahmar families. 6. Maintain pressure on the regime to hold it accountable to its reform commitments through popular protests; international observation of the national dialogue; agreement on a timeline for the transition; and a media campaign. 7. Intensify efforts to reach out to and coordinate with Huthi supporters and members of the Southern Move­ment (Hiraak) willing to seek peaceful reform. To Reformers within the General People’s Congress: 8. Advance concrete suggestions on an agenda and timeline for a peaceful transition of power and an inclusive national dialogue. 9. Work with members of civil society to pressure the president to undertake immediate action on his reform commitments (including no extension to his term; no transfer of power to his son; a genuine national dialogue; protecting rights of protesters and punishing those who violated them). 10.  Invigorate the multi-party system by either: a) resigning from the GPC and forming a new party comprising reformers from across the political and regional spectrum; or b) reforming the GPC from within by activating party membership at all levels and empowering urban youth within the party structure. To The President and his family: 11. Respect the rights of all citizens – including in the south – to peaceful protest and assembly and prosecute perpetrators of violence against demonstrators. 12. Take verifiable steps to ensure implementation of promised reforms regarding presidential term limits and inheritance of power. 13. Pursue negotiations with the JMP and religious leaders on a plan for the peaceful transfer of power and national dialogue, including meaningful curbs on the power and privileges of the president’s Sanhan tribe through civilian oversight of the military-security establishment. 14. Halt use of inflammatory rhetoric against the JMP, protesters, the Hiraak and the Huthis. To the Friends of Yemen, including members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the G8, as well as representatives from the UN, the EU, the Arab League, the IMF and the World Bank: 15. Facilitate the national dialogue through willingness to serve in an observer role; To Saudi Arabia: 16. Channel efforts through the Friends of Yemen process rather than via engagement with individual sheikhs; To Western donor governments, including the U.S.: 17. Ensure that security assistance does not skew the playing field against reformers by: a) recalibrating the mix, giving the highest priority to economic and political development aid; b) taking steps to ensure military-security assistance is not used to thwart domestic opposition and peaceful protests; and c) developing stronger ties with civil society and opposition groups, including those in the Hiraak pursuing peaceful protests. 18. Continue to make clear and public statements condem­ning the use of violence against peaceful protesters throughout the country.

Oman has had a different experience than much of North Africa and the Middle East. Thousands demonstrated in the capitol, Muscat, at the end of February, and more recently, calling for democratic and economic reforms, but generally praising Sultan, Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled as an absolute monarch for nearly 41 years, the sultan, who has transformed a strip of sand and bone-dry mountains from an impoverished backwater to a tidy country of well-paved roads and relative affluence. Every citizen, male and female, has free health care and free education through college. Even so, there has been some violence as protestors call for more jobs, more freedom of expression and less government control over the news media. In a letter to the sultan, they also requested subsidies for young people who want to get married but cannot afford the wedding expenses. In one incident, amongst generally peaceful protest, several hundred protesters clashed with security forces in Sohar, leaving at least one demonstrator dead. Soldiers also fired into the air to try to clear protesters from a roundabout in the city two days later. The sultan has responded to the protests by promising to create 50,000 jobs and raising the possibility of widening the powers of a consultative council, which could be a predecessor of a parliament Thomas fuller, “Rallies in Oman Steer Clear of Criticism of Its Leader,” The New York Times, March 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/02/world/middleeast/02oman.html?_r=1&ref=world).

Sara Hamdan, “Oman Offers Some Lessons to a Region Embroiled in Protest, The New York Times,” April 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/world/middleeast/07iht-07-oman.html?ref=world, comments,“ More than half of Oman’s 2.8 million people are under the age of 20, and 83% are under 35. It is not surprising then that a chief complaint of Omani citizens is a lack of jobs and training for the sultanate’s young population. Yet when the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world led to violent protests in late February in the port town of Sohar, they quickly fizzled out. Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who has ruled Oman for 40 years, eventually replaced two-thirds of his government and gave pay increases to civil servants and government pensioners. He also raised the minimum wage to 200 Omani rials a month, or $520, from 150 rials; introduced unemployment allocations of 150 rials a month; and announced plans to create 50,000 jobs in various areas of the public sector. Other autocratic regimes in the region faced with uprisings have offered similar concessions, but with less success. That raises the question: Is Oman’s apparent stability, compared with some of its more turbulent neighbors, real? And if so, why, and what lessons could it offer governments in the region seeking a way forward?” One reason is that the Omani economy has been primarily driven by oil production and has continued slow and steady growth over many years, even during the global financial crisis. While Oman is one of the least wealthy members of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries in terms of G.D.P. per capita, it has weathered the financial crisis better than some of its neighbors. One factor is that since Oman was not an OPEC member, it had been unconstrained by the cartel’s quotas on oil production and exports. Higher production, exports and prices sustained real G.D.P. growth of 4.5% last year. However, some fundamental structural problems have to be resolved for the economy to flourish.

ICG, “Popular Protest in North Africa and the Middle East (I): Egypt Victorious?,” Middle East/North Africa Report N°101, February 24, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/north-africa/egypt/101-popular-protest-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east-I-egypt-victorious.asp, notes, “It is early days, and the true measure of what the Egyptian people have accomplished has yet to fully sink in. Some achievements are as clear as they are stunning. Over a period of less than three weeks, they challenged conventional chestnuts about Arab lethargy; transformed national politics; opened up the political space to new actors; massively reinforced protests throughout the region; and called into question fundamental pillars of the Middle East order. They did this without foreign help and, indeed, with much of the world timidly watching and waffling according to shifting daily predictions of their allies’ fortunes. The challenge now is to translate street activism into inclusive, democratic institutional politics so that a popular protest that culminated in a military coup does not end there. The backdrop to the uprising has a familiar ring. Egypt suffered from decades of authoritarian rule, a lifeless political environment virtually monopolized by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP); widespread corruption, cronyism and glaring inequities; and a pattern of abuse at the hands of unaccountable security forces. For years, agitation against the regime spread and, without any credible mechanism to express or channel public discontent, increasingly took the shape of protest movements and labor unrest. What, ultimately, made the difference? While the fraudulent November 2010 legislative elections persuaded many of the need for extra-institutional action, the January 2011 toppling of Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali persuaded them it could succeed. Accumulated resentment against a sclerotic, ageing regime that, far from serving a national purpose, ended up serving only itself reached a tipping point. The increasingly likely prospect of another Mubarak presidency after the September 2011 election (either the incumbent himself or his son, Gamal) removed any faith that this process of decay would soon stop. The story of what actually transpired between 25 January and 11 February remains to be told. This account is incomplete. Fieldwork was done principally in Cairo, which became the epicenter of the uprising but was not a microcosm of the nation. Regime deliberations and actions took place behind closed doors and remain shrouded in secrecy. The drama is not near its final act. A military council is in control. The new government bears a striking resemblance to the old. Strikes continue. Protesters show persistent ability to mobilize hundreds of thousands. There already are important lessons, nonetheless, as Egypt moves from the heady days of upheaval to the job of designing a different polity. Post-Mubarak Egypt largely will be shaped by features that characterized the uprising: This was a popular revolt. But its denouement was a military coup, and the duality that marked Hosni Mubarak’s undoing persists to this day. The tug of war between a hierarchical, stability-obsessed institution keen to protect its interests and the spontaneous and largely unorganized popular movement will play out on a number of fronts – among them: who will govern during the interim period and with what competencies; who controls the constitution-writing exercise and how comprehensive will it be; who decides on the rules for the next elections and when they will be held; and how much will the political environment change and open up before then? The military played a central, decisive and ambivalent role. It was worried about instability and not eager to see political developments dictated by protesting crowds. It also was determined to protect its popular credibility and no less substantial business and institutional interests. At some point it concluded the only way to reconcile these competing considerations was to step in. That ambiguity is at play today: the soldiers who rule by decree, without parliamentary oversight or genuine opposition input, are the same who worked closely with the former president; they appear to have no interest in remaining directly in charge, preferring to exit the stage as soon as they can and revert to the background where they can enjoy their privileges without incurring popular resentment when disappointment inevitably sets in; and yet they want to control the pace and scope of change. The opposition’s principal assets could become liabilities as the transition unfolds. It lacked an identifiable leader or representatives and mostly coalesced around the straightforward demand to get rid of Mubarak. During the protests, this meant it could bridge social, religious, ideological and generational divides, bringing together a wide array along the economic spectrum, as well as young activists and the more traditional opposition, notably the Muslim Brotherhood. Its principal inspiration was moral and ethical, not programmatic, a protest against a regime synonymous with rapaciousness and shame. The regime’s traditional tools could not dent the protesters’ momentum: it could not peel off some opposition parties and exploit divisions, since they were not the motors of the movement; concessions short of Mubarak’s removal failed to meet the minimum threshold; and repression only further validated the protesters’ perception of the regime and consolidated international sympathy for them. As the process moves from the street to the corridors of power, these strengths could become burdensome. Opposition rivalries are likely to re-emerge, as are conflicts of interest between various social groups; the absence of either empowered representatives or an agreed, positive agenda will harm effectiveness; the main form of leverage – street protests – is a diminishing asset. A key question is whether the movement will find ways to institutionalize its presence and pressure. Throughout these events public opinion frequently wavered. Many expressed distaste for the regime but also concern about instability and disorder wrought by the protests. Many reportedly deemed Mubarak’s concessions sufficient and his wish for dignified departure understandable but were alarmed at violence by regime thugs. The most widespread aspiration was for a return to normality and resumption of regular economic life given instability’s huge costs. At times, that translated into hope protests would end; at others, into the wish the regime would cease violent, provocative measures. This ambivalence will impact the coming period. Although many Egyptians will fear normalization, in the sense of maintaining the principal pillars of Mubarak’s regime, many more are likely to crave a different normalization: ensuring order, security and jobs. The challenge will be to combine functioning, stable institutions with a genuine process of political and socio-economic transformation. Western commentators split into camps: those who saw Muslim Brotherhood fingerprints all over the uprising and those who saw it as a triumph of a young, Western-educated generation that had discarded Islamist and anti-American outlooks. Both interpretations are off the mark. Modern communication played a role, particularly in the early stages, as did mainly young, energized members of the middle classes. The Brotherhood initially watched uneasily, fearful of the crackdown that would follow involvement in a failed revolt. But it soon shifted, in reaction to pressure from its younger, more cosmopolitan members in Tahrir Square and the protests’ surprising strength. Once it committed to battle, it may well have decided there could be no turning back: Mubarak had to be brought down or reta­liation would be merciless. The role of Islamist activists grew as the confrontation became more violent and as one moved away from Cairo; in the Delta in particular, their deep roots and the secular opposition’s relative weakness gave them a leading part. Here too are lessons. The Brotherhood will not push quickly or forcefully; it is far more sober and prudent than that, prefers to invest in the longer-term and almost certainly does not enjoy anywhere near majority support. But its message will resonate widely and be well served by superior organization, particularly compared to the state of secular parties. As its political involvement deepens, it also will have to contend with tensions the uprising exacerbated: between generations; between traditional hierarchical structures and modern forms of mobilization; between a more conservative and a more reformist outlook; between Cairo, urban and rural areas. The West neither expected these events nor, at least at the outset, hoped for them. Mubarak had been a loyal ally; the speed with which it celebrated his fall as a triumph of democracy was slightly anomalous if not unseemly. The more important point is that it apparently had little say over events, as illustrated by the rhetorical catch-up in which it engaged. Egyptians were not in the mood for outside advice during the uprising and are unlikely to care for it now. The most important contribution was stern warnings against violence. Now, Western powers can help by providing economic assistance, avoiding attempts to micromanage the transition, select favorites or react too negatively to a more assertive, independent foreign policy. Egypt’s new rulers will be more receptive to public opinion, which is less submissive to Western demands; that is the price to pay for the democratic polity which the U.S. and Europe claim they wish to see. With these dynamics in mind, several core principles might help steer the transition: If the military is to overcome skepticism of its willingness to truly change the nature of the regime, it will need either to share power with representative civilian forces by creating a new interim, representative authority or ensure decisions are made transparently after broad consultation, perhaps with a transitional advisory council. Some immediate measures could help reassure the civilian political forces: lifting the state of emergency; releasing prisoners detained under its provisions; and respecting basic rights, including freedom of speech, association and assembly, including the rights of independent trade unions. Independent, credible bodies might be set up to investigate charges of corruption and other malfeasance against ex-regime officials. Investigations must be thorough, but non-politicized to avoid score-settling. There will need to be guarantees of fair judicial process. Independent and credible criminal investigations also could be held to probe abuse by all security forces, together with a comprehensive security sector review to promote professionalism. The democratic movement would be well served by continued coordination and consensus around the most important of its positive and strategic political demands. This could be helped by forming an inclusive and diverse body tasked with prioritizing these demands and pressing them on the military authorities. One need only look at what already is happening in Yemen, Bahrain or Libya to appreciate the degree to which success can inspire. But disenchantment can be contagious too. Mubarak’s ouster was a huge step. What follows will be just as fateful. Whether they asked for it or not, all eyes once again will be on the Egyptian people.

John Vinocur, “West Does Nothing at Its Own Peril,” The New York Times, March 14, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/europe/15iht-politicus15.html?ref=world, comments, on March 14, “Through three months of Arab revolt against autocratic leaders, it’s become commonplace to say that the only clear strategic winner from the changes so far is Iran, supposedly picking up windfall political fruit as if sitting in an armchair.” In short, “There has been only profit for Iran from the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, who represented an Arab bulwark against Tehran’s nuclear weapons ambitions and the mullahs’ allies, Hezbollah and Hamas. Conversely, and beyond its hopes for democracy in the Middle East, the United States and some of its Western friends have reaped potential grief in the destabilization their old regional power relationships.” Moreover, Vinocur, points out that President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence, had testified before Congress that the in Libya, without an intervention, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s armed forces would prevail in the long term. “This shard of very possible truth places the West’s hesitant, stuttering position on Libya parallel to its halting response to the threat of Iranian nukes — and reassures Iran’s leaders of their wisdom in moving to crush their own protesters.” Moreover, U.S. intelligence had evidence, in mid-March, that Iran was working to persuade the hard-line Shiite opposition in Bahrain to reject the government’s offer of a political dialogue. “This account of active Iranian troublemaking in Bahrain, a country of basic strategic importance to America, is significant. Add to that a surge of new notions of Western impotence — plus an emboldened Iran — if the Libyan colonel prevails.” Also, in February, Britain provided a new urgency in the assessment of Iran’s nuclear weapons timetable. Defense Minister Liam Fox has said ‘it is entirely possible’ that Iran could produce a nuke in 2012.” Thus, Vinocur seeks a tougher western position on the Middle East, including more enforcement of sanctions on Iran. He also notes, “Without fanfare, Tunisia’s government on Saturday refused to authorize three new Islamist parties — citing a constitutional requirement that political organizations pledge rejection of all forms of violence, fanaticism and discrimination.” In this writer’s view, Vincour may be over stressing Iran’s likely gain from the turmoil. While that may be potentially more likely the case in places such as the Gulf States, where there are large Shiite populations, it would less the case in locations in Egypt and the rest or North Africa where there are few Shiites.

In Syria, protests demanding an end to emergency powers, institution of free expression, other democratization and economic improvements began later than elsewhere in the region, and in the beginning were rather small. By mid-March however, they began to erupt, first in the southern city of Dara’a, where in the opening three days, protesters set fire to the ruling Baath Party’s headquarters and other government buildings, after police began clashing with peaceful demonstrators. Shortly, troops began firing live ammunition in Dara’a, and as the pro-democracy demonstrations spread, in other locations around Syria. President Bashar al-Assad made some conciliatory gestures in an apparent attempt to stop the cycle of public anger, later making promises about reform, firing the cabinet and some other officials, while blaming conspirators and saboteurs who want “to fragment Syria, to bring down Syria as a nation” for the violence, and threatening to crack down on violent protesters. However, the pattern over the following month has been for no actual reforms to be initiated (the emergency powers revoked on paper, only) – Assad and the Baath Party likely believing that without force and emergency powers of repression they would loose control – while troops and police attempt to limit and put down the growing largely nonviolent protests, including firing live ammunition. On April 8, Liam Stack and Katherine Zoepf wrote, “The size of the protests and their level of coordination suggest that Syria’s opposition movement is reaching new levels of coherence and organization,” as on protests took place in dozens of communities. As of April 20, there were reports of 200 deaths at the hands of the authorities. The largest demonstrations against the regime, up to that time, took place in many locations in Syria, April 22, with a large number of people shot by security forces. Thousands of people attended funerals the following day, which were attacked with deadly force by authorities bringing the death toll from government shooting to at least 120. A religious leader and two law makers resigned in protest over the killing, raising questions if there were beginning to be cracks in the regime. On April 24, Syrian troops posted snipers on rooftops in Dara’a, and other cities where there have been mass protests, shooting at anyone who went out doors, keeping people inside to try to prevent more protests. Security forces have also gone house to house, detaining suspected protesters. There were reports, April 24, of 5 army officers joining the rebels, and a number of soldiers refusing to fire on civilians. The crackdown has not ended the protests. April 29, saw even angrier and more energetic demonstrations, as at least 40 were killed by security forces around the county (bringing the total to over 500 since March), and people in Dara’a tried to break the military siege.  There has been international outage against the violent crackdown. The U.S. announced sanctions against three senior members of the Syrian regime, whose assets in U.S. jurisdiction were frozen. The European Union was considering similar action   (“Officers Fire on Crowd as Syrian Protests Grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/world/middleeast/21syria.html?ref=todayspaper; “Six Protesters Killed in Syria,” The New York Time, March 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/world/middleeast/23syria.html?ref=todayspaper; Michael Slackman, “Syrian Troops Open Fire on Protesters in Several Cities,” The New York Times, March 25, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/world/middleeast/26syria.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Michael Slackman, “Syrian Cabinet Resigns as Protests Continue,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/29/world/middleeast/30syria.html?ref=world; Michael Slackman, “Syrian Leader Blames ‘Conspiracy’ for Turmoil,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/middleeast/31syria.html?ref=todayspaper; Liam Stack, “Syria Offers Changes Before Renewed Protests,” The New York Times, March 31, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/world/middleeast/01syria.html?ref=todayspaper; Liam Stack and Katherine Zoepf, “Syrian Protests Are Said to Be Largest and Bloodiest to Date,” The New York Times, April 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/middleeast/09syria.html?_r=1&ref=world; Anthony Shadid, “Asaad pledges reform – but threatens crackdown,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2011; Bassem Mroue and Elizabeth A. Kennedy, “Syria: Uprising’s death toll exceeds 120 in 2 days,” San
Francisco Chronicle,
April 24, 2011; Anthony Shadid, “More Syrians Are Missing, Hint at a Wider Crackdown,” “The New York Times, April 25, 2011; Diaa Hadid and Elizabeth A. Kennedy, “Syria: Raid on city where protests began kills 11,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2011; Anthony Shadid, “Syrian Forces Shoot at Protesters Trying to Break Siege,” The New York Times, April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/world/middleeast/30syria.html?ref=world; and Mark Landler, “U.S. Announces Sanctions Against Top Syrian Officials,” The New York Times, April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/world/middleeast/30policy.html?ref=world).

 

The International Atomic Energy Agency inspected a Syrian plant at Homs, in Western Syria, at the end of March, as part of a long-stalled investigation into suspected covert nuclear activity. Syria, which denies any nuclear weapons ambitions, and agreed last month that agency inspectors could travel to the Homs acid purification plant, where uranium concentrates, or yellowcake, have been a by-product. The inspection is unlikely to resolve questions about any covert nuclear activity in Syria, particularly as Syria has refused to allow follow-up inspections at the remains of a complex at Dair Alzour, which Israel bombed to rubble in 2007 and which American intelligence reports said was a North Korean-designed reactor under construction, intended to produce bomb grade nuclear material (“Syria: A Nuclear Plant Is Inspected, and Another Site Remains Off Limits,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/middleeast/02briefs-Syria.html?ref=todayspaper).

Saudi Arabia’s government announced, in late February, $36 billion in unemployment assistance, interest free home buying loans and debt forgiveness (“Tumult Around the Region: Saudi Arabia,” The New York Times, February 22, 2011). There have continued to be some demonstrations in Shiite areas of Saudi Arabia, particularly in support of the largely Shiite opposition in Bahrain.

In Jordan, March 25, a Friday, riot police stormed a pro-democracy rally in the Jordanian capital, leaving one man dead, injuring at least 100 other people, and dispersing with water cannons a 1,000-person tent camp set up the previous day to resemble Tahrir Square in Cairo. Witnesses said the violence — the worst since demonstrations began in Jordan in January — came after some 200 pro-government counterdemonstrators using sticks and rocks attacked the protesters, who fought back. The riot police, who witnesses say were acting in collusion with the pro-government attackers, then rushed in, braking up the fighting as well as the tent camp. Elsewhere, some 3000 people rallied in support of the king. On Friday, a week later, Hundreds of demonstrators calling for reform rallied late into the evening in the Jordanian capital, without intervention from the authorities. As discontent has rolled across the Arab world in recent months, King Abdullah II of Jordan fired his cabinet and ordered his new prime minister, Marouf al-Bakhit, to begin serious electoral reforms and reach out to all elements of Jordanian society, including the Muslim Brotherhood. As the reform process has not moved rapidly, pro-democracy forces have grown impatient, bringing renewed protests. Meanwhile, on March 24, in eastern Saudi Arabia, several hundred Shiites held sympathy protests for Bahrain, demanding the release of detainees and calling for the removal of Saudi troops from Bahrain. As with the majority Shiites in Bahrain, the Shiite minority in Saudi Arabia has long complained of discrimination (Ranya Kadri and Ethan Bronner, “Riot Police in Jordan Clear Camp of Protesters,” The New York Times, March 25, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/world/middleeast/26jordan.html?ref=todayspaper; Ranya Kadri and Isabel Kershner, “Protesters Rally Into Night in Jordan,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/middleeast/02jordan.html?ref=todayspaper).

In Egypt, a number of major reforms have been moving forward, as demonstrations continue to push the military and the interim governing council to end all repressive measures and bring real democratic change. March 20, Egyptian voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on constitutional changes, with more than 14.1 million voters, or 77.2%, approving the constitutional amendments, and 4 million, or 22.8% voting against them, as 41%, a record, of the 45 million eligible voters went to the polls. The amendments would have brought about rapid elections, as early as June and a presidential race possibly in August, which would have favored the established political organizations, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood, and been a disadvantage to emerging liberal groups. The ruling military council had said that it sought the rapid timetable to ensure its own early exit from running the country. Voters were asked to either accept or reject eight constitutional amendments as a whole, which were designed to establish the foundations for coming elections. Most addressed some of the worst excesses of previous years, including limiting the president to two four-year terms, to avoid another president staying in office as long as Mr. Mubarak. The amendments were announced February 25 after virtually no public discussion by an 11-member committee of experts chosen by the military. The balloting appeared to have few problems, the notable exception being a mob attacking presidential candidate Mohamed El Baradei  when he went to vote. The ruling military council announced the interim constitution ten days later, saying that presidential elections would be held by November, following parliamentary elections in September, which will give the newer parties time to organize and campaign on a more equal level with the established opposition groups. Major General Mamdouh Shaheen, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, said the 18-member council would hand over legislative powers after the parliamentary election in September. Executive powers would be transferred after the presidential election. The general announced, that the two chambers of the new parliament will choose a 100-member assembly of legal experts, academics, politicians and other professionals to draft a new constitution, which will go to Egyptian voters in a referendum. In the meantime, the interim constitution is in force, which retains many aspects of its suspended predecessor. For example, it declares Islam as the state religion but bans the formation of parties based on religious grounds. At the same time, the military dismissed several editors of state-run publications whose ouster had been demanded by employees because they had been appointed by Mubarak (Neil MacFarquhar, “Egyptian Voters Approve Constitutional Changes,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/21/world/middleeast/21egypt.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; and Amr Enam, “Elections in Egypt by the Fall, Leaders Say,” The New York Times, March 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/middleeast/31egypt.html?ref=todayspaper).

In Cairo, the generally peaceful, cooperative, nonsectarian mood of the protests following Mubarik’s resignation was broken, in early March, when a group of women who were marching in Tahrir Square to mark International Women’s Day, while honoring the memory of both women and men killed in clashes with security forces during Egypt’s revolution, were physically harassed by a mob of men who beat and groped them, objecting to the women’s demand for a greater role in the political system. The confrontations diminished after the military fired into the air, with some of the soldiers helping women find taxis to flee. In the suburbs, eleven people died in fighting between Christians and Muslims, March 8, in the deadliest unrest since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, over the burning of a church in the village of Soul the previous week. The attack against the church in Soul is said to be the result of tensions surrounding an interfaith love affair. Elsewhere, thousands of Coptic Christians staged a string of rallies to protest the burning of the church, with security officials saying that one participant was killed and dozens were wounded. The burning of the church was the result of anger over an affair between a man and a woman across Muslim-Christian lines. Such eruptions are not uncommon in Egypt. But the instability following the collapse of Mubarak’s government has heightened sectarian tensions and deepened concerns among Coptic Christians, who make up about 10% of the population, that they will not be sheltered from prejudice and violence (Neil MacFarquhar, “In Egypt, Preparations for a Rarity: A Real Vote,” The New York Times, March 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/world/middleeast/09cairo.html?ref=world; and “Christians and Muslims in Fatal Clash Near Cairo,” The New York Times,  March 9, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/10/world/africa/10egypt.html?hp).

Protests have continued in Egypt, seeking removal of those from leading positions in government and other institutions, including universities, who supported or were representative of the Mubarak regime. A continuing revolution in society remains in motion.  (Neil MacFarquhar, “Egypt Protests Go On, Seeking New Beginning,” The New York Times,: April 7, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/middleeast/08egypt.html?_r=1&ref=world). Meanwhile, protests have been ongoing against continued repressive tactics by the military and its resistance to an open economy (the army protecting its businesses), even as it acts for change. Human rights advocates say that thousands of people have been arrested and tried before military courts in the last two months. Protesters have been tortured and female activists subjected to so-called virginity tests. Thousands of protestors have been demanding that the military cease its repressive actions, as it continues to facilitate transition to democracy. The military’s critics say that it is either unwilling or incapable of ushering in an era of true democratic reform, an end to corruption and the abolition of abusive police practices   (Neil MacFarquhar, “Protesters Scold Egypt’s Military Council,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/middleeast/02egypt.html?ref=todayspaper; and  Mona el Naggar and Michael Slackman, “Hero of Egypt’s Revolution, Military Now Faces Critics,” The New York Times, April 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/middleeast/09egypt.html?ref=world; and David D. Kirkpatrick, “Egyptians Say Military Fights Open Economy,” The New York Times, February 18, 2011).

Egypt expressed willingness to negotiate disputed Nile River rights with Ethiopia, and by implication, with the other seven Nile water using nations. A 1929 treaty gives Egypt more than half the river’s water, which Egypt previously said could not be reduced. Ethiopia’s plan to build a hydro electric dam on the Blue Nile has drawn opposition from Egypt and Sudan (“Nile River Rights,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 2011).

A recent poll of Egyptians shows more than half the population wish to see the 1979 peace treaty with Israel annulled (“Egypt Poll,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 26, 2011).  Egypt has made a major foreign policy shift, Following brokering a reconciliation agreement between Palestinian groups Fatah and Hamas, the government announced normalization of relations with Palestine and Iran, and an opening of the Egyptian boarder with Gaza (David D. Kirkpatrick, “In Shift, Egypt Warms to Iran and Hamas, Israel’s Foes,” The New York Times,” April 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/world/middleeast/29egypt.html?ref=world).

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, in March that he would maintain an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, saying that the Israeli military presence east of any future Palestinian state was all the more necessary, given the turmoil in the Middle East. The Israeli statements of intent were rejected by the Palestinians, and were likely to place a further roadblock to any progress in the peace talks. suspended six months ago (Isabel Kershner, “Netanyahu Vows to Keep Jordan River Posts,” The New York Times, March 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/world/middleeast/09mideast.html?ref=world).

As has been typical of recent Israeli governments in taking actions that are impediments to peace negotiations just before important international meetings that are important for peace negotiations, in early April, on the eve of a White House meeting between President Obama and President Shimon Peres of Israel, Israeli officials took steps to advance controversial new housing in the West Bank and a disputed area of Jerusalem (Isabel Kirshner, “On Eve of Meeting in Washington, Israel Announces More Housing Construction,” The New York Times, April 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/middleeast/05mideast.html?ref=todayspaper).

 Following the murder of an Israeli family in the West Bank Settlement of Itamar, allegedly by one or more Palestinians, the government of Israel announced, March 13, that it would end the slow down of settlement construction in the West Bank, allowing the construction of hundreds of new housing units there, and making much more difficult any peace negotiations with the Palestinians (Isabel Kershner, “Israel to Step Up Pace of Construction in West Bank Areas,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/middleeast/14israel.html?ref=todayspaper).

A group of prominent Israelis, including former heads of Mossad, Shin Bet and the military, are this week put forth “the Israeli Peace Initiative”, for peace with the Arab world, in early April, that they hope will generate popular support and influence their government as it faces international pressure to move peace talks forward. The two-page document is partly inspired by ongoing regional changes and is stated to be a direct response to the Arab Peace Initiative issued by the Arab League in 2002 and again in 2007. It calls for a Palestinian state on nearly all of the West Bank and Gaza with a capital in much of East Jerusalem, an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights, and a set of regional security mechanisms and economic cooperation projects (Ethan Bronner, “Prominent Israelis Will Propose a Peace Plan,” The New York Times, April 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/middleeast/05israel.html?ref=todayspaper).

Judge Goldstone, in April, made a small revision to what he said in the Goldstone Report condemning israel’s actions in its incursion into Gaza, saying that new evidence from Israeli army investigations now shows that the deaths of 1300 Palestinians by the IDF, mostly unarmed civilians, were not intentional policy. Goldstone stated that this information would have been available when the report was written, if it were not for the Netanyahu Government’s decision not to provide information to the commission. Judge Goldstone continues to support the rest of the report, which strongly criticized the IDF’s conduct in the incursion (Several sources including Gush Shalom, April 3, 2011, info@gush-shalom.org).

An escalating conflict was developing, in March, between Hamas in Gaza and Israel, but both sides have since deescalated, to the previous situation of smaller less frequent attacks. On March 18, Hamas militants fired dozens of mortar shells from Gaza into southern Israel during a 15-minute period on Saturday morning, slightly injuring two Israeli civilians and sharply escalating tensions along the Israel-Gaza border. The military wing of Hamas, in an unusual step since the Israeli Gaza incursion, took responsibility for the mortar fire. The Israeli military responded to the unusually intense barrage with tank and helicopter fire directed at a Hamas security facility east of Gaza City, that Gaza officials reported wounded five Palestinians, including three security officers and two civilians, one of them a child. Until this point, although it has not prevented smaller groups from carrying out sporadic attacks against Israel, Hamas had largely maintained a cease-fire since Israel’s devastating three-week military offensive in Gaza that ended in January 2009, that followed years of persistent rocket and mortar fire from Gaza against southern Israel. Hamas said that it was retaliating for Israeli attacks on Gaza, particularly an airstrike on a training camp in which two Hamas militants were killed. The Israeli military stated its strike was in response to the firing of a military-use projectile from Gaza into southern Israel earlier the same morning. The escalation of force by Hamas militants came amid talk by the rival Palestinian leaderships of the West Bank and Gaza about reviving efforts toward internal unity. The escalation raised the possibility that the Hamas military wing opposes the tentative unity moves, that were welcomed by the local political leadership in Gaza. On the same day as the escalation, a group of about 10 men suspected of being Hamas security officers, broke into several media offices in Gaza City, chasing down journalists who had filmed Hamas police officers forcefully dispersing a peaceful demonstration for Palestinian unity. The intruders, armed with handguns and batons, ransacked the Reuters bureau, the offices of CNN, Japan’s NHK station and Mayadeen Media Group, a local production company. where they beat a cameraman with a club on his head. They beat employees and confiscated videotapes and cameras from some of the media companies. The offices that were broken into overlook the Square of the Unknown Soldier, where the unity demonstration took place. In the days following the escalation, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) carried out several air attacks in Gaza, that killed and injured some civilians, as well as causing casualties among suspected Hamas and other Palestinian militants, while Hamas military wing continued to fire mortars into Israel. Than, in an indirectly related incitement, A bomb exploded at a crowded bus stop in central Jerusalem, March 23, killing one person and wounding at least 30 others, three seriously. On April 7 a Hamas mortar assault struck a just emptied Israeli school bus, critically wounding a 16-year-old boy. Israeli air force and artillery replied repeatedly. Then Hamas fired about 45 rockets and mortar rounds  into Israel, and 20 more were fired the next day. The first positive sign that the Gaza-Israel conflict might deescalate came on March 26, when Hamas officials in Gaza stated they were reinstituting an unofficial cease fire along the Gaza-Israeli border. However, the following day, an Israeli drone attack killed two members of Islamic Jihad in Gaza, who the Israeli military claims were preparing to fire rockets into Israel. Fortunately, by mid-April Hamas had reinstituted its cease fire, and the Israelis stopped their extensive attacks. However, the situation could again flare up, possibly sparking a more extensive conflict (Isabel Kershner, “Mortar Fire From Hamas, and Israeli Tanks Respond,” The New York Times, March 19, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/middleeast/20mideast.html?ref=world; Fares Akram, “Gaza: Israel Replies With Strikes,” The New York Times, March 21, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/22/world/middleeast/22briefs-ART-Gaza.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Fares Akram, “Israeli Attack on Gaza Militants Kills 4 Civilians,” The New York Times, March 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/world/middleeast/23gaza.html?ref=todayspaper; Nir Hasson, “Bomb explodes in central Jerusalem; 1 dead, at least 30 hurt,” Haaretz, March 23, 2011, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/bomb-explodes-in-central-jerusalem-1-dead-at-least-30-hurt-1.351377; Fares Akram and Ethan Bronner, “9 More Palestinians Killed as Israelis Retaliate for School Bus Attack,” The New York Times, April 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/middleeast/09gaza.html?ref=world; and Isabel Kershner, “Israel Rolls Out First Mobile Battery of Antirocket System,” The New York Times, March 27, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/28/world/middleeast/28israel.html?ref=todayspaper).

ICG, “Gaza: The Next Israeli-Palestinian War?” Middle East Briefing N°30, March 24, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/israel-palestine/B30-%20gaza-the-next-israeli-palestinian-war.aspx, raised concerns, “Will the next Middle East conflagration involve Israelis and Palestinians? After the serious escalation of the past week in which eight Gaza’s, including children, were killed in a single day, and the 23 March 2011 bombing in Jerusalem, that took the life of one and wounded dozens, there is real reason to worry. The sharp deterioration on this front is not directly related, nor is it in any way similar to the events that have engulfed the Middle East and North Africa. But the overall context of instability and uncertainty undoubtedly has made a volatile situation even more so. Israelis’ anxiety is rising and with it the fear that outside parties might seek to provoke hostilities to divert attention from domestic problems and shift the focus back to Israel. Hamas has been emboldened by regional events and is therefore less likely to back down from a challenge. The combination, as recent days have shown, has proven combustible. In this context, the priority is to achieve an effective ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, without which the situation soon could spin out of control. True, periodic escalations have become part of what passes for normal in Gaza and adjacent Israeli territory. But the current round of violence has the makings of something more and far worse. As in the weeks preceding Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attack on Gaza that commenced in December 2008, neither Hamas nor Israel seems intent on provoking an intensified or extended conflict. But the combination of civilian casualties, regional events and continued paralysis of Palestinian politics has created the conditions for a rapid deterioration toward the kind of clash to which neither side aspires, for which both have carefully prepared and from which they will not retreat quickly.”

ICG, “Radical Islam in Gaza,” Middle East Report N°104, March 29, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/israel-palestine/104-radical-islam-in-gaza.aspx, noted, “The recent Israel-Hamas escalation returns a spotlight to Gaza and the Islamist movement’s relationship with more militant organizations. Gaza arouses multiple concerns: does Hamas seeks to impose religious law; has its purported Islamization stimulated growth of Salafi-Jihadi groups; and will al-Qaeda offshoots find a foothold there? Hamas faces competition from more radical Islamist groups, though their numbers are few, organization poor, achievements against Israel so far minor and chances of threatening Gaza’s government slight. The significance of Gaza’s Salafi-Jihadis is less military capability than constraints they impose on Hamas: they are an ideological challenge; they appeal to members of its military wing, a powerful constituency; through attacks within and from Gaza, they threaten security; by criticizing Hamas for not fighting Israel or implementing Sharia, they exert pressure for more militancy and Islamization. The policy of isolating Gaza and ignoring Hamas exacerbates this problem. As the international community seeks new ways to address political Islam in the Arab upheaval’s wake, Gaza is not the worst place to start. In the last few years, Hamas has faced new Islamist challengers in Gaza. They are groups of militants, known as Salafi-Jihadis, who adhere to a strict interpretation of Islamic law and see themselves not as liberators of Palestine but as part of a global movement of armed fighters defending Muslims against non-Muslim enemies, a category many of them believe also includes Shiites and Palestinian secularists. Although their current strength is low, these groups – which are responsible for a sizeable proportion of Gaza-based rocket attacks toward Israel – could well trigger an escalation that, as illustrated in the past week, could have serious consequences for Gaza, Israel and the region as a whole. Over time, Hamas’s relationship with such militants has shifted from cooperation to antagonism. One of Gaza’s oldest Salafi-Jihadi groups, Jaysh al-Islam (Army of Islam), participated with Hamas and another faction in the 2006 capture of Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit. In the years since, Hamas has cracked down on Jaysh al-Islam and similar groups, acting decisively when it met with anything resembling a direct defiance of its governmental authority. In August 2009, when the spiritual leader of Jund Ansar Allah (Soldiers of God’s Supporters), a newer Salafi-Jihadi group based in Rafah, denounced Hamas, declared an Islamic Emirate in Palestine, and demanded the imposition of Sharia (Islamic law), Hamas brutally confronted it, resulting in more than two dozen deaths, 100 injuries and the group’s near total elimination. Hamas’s policy since then has been one of containment, directed not only at Salafi-Jihadi militants, who are arrested when caught violating the ceasefire it until recently had been upholding, but also at Hamas members who sympathize with these groups. Most Salafi-Jihadis in Gaza are young, low-ranking former members of the military wings of established factions, primarily Hamas and Islamic Jihad but also the Popular Resistance Committees and Fatah. Reasons for their defections vary, but the majority state that primary among their sources of dissatisfaction with Hamas were its participation in the 2006 legislative elections, acquiescence to ceasefires with Israel and failure after taking over Gaza to implement Sharia. The influence of Salafi-Jihadis is not prominent, but nor is it negligible. They accuse Hamas of laxity in enforcing religious mores, a charge that resonates with many movement supporters and leads the government to greater determination in applying Islamic law. At the same time, the exigencies of governing, hope of increasing diplomatic ties and pressure from many Gazans, human rights activists and Westerners pull in an opposite direction. The result has been a zigzagging policy in which Islamizing decisions are announced, at times retracted when citizens object, and on occasion nonetheless enforced. More worrying has been a series of bombings, shootings, burnings and lootings aimed at targets that appear un-Islamic and for which no suspect has been publicly tried. In many cases, it is still unclear who or what was behind them. Some suspect Salafi-Jihadi groups, others Hamas’s more militant members, who were thought difficult to reprimand while the government faced criticism for imposing a ceasefire – now broken – that had neither convinced Israel to lift its closure of Gaza’s borders nor ended the Islamist movement’s diplomatic isolation. The international community’s policy of snubbing Hamas and isolating Gaza has been misguided from the outset, for reasons Crisis Group long has enumerated. Besides condemning Gazans to a life of scarcity, it has not weakened the Islamist movement, loosened its grip over Gaza, bolstered Fatah or advanced the peace process. To that, one must add the assist provided to Salafi-Jihadis, who benefit from both Gaza’s lack of exposure to the outside world and the apparent futility of Hamas’s strategy of seeking greater engagement with the international community, restraining – until recently – attacks against Israel and limiting Islamizing policies advocated by more zealous leaders. There is no guarantee that engaging Hamas politically and normalizing the situation in Gaza would lead the Islamist movement to greater pragmatism or diminish the appeal of more radical alternatives. But it is worth the try. President Mubarak’s ouster likely will be followed by a revision of Egypt’s approach toward Gaza – notably a significant loosening of the border closure and improved relations with Hamas. This would appear to be the natural consequence of the eventual election of a more representative, accountable government that better reflects the views of a citizenry dismayed by the former regime’s policies. Such a shift should be seen as an opportunity for others – Europeans and Americans in particular – to revisit their own assumptions. And to understand that the alternative to Hamas in Gaza is not only or necessarily Fatah. It also is the more radical Islamist groups they have every interest in combating.”

Israel announced, at the beginning of March, that it was allowing the export of cherry tomatoes from Gaza for the first time since Hamas took over the territory in 2007. The Netherlands has received permission to export an additional 450 truckloads of agricultural produce from Gaza to Europe (“Gaza: Agricultural Exports Resume,” The New York Times, March 3, 2011).

After some initial battening down, particularly by Hamas, internal pressures, inspired by the democratizing tidal wave spreading across the Middle East, have brought the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to negotiating unitary governance in the Palestinian lands. In Mid-March, Hamas forces broke up demonstrations by thousands of people in Gaza calling for national unity organized by independent Palestinian youth activists, which sent at least five people, including three local journalists, to the hospital after being beaten by Hamas members. However, the protests appeared to elicit a quick response from the Palestinian leadership, as shortly thereafter, officials in Gaza and the West Bank, where smaller gatherings took place, professed their desire for reconciliation. Ismail Haniya, who leads the Hamas government in Gaza, invited Mr. Abbas and Fatah to resume national unity talks at any time or place. Officials of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority attended a demonstration of several thousand people in Ramallah, and the authority issued a statement saying it welcomed the popular movement to end the schism. Mr. Abbas proposed holding presidential and parliamentary elections as soon as possible as a way of ending the split — an idea that at the time was rejected by Hamas. 11 days later, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority met with seven officials of Hamas from the West Bank in his Ramallah office for the first time in a year in an effort to reconcile the two movements whose strong rivalry has kept the West Bank and Gaza apart, blocking any real possibility of Palestinian statehood. He told them that the way forward was for his Fatah-dominated authority and the Hamas government of Gaza to agree on the formation of a temporary independent government with one goal: to hold legislative and presidential elections in the next six months and then rebuild Gaza. Abbas wished to go to Gaza, where he had not set foot in four years, to sign such a deal with the leaders of Hamas. The two sides also discussed ending the Palestinian Authority’s arrests of Hamas activists in the West Bank and a mutual end to media incitement against each other. In Gaza, Hamas responded cautiously. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman stated, “We respect Mr. Dweik greatly in his capacity as the head of the Parliament, but we think the meeting should be between the leaders of Hamas and Fatah as parties.” Another Hamas lawmaker in Gaza went further, demanding “good-will steps” from Mr. Abbas to prove that he is serious about going to Gaza, saying, “Abbas must release Hamas supporters” (Fares Akram, “Hamas Forces Break Up Pro-Unity Protests in Gaza,” The New York Times, March 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/middleeast/16gaza.html?ref=world; and Ethan Bronner, “Palestinians Hold Talks on Reconciliation,” The New York Times, March 26, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/world/middleeast/27gaza.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper). In late April, in a meeting in Cairo, mediated by Egyptian officials, Fatah and Hamas came to an agreement on forming a Unity government, to be followed by elections in the Palestinian lands. Previous agreements have not held up, and there was some difference of interpretation of the agreement a day after it’s signing. However, there is more external and internal pressure on the parties to keep the accord, then with earlier attempts at reconciliation (Ethan Bronner, “Palestinian Factions Give Differing Views of Unity Pact,” The New York Times, April 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/world/middleeast/29mideast.html?ref=world).

Israel said, May 1, that it was delaying the transfer of close to $90 million in tax revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority in a move against the emerging reconciliation between Fatah, and Hamas, as Israel opposes Hamas involvement in the Palestinian Authority (Isabel Kershner, “Israel Holds Palestinian Funds as Deal Nears,” The New York Times, May 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/middleeast/02israel.html?ref=todayspaper).

The efforts of the Palestinian Authority to attain global recognition of its statehood in September, received an endorsement, in early April, from the International Monetary Fund, which said that the authority was fully capable of running the economy of an independent state, in its latest report on the economies of the West Bank and Gaza, presented in full the following week to a donors’ conference in Brussels. It said for the first time that it viewed the authority as “now able to conduct the sound economic policies expected of a future well-functioning Palestinian state, given its solid track record in reforms and institution-building in the public finance and financial areas.” The World Bank repeated its similar finding from last fall, at the conference, that stated, “If the Palestinian Authority maintains its performance in institution-building and delivery of public services, it is well positioned for the establishment of a state at any point in the near future.” Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, said at the same time that his government was “in the home stretch” of state building, what he called “our rendezvous with freedom.” He was taking part in a ceremony in the West Bank city of Ramallah to mark the opening of a new venture capital fund that has raised more than $28 million for the West Bank. Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund estimated the Palestinian areas’ real G.D.P. growth at around 9% in 2010. They credited the economic expansion to structural reforms and rigorous budget preparations by the Palestinian Authority, as well as the easing of Israeli restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza, and donor aid. But both organizations were concerned about overdependence by the PA on foreign aid and said that the current growth rate could not continue without further easing of Israeli restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza. The authors of the World Bank report presented to the conference noted, “Aid is what keeps many Palestinians above the poverty line, particularly in Gaza, where unemployment is still 37.4% and a staggering 71% of the population benefited from some form of social assistance in 2009.” They added that sustainable growth was dependent on a vibrant private sector, which they said was “unlikely to emerge while Israeli restrictions on access to natural resources and markets remain in place, and as long as investors are deterred by the increased cost of business associated with the closure regime.” Gaza has suffered from Israeli economic boycott for several years and the destruction of the Israeli military invasion two years ago aimed at stopping rocket fire. Since last fall, Israel has promised to allow more exports and large projects that produce jobs in Gaza, but progress has been slow. The Palestinian Authority announced in September 2009 that in two years it would be institutionally ready for statehood, and it is sticking to that timetable. Israel argues that unless the Palestinians negotiate over borders and security, no state can rise. In addition, it says, with Gaza run by Hamas, the divisions between the parts of a future Palestine make statehood a dubious proposition in the short term. But the Palestinians have been building support internationally. The Palestinians say that if September comes and nothing has changed, they will apply to the United Nations for membership (Ethan Bronner, “Bid for State of Palestine Gets Support From I.M.F.,” The New York Times, April 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/world/middleeast/07palestinians.html?ref=world). On April 20, tens of Israelis most honored intellectuals and artists signed a declaration endorsing a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 boarders, saying that an end to Israel’s occupation “will liberate the two people’s and open the way to lasting peace.” The declaration was announced from the place in Tel Aviv where Israel declared its independence in spring 1948 (“Palestinian State,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 20, 2011).

The group, Human Rights Watch, in the report, “No News Is Good News,” released in early April, stated that scores of journalists have been improperly detained and harassed in the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority, a pattern that has led many to self-censor and produced a chilling effect on the free exchange of information and ideas. It calls on the United States and Europe to condition their support for Palestinian security agencies on the authority’s agreeing to take effective steps to investigate and punish those responsible for torture and other serious abuses. The report also accuses Hamas, which rules in Gaza, of harassment and disruption of free expression by banning unfriendly media and detaining journalists (Ethan Bronner, “Palestinian Security Forces Abused Journalists, Report Says,” The New York Times, April 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/world/middleeast/06palestinian.html?ref=world).

Israel asked the United Nations, on April, 1 to help prevent activists from sailing to Gaza on the anniversary of the Israeli raid on a Turkish ship that tried to breach the blockade of the territory last May. The Free Gaza Movement, a pro-Palestinian activist group that sponsored the flotilla last year, said 15 ships with international passengers would sail for Gaza in May (“Israel: U.N. Asked to Prevent Activists From Sailing to Gaza Next Month,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/middleeast/02briefs-Israel.html?ref=todayspaper).

As the situation in Lebanon remains potentially volatile, Tens of thousands of supporters of Lebanon’s pro-Western opposition demonstrated in downtown Beirut, in mid-March, demanding that the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah give up its weapons, giving the army a clear monopoly of the means of force. The rally was a powerful show of support for the former prime minister Saad Hariri, who moved into the opposition after Hezbollah and its allies forced the collapse of his government in January. Hariri has taken a far stronger public stance against Hezbollah in recent weeks than he did during his 14 months as prime minister, suggesting that the country’s political deadlock is far from over (“Thousands in Lebanon Demand Hezbollah Be Disarmed,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/middleeast/14lebanon.html?ref=world).

China has increasingly been restricting freedom of expression and arresting suspected dissidents out of fear the North African-Middle East democracy movement will become active in its territories. Never-the-less, a low level, silent “Jasmine Revolution,” persists (For example, Ian Johnson, “Despite Intimidation, Calls for a’Jasmine Revolution’ in China Persist,” The New York Times, February 22, 2011).

China announced an increase in military spending for the coming year to $91.5 billion, marking a return to double-digit spending. Last year the defense budget rose 7.5%. This is likely to cause concern for countries in Asia. Taiwan said that it will not compete with China in an arms race, but would focus on applying its existing military budget strategically. Japan has already said it would increase its military spending and preparedness (Peter Simpson, “China to Boost Military Spending,” GlobalSecurity.net, March 04, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/china/2011/china-110304-voa01.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e135%2exk0ao00c4l%2e4dg; and Hsieh Chia-chen and Maia Huang, “Taiwan will not engage in arms race with China: military,” ROC Central News Agency, March 4, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/taiwan/2011/taiwan-110304-cna01.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e135%2exk0ao00c4l%2e4dl).

Noting China’s military build up, Japan is expanding its military, adding aircraft in the southern Okanawan Islands (Martin Fackler, “With an Eye on China, Japan Builds Up Military, The New York Times, March 1,2011).

In a change of policy, India has returned to building the New Delhi-Taj Mahal highway, increasing compensation to farmer’s whose land was taken for the project, offering them annuities for the next 30 years, and giving them a stake in residential development along the toll road, known as the Yamuna Expressway. The new arrangements have ended strong protests from the impacted farmers (Jim Yardley, “A Highway in India Promises A New Ending to an Old Story,” The New York Times, February 22, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/23/world/asia/23india.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=A+Highway+in+India+Promises+A+New+Ending+to+an+Old+Story&st=nyt). The taking of land for development by the Indian government, or with its support or acquiescence, for infrastructure, extraction and construction of development projects, including in tribal areas, has caused both direct harm to local people, and through creating serious environmental damage, indirect harm, and has caused a major escalation of the Maoist insurgency spreading across rural India.

The slow steps of improving diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan greatly speeded, in March, when the two nations meeting in the semifinal round of the cricket World Cup tournament set up an opportunity for the Prime Ministers of the two nations to meet and discuss pressing issues (Jim Yardley, “Cricket Offers Chance for India-Pakistan Diplomacy,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/world/asia/30india.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper).

A UN panel investigating possible war crimes by the government in Sri Lanka has found that as many as 40,000 civilians may have been killed, mostly by indiscriminate government forces shelling, in the closing campaign of the 2008-2009 government offensive against the Tamil Tigers, as the commission found credible evidence of government forces making civilians targets, shelling hospitals and attacking aid workers (“Sri Lanka Enquiry,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 19, 2011; and “Sri Lanka War,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 2011).

The United Nations released a report, in late March, released after a joint mission to North Korea, where a famine in the 1990s killed an estimated 1 million people, stating that more than 6 million people in North Korea urgently need food aid because of substantial falls in domestic production, food imports and international aid. Three United Nations agencies said North Korea’s public distribution system would run out of food at the beginning of the lean season that runs between May and July (“North Korea: 6 Million Are Hungry,” The New York Times, March 25, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/world/asia/26briefs-Food.html?ref=todayspaper).

ICG, “Myanmar’s Post-Election Landscape,” Asia Briefing N°118, March 7, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/burma-myanmar/B118-myanmars-post-election-landscape.aspx, reports, “The November 2010 elections in Myanmar were not free and fair and the country has not escaped authoritarian rule. Predictably, in such a tightly controlled poll, the regime’s own Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) won a landslide victory leaving the military elite still in control. Together with the quarter of legislative seats reserved for soldiers, this means there will be little political space for opposition members in parliament. The new government that has been formed, and which will assume power in the coming weeks, also reflects the continued dominance of the old order with the president and one of the two vice presidents drawn from its ranks and a number of cabinet ministers recycled. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to conclude that nothing has changed. The top two leaders of the former military regime have stepped aside, and a new generation has taken over. A new constitution has come into force, which fundamentally reshapes the political landscape, albeit in a way that ensures the continued influence of the military. A number of technocrats have been brought into the cabinet, and at the local level ethnic groups now have at least some say in the governance of their affairs. These changes are unlikely to translate into dramatic reforms in the short term, but they provide a new governance context, improving the prospects for incremental reform. This moment of relative change in a situation that has been deadlocked for twenty years provides a chance for the international community to encourage the government to move in the direction of greater openness and reform. But this opportunity can only be seized if the West changes its failed policies of sanctions and isolation. These policies are counterproductive: they have a negative impact on the population and on the prospects for dialogue and reconciliation – and by reinforcing the siege mentality of Myanmar’s leadership, they undermine the chances that the new generation of leaders will break with the isolationist and authoritarian direction of the previous regime. Improved policies must start with the recognition that sanctions have had counterproductive effects and caused ordinary people to suffer, and have impeded the country’s development. To redress this, restrictions on development assistance should be immediately lifted and levels of aid increased. Restrictions on technical assistance from international financial institutions should also be removed. These bodies should be encouraged to work on pressing concerns such as poverty alleviation, social and economic policy reform, education, and capacity building. Restrictions that hold back the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other UN agencies should be lifted. Broad-based economic sanctions such as those imposed by the U.S. on imports and the EU’s denial of trade privileges should also go. A new approach urgently needs to be adopted, one that provides much greater support for Myanmar’s people and for the socio-economic reforms that are essential for improving their lives, while convincing the leadership that a renormalization of relations with the West is possible if they embark on a process of significant political reform. In its reporting over recent years, Crisis Group has set out some of the elements of such an approach: structured regional and international engagement; a normalization of aid relations; opportunities to promote reform and greater openness at a key moment of political transition; and giving greater priority to peaceful resolution of the ethnic issue.”

ICG, “Thailand: The Calm Before Another Storm?” Asia Briefing N°121, April 11, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/thailand/B121-thailand-the-calm-before-another-storm.aspx, Cautions, “Nearly a year after the crackdown on anti-establishment demonstrations, Thailand is preparing for a general election. Despite government efforts to suppress the Red Shirt movement, support remains strong and the deep political divide has not gone away. Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s roadmap for reconciliation has led almost nowhere. Although there have been amateurish bomb attacks carried out by angry Red Shirts since the crackdown, fears of an underground battle have not materialized. On the other side, the Yellow Shirts have stepped up their nationalist campaigns against the Democrat Party-led government that their earlier rallies had helped bring to power. They are now claiming elections are useless in “dirty” politics and urging Thais to refuse to vote for any of the political parties. Even if the elections are free, fair and peaceful, it will still be a challenge for all sides to accept the results. If another coalition is pushed together under pressure from the royalist establishment, it will be a rallying cry for renewed mass protests by the Red Shirts that could plunge Thailand into more violent confrontation. The Red Shirt demonstrations in March-May 2010 sparked the most deadly clashes between protestors and the state in modern Thai history and killed 92 people. The use of force by the government may have weakened the Red Shirts but the movement has not been dismantled and is still supported by millions of people, particularly in the North and North East. Arresting their leaders as well as shutting down their media and channels of communication has only reinforced their sense of injustice. Some in the movement’s hard line fringe have chosen to retaliate with violence but the leadership has reaffirmed its commitment to peaceful political struggle. The next battle will be waged through ballot boxes and the Red Shirts will throw their weight behind their electoral wing, the Pheu Thai Party. The protracted struggle between supporters of the elite establishment – the monarchy, the military and the judiciary – and those allied with ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra began with the formation of the “yellow-shirted” People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) in 2006. The September 2006 coup removed Thaksin from power but prompted the emergence of a counter movement: the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) or Red Shirts. The PAD’s campaigns to close down Bangkok airports in 2008 created deadlock that was resolved by a court ruling that removed Thaksin’s “proxy” party – People Power Party – from power. This led to the formation of the Democrat-led coalition government, backed by the military. Two years later, the ultra-nationalist Yellow Shirts have apparently split from their former allies and are protesting outside Government House against Abhisit’s alleged failure to defend “Thai territory” in the Preah Vihear border dispute with Cambodia. The PAD’s call for a “virtuous” leader to replace the prime minister has raised concerns that it is inviting the military to stage a coup. Abhisit has stated he will dissolve parliament in the first week of May after expediting the enactment of legislation to revise key electoral rules. He is moving quickly towards the elections amid rumors of a coup. With the new rules and pre-poll largesse, the Democrat Party hopes to secure more seats and position itself to lead another coalition. Thaksin is still popular with much of the electorate and there is a strong possibility that his de facto Pheu Thai Party could emerge as the largest party. The formation of the government is likely to be contentious. The UDD has threatened to return to the streets if Pheu Thai wins a plurality but does not form the government. Obvious arm bending by the royalist establishment to this end is a recipe for renewed protests and violence. Should the opposite occur, and Pheu Thai has the numbers to lead a new government, the Yellow Shirts might regain momentum; they are unlikely to tolerate a “proxy” Thaksin government. While elections will not resolve the political divide and the post-election scenarios look gloomy, Thailand nevertheless should proceed with the polls. A well-publicized electoral code of conduct and independent monitoring by local and international observers could help enhance their credibility and minimize violence during the campaign. If installed successfully, the new government with a fresh mandate will have greater credibility to lead any longer term effort to bring about genuine political reconciliation.

Michael Vatikiotis, “ASEAN and the Thai Cambodia border tensions,” Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, April 6, 2011, http://peacetalks.hdcentre.org/2011/04/asean-and-thai-cambodia-border-tensions/, reports, “A landmark agreement among ASEAN Foreign Ministers in February effectively defused a dangerous stand-off between Thai and Cambodian forces along their common border by agreeing on the deployment of Indonesian monitors on either side of the border and also the convening of bilateral talks between the two sides in Indonesia. However, since then, little has moved on either of these fronts. Indonesia has not yet managed to deploy the observers – now set at 15 on each side of the border. More worryingly, Thai military officials have said they do not want to join bilateral talks on the border dispute in a third country. Cambodia, for its part insists on the talks taking place in Indonesia. The talks are set to start on April 7th in Bogor, a city outside Jakarta where ironically the first round of the Cambodian peace process meetings was convened in 1988. Should the agreement unravel, there is the threat of renewed fighting along the border. This could then lead to further international diplomatic maneuvering that could see the issue return to the floor of the UN Security Council in New York.” “So how can the situation be fixed? Thai officials are hoping to persuade their military colleagues that the bilateral meetings with Cambodia can be held in Indonesia. The diplomats can go ahead and meet under the auspices of the civilian-run Joint Border Committee, whilst the military is involved in a separate general Border Committee. They will insist that Indonesian officials stay out of the meetings and hope that Cambodia accepts this too. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s defense attaches are in the process of visiting the border areas of both countries to prepare for the monitoring mission. Given the extreme sensitivities, it is hardly surprising that the process is taking some time. Privately, Thai officials say it is important for the Indonesian monitors to steer clear of the disputed zone in the immediate vicinity of the disputed Hindu temple. But more importantly it is now time for other agencies such as UNESCO, which helped spark renewed tensions along the border after considering an application for listing the disputed temple as a world heritage site, to contribute to a de-escalation of the conflict. This might be possible. It has been suggested that UNESCO consider a multiple listing of other ancient sites that litter the long Thai-Cambodian border – thereby taking the heat off the disputed Preah Vihear temple. It would of course also help a great deal if politicians on both sides of the border stopped stoking the border dispute. Nationalism is one of the crudest but also the most lethal of weapons, as it turns differences of opinion into war. However, “Border Clash,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 2011, reported that fighting resumed along the border, April 23, between Thai and Cambodian soldiers, leaving 10 dead in two days of skirmishing and causing thousands of civilians to leave their homes. The fighting continued for a week, possibly forcing several thousand civilians to flee, before a tentative truce was established (Seth Mydans, “Thai and Cambodian Military Commanders Agree on a Cease-Fire,” The New York Times, April 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/world/asia/29iht-thailand29.html?ref=world).

ICG, “Nepal’s Fitful Peace Process,” Asia Briefing N°120, April 7, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-asia/nepal/B120-nepals-fitful-peace-process.aspx, notes, “Nepal is entering a new phase in its fitful peace process, in which its so-called “logical conclusion” is in sight: the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants and the introduction of a new constitution. The Maoists, the largest party, are back in government in a coalition led by the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), UML party. Negotiations, although fraught, are on with the second-largest party, the Nepali Congress (NC), to join. Agreement is being reached on constitutional issues and discussions continue on integration. None of the actors are ramping up for serious confrontation and few want to be seen as responsible for the collapse of the constitution-writing process underway in the Constituent Assembly (CA). But success depends on parties in opposition keeping tactical threats to dissolve the CA to a minimum, the government keeping them engaged, and the parties in government stabilizing their own precariously divided houses. It will also require the Maoists to take major steps to dismantle their army. The fundamentally political nature of the transitional arms and armies arrangements became clear when the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) departed in January 2011, as did the resilience of the peace process and the Maoists’ continued buy-in. That is encouraging, as is the fresh momentum. But major challenges remain. The CA may need a short extension when its term expires on 28 May 2011 if the parties cannot quickly agree on integration or federalism. But the Madhesi parties and sections of the NC and UML are willing to argue against extension, largely as a bargaining posture, and to slow down negotiations to suggest that the CA is ineffective. All parties in government are in the throes of factional struggles; internal disagreements and threatened splits complicate the outlook. In their rush to get to the finish line, all parties risk doing the bare minimum to “complete” the process. After 21 months of fighting over access to power, including sixteen unsuccessful votes to select a prime minister, and limited progress in the year before that, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) has become a ragged document. There has been no empirical survey on the state of landholdings and no land reform measures implemented yet. The Disappearance and Truth and Reconciliation Commissions have not yet been formed. Plans for what the CPA calls the “democratization” of the Nepal Army are so far largely self-directed and more concerned with beautifying the bureaucracy surrounding the army, rather than making the institution more accountable and smaller. These long-term projects would be easy to push on to the back burner. But to do so would undermine implementation of the new constitution and the deep political reform envisaged in the CPA, and consolidation of lasting peace. State restructuring, though broadly agreed to be essential or unavoidable, plays out in public as a binary debate on the Maoists’ contested definition of federalism, rather than on what it is Nepalis want out of this change and how best to deliver that. The immediate tasks, integration and getting the new constitution right, are critical to addressing these issues in the long term. This government has close to the two-thirds majority needed to pass the constitution or extend the CA. But the resistance of some in the NC and the Madhesi parties, encouraged by India, could make for another messy, last-minute action, in which substantive issues are compromised to defend power-sharing arrangements. Further, a constitution, or a plan for its deferral, that any of the larger parties does not sign off on would be contested from the start. Visible progress is needed to reassure the fractured polity and public that the task of transforming the state has not been abandoned and to counter the threat of localized violence in the lead up to the 28 May deadline. Ideally, extension of the CA would be short and accompanied by a non-negotiable timeline for resolution of the federalism question, and public disclosure of even a partial draft. The NC and Madhesi parties from the country’s southern Tarai region should join the government to make decisions truly consensual and share the political gains of success. Until then, the ruling UML-Maoist coalition needs urgently to engage with these parties. The Maoists must finally make a good faith gesture on dismantling its People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The NC must go beyond its rhetorical dichotomy of democracy versus Maoist state capture and contribute constructively to negotiations. The Maoists are undergoing a transformation, dramatically visible in divisive public spats between the leaders, as the party simultaneously acts as a revolutionary movement, a political party aggressively pushing the limits of democratic practice, and an expanding enterprise of financial interests and patronage. With the Maoists announcing, while in government, the creation of a new “volunteer” outfit, continuing extortion by the party’s various wings, monopoly over decision-making and intimidation in some districts, and ideological reiteration of “revolt”, they are a difficult partner to trust. This is their moment to acknowledge that capturing state power through armed force is no longer on their agenda, and to address the deep discontent within the leadership. For the NC and UML, which have done little to rebuild their political organizations and regain political space after the 2008 CA elections, contributing positively to immediate and medium-term peace process goals could revitalize their bases. Their greatest challenges come from divisions within, rigidity towards the new political order, and the social changes at the grassroots. Their weak organizations and internal disputes, reservations about the extent of reform proposed by the peace process and poorly articulated party policies may further marginalize them. Most Madhesi parties, whose participation in national politics in the last two years has been largely limited to making up the numbers for a variety of alliances, still look to New Delhi for assistance. Their political agenda is devalued by their opportunistic political alliances, but they retain the ability, with some assistance, to mobilize in order to give the government a hard time and push for a role in decision-making so their concerns are addressed. With the departure of UNMIN, New Delhi again finds itself in a leadership role in international engagement with Nepal. The new coalition demonstrates the limits of its policy of isolating the Maoists and India must now re-assess whether it can continue to hold this position and whether dissolution of the CA, its preferred option, will have controllable consequences. Re-engagement with the Maoists will require the various sections of the Indian establishment to maneuver themselves out of the corner they have painted themselves into; having supported and encouraged Nepali actors in taking extreme anti-Maoist stances, they will have to backtrack, potentially leaving allies in Kathmandu to pay the political price. The rest of the international community needs to offer consultative, unstinting and transparent support to implementing long-term peace process commitments.

ICG, “The Philippines: Back to the Table, Warily, in Mindanao,” Asia Briefing N°119, March 24, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/philippines/B119-the-philippines-back-to-the-table-warily-in-mindanao.aspx, notes, tells us, “Peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are back on track, with one round of talks in Kuala Lumpur in February 2011 and another scheduled for late April. The obstacles to achieving a final peace are huge, but the administration of President Benigno S. “Noynoy” Aquino III has at least brought some fresh air to the process. A new government peace panel seems determined to find a way out of a negotiator’s nightmare: multiple parties engaged in parallel and sometimes contradictory talks; powerful potential spoilers; and ethnic divisions, feuding clans and divergent political interests among the Bangsamoro – the Muslims of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago – that make unity within the MILF’s own constituency elusive. Enough commitment exists on both sides to move forward despite these obstacles, but the two parties need to recognize some hard truths. One is that, sooner or later, the separate peace processes with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the MILF will have to converge, and more thought is needed now about how to make it happen. Another is that there is deep skepticism, not just in Manila but also in the Moro heartland, about the capacity to make any autonomous government in Mindanao work; the MILF thus needs to do more even before a peace agreement is signed to show with concrete actions that its end product will be a qualitative improvement over the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The MILF remains committed to the creation of an autonomous sub-state “in association” with the Philippines. In the past, opponents have seen this as an assault on Philippine sovereignty and fought against both the concept and the proposed boundaries of a Moro homeland. Also standing in the way of a sub-state is the ARMM itself, a dysfunctional unit created by the Philippine Congress in 1989 as part of the post-Marcos effort to reach out to regional insurgencies, then slightly expanded in 2001. Its fate is an issue in the government’s talks with both the MNLF and MILF and thus a major reason for finding a way to coordinate the two sets of negotiations. The history of corruption and poor governance in ARMM since its founding is also used as ammunition by critics to argue against any plan that would result in an expansion of its powers or territorial reach. The Aquino government has not made its negotiating stance public, but it seems to accept in principle the idea of a sub-state as long as its territory is contiguous; the details will be the hard part. It also understands the need for consultations with and buy-in from potential opponents and is determined to avoid the pitfalls that led to the 2008 breakdown of negotiations. The talks would be difficult enough if this were all the negotiators had to contend with, but there are other complications. Government unhappiness with the Malaysian facilitator, Datuk Othman Abdul Razak, delayed resumption until 2011, as Manila pressed for his removal; while he now is likely to be replaced, it remains to be seen whether Manila will find his successor more impartial. A move in December 2010 by Ameril Umbra Kato, a key commander, to break away from the MILF’s army, the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, and establish his own unit has raised concerns about the extent of MILF command and control. The bombing of a bus in Manila’s main business district in late January 2011 led to media speculation about the possible involvement of extremists from the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) or the MILF, raising the old specter of links to terrorists, though the perpetrators were never identified. Through all of these difficulties, the complex architecture of the government-MILF peace process has been one of its strengths, providing a framework for monitoring and dispute resolution that survives changes of administration and keeps a range of stakeholders engaged. But the parties need to find a way to move beyond the status quo, a ceasefire stretching indefinitely into the horizon without ever reaching a political settlement that enough people can accept to make it both legitimate and enforceable. The talks now underway could produce one of three possible outcomes. One would be a final comprehensive compact formally ending the conflict and creating a new autonomous region. Another would be protracted negotiations that never quite manage to reach an end but have enough forward momentum to keep the MILF rank and file on board and the ceasefire mechanisms in place. The third would be breakdown, triggered by either frustration on the MILF side at lack of progress or an external event, such as an attack and retaliation in the field. History is not on the side of successful resolution. Nevertheless, with genuine political will in Manila, there may be room for cautious optimism.

In a breakthrough in the campaign to remove children from combat in the Philippines, U.N. officials said, April 8, that Communist rebels, the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, had agreed to ensure that there are no minors in their ranks, agreeing in principle to cooperate with the United Nations to identify and remove any child combatants from the New People’s Army, the Communist movement’s armed wing, which has waged a guerrilla campaign for the past 40 years (Carlos H. Conde, “Filipino Rebels Agree to Stop Using Child Soldiers,” The New York Times, April 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/asia/09iht-philippines09.html?ref=world).

ICG, “Indonesian Jihadism: Small Groups, Big Plans,” Asia Report N°204, April 19, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/indonesia/204-indonesian-jihadism-small-groups-big-plans.aspx, finds, “Violent extremism in Indonesia increasingly is taking the form of small groups acting independently of large jihadi organizations. This is in part a response to effective law enforcement that has resulted in widespread arrests and structural weakening of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) and other organizations accused of links to terrorism. But it is also the result of ideological shifts that favor “individual” over “organizational” jihad and low-cost, small-scale targeted killings over mass casualty attacks that inadvertently kill Muslims. The suicide bombing inside a police station mosque on 15 April 2011 and a spate of letter bombs delivered in Jakarta in mid-March are emblematic of the shift. The government needs urgently to develop prevention strategies to reduce the likelihood that more such groups will emerge. Unlike the small group proponents, advocates of ‘organizational’ jihad believe that nothing can be accomplished without a large organization and a strong leader, but if the ultimate goal is an Islamic state, then it is imperative to build public support. Rather than engage in violence, groups like JI and JAT are focused for the moment on building up a mass base, by finding issues that resonate with their target audience. Increasingly this means a greater focus on local rather than foreign “enemies”, with officials who are seen as oppressors, particularly the police; Christians; and members of the Ahmadiyah sect topping the list. It also means a greater willingness than in the past to join coalitions with non-jihadi groups. In some ways, the two strands of jihadism are complementary. The larger organizations can fund the religious outreach that attracts potential recruits for the small groups. They can also provide the translators and distributors for material downloaded from extremist websites in Arabic or English that buttress the small group approach. They can maintain plausible deniability for acts of violence while trying to rebuild their ranks, while at the same time providing the cover under which small groups emerge. The larger organizations have not abandoned jihad, only deferred it.” “Prevention strategies that go beyond law enforcement are critical, and the new National Anti-Terrorism Agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme, BNPT) has an important role to play in designing and testing them. All such strategies, however, must be based on well-grounded research and informed by serious study of what has and has not worked elsewhere.” ICG recommends:” To the National Anti-Terrorism Agency: 1. Start work immediately on designing prevention programs: a) Hire a small research team to comb through the trial dossiers of all extremists arrested to date, making a database of mosques, schools and other institutions that have repeatedly hosted lectures, meetings and study groups involving individuals subsequently arrested for terrorism. From these, identify five or six communities for pilot prevention projects. b) Hold a series of small brainstorming sessions, not with prominent religious leaders or politicians, but with Indonesian scholars working on radical movements and others who can generate ideas about possible programs. A series of focus group discussions in the target areas to assess awareness of the problem and how to address it would also be useful, as would talking to commercial marketing experts who have done market research in these communities to know what kinds of appeals work best. c) Compile a summary of prevention programs that have been tried in other countries; those involved in the brainstorming sessions should read it and discuss what might be adapted to an Indonesian setting and how. d) Compile examples of Indonesian communities that have rejected extremist preaching to understand how the protests developed and how decisions were made with a view toward encouraging similar stands in other areas. 2. Make videos of repentant teenagers (with identities disguised) who have been arrested for terrorism and who can talk on camera about the shame they have caused their families and where they went wrong. Interviews with family members, also with disguised identities, about problems caused by their children’s arrest would also be useful. These videos should be tested on teenage audiences before being screened more widely in the target areas. 3. Hold small, closed sessions with principals of state junior high and high schools in target areas to: a) understand what guidance is given to teachers who supervise religious extracurricular programs and how that guidance might be improved to ensure these programs do not encourage extremism or advocate violence; b) understand how these supervisors are chosen and how safeguards against extremism might be built into the selection process; c) ensure that principals who are concerned that some of these programs do encourage support for violent extremism have a range of options available, including changing the supervisor or shutting down the activity; and d) ensure that there are detailed records of any outside donors for extracurricular activities using school facilities. 4. Find ways to audit the funds collected by jihadi organizations for a variety of causes – disaster relief, alms for the poor, assistance to families of imprisoned mujahidin – and expose any irregularities or suspected abuse. 5. Ensure greater awareness of trends in jihadism and resulting changes in tactics and targets by: a) hiring an Arabic linguist with an interest in ideological developments; b) developing contacts with counterparts in the Middle East to understand new trends in jihadism that will likely find their way to Indonesia through translations; and c) identifying jihadi revisionist tracts that might be useful to disseminate in the Indonesian jihadi community. 6. Share the results of the research in Recommendation 1, above, with the large social organizations like Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama and provide funding for well-designed proposals that their respective youth and student groups could undertake with their members, aimed at preventing advocacy of violence in areas that have a history of extremist activity. To the Ministry of Law and Human Rights: 7. Consider drafting a new regulation on conditional release that would ban anyone convicted of terrorism from speaking, hosting or being a resource person for religious study sessions (pengajian or taklim) at least for the duration of his or her probation. 8. Strengthen programs currently underway to improve training of prison personnel; monitoring and supervision of high-risk detainees; and post-release programs. 9. Give high priority to programs to reduce the unacceptable level of prison corruption, including through better inspections, better training, better auditing and merit-based rather than money-based appointments to internal prison positions.”

 

ICG, “Timor-Leste: Reconciliation and Return from Indonesia,” Asia Briefing N°122, April 18, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/asia/south-east-asia/timor-leste.aspx, comments, The unresolved status of thousands of former refugees who fled across the border following a 1999 vote for independence remains a challenge to Timor-Leste’s long-term stability. Many were never well integrated into host communities and are being drawn back across the border in small but increasing numbers by relative economic and political stability in the new state. These returns should be encouraged by both countries as a good opportunity to promote reconciliation between the two communities divided by the border. Doing so will expose the costs of impunity for the violence that surrounded the 1999 referendum and highlight the failure to implement practical recommendations from its two truth commissions, the CAVR and the Commission on Truth and Friendship. Timor-Leste’s leadership may yet decide that some form of amnesty is the best way forward, but the country cannot afford to further delay broad discussion on solutions. A quarter of a million people fled the province of East Timor after the 1999 referendum, many forcibly displaced by Indonesian security forces and militia. Some of the thousands remaining in West Timor are there for economic reasons; many others because of pressure from family members and community leaders. This latter group are still poorly integrated into their host communities, refuse to leave old refugee camps, and are frustrated by the end of official assistance. Political stability in Timor-Leste and the promise of access to land are making the prospect of return more attractive. But misinformation, an unclear legal basis for leaving Indonesia, and fear that their access to property and basic political rights will not be upheld are holding them back. A small minority of several hundred former militia and former pro-integration leaders have politicized the question of return. They seek assurances that they will not be prosecuted for standing charges of crimes against humanity and want recognition as “political victims” of Indonesia’s withdrawal. The former militia no longer pose any security threat to Timor-Leste as they are unarmed and privately acknowledge independence as an irreversible truth. But the prospect of their return could be politically explosive for the country, particularly in the absence of prosecutions. Even though the Timorese political leadership has consistently underscored that the “door is always open” and police and community leaders acknowledge the need to ensure the security of returnees, there are signs that it will be difficult to uphold the basic rights of former integration supporters. Working with Indonesia to set up a formal process would be the best way to de-politicize the nature of return and lessen what political leverage the former militia and pro-autonomy leaders still hold. It would support longer-term reconciliation efforts even as implementation of the practical recommendations from Timor-Leste’s two truth commissions have stalled. It will need to be accompanied by renewed efforts at community-level reconciliation and vigorous monitoring of returns, to ensure those involved in low-level violence or those whose absence may have engendered suspicion are able to reintegrate. It will also require a clear policy on how to handle prosecutions as well as incomplete investigations. The Timorese government does not bear sole responsibility for the current impasse over justice and reconciliation. Indonesia has consistently blocked efforts to bring to justice its military figures and ex-Timorese militia living there by refusing to cooperate with Timorese courts. The UN failed to help ensure justice while it still had influence. It is Timor-Leste that bears the costs. With parliament, the government must work to develop policy on how to move forward with the standing indictments. An international tribunal remains a non-starter and weak domestic courts are the only possible venue for any future prosecutions. Any renewed efforts to push through an amnesty could move quite quickly; one option being discussed by the leading political parties is a “selective amnesty”. If not based on clear legal criteria, this could prove the worst option on the table as it would not only close off the possibility of justice for many crimes but also further politicize the process. There remains a risk that a decision not to prosecute could lead to violent retribution against suspects. More certain is that it will further complicate efforts to build the rule of law and guarantee rights for all. Political consensus on justice and reconciliation has been elusive but is urgently needed. The parliament and government of Timor-Leste should take the following steps: clarify with the Indonesian government through a memorandum of understanding the formal procedures for voluntary returns by those born in East Timor; develop an official policy supporting voluntary returns, including limited assistance to returnees, through food assistance and mediation support during a provisional period as well as strengthened welfare monitoring and elaborating their rights upon return; debate in parliament the CAVR report and draft laws on reparations for victims and the creation of a planned successor institution to the CAVR, whose mandate should include supporting community reconciliation processes;  renew efforts to implement with Indonesia the recommendations of the Commission for Truth and Friendship; and publicly commit to the prosecution of existing indictments in the domestic courts.”

 

Uzbekistan’s government, in mid-March, forced Human Rights Watch to shut down its office in the Central Asian country, which has become known both for human rights abuses and a strategic role as a key transportation link for NATO forces in Afghanistan. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in the statement that, with the action, “the Uzbek government sends a clear message that it isn’t willing to tolerate critical scrutiny of its human rights record.” He added: “But let me be clear, too: we aren’t going to be silenced by this” (Sophia Kishovsky, “Rights Watch Group Forced to Shut Its Uzbek Office,” The New York Times, March 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/asia/16iht-uzbek16.html?ref=world).

In Kazakhstan, President Nursultan A. Nazarbayev seems certain to be reelected, as his harsh regime has strongly repressed all opposition and weakened all institutions that might become sources of independent power in the oil rich nation. One problem Nazarbayev, now 70, has created is that his dominance has not given any hint of a successor, which while it might give some hope to eventually bringing about more open regime, it also poses the threat of violent conflict in a possible political vacuum that could arise after the Presidents death (Ellen Barry, “Strongman and Stability Guide Kazakhs in Vote,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011, ttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/asia/02kazakhstan.html?ref=todayspaper).

Opposition leaders in Azerbaijan vowed, April 4, to build up a nascent protest campaign against the authoritarian government of the former Soviet republic, in spite of a recent police crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators. Inspired by protests washing across the Middle East, government opponents in oil-rich, mostly Muslim, Azerbaijan, have taken internet social networking sites to organize a series of demonstrations against the government of President Ilham Aliyev. In mid-March, police arrested 50 peaceful protesters in the capital of Baku, on the second day of demonstrations (Michael Schwirtz, “Opposition in Azerbaijan Vows to Step Up Protests,” The New York Times, April 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/asia/05azerbaijan.html?ref=todayspaper; Ellen Barry, Police in Azerbaijan Arrest Antigovernment Protesters,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011).

In Armenia, in mid-March, 10,000 demonstrators demanded new elections and the release of jailed codemonstrators, in the capital of Yerevan, began in February on the third anniversary of the violent suppression of protest of the disputed 2008 election (“Armenia: 10,000 Protesters Demand New Election,” The New York Times, March 18, 2011).

A loosening of restrictions on minorities has opened Turkish politics to people of many ethnic groups who were previously barred from participating. New participants include a Syriac Christian running for Parliament in the June 12, general election. In addition, Kurdish candidates are now free to campaign in Kurdish, a law explicitly permitting this having been passed by Parliament 1n 2010, as part of the government’s so-called Kurdish opening, a set of reforms that also includes a Kurdish channel on the state-run broadcaster TRT  (Susan Gusten, “Big Changes Open Politics to Turkish Minorities,” The New York Times, April 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/world/europe/07iht-m07-election.html?ref=world).

Thousands of people marched in central Istanbul, in mid-March, to protest a government crackdown on the press in Turkey, after the arrest of more than a dozen journalists that month. Opponents of the crackdown say that the arrests are an effort by pro-government officials in the judiciary and the security forces to silence critics of the governing Justice and Development Party (Sebnem Arsu, “In Turkey, Thousands Protest a Crackdown on Press Freedom,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/asia/14turkey.html?ref=world).

European Developments

 

ICG, “North Kosovo: Dual Sovereignty in Practice,” Europe Report N°211, March 14, 2011, Reports, The dispute between Kosovo and Serbia is most acute in Kosovo’s northern municipalities. The North has not been under effective control from Pristina for two decades; its sparse and predominantly rural Serb population uniformly rejects integration into Kosovo. Though small and largely peaceful, it is the main obstacle to reconciliation and both countries’ European Union (EU) aspirations. A Kosovo-Serbia dialogue mediated by the EU began on 8-9 March 2011 and is likely over the coming months to look at some of the consequences of the dispute for regional cooperation, communications, freedom of movement and the rule of law. For now, however, Belgrade, Pristina and Brussels have decided that tackling the North’s governance or status is too difficult before more efforts are made to secure cooperation on improving the region’s socio-economic development, security and public order. For some time, the North will remain in effect under dual sovereignty: Kosovo’s and Serbia’s. Kosovo seeks to rid the region of Serbian institutions, integrate it and gain control of the border with Serbia. It is willing to provide substantial self rule and additional competencies as suggested under the Ahtisaari plan, developed in 2007 by the then UN Special Envoy to regulate Kosovo’s supervised independence. But local Serbs see the North as their last stand and Mitrovica town as their centre of intellectual and urban life. Belgrade will continue to use its influence in the North to reach its primary goal, regaining the region as a limited victory to compensate for losing the rest of its former province. Serbia and Kosovo institutions intersect and overlap in the North without formal boundaries or rules. The majority Serb and minority Albanian communities there live within separate social, political and security structures. They have developed pragmatic ways of navigating between these parallel systems where cooperation is unavoidable. Yet, in a few areas – notably criminal justice – cooperation is non-existent, and the only barrier to crime is community pressure. Northern Serbs across the political spectrum overwhelmingly cleave to Serbia. However, Belgrade and the Northern political elites belong to different parties and are bitter rivals. Apart from the technical work of managing the North, they share only one common interest: keeping Pristina out and blocking any international initiative that could strengthen common Kosovo institutions, notably police and courts. Two other groups, former local leaders who retain strong influence behind the scenes and an organized crime underworld focused on smuggling, share this one overriding goal. Belgrade prosecutes criminals and rivals selectively, allowing others room to operate; their presence in the North provides plausible deniability for many of its actions. Observers in Pristina and friendly capitals see Serbia’s massive payments to the North as a major obstacle to the region’s integration into Kosovo. As long as Serbian money sustains their way of life, Northerners have little incentive to compromise. Yet, Kosovo’s own constitution expressly permits Serbian funding for education, medical care and municipal services, provided it is coordinated with Pristina, which currently it is not. Only the small amounts that support Serbian police and court systems directly undermine Kosovo’s integrity. Virtually all Northern Serbs reject integration into Kosovo and believe their institutions and services are far better than what is offered south of the Ibar River, especially in education and health care. Recent scandals in Pristina, such as alleged massive corruption in the governing PDK party and a December 2010 Council of Europe report claiming implication of top Kosovo officials in organ trafficking, reinforce this view. Serbs distrust Pristina, believing that rights and protection promised now would be quickly subverted after integration. They are willing to cooperate with Pristina individually but not to accept its sovereignty. The North is subject to none of the pressures that brought a measure of integration to Kosovo’s southern Serb enclaves, and its views show no sign of softening. Like Kosovo as a whole, the North suffers from a reputation for anarchy and domination by gangsters and corrupt politicians. And as in the rest of Kosovo, the reputation is largely false. Crime rates are similar and within the European mainstream; urban Mitrovica has more than its share of offences, the rural municipalities much less. Neighboring Albanian-populated districts fall between these two Serb-held areas in rates for violent and property crimes. The real problems are contraband and intimidation directed at political and business rivals and anyone associated with Pristina. Well-established Albanian-Serb networks, nevertheless, smuggle goods, free of duty and tax – especially diesel fuel – from Serbia via the North to southern Kosovo. The trade supports a criminal elite that, while small in the regional context, is still large enough to dominate Northern Kosovo. Curtailing this smuggling would benefit all and is achievable with the tacit support of Belgrade and most Northern Serbs. Some goods remain in the North, however, and residents feel no sympathy for policies that would enforce their separation from Serbia. Nowhere is the North’s dual sovereignty as problematic as in law enforcement. Rival Kosovo and Serbian systems each have only partial access to the witnesses and official and community support they need. The Kosovo police lack the community’s trust and have a poor reputation. Serbia’s police are barred by a UN Security Council resolution and operate covertly. Serbian court judgments and orders are enforceable only in Serbia itself and are limited in practice to civil matters and economic crimes. Kosovo’s Mitrovica district court technically has jurisdiction north and south of the Ibar but is paralyzed and can hear only a handful of cases, judged by internationals from EULEX, the EU’s rule of law mission. The insistence of Kosovo and international community representatives that the Mitrovica court can only fully function after Serbs accept its authority in the North adversely affects Kosovo Albanians in the south and undermines the sense that rule of law is the priority. The North suffers from a near-total absence of productive employment and depends on state subsidies for its survival; rule of law is weak. These problems are real but insignificant compared to the North’s effect on Kosovo and Serbia. Neither can join the EU while the North’s status is in dispute. Addressing local problems by improving on pragmatic solutions already in place and finding a framework for criminal justice acceptable to the local population would likely perpetuate its uncertain status, by keeping it distinct from the rest of Kosovo. Belgrade and Pristina should use the EU-facilitated talks to consider autonomy for the North in exchange for Serbia’s recognition of Kosovo statehood, as Crisis Group recommended in August 2010. If the political will for this comprehensive compromise is lacking, the parties should not allow the dispute to block progress in other areas. They should instead seek flexible, interim solutions to improve law enforcement, customs collection, and allocation of financial aid in the North.

A bomb exploded in a subway station, killing at least 11 people, next to the office of Belarus’ authoritarian president, in mid April (Cliford Levy and Michael Schwirtz, “Deadly Blast At Station In Capital of Belarus,” The New York Times, April 12, 2011).

Spain’s Supreme Court denied legal status, in late March, to a new political party, Sortu, created as a successor to Batasuna, the banned political wing of an armed Basque separatist group. Sortu had been prepared to field candidates in local elections across most regions on May 22. The Basque separatist group, ETA, declared a permanent cease-fire in January, which the Spanish national rejected, insisting that ETA must disarm permanently and disband for a political arm to be taken seriously. In its struggle for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southwest France, ETA has been responsible for the deaths of more than 850 people over the past 50 years. It has been severely weakened by the arrests of its senior members, including four, two of them military leaders, on March 10, raising the number of members arrested since the beginning of the year to more than 30. The government says that ETA will never return to its former status, but that a peace process will take time. ETA was founded under the repressive Franco dictatorship, when Basque and other regional languages were banned. The group waged a campaign of bombings and shootings, and it is now the only armed guerrilla group still operating in Europe (“Spain Party Is Denied Legal Status,” The New York Times, March 23, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/europe/24spain.html?ref=world).

Protestant and Catholic leaders in Northern Ireland’s unity government celebrated their first full four-year term in power, in late March, and lauded Ian Paisley on his effective retirement day. Paisley, 84, who spent decades rallying pro-British Protestants against compromise, stunned the world in 2007 by agreeing to forge a coalition alongside senior Irish Republican Army veterans. The Northern Ireland Assembly, which elects the administration, is being dissolved on Thursday in preparation for a May 5 election in the British territory (“Northern Ireland: Assembly Ends Term,” The New York Times, March 23, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/europe/24briefs-Belfast.html?ref=world).

ICG, “Cyprus: Six Steps toward a Settlement,” Europe Briefing N°61, February 22, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/europe/turkey-cyprus/cyprus/B61-cyprus-six-steps-toward-a-settlement.aspx, proposed, “With the Cyprus reunification negotiations under way since 2008 at an impasse, dramatic steps are needed. As the stalemate continues, the costs for Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Turkey and the European Union (EU) are growing. Neither Greek Cypriots nor Turkish Cypriots can fulfill their potential on an island whose future is divided, uncertain, militarized and facing new economic difficulties. Turkey’s EU candidacy and EU-NATO cooperation, are at risk. Specifically, in order to unblock the situations on the island and in Brussels, the sides should take confidence-building steps in 2011 – unilaterally if necessary – to build trust and satisfy their counterparts’ main demands without prejudicing the outcome of a comprehensive settlement. Interim measures are necessary now, because the UN-facilitated talks look set for another non-productive year. No one wants to incur the stigma of breaking off the talks, so they are likely to stumble on, but a 26 January meeting between Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the leaders of the two communities failed to signal any new convergence. Ban was asked by the Security Council to submit an update on the process by the end of February, following an already critical November 2010 appraisal. Progress on a comprehensive deal is likely to be held up by Greek Cypriot parliamentary elections in May and Turkish general elections in June. Cyprus talks, ongoing for decades, typically recess during the summer. Time is making it ever harder to reunify the island, divided politically since Greek Cypriots seized control of the Republic of Cyprus in 1963 and militarily since a Turkish invasion in 1974 created a Turkish Cypriot zone on its northern third. After nearly four decades, the sides remain far apart even on the meaning of the talks’ agreed goal, a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. While there has long been peace, and relative freedom to interact since 2003, trade and visits between the two communities across the Green Line are decreasing. Lack of a settlement damages everyone’s interests and keeps frustrations high. More than 200,000 Cypriots are still internally displaced persons (IDPs), and Turkish troops remain in overwhelming force. Few outside the military command in Ankara know if there are 21,000 soldiers, as Turkey says, or 43,000, as Greek Cypriots claim – a dispute that is one indication among many of the distrust and lack of information. The Turkish Cypriots are cut off from the EU, without the means to trade or travel there directly, though they are EU citizens. The Greek Cypriots have used their membership since 2004 to help bring the EU-Turkey relationship to a standstill, blocking half of the chapters in Turkey’s accession negotiations. Crisis Group has detailed in four reports since 2006 how the interests of the 1.1 million Cypriots and outside parties would be best met with a comprehensive political settlement. This remains the ideal, but as it is unrealistic in the coming months, the sides should move ahead with unilateral steps such as the following, each of which could build confidence and help establish an environment more conducive to an overall agreement: Turkey should open its ports and airports to Greek Cypriot sea and air traffic, meeting its signed 2005 obligation to implement the Additional Protocol to its EU Customs Union, and also permit Greek Cypriot aircraft to transit its airspace. Greek Cypriots should allow the port of Famagusta to handle Cypriot (including Turkish Cypriot) trade with the EU, under Turkish Cypriot management and EU supervision; end their practice of blocking Turkey’s EU negotiating chapters; and, in the event of trade beginning with Turkey after it implements the Additional Protocol, open up the Green Line to the passage of Turkish goods so that Turkish Cypriots can also benefit. Turkey and the Turkish Cypriots should hand back property in the Turkish-military controlled ghost resort of Varosha to its Greek Cypriot owners, subject to a UN interim regime that oversees reconstruction. Greek Cypriots should allow charter flights to Ercan Airport in the Turkish Cypriot zone, monitored by the EU. Turkey, Greece, the UK and the two Cypriot communities should put in place a mechanism to verify troop numbers on the island. Similarly, the Turkish Cypriot leadership should organize with Greek Cypriots a census to determine the exact population of the island and the legal status of its inhabitants. Greek Cypriots should cooperate with Turkish Cypriot administrative entities, pending a political settlement. Turkish officials should meet with Greek Cypriot officials, and Turkish Cypriots should be supportive. The European Commission, supported by the EU Presidency, should continue to serve as an honest broker to secure agreement on interim steps. Leaders of EU member states should avoid partisan statements at a time when UN talks continue and no one party is being clearly obstructive. These steps are in the interest of all and should be taken unilaterally by the party with the power to do so, not reserved for or made dependent upon negotiated agreements and reciprocity. Some are familiar but have failed because they were bundled into top-heavy negotiated packages, with each side conditioning its one step on two by its counterpart. Package deals in the Cyprus context have little chance. As recently as the last quarter of 2010, the European Commission and the Belgian EU Presidency tried to facilitate agreement between the Republic of Cyprus and Turkey on a phased opening of sea and airports. This effort should continue under the Hungarian Presidency. It is unilateral gestures that have worked in the past, like the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot decision in 2003 to open part of the front lines so Cypriots could cross freely, and the Greek Cypriot decisions since 2004 to offer individual Turkish Cypriots living in the north some citizenship rights, including free health care in 2003 and EU passports since 2004. The steps proposed would address known needs of the two communities and, far from undermining any party’s goals, clear the way for successful negotiations. They would not prejudice the ultimate outcome of talks, or the vexed issue of status, but would help build trust whose absence is a principal reason for three and a half decades of stalemate. In some cases they would fulfill pledges, like Turkey’s obligation to open sea and airports to Greek Cypriot traffic, the EU’s promise of direct trade for Turkish Cypriots and Turkey’s past agreement to return Varosha properties before a settlement. If the status quo continues, Greek Cypriots will find that their rejection of the EU-backed UN peace plan in 2004 has led to deepening partition; Turkish Cypriots that their choice of a hard line nationalist as president in April 2010 makes their territory little more than a backwater of Turkey; Ankara that its failure to come to terms with the Greek Cypriots will freeze its EU accession, hurting its reform agenda, prosperity and regional attractiveness; and Greece that it is condemned to high defense budgets and indefinite tensions with Turkey over Aegean Sea demarcation. Finally, the EU will find its soft power diminished by lack of a healthy relationship with its most significant Muslim partner and that Cyprus will remain an awkward symbol of inability to solve the political and military division even of a member state.

African Developments

 

What began as a peaceful protest demanding that President Muammar Al-Qadhafi step down as head of state in Libya, accompanied by democratizing reforms and an improved economy, as it spread across Libya, was turned into an armed rebellion, after Qadhafi attempted to put it down by force. Because Qadhafi kept power on a divide and conquer basis, playing off the Libyan tribes against each other in all institutions including the armed forces, when the armed struggle began, many members of the army joined the insurgency. The rebels, over all, however did not have the weaponry, the training or the unity that the President’s forces had, which – given that he maintained great wealth, despite international efforts to block his overseas resources – were significantly bolstered by mercenaries. With the rebels strong in the east, they took over that area quickly, and moved west, taking main towns, while Qadhafi’s forces violently suppressed nonviolent demonstrations in the capitol of Tripoli. Shortly, however, Qadhafi’s forces began a counter attack, supported by tanks, artillery and some aircraft, retaking town after town (except one in the West, while in the mountains southwest of Tripoli, a few hundred Berber rebels took a border post), until they threaten the insurgent capitol of Benghazi, where Qadhafi said he would wipe out his opponents and noncombatants who supported them. For some days, in the face of a possible bloodbath, international actors struggled to negotiate an intervention. At the beginning of March, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said he was investigating alleged crimes against humanity committed in Libya, including by President Muammar Al-Qadhafi and members of his inner circle, following a request from the United Nations Security Council to probe the violent crackdown on protesters.  On March 16, as Qadhafi’s forces overcame the last rebel held city west of their capital in Benghazi, the G8 ministers failed to reach agreement on establishing a “no-fly” zone, agreeing only to increasing undefined pressures on Qadhafi, passing on the question of any military action to the UN. After the Arab League voted that it wished a no-fly zone to be established to block Qadhafi’s air attack, the United Nations Security Council voted, March 17, to authorize military action, including airstrikes against Libyan tanks and heavy artillery and a no-fly zone, recommending that member states “take all necessary measures…to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack,” implementing the UN’s “responsibility to protect”. While the United States, which had pushed for joint international military action in Libya, did not wish to lead the action against Qadhafi, the U.S. was the only nation with enough of the appropriate weaponry and logistics to be very effective, so it took the actual initial lead in the aircraft and missile attacks (later supported by special force reconnaissance on the ground, and then attacks by drone aircraft), though after difficult negotiations NATO eventually took over command of anti-Qadhafi operations, led by France (who recently has asserted a more active role in international military operations) and England. NATO operations initially reversed the situation on the ground, with the rebel forces returning to the offensive and retaking a number of cities. However, Qadhafi’s forces soon adapted to the new conditions, bringing a virtual stalemate, as his still superior forces see-sawed for control of several cities, while NATO sought additional ways of supporting the insurgents, short of putting combat troops in Libya. This included sending some advisors and trainers, but, as of late April, there was on going debate about the wisdom of providing arms for the insurgents, who did seem to acquire some new weaponry. Meanwhile, diplomatic efforts to have Qadhafi leave have been continuing. At the International Conference on Libya in London, in March, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States has been proud to stand with its NATO, Arab and European partners in protecting Libya’s people. A senior U.S. diplomat identified three main goals in Libya, delivering humanitarian assistance, pressuring and isolating Moammar Qadhafi’s regime, and supporting Libyans’ efforts for political change. Germany and China had been calling for renewed effort toward a political, nonviolent solution in Libya. A delegation from the African Union was trying to negotiate a cease-fire in Libya, in mid-April, meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi and members of the rebel Transitional National Council. However, The African Union and Turkey, which is also pushing a diplomatic solution to end the conflict, are widely viewed with suspicion in eastern Libya as being too close to Colonel Qadhafi and the oil wealth his government represents. It was reported that with the international military action, a much larger amount of humanitarian aid has reached civilians in Libya (“International Criminal Court, investigates Libya violence in response to UN request,” GlobalSecutity.net, March 3, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2011/03/mil-110303-unnews03.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e134%2exk0ao00c4l%2e4cf; Berbers Face Long Odds In Fight Against Quaddafi,” The New York Times, April 25, 2011; “Steven Eranger, “G-8 Ministers Fail to Agree on Libya No-Flight Zone,” The New York Times, March 15, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/africa/16g8.html?ref=world); Ethan Bronner and David E. Sanger, “No-flight Zone In Libya Backed By Arab League,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011; Mark Bilefsky and Mark Landler, “As U.N. Backs Military Action in Libya, U.S. Role Is Unclear,” March 17, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/world/africa/18nations.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; Steven Erlanger and David D. Kirkpatrick, “Allies in Libya Airspace to Stop Assaults,” March 19, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/world/africa/20libya.html?_r=1&hp1; Mark Landler and Steven Erlanger, “Obama Seeks to Unify Allies as More Airstrikes Rock Tripoli,” The New York Times, March 22, 2011, ttp://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/world/africa/23libya.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper; “Steven Lee Myers and David D. Kirkpatrick, “Allies Are Split on Goal and Exit Strategy in Libya, The New York Times, March 24, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/world/africa/25policy.html?ref=todayspaper; Karen Parrish, “Clinton Urges Aid to Libya, Pressure on Gadhafi,” GlobalSecurity.org,  March 29, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2011/03/mil-110329-afps01.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e157%2exk0ao00c4l%2e539; “Libya: Barack Obama ‘Signed Secret Order Allowing Covert Operations’,” the Telegraph/UK, March 30, 2011, http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/03/30-4 1; Karen Laub and Maggie Michael, “U.S. Predator strike hurts Khadafy efforts in Misrata,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 24, 2011;  “Fighting Continues In Libya As Qaddafi ‘Exit’ Talks Reported,” Global Security.org, April 1, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/libya/2011/libya-110401-rferl01.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e160%2exk0ao00c4l%2e571; Kareem Fahim, “Rebel Leadership in Libya Shows Strain,” The New York Times, April 3, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/04/world/africa/04rebels.html?ref=todayspape; Elizabeth Arrott, “AU Leaders Call for Libya Ceasefire,” GlobalSecurty,org, April 10, 2011, http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/library/news/libya/2011/libya-110410-voa01.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e167%2exk0ao00c4l%2e5f2; and John Feffer, “Endgame for Gaddafi?” World Beat, March 22, 2011, http://www.fpif.org/articles/endgame_for_gaddafi).

Libyan forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, at the end of April, trying to reclaim a border crossing, in the western Wazin mountain region seized by Berber rebels the preceding week, crossed into Tunisia, clashing with Tunisian troops who pushed them back across the border. The fighting at the border post has cut the large flow of refugees crossing into Tunisia (“Libyan Forces Clash with Tunisian Soldiers,” VOA News, April 29, 2011, posted on GlobalSecurity.org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2011/04/mil-110429-voa02.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e184%2exk0ao00c4l%2e5yw; and “Fighting near Libyan-Tunisian border leaves refugees at risk – UN,” UN News Service,” April 29, 2011, posted on GlobalSecurity.org, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2011/04/mil-110429-unnews02.htm?_m=3n%2e002a%2e184%2exk0ao00c4l%2e5yr).

Many ask what will follow Gaddafi in Libya?  Anthony Shadid, “Free of Qaddafi, a City Tries to Build a New Order,” The New York Times, March 6, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/world/africa/07rebels.html?ref=world, reported indications, in early March, from one city, that at least temporarily became free. “The signs in Bayda still read the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab State of the Masses. It was never much of a state, nor did the people have much say. Now two weeks after its liberation, residents of this highland town have the task of making it so, a challenge that may prove pivotal to the course of Libya’s revolt.” “Bayda, an eastern city that was one of the first to embrace the anti-Qaddafi revolution, has now also embraced the work of what might follow: building a state on a landscape riven by divisions of tribe, piety and class in a country whose leader spent four decades in power dismantling anything that might contest his rule. The new police chief has less than a third of his officers and worries that vigilantes might not surrender their weapons. He has no prison. Hundreds have volunteered for work, but on Sunday, many sat under a tent watching the news channel Al Jazeera. With revolutionary fervor, and a resurgence of pride in running their own lives, residents have set up a slew of committees to impose order, distribute charity and run schools, but even its own members admit they have more enthusiasm than experience. That it has gone as well as it has is a testament to the strength of the society in a place like Bayda, where Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi conquered but could not divide. ‘Our task isn’t easy,” said Mahmoud Bousalloum, a graduate student and one of the committees’ organizers. “We don’t have parties, we don’t have a constitution, we don’t have political organizations, we don’t have an effective civil society. We have to create a completely new state and we have to do it in the middle of a war and revolution.’”  Bayda, with its 250,000 residents “was one of the first cities to fall after two youths were killed in a clash on Feb. 16, and the graffiti of the moment still washes over walls and government buildings. The slogans borrow from the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, but are more personal. There is no call for the overthrow of the government; only Colonel Qaddafi is mentioned, as lackey, tyrant and the man with really bad hair. The graffiti also hints at the anxiety in a city where tribal elders still hold sway and religious currents have cultivated a following. ‘No to destruction and violence, no to corruption and tribalism,’ reads one. ‘There’s no difference between East and West, we’re all Libyan,’ intones another.”

ICG, “Popular Protests in North Africa and the Middle East (IV): Tunisia’s Way,” Middle East/North Africa Report N°106, April 28, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/middle-east-north-africa/north-africa/tunisia/106-popular-protests-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east-iv-tunisias-way.aspx, pointed out, “Tunisia is where it all began. It also is, by virtually every measure, where the promise of a successful democratic transition is greatest. The reasons are many, but the most significant lies in the country’s history of political activism and social mobilization involving a wide array of forces that decades of regime repression never fully stifled. This tradition served the nation well during the uprising, as workers, the unemployed, lawyers and members of the middle class coalesced in a broad movement. It will have to serve the nation well today as it confronts critical challenges: balancing the urge for radical political change against the need for stability; finding a way to integrate Islamism into the new landscape; and tackling the deep socio-economic problems that sparked the political revolution but which the political revolution in itself cannot address. In hindsight, Tunisia possessed all required ingredients for an uprising. Talk of an economic miracle notwithstanding, vast expanses of the country had been systematically neglected by the regime. The unemployment rate was rising sharply, notably among the young and well-educated. The distress triggered by such social, generational and geographic disparities was epitomized by the self-immolation, on 17 December 2010, of a young, unemployed, university graduate from a small town. His suicide quickly came to embody far wider grievances. In the wake of his death, young demonstrators took to the streets in the south and centre of the country, demanding jobs, social opportunities and better educational and health services. The uprising spread both geographically and politically. Trade unions played an important part. Initially hesitant, the Union générale tunisienne du travail (UGTT) assumed a leadership role. Pressed by its more militant local branches and fearful of losing its constituency’s support, it mobilised ever greater numbers in more and more cities, including Tunis. Satellite television channels and social networking – from Facebook to Twitter – helped spread the movement to young members of the middle class and elite. At the same time, violence against protesters contributed to a blending of social and political demands. The regime projected the image of indiscriminate police repression and so demonstrators saw it as such. Nothing did more to turn the population in favor of the uprising than the way President Zine el-Abedine Ben Ali chose to deal with it. Meanwhile, the regime’s bases of support shriveled in dramatic fashion. In his hour of greatest need, Ben Ali was basically alone. Over time, what had been virtually a one-party state come to resemble the First Family’s private preserve. Economic resources once shared among the elite increasingly were monopolized by the president and his wife, Leyla Trabelsi, while the private sector paid a hefty price. The ruling party, the Rassemblement constitutionnel démocratique (RCD), no longer served as a source of patronage; tellingly, it was unable to organize a single pro-regime demonstration despite repeated calls by the president’s entourage. The president likewise kept the army both under-resourced and at arms’ length; what loyalty it displayed was to the state, not the regime. Even other security services were distrusted by Ben Ali, with the exception of the presidential guard, whose privileged treatment only fostered greater resentment. The uprising was fuelled by these contrasting dynamics, which stimulated increased support for the revolution amid increased defections from the regime. All in all, the country experienced mounting popular resentment, the mobilization of young citizens using modern means of communication, growing involvement of political parties and trade unions and a weakened power structure that had alienated traditional regime backers. At every stage, the authorities’ response – from the use of lethal violence to Ben Ali’s delayed and disconnected reaction – helped transform a largely spontaneous and localized popular movement into a determined national revolution. Ben Ali hastily fled on 14 January, but the game was far from over. The country faced three fundamental challenges; it has made headway on one, taken initial steps on the second and has yet to address the third. The first task was to devise transitional institutions to address competing concerns: fear of a return to the past versus fear of chaos. The path was rocky. The new government’s first incarnation seemed to many a carbon copy of the old, including RCD remnants from the last cabinet. The opposition responded by establishing a council that claimed to embody revolutionary legitimacy. After an institutional tug-of-war and several false starts, however, a broadly acceptable balance appears to have been found. Controversial ministers resigned, and the commission overseeing transition was expanded to include a political and social cross-section. Elections for a constituent assembly – a key demand – are scheduled for July. Tunisia’s experience carries important lessons. Ben Ali’s immediate successors did themselves much harm by failing to consult broadly or communicate clearly. By displaying flexibility and willingness to shift course in response to public demands, those who followed them avoided a major political crisis. A second challenge is to integrate Islamists into the revamped political system. Tunisia starts with a not inconsiderable advantage. An-Nahda – its principal Islamist movement – stands out among many of its Arab counterparts by virtue of its pragmatism, efforts to reach out to other political forces and sophisticated intellectual outlook. Some secular parties, too, have sought, over the years, to build bridges with it. An-Nahda took a back seat during the uprising and subsequently has sought to reassure. But mutual mistrust lingers. Women’s groups in particular doubt its sincerity and fear an erosion of gender rights. The Islamists recall the 1990s when the Ben Ali regime systematically suppressed them. The most difficult task is also the most pressing: to attend to deep socio-economic grievances. For the many ordinary citizens who took to the streets, material despair was a key motivation. They wanted freedom and a voice and have reason to rejoice at democratic progress, but the political victory has done little to change the conditions that triggered their revolt. To the contrary: the revolution inevitably spoiled the tourism season; regional instability pushed oil prices upwards; uncertainty harmed foreign investment; and, more recently, the conflict in Libya provoked a refugee crisis that has hit Tunisia hard. A difficult economic situation has been made worse. In the absence of strong domestic steps and generous international assistance, there is every reason to expect renewed social unrest coupled with an acute sense of regional imbalance, as resentment of the underprivileged south and centre grows. Tunisia nevertheless for now is cause for celebration, not alarm. The transition is not being led by a strong army any more than by a handful of politicians. Rather, a heterogeneous blend of institutions, political forces, trade unions and associations is finding its way by trial and error, negotiations and compromise. For the region and the world, that is ample reason to pay attention and help.” ICG recommends: ”To the Tunisian government, the Supreme Commission for the Realization of the Revolution’s Objectives and government-appointed commissions: 1. Present the work of the government, the Supreme Commission and all other commissions publicly and regularly. 2. Work with social partners on the issues of jobs, protection for the more disadvantaged and reintegration of unemployed university graduates. 3. Strengthen the regional development ministry’s mandate, in particular by establishing an emergency plan for underprivileged regions. 4. Focus on the social reintegration of former political prisoners, notably by providing assistance in finding jobs, technical training and family compensation. 5. Continue to reform the security services, in particular by: a) establishing a broad commission – including representatives from civil society, human rights organizations and the interior and justice ministries – responsible for reforming and centralizing these services; b) making the organizational structures of the security forces and police public on the basis of information collected by the interior ministry and human rights organizations; and c) establishing a program to train security forces with the help of international partners. To the Tunisian government, the Supreme Commission for the Realization of the Revolution’s Objectives, political parties, trade unions and associations: 6. Organize a national conference on women’s rights, bringing together the full range of political and civil society movements, including Islamists, with the aim of drafting a national plan to promote women’s integration and defend their rights in the labor market and political arena. To Tunisia’s political parties: 7. Ensure, with an eye to constituent assembly elections, proper inclusion on electoral lists of the young, women, regional representatives and members of civil society and human rights organizations. To the international financial institutions, including the African Development Bank, and the member states of the United Nations, including in particular the members of the Arab League and the European Union, the U.S. and Switzerland: 8. Reschedule Tunisia’s external debt and conduct an audit in coordination with the government and its social partners in order to distinguish genuine debt from illicit transactions tied to the former president and his family that broke the laws of both debtor and creditor nations. 9. Help the government deal with people crossing into Tunisia from Libya by giving them immediate humanitarian assistance, enabling non-Tunisians and non-Libyans to return to their original countries, facilitating the temporary integration of Libyan refugees in Tunisia and providing logistical border-control assistance to the Tunisian army. 10. Work with the Tunisian government to maintain the freeze on the assets of Ben Ali and his family and to facilitate their recovery by the government within a reasonable timeframe and consistent with relevant national laws. 11. Organize a conference in partnership with the Tunisian government, civil society representatives as well as associations and trade unions in order to coordinate international economic assistance.”

In early March, King Mohammad VI of Morocco, who is well respected in his nation, whose government has been fairly progressive on many issues, but who never the Less has been feeling the pressure of the North African-Near East Revolution, announced that he planned to create a panel that would recommend constitutional revisions to enhance independence of the courts, insure that the prime minister is selected by the majority party in Parliament, and expand women’s rights. The amendments are to go to the public to vote on. The New York Times every day carries in its print edition “A Roundup of Developments in North Africa and the Mideast.” This item was reported there March 10. At the end of April, a bomb, alleged to have been set off by al Qaeda, killed 16 people in a popular restaurant in Marrakech, and shattering Morocco’s image as a peaceful getaway spot (Moroccan Minister: Al Qaeda Suspect in Cafe Blast,” The New York Times, April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/04/29/world/middleeast/AP-ML-Morocco-Explosion.html?ref=world). On May 1, thousands of people, including trade union members, marched in Morocco’s cities demanding a faster transition toward democracy while opposing terrorism (Souad Mekhennet and Steven Erlanger, “Protesters in Morocco Seek Quicker Shift to Democracy and Denounce Terror,” The New York Times, May 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/02/world/africa/02morocco.html?ref=todayspaper).

The government of Algeria officially ended the 19 year old state of emergency, a long demanded action by opposition parties, but the Minister of the Interior said that protest marches were still illegal in the capital of Algiers,” The New York Times, February 25, 2011).

The long struggle to complete the election process in the Ivory Coast, intended to end civil war, finally ended in late April with the defeat and capture of former president Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to leave office after clearly loosing a fair election to Alassane Ouattara last November 28. Gbagbo’s attempt to repress his opponents brought about a deadly partial return to civil war, with violence continuing after the former president’s capture. Gbagbo’s ultimate defeat was finally accomplished after the eventual entry of UN and French Forces into the struggle. The 8000 U.N. peacekeeping troops in the country at the beginning of the conflict, helped prevent it from becoming extremely violent at its opening, and protected the President elect, but did not directly move against Gbagbo, until very late in the struggle, when his forces were falling back from his opponents. The African Union, and individually countries in the region, had insisted that Gbagbo leave office, at times threatening to use force to remove him, but did not attempt to exert it. Gbagbo’s repression and the fighting took several thousand lives, injured many more, caused immense property damage, and created at least 700,000 thousand refugees. As of April 22, efforts were in process to complete the restoration of order and peace (“U.N. Force in Ivory Coast to Be Reinforced-Official,” The New York Times, March 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2011/03/05/world/africa/international-us-ivorycoast.html?ref=world; “More Flee as Violence Worsens in Ivory Coast,” The New York Times, March 13, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/14/world/africa/14ivory.html?ref=world; Adam Nossiter, “Hundreds of Thousands Flee Ivory Coast Crisis, U.N. Says,” The New York Times,  March 25, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/26/world/africa/26ivory-coast.html?ref=todayspaper;  Adam Nossiter, “Opposition Forces in Ivory Coast Make Major Gains,” The New York Times,  March 30, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/world/africa/31ivory.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper;

Adam Nossiter, “Strikes by U.N. and France Corner Leader of Ivory Coast,” The New York Times, April 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/africa/05ivory.html?ref=todayspaper; and Adam Nossiter, “Former Leader of Ivory Coast Is Captured,” The New York Times, April 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/world/africa/12ivory.html?hp).

Earlier, ICG, “Côte d’Ivoire: Is War the Only Option?” Africa Report N°171, March 3 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/cote-divoire/171-cote-divoire-is-war-the-only-option.aspx, warned, “Côte d’Ivoire is on the verge of a new civil war between the army loyal to the defiant Laurent Gbagbo, who refuses to acknowledge he lost the November 2010 presidential election, and the “Forces nouvelles” (FN), the ex-insurgency now supporting the winner, Alassane Ouattara. The vote should have ended eight years of crisis, but Gbagbo, staged a constitutional coup and resorted to violence to keep power. The result is a serious threat to peace, security and stability in all West Africa. The African community should not be influenced by the support that Gbagbo enjoys from a part of the population that has been frightened by the ultra-nationalist propaganda and threats of chaos of a militant minority. It must act decisively, not least to defend the principle of democratic elections, but key countries show signs of dangerous disunity. Any proposal to endorse Gbagbo’s presidency, even temporarily, would be a mistake. His departure is needed to halt a return to war. The November election was intended as the culmination of a painstaking peace process that began after the September 2002 rebellion and was endorsed by many agreements, the latest being the Ouagadougou Political Agreement (OPA) of March 2007. Gbagbo, like all other candidates, took part in the election on the basis of a series of compromises reached on all aspects of organization and security. There is no doubt Ouattara won the run-off. The candidate of the Union of Houphouetists for Democracy and Peace (Rassemblement des Houphouétistes pour la démocratie et la paix, RHDP) had a greater than 350,000-vote margin over Gbagbo’s The Presidential Majority (La majorité présidentielle, LMP) in a credible election certified by the UN, as provided for in the agreement Gbagbo himself signed in 2005 and that several UN Security Council resolutions confirmed. In an attempt to reverse the result, however, the Constitutional Council – the country’s highest court but entirely controlled by the Gbagbo camp – claimed to have discovered widespread violence and fraud – largely imaginary – in seven departments of the northern and central regions where Gbagbo had received less than 10 per cent of the votes in the first round. It thus cancelled more than 660,000 second-round votes, enough to raise his total from 45.5% to 51.4%. To secure its hold on power, the regime has accompanied brazen manipulation of state institutions with a strategy of terror designed to brutally stifle any challenge from the coalition supporting Ouattara. According to the UN, the human toll already exceeds 300 dead, in addition to dozens of rapes and an unknown number of abductions and disappearances by security forces. Gbagbo’s power grab was clearly premeditated. He declared a curfew on the eve of the run-off, a forerunner of the lockdown on Abidjan, the centre of power; recalled from the northern and central regions for no reason before the voting ended 1,500 soldiers whom he had deployed by decree to maintain electoral security; and obstructed the work of the independent electoral commission (Commission électorale indépendante, CEI). Having campaigned on the slogan “we win or we win”, he and his inner circle had no intention of relinquishing the presidency, regardless of the vote count. Driven by a political mysticism that blends nationalist discourse, virility and religiosity, Gbagbo is relying primarily on blackmail and targeted violence against civilians perceived as Ouattara supporters to remain president, even if his authority is unlikely to extend beyond the country’s southern third. The international community needs to realise that the illegitimate president is prepared to fight to the end, even if it means throwing Côte d’Ivoire into anarchy and economic disaster. If he succeeds, he will take with him all hope of good neighborly relations, stability and economic progress in West Africa. Apart from the need to respect the will of Ivorians, the stakes include the security and well being of millions in the region and whether peaceful, democratic transfer of power is to be safeguarded on a continent where eleven elections are scheduled in 2011. Neither Gbagbo’s obsession with power nor Ouattara’s presidential ambition can justify the potential costs. But while the one made a decision that was accompanied by a campaign of terror he knew would bring his country to the brink of civil war, the other won a fair election with the support of a political and social coalition that is more representative of the country’s diversity. The African Union (AU) panel of five heads of state – representing each region of the continent – seeks a peaceful solution to the crisis but is in dangerous disagreement. The AU, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the UN have all recognized Ouattara as president-elect and asked Gbagbo to leave. South Africa, supported by Angola, however, has put forward power-sharing proposals that are dangerous because they contradict the original African consensus. Their positions on a crisis whose complexity they appear not to have fully grasped are compromising their credibility on the continent and beyond and undermining trust between ECOWAS and the AU. Gbagbo is the undisputed sole architect of Côte d’Ivoire’s desperate situation. That and the need to achieve the installation of Ouattara must be the fundamental starting points of the search for a successful strategy and implementing tactics. The most likely scenario in the coming months is armed conflict involving massive violence against civilians, Ivorian and foreign alike, that could provoke unilateral military intervention by neighbours, starting with Burkina Faso. It is ECOWAS territory, not southern Africa, that faces a serious threat. The regional organization must reclaim the responsibility for political and military management of the crisis, with unequivocal AU and UN support. Meanwhile, Ouattara should take the initiative to launch a dialogue between RHDP and LMP (but without the irreconcilable Gbagbo), with a view to achieving a reconciliation agreement and a transitional unity government that he would head as the democratically elected president. ICG recommended: To President-elect Alassane Ouattara: 1. Propose an agreement for unity and national reconciliation that, with Ivorian Civil Society Convention (Convention de la société civile ivoirienne, CSCI) involvement, would lead to: a) a pact between the RHDP and LMP to manage the country until the legislative elections, possibly including vice-presidents from both movements; b) a moderate-sized High Council for National Reconciliation of individuals, including women and civil society representatives, who have had no involvement in partisan politics for five years and no record of human rights abuse for ten years; and c) a transitional government of national unity, as proposed by the High Council, with you as president. To outgoing President Laurent Gbagbo: 2. Accept electoral defeat, step down and do not oppose an LMP-RHDP dialogue for an agreement that could also guarantee him a dignified exit and personal safety. To Prime Minister and Defense Minister Guillaume Soros: 3. Instruct the Forces nouvelles to respect the ceasefire throughout the country. To former President Henri Konan Bede, member of the RHDP: 4. Reaffirm full support for President Ouattara and participate in the negotiation of a political agreement for national reconciliation. To the chief of general staff of the army (FADS-CI), the chief of staff and commanders of the Forces nouvelles (FAN) and commanders of all other military forces: 5. Recall they will be held responsible for serious crimes committed by their forces, including crimes against humanity, war crimes and other violations of international law. To the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court: 6  Remind all Ivorian parties, including commanders of the FADS-CI, militia leaders and commanders of the Forces nouvelles that they will be liable for acts committed by persons placed under their authority or acting upon their messages of hate and violence. To the UN Security Council and member states: 7. Fully support the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNCOIL); encourage it to fulfill its mandate by all necessary means and urge France’s Licorne force to fully support UNOCI. 8. Ask the UN panel of experts on Côte d’Ivoire to give the sanctions committee a new list of Ivorians who should be subject to individual sanctions, as well as the names of individuals and legal entities providing financial support to the Gbagbo regime since December 2010. 9. Request the Secretariat to immediately begin talks with political and military authorities of ECOWAS regarding deployment of an ECOWAS-led military mission. 10. Refrain from positions not supportive of African action to resolve the crisis and protect civilians. To the French government: 11. Respond positively and promptly to any UNOCI requests for military support in accordance with Force Licorne’s Security Council mandate. To the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Côte d’Ivoire: 12. Have UNOCI and Licorne secure a place outside Abidjan and Forces nouvelles-controlled areas to host peace talks between RHDP, LMP and civil society representatives. 13. Ensure that UNOCI, within its means, tolerates no obstruction to its movement and does not hesitate to use proportionate force to protect civilians under imminent violent threat. 14. Arrange preventive deployment of armed patrols in the communities most vulnerable to serious human rights abuses by any military or militia forces, whether in city neighborhoods, villages or areas held in the west by the Forces nouvelles. 15. Strengthen UNOCI’s capacity for information gathering, and analysis as well as documentation of human rights violations, including by taking security measures to restore freedom of movement of UNOCI officers in charge of the human rights division. To the African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC): 16. Adopt individual sanctions targeting individuals associated with Gbagbo’s illegitimate regime and fully support all ECOWAS decisions, including sending a military mission. To the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS): 17. Deploy rapidly a military mission with a mandate to help UNOCI protect civilians; help create a safe environment for a process to end the crisis and implement a reconciliation and national unity agreement; intervene immediately in case of hostilities to prevent regional contagion; and block maritime access to Abidjan and San Pedro to prevent delivery of weapons and ammunition in violation of the current embargo. To ECOWAS Member States: 18. Announce that members of the unrecognized Gbagbo government and his entourage are persona non grata in their territory and break all economic and financial ties with public or semi-public companies, particularly in the oil and energy sectors, controlled by that regime. To the Government of Liberia and the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL): 19. Provide surveillance of the border with Côte d’Ivoire to ensure the safety of refugees and prevent the passage of mercenaries and weapons. To the governments of Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and relevant UN agencies: 20 Update contingency plans and be prepared to accommodate massive refugee flows. To the European Union and the U.S.: 21. Maintain their sanctions regimes against natural and legal persons connected to the illegitimate Gbagbo government until he yields power.

The save the Darfur Coalition, http://action.savedarfur.org/site/R?i=ojueHc81wlda-v4RbE7vfw, reported, March 9, that the disputed region of Abyei bordering North and South Sudan, long having shown signs of becoming a flash point for violence, exploded in the beginning of March. “Over the past week, villages in the Abyei region were burned to the ground, and tens of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes. In Darfur over the past few months, the UN has also documented aerial bombardment of civilians and burning of villages with tens of thousands of Sudanese driven from their homes.” “The recent violence in the Abyei region has occurred in the context of apparent increases observed by SSP in the military capacity of both the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in regions along the contested border line. The recent violence in Abyei, coupled with the continuing militarization occurring on both sides of the border, has made an already volatile human security environment even more precarious.” The Satellite Sentinel Project report: “Flashpoint: Abyei,” March 4, 2011 on the deterioration of the human security situation in the Abyei region of Sudan, SSP2-Final.pdf, is available at: http://www.satsentinel.org/flashpoint-abyei). On April 28, The Sudanese government stated that it would not recognize the soon-to-be independent nation of south Sudan if the southern government tried to annex the contested territory of Abyei, raising the stakes between the two sides only 10 weeks before the south’s independence is expected to be announced. (Josh Kron, “Northern Sudanese Warn South Over Contested Area,” The New York Times, April 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/world/africa/29sudan.html?ref=world).

ICG, “Politics and Transition in the New South Sudan,” Africa Report N°172, April 4, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/horn-of-africa/sudan/172-politics-and-transition-in-the-new-south-sudan.aspx, implores, “Now that South Sudan’s referendum is complete and its independence from the North all but formalized, focus must increasingly shift to the political agenda at home. A new transitional government will preside over a fixed term from 9 July 2011, during which a broadly consultative review process should yield a permanent constitution. Critical decisions taken now and immediately after independence will define the health and trajectory of democracy in what will soon be the world’s newest state. Two factors may shape the coming transition period more than any other; first, the degree to which the South’s ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) allows an opening of political space in which a vibrant multi-party system can grow; secondly, the will to undertake democratic reform within the SPLM, as intra-party politics continue to dominate the political arena in the near term. Embracing pluralism now – both inside and outside the party – would lay a foundation for stability in the long term. Failing on either front would risk recreating the kind of overly centralized, authoritarian and ultimately unstable state South Sudan has finally managed to escape. Post-referendum negotiations continue between the SPLM and the National Congress Party (NCP) toward a peaceful separation and a constructive North-South relationship. While they consume considerable attention of the SPLM leadership, the political landscape in South Sudan has begun to transform. From the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, South Sudan’s divergent ethnic and political communities were united behind a common goal: self-determination. Many suppressed grievances, choosing not to rock the boat until that objective was achieved. Now that the vote has been cast and its results endorsed, the common denominator is gone, and long-simmering political disputes are beginning to re-surface. Likewise, a series of armed insurgencies, recent militia activity, and army defections highlight internal fault lines and latent grievances within the security sector. Continued fighting has challenged government capacity to manage domestic conflict, risks further polarization of ethnic communities and their political leaders and could stoke broader insecurity. Jockeying has intensified between the SPLM and Southern opposition parties over the composition and powers of a transitional government and duration of the transitional period. The SPLM desires to move expeditiously toward a transitional constitution amid all that must be done before independence, while the opposition fears it is manipulating the process to entrench its power. A domineering approach from the SPLM has jeopardized the goodwill created by an important political parties’ conference in late 2010. Stifling debate and poor political management of such processes unnecessarily risk further antagonism among opposition parties, particularly at a time when the challenges in realizing independence and managing domestic security concerns make Southern unity all the more important. The SPLM must recognize that meaningful opposition participation – including in defining the transition and in a broad-based government – is not a threat to its power but an investment in stability and legitimate rule. A politics of exclusion may in the long run undermine the very power some party hardliners are trying to consolidate. Managing South Sudan’s ethno-regional diversity will continue to be a tall order. Political accommodation is a necessity regardless of what form the transitional government assumes. The SPLM leadership will have a difficult chessboard to manage, finding roles for a wide range of party (including many members now returning home), army and opposition elements. It must avoid a “winner-takes-all” mindset and view the appointment of a broadly representative government not as appeasement alone but as recognition of Southern Sudan’s pluralist character. The liberation struggle is over, the CPA era is coming to a close, and it is thus time for the SPLM to mark a new chapter in its evolution. A review of the party’s modus operandi is necessary if it is to maintain cohesion, consolidate its legitimacy and deliver in government. Party reforms should aim to manage internal divisions, erode a top-down military culture, professionalize operations and trade coercion for enhanced internal dialogue. Meanwhile, there is no denying that Southern opposition parties are weak; their resources, membership and structures are thin. While the SPLM must engender a conducive environment, opposition parties are equally responsible for pursuing shared national interests, shouldering national responsibilities and developing credible alternative platforms that target a national constituency. Continued national and international support for political party development is essential. Once the transition period commences, reviews of several key policy areas and resultant strategies will shape the political and economic structure of the emerging state and help determine the response to the high post-independence expectations that Southerners have placed on their young government. Decentralization has been championed in rhetoric and neglected in practice. Examination of the current model is in order, as there remains a disproportionate focus on the central government and its capital city, in political, economic and development terms. Expectations for improved development and service delivery in the lives of ordinary Southerners will necessitate increased devolution to states and counties so as to avoid the very centre-periphery dynamic that lay at the heart of Sudan’s national woes. Post-CPA arrangements on oil revenue sharing between North and South have occupied a prominent place in political discourse, but far less attention has been paid to future revenue sharing policy within South Sudan. Given almost exclusive dependence on oil money, decisions as to how petrodollars are managed and shared may soon occupy a prominent place in national politics. Ownership rights, a nationwide revenue allocation model and a corresponding regulatory architecture must be established. If well administered, the oil sector can be a key instrument for decentralizing authority, empowering state and local politics and accelerating development in the new South. If not, corruption and mismanagement could prompt national division and surrender another victim to the resource curse. The transition period will be capped by the country’s first independent elections. The electoral system must accordingly be reviewed so as to overcome the shortcomings of the 2010 polls by ensuring a level playing field and providing the best possible opportunities for diverse, accountable and genuinely representative institutions. Fair or not, the soon-to-be independent Republic of South Sudan will for some time be judged in the context of its decision to separate. One-party rule, tribal-oriented politics or significant governance or internal security failures would generate criticism from skeptics who argued the region could not govern itself. The opportunity now presents itself to prove them wrong; it is up to the South Sudanese to take it.” ICG Recommends: To the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM): 1. Afford opposition parties and civil society a meaningful role in defining the forthcoming transition, including prompt agreement – through another meeting of the Political Parties’ Leadership Forum – on an unambiguous method to review and endorse the draft transitional constitution produced by the “technical” committee, as well as broad endorsement for composition of the transitional governance structures and length of the transition period. 2. Display the party’s seriousness about broad-based government by appointing opposition members to a significant number of minister and (new) deputy minister posts – for example, no less than 25 per cent – including to one or more of the influential ministries that the party has held close thus far: finance, defense, internal affairs, foreign affairs, legal and constitutional affairs or energy and mining. 3. Accelerate the transition from military movement to political party, including through instituting internal party reforms at state and national level (such as regular internal elections and primaries), comprehensively reviewing party structures and relationships and clearly distinguishing its party activities from its role in government. To Southern Opposition Parties: 4. Develop internal party development strategies, including sustainable financing, membership recruitment and training of party cadres; cultivate stronger relationships with constituents; develop alternative policy platforms that target a national constituency and distinguish themselves from the SPLM’s; consider opportunities for coalition-building; and take full advantage of the opportunities provided by international experts supporting political party development. To the Political Parties Leadership Forum: 5. Agree on a timeframe for the transitional period that allows sufficient time to conduct a broadly consultative review process toward promulgation of a permanent constitution and, if so desired, a new census; in this regard, opposition parties should also consider the time necessary to become more competitive in the next elections and thereby cultivate a vibrant multi-party landscape; agree on the composition of the transitional governance structures, as well as the details of a permanent constitutional review process to be undertaken during the transition. To the (forthcoming) Transitional Government 
of the Republic of South Sudan: 6. Re-commit, upon review of the current decentralization model, to devolving resources and authority to sub-national units of government, including; a) funneling greater and more consistent grants to state and county level; b) strengthening their role in more participatory budgeting processes; and c) establishing and empowering local government structures so as to bolster accountability among county and state executives. 7. Endorse a national petroleum policy, the principles of which will guide all aspects of South Sudan’s oil sector development, management, practices and safeguards; and develop a balanced oil revenue allocation model and supporting mechanisms for management and regulation of the sector that invest national and state authorities in that framework. 8. Build on a broadly accepted petroleum policy to develop instruments for a reformed and transparent oil sector, such as oil revenue stabilization and oil revenue trust funds; an independent fiscal and financial allocation and monitoring commission; an autonomous central bank; and participation in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). 9. Create and task through the relevant ministries a committee to sensitize stakeholders to oil sector realities and secure broad support for the policy at state and local levels. To the South Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA): 10. Enact a new political parties law that establishes party rights and responsibilities, restrictions and registration criteria, including requirements for minimum national appeal. 11. Enact new public financing rules that regularly allocate public funds to qualified political parties for activities in both election and non-election years, including stipulations that clearly prescribe equitable public financing disbursement as well as recipient criteria, spending parameters and mandatory expense reporting. 12. Enact, following a broadly consultative review, a new electoral law that builds on lessons learned from previous elections and devises a system that provides a level playing-field and for genuine, accountable, political representation. To International Partners/Donors: 13. Re-calibrate relations with the SPLM to reflect the post-CPA reality, the changing political landscape and the need to cultivate greater democratic space both within and beyond the party. 14. Ensure that the future UN mission in South Sudan and its leadership position themselves so as to: a) be a supportive but impartial partner to the people of South Sudan and its government, including, as part of a renewed relationship between the UN and the state, drawing a clear line between the government and the SPLM; b) take a hard line with the government when necessary; and c) be able to provide credible mediation among, and between, government and non-government actors within South Sudan, in both political and security contexts. 15. Accelerate current programming in support of political party development for all Southern parties, including through new support for public opinion polling, and continue similar support for SSLA members.”

ICG, “Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support,” Africa Report N°170, February 21, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/horn-of-africa/somalia/170-somalia-the-transitional-government-on-life-support.aspx, warned, “Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) has squandered the goodwill and support it received and achieved little of significance in the two years it has been in office. It is inept, increasingly corrupt and hobbled by President Sharif’s weak leadership. So far, every effort to make the administration modestly functional has come unstuck. The new leaner cabinet looks impressive on paper but, given divisive politics and the short timeframe, is unlikely to deliver significant progress on key transitional objectives, such as stabilizing Somalia and delivering a permanent constitution before August 2011, when the TFG’s official mandate ends. Although the Transitional Federal Parliament unilaterally has awarded itself a further three-year-extension, urgent attention needs to be given to the government’s structural flaws that stymie peacebuilding in central and south Somalia. If the TFG does not make serious progress on correcting its deficiencies by August, the international community should concentrate its support on the more effective local entities, until a more appropriate and effective national government is negotiated. To blame the TFG or Sharif solely for the continued catastrophe would be unfair. At the core of Somalia’s governance crisis is a deeply-flawed centralizing state model. The international community has not yet learned the lesson that re-establishing a European-style centralized state, based in Mogadishu, is almost certain to fail. For most Somalis, their only experience with the central government is that of predation. Since independence, one clan, or group of clans, has always used its control of the centre to take most of the resources and deny them to rival clans. Thus, whenever a new transitional government is created, Somalis are naturally wary and give it limited, or no, support, fearing it will only be used to dominate and marginalize them. The logical alternative is a more decentralized system of governance, but despite serious attempts, since 2004, to push transitional governments to devolve power away from Mogadishu, the political class – and much of the international community – has remained instinctively wedded to re-establishing a strong central government. The current TFG is even less willing to share power than previous transitional administrations, which explains the recurrent tensions between it and self-governing enclaves like Puntland, Galmudug, Ximan and Xeeb and local grassroots movements like Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ). Not surprisingly, many are going their own way. Indeed, Somalia today is experiencing a multi-faceted, chaotic, clan-driven and virtually countrywide revolt against the centre. Nothing highlights the general ineptitude of the TFG in forging political alliances and achieving wider reconciliation better than the botched power-sharing agreement with the ASWJ. Originally, an alliance of clans seeking to protect their traditional version of Sufi Islam, ASWJ is the only group in south and central Somalia able to oppose the extreme Islamist movement Al-Shabaab effectively. It was a natural ally of the TFG but was only brought into a formal power-sharing agreement under tremendous pressure from regional and other international allies. That accord is now in tatters, though officials in Mogadishu insist it still officially holds. The movement is itself deeply fragmented, and no one knows which of the plethora of emerging splinter factions speaks for the “old” ASWJ. The TFG appears in no hurry to save what is left of the deal. The level of corruption within the TFG has increased significantly, and many local and foreign observers regard the current government as the most corrupt since the cycles of ineffectual transitions began in 2000. A cabal within the regime presides over a corruption syndicate that is massive, sophisticated and extends well beyond Somalia’s borders. The impunity with which its members operate and manipulate the system to serve their greed is remarkable. They are not fit to hold public office and should be forced to resign, isolated and sanctioned. TFG military prospects are not good, despite gains in Mogadishu since the end of Ramadan in late September 2010. The army is ineffectual, and the government’s survival is entirely dependent on some 8,000 troops of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the international community. The modest Western-led Security Sector Reform (SSR) initiative to train thousands of soldiers and revamp the army can only be meaningful and ultimately successful within a larger political plan and in concert with a TFG leadership that is able to imbue its soldiery with a sense of loyalty, patriotism and direction. The current government seems incapable of providing that. AMISOM has in recent months extended its military positions in Mogadishu, and there are indications of an impending major military campaign to retake the city and then fan out to areas in central and south Somalia. Any offensive would undoubtedly put Al-Shabaab under considerable pressure. However, it is not clear how much planning or preparation has been dedicated to formulating a political strategy for holding and stabilizing “liberated” areas. Some clan elders may be secretly supportive, but without adequate political preparation, assumptions of a groundswell of support for the invasion in the south may turn out to be overly optimistic, notwithstanding that Al-Shabaab is increasingly unpopular. As history demonstrates, Somalis tend to reject foreign military interventions, even those that may, potentially, be best for their long-term interest. Yet, the situation is not as bleak as it may seem. Some parts of Somalia, most notably Somaliland and Puntland in the north, are relatively stable, and as the ill-fated Union of Islamic Courts demonstrated in 2006, it is possible to rapidly reestablish peace and stability in central and south Somalia if the right conditions exist. Contrary to what is often assumed, there is little anarchy in the country. Local authorities administer most areas and maintain a modicum of law and order. Somalis and humanitarian agencies and NGOs on the ground know who is in charge and what the rules are and get on with their work. The way forward needs to be a more devolved political and security structure and far greater international support for local administrations. Furthermore, if by August, the TFG has not made meaningful progress in coping with its internal problems and shown itself genuinely willing to work and share power with these local authorities, the international community should shift all its aid to them.” ICG RecommendsTo the Transitional Federal Government: 1. Decentralize the system of administration – per the Transitional Federal Charter – as soon as possible, by providing delegated authority and resources to allied local administrations and groups. 2. Restructure and revive the High Level Committee and Joint Security Committee (negotiated during the Djibouti peace talks) to coordinate the activities of allied local administrations and their security forces. 3. Prioritize national reconciliation, as a first step by reactivating the moribund reconciliation commission, reconstituting its membership, broadening its mandate and giving it the resources to draw up a comprehensive national plan. 4. Constitute an inclusive consultative forum to amend the transitional charter, deliberate on the constitution and agree on reform of the transitional federal institutions for the post-August period, with the focus solely on governance, in particular the relationship between local administrations and the national government in Mogadishu, the structure of that national government and the division of power within it. To the UN Security Council and the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS): 5. Give much greater attention than hitherto to local authorities that are providing some security and law and order in areas they control. 6  Support carefully and incentivize the emergence and growth of local, multi-clan administrations willing to cooperate with the TFG. To the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM): 7. Prioritize recruitment and coordination of the security forces of allied local administrations rather than focusing on increasing the number of AMISOM troops on the ground. 8. Use the revived High Level Committee and Joint Security Committee called for above to coordinate the activities of allied local security forces. 9. Do not attempt a major offensive unless an appropriate accompanying political strategy has been developed. To Donors: 10. Begin to provide assistance, including governance capacity building, directly to emerging local administrations, and calibrate and link it (as well as aid to the TFG) to realistic, transparent benchmarks. 11. Support efforts to create mechanisms in both the TFG and local administrations to combat corruption, such as by improving revenue collection and management, increasing budgetary transparency and strengthening internal auditing capabilities. 12. Investigate, stop supporting and sanction corrupt officials. 13. Withdraw support from the TFG – unless it clearly demonstrates by August 2011 (when its formal mandate expires) credible outreach to and reconciliation with other regions and administrations and willingness to share power with them; serious security sector reform; genuine anti-corruption efforts; and meaningful restructuring of the government – and direct it instead at those administrations that are serving the interests of the Somali people.”

Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report, published March 8, that Zimbabwe faces a “crisis of impunity” that has festered for decades and allows killings, torture and beatings to go unpunished.  HRW found that police refuse to act on complaints of abuse and even murder, and judges are co-opted, threatened or attacked. Senior HRW researcher Tiseke Kasambala, said that with the prevailing the climate in the country elections should not be held, which President Robert Mugabe, who has been in office for 31 years, is seeking. Ms. Kasambala stated, “If reforms are not instituted, then we say that there must be no elections in Zimbabwe.” Human Rights Watch called for Zimbabwe’s unity government to set an independent commission to investigate serious human rights abuses (“Zimbabwe Report Focuses on Abuses,” The New York Times, March 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/09/world/africa/09zimbabwe.html?ref=world).

In Zimbabwe, the power struggle continues between repressive President Robert Mugabe and his party and the opposition that remains in a divided “unity” government, that Mugabwe seeks to end with new elections, tentatively this year. In late March, the opposition gained one victory, when the country’s Parliament decisively re-elected one of Mugabe’s political opponents to serve as its speaker, Lovemore Moyo, of the Movement for Democratic Change, or M.D.C. Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s neighbors have begun putting an unusual amount of public pressure on President Mugabe to cease the political violence, intimidation and arrests that have surged since his party began agitating for elections in recent months. Following a meeting on Zimbabwe’s deteriorating political climate, in March, the presidents of South Africa, Zambia and Mozambique expressing “grave concern” about the country’s increasingly polarized environment, as  Journalists, activists and civic workers have been harassed and jailed, and soldiers and youth militia under the control of Mr. Mugabe’s party have assaulted opposition supporters, while police officers also answerable to. Mugabe’s loyalists have arrested leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change, on charges the party says are false. South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, the region’s mediator in Zimbabwe’s crisis, made it clear in meetings with Mugabe and MDC leader, Tsvangirai, in Zambia, that Tsvangirai was not to be arrested and that acts of violence, harassment and intimidation needed to cease. Without mentioning Mugabe by name, the three southern African leaders also insisted that Zimbabweans must have a chance to vote on a new constitution, and that rules must be laid out to ensure a free and fair vote, before the country holds an election to pick a president (Celia W. Dugger, “Zimbabwe Lawmakers Pick Mugabe Rival for Post,” The New York Times, March 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/world/africa/30zimbabwe.html?ref=todayspaper; Celia W. dugger, “African Leaders Pressure President of Zimbabwe,” The New York Times, April 1, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/02/world/africa/02zimbabwe.html?ref=todayspaper).

ICG, “Zimbabwe: The Road to Reform or Another Dead End?,” Africa Report N°173, April 27, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/southern-africa/zimbabwe/173-zimbabwe-the-road-to-reform-or-another-dead-end.aspx, warns, “Intensified violence against those deemed to be ZANU-PF enemies has exposed the limitations of Zimbabwe’s much delayed reform process and threatens to derail the Global Political Agreement (GPA). President Mugabe’s call for early elections has increased fears of a return to 2008’s violence. Prime Minister Tsvangirai has appealed for help from the region. Eventual elections are inevitable, but without credible, enforceable reforms, Zimbabwe faces another illegitimate vote and prospects of entrenched polarization and crisis. GPA guarantors – the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and its South African-led facilitation team – have an uphill battle to secure implementation. ZANU-PF is increasingly confident it can intimidate opponents and frustrate reform, and there is waning faith, internally and externally, in MDC-T capacities. Mugabe’s health and ZANU-PF succession turmoil are further complications. Without stronger international pressure on ZANU-PF, the tenuous current coalition may collapse, triggering further violence and grave consequences for southern Africa. The GPA, signed by the three political parties (ZANU-PF, MDC-T and MDC-M) in September 2008, was intended to provide a foundation for response to the multiple political and economic crises, but it has become a battleground for control of the country’s future. As in 2008, ZANU-PF’s ability, in partnership with the unreformed security sector leadership (the “securocrats”), to thwart a democratic transfer of power remains intact. The state media is still grotesquely unbalanced, and the criminal justice system continues to be used as a weapon against ZANU-PF opponents, in particular the MDC-T. The centerpiece of GPA reforms is a parliament-led constitution-making process under the direction of the Constitution Parliamentary Affairs (Select) Committee (COPAC). That body launched an outreach program in the latter half of 2010, but several civil society organizations and the MDC-T criticize it for falling far short of being inclusive and open and accuse ZANU-PF of having captured and manipulated the process. Many Zimbabweans, however, still consider the constitution-writing exercise important for moving the country forward. While drafting has begun, leading toward an all-stakeholders conference, parliamentary approval and a referendum, every step presents opportunity for opposition, delay and obfuscation. Both MDC parties argue that COPAC must finish its work before elections are held, but ZANU-PF says elections can proceed with or without a new constitution and links its cooperation on democratic reforms to removal of targeted international sanctions, over which the parties have no control. In late February 2011, the facilitation team’s visit to Harare resulted in a commitment from the three party leaders to implement their August 2010 agreement on outstanding GPA issues. This did not include a commitment to the sequence of elections after a constitutional referendum. Nevertheless, having failed to produce an agreed plan themselves, the party leaders deferred to the facilitators to produce a roadmap for pre-election action. The GPA guarantors and the facilitation team have until very recently shied from addressing poor progress directly. On 31 March 2011, however, the SADC troika (Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia) took note of the lack of progress in GPA implementation and related matters and the rise in levels of violence and intimidation and laid out steps that must now be taken to address the situation. This is a significant development that illustrates a public hardening of attitudes and increasing frustration within the regional organization toward the GPA signatories, in particular ZANU-PF. The MDC-T welcomed the communiqué, which is a direct response to the multiple grievances it as well as civil society groups have expressed. ZANU-PF and Mugabe have countered that they will not tolerate external interference, even from neighbours. The next few months will determine whether SADC can follow its words by producing action that advances the reform agenda and prospects for a sustainable transition. That in turn will indicate whether the conditions necessary for credible elections exist. The worsening climate of fear and violence means security sector reform (SSR) should be the most immediate challenge. In addition, important institutions need to be strengthened, including parliamentary committees and the Human Rights, Media and Electoral Commissions. These measures should be supplemented by continued support for civil society to engage with those bodies as set out in the GPA. Until the draft constitution is produced, however, it is unlikely that even the limited SSR contained in the GPA will be meaningfully addressed. The facilitation team recognizes that it needs a constant presence in Zimbabwe. Its roadmap should propose an audit of what has and has not been done, what the parties can and cannot achieve. If further power-sharing is inevitable, a pragmatic assessment of the current arrangement’s failure is needed. The guarantors and facilitation team have relied on the Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee (JOMIC), set up by the GPA – four members from each of the three signatory parties – for evaluations, but it has not fulfilled its mandate, due to inadequate monitoring capacity, no enforcement leverage and problems navigating the distorted balance of power within government. In recognition of its poor performance, the SADC troika recommended strengthening the facilitation team’s monitoring and reporting capacity, so it could work closer with the JOMIC. The annual progress review the Periodic Review Mechanism should provide in consultation with the guarantors has not been done, though the party leaders recently agreed to correct this. The guarantors must ensure a comprehensive review. The roadmap should call upon the political leadership to collectively establish clear priorities, with a particular focus on how to secure conditions for credible elections. As endorsed by the recent troika summit, the SADC “Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections” provides the accepted frame of reference. The referendum envisaged for the draft constitution would be an important opportunity to test electoral conditions. The GPA still offers a coherent framework for putting in place conditions for credible elections. However, progress remains stymied because ZANU-PF has not demonstrated a credible commitment to democratic reforms, and the MDC-T is not strong enough to force them through. The GPA guarantors and South Africa have now indicated they are prepared to take a much more hands-on approach, although it is unclear how this will manifest itself. It is important that they continually engage Zimbabwe’s political leaders to take their own commitments seriously and set clear benchmarks and timelines for achieving the concrete steps set out in the SADC communiqué. Accelerating the implementation of key reforms, many of which have already been approved, is all the more necessary because a credible election process cannot take place until the appropriate conditions are in place.” ICG proposes, “To the Inclusive Government formed pursuant to the GPA: 1. Cooperate fully with the recommendations in the communiqué of the 31 March 2011 SADC summit of the Organ Troika on Politics, Defense and Security Cooperation. 2. Make finalization of the COPAC constitution exercise a priority, including by identifying and utilizing available resources and support from the GPA guarantors and the wider international community, so as to enable a process that allows Zimbabweans to campaign for or against the draft constitution without fear or persecution. To the Constitution Parliamentary Affairs (Select) Committee (COPAC): 3. Pursue constitutional reform and other legislative measures that advance rule of law and overcome the legacy of political violence and impunity, including by promoting professional and accountable policing, removing the military’s involvement in internal policing and promoting effective parliamentary oversight of all security and intelligence structures. To the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) as GPA Guarantors: 4. Endorse at head of state level in both organizations the 31 March 2011 SADC troika communiqué calling for constitutional reform before elections and a roadmap to enable credible elections to take place. 5. Initiate, including by deploying an AU exploratory mission, a comprehensive assessment of violence and related matters in Zimbabwe to determine whether conditions are conducive for free and fair elections, as envisaged under the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the SADC “Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections”. 6. Make recommendations to assist in the achievement of such conditions, including with respect to the need to ensure that the country’s security forces are not undermined by renegade elements. 7. Support the COPAC process and broader GPA reform initiatives through technical and financial assistance, as well as the deployment of personnel from the region where feasible; and review, in coordination with the political parties, the existing legislative agenda to identify GPA reform priorities that have not been addressed, with a focus on enabling conditions for credible elections. 8. Ensure that the facilitation team’s roadmap recommends a revision of the GPA’s internal monitoring and review mechanisms, in particular that: a) JOMIC should have a more active role to deal with cases of political violence, including oversight of investigations by national police and producing regular public reports to the GPA signatories, who in turn should be obliged to respond publicly in writing; and b) JOMIC reports should provide a basis for the Periodic Review Mechanism’s reporting and recommendations as set out in Article 23 of the GPA. 9. Affirm that participation of civil society organizations is necessary to provide full legitimacy to the COPAC and other GPA reform processes and to this end establish a channel for direct access to the SADC facilitator for civil society actors to raise concerns about implementation of the GPA. To the United Nations Development Program (UNDP): 10. Ensure full accountability and transparency in the use of its funds in support of constitution-making so as to create greater confidence in the process. To the Government of South Africa: 11. Seek to use the South Africa-Zimbabwe Joint Permanent Commission on Defense and Security to undertake an assessment of defense and security conditions in Zimbabwe and their related implications for South Africa. To the wider International Community, including the UN and European Union: 12. Assist, including by active diplomatic engagement, the efforts of the GPA guarantors to ensure and facilitate processes and institutions supporting the development of democratic and accountable governance. 13. Support and strengthen civil society’s efforts to provide coherent, systematic and accurate reports and analysis of violence, including by improving verification methods, identifying priority concerns, developing clear and effective channels of communication and, ultimately, by bringing findings to the attention of local, regional and international policymakers, institutions and media.”

 

Nigeria’s election, at the beginning of April, took place quite smoothly, and seemingly properly, with fewer problems than previous ballotings, after a chaotic and violent campaign season. President Goodluck Jonathan was reelected. However, unhappiness with the result in the troubled North of the country has triggered renewed and intensified deadly fighting between Muslims and Christians there. As a result of the extreme violence, election for governor in the North were delayed (“Nigeria Counts Votes From Delayed Poll,” The New York Times, April 9, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2011/04/09/world/africa/international-us-nigeria-elections.html?ref=world; John Gambrell,Nigeria: Elections Delayed as religious strife, killings continue,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 22, 2011).

With elections pending, which took place in Nigeria in late April, ICG, “Nigeria’s Elections: Reversing the Degeneration?,” Africa Briefing N°79, February 24, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/west-africa/nigeria/B79-nigerias-elections-reversing-the-degeneration.aspx, commented, “The April 2011 general elections – if credible and peaceful – would reverse the degeneration of the franchise since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, yield more representative and legitimate institutions and restore faith in a democratic trajectory. Anything similar to the 2007 sham, however, could deepen the vulnerability of West Africa’s largest country to conflict, further alienate citizens from the political elite and reinforce violent groups’ narratives of bad governance and exclusion. Flawed polls, especially if politicians stoke ethnic or religious divides, may ignite already straining fault lines, as losers protest results. Despite encouraging electoral preparations, serious obstacles remain. Many politicians still seem determined to use violence, bribery or rigging to win the spoils of office. In the remaining weeks, national institutions, led by the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), should redouble efforts to secure the poll’s integrity, tackle impunity for electoral crimes, increase transparency and bolster safeguards, including by publicizing results polling station by polling station and rejecting bogus returns. With Laurent Gbagbo’s attempt to defy democracy in Côte d’Ivoire casting a shadow throughout the continent, the elections will resonate, for good or ill, well beyond national borders. Nigeria’s prestige and capacity to contribute to international peace and stability are at stake. The reputation of President Goodluck Jonathan, the generally favored incumbent, is at stake too. He took a tough stance for respecting election results in Côte d’Ivoire, and his promise to respect rules for these polls contrasts starkly with former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s “do or die” language in 2007. Jonathan’s victory in an orderly (at least in Abuja) People’s Democratic Party (PDP) presidential primary and subsequent wooing of northern powerbrokers seem thus far to have averted dangerous north-south splits within the ruling party. He appointed a respected academic and civil society activist, Professor Attahiru Jega, to chair the INEC and seems inclined to respect its autonomy, including by providing timely funding for elections. Jega’s leadership offers some protection against the wholesale manipulation of results that blighted previous polls. But huge challenges remain. Jega carries the expectations of the nation, but – as he emphasizes – is no magician. He assumed office only in June 2010 and has juggled much needed reforms against the imperative of actually holding elections in 2011. He inherited an organization complicit in the 2007 fraud, exposed to manipulation outside the capital and over which the new Electoral Act denies him full control. To his – and the nation’s – credit, a gamble to conduct a risky voter registration exercise seems to have paid off, but its shaky start was a reminder of challenges, even in simply delivering materials around the vast country in a timely manner. Underlying causes of electoral flaws, however, run deeper than election administration. Stakes are high: the state is the principle means of generating wealth; vast oil revenues are accessed through public office. Extreme poverty makes voters vulnerable to bribes and intimidation. The election takes place against an upsurge in violence, including attacks in Borno, communal violence in Jos and explosions in Abuja and elsewhere. Politicians and their sponsors habitually exploit violent groups and social divisions to win elections, so many Nigerians perceive that upsurge as linked to April’s polls. A number of incumbent governors face bruising contests, and the threat of bloodshed hangs over many states. Security is crucial to electoral integrity, but security forces have traditionally done little to prevent rigging or violence and have often been bought by politicians and complicit. Lower-level courts are often corrupt, impunity is insidious and the rule of law at best weak. No one has been convicted of an electoral offence since independence. Elections, therefore, traditionally offer Nigerian politicians a choice: respect the rules and risk losing to an opponent who does not; or avoid the political wilderness by rigging or violence, knowing that to do so is easy, and you are unlikely to be punished. Shifting these incentives is essential to holding better elections. Tackling underlying issues – unchecked executives, frail institutions, rampant impunity and inequitable distribution of power and resources – requires reforms of a scope not feasible by April. But by bolstering safeguards, rigorous planning, ensuring better security, acting against bogus results and beginning to convict electoral offenders, INEC and other institutions can at least make cheating less attractive. Further recommendations are given throughout this briefing, but the following are priorities: To dent the pervasive impunity that drives rigging and violence, INEC must prosecute electoral offenders, including its own staff, security officials and politicians. The police must assist in gathering evidence. Task forces at federal and state level bringing together INEC, public prosecutors and police should be established to facilitate prosecutions. These measures should be widely publicized, with the attorney general and inspector general of police echoing Chairman Jega’s tough language against electoral offences. INEC should bolster electoral safeguards to make cheating more difficult. It must plan a transparent, efficient system for collating returns, post results in every polling unit and publish a full breakdown by polling unit at every level of tabulation – ward, local government area, state and federal – and provide party agents, observers and accredited media access to all collation centers. Learning from the chaotic start to voter registration, it must tighten plans for timely procurement, delivery, retrieval and management of materials, with resident election commissioners in each state submitting plans to it well ahead of elections. Temporary staff must be well trained on new polling and counting procedures and permit only those whose names appear on rolls to vote in each polling unit. INEC should suspend announcing results where suspicious returns may have affected the outcome, then investigate and, where necessary, repeat the election. Judges on the Court of Appeal and the specially-established electoral tribunals should have the resources and training necessary to adjudicate petitions within the new Electoral Act’s timelines and without interference. But wherever possible, INEC should itself act to avert protracted legal disputes against powerful incumbents. State-level security consultative committees should submit detailed plans for federal-level review well before April. The committees should establish links with civil society groups monitoring violence and community leaders able to reduce it. Security forces should deploy based on risk analysis. Training for, and monitoring of, security officials, especially police, should be increased. The inspector general of police should say publicly that security personnel complicit in rigging will be prosecuted – then ensure they are. The leadership of all political parties should, publicly and together, commit to respect rules, campaign peacefully, avoid inflammatory identity-based rhetoric and use only peaceful, legal means to contest results. Candidates at all levels, starting with presidential candidates in Abuja and gubernatorial candidates in each state capital, should sign in public ceremonies the code of conduct being prepared by INEC. International actors should make clear and in public to elites the implications of another sham election. Diplomats can remind the president that his and Nigeria’s prestige are dependent on him meeting his promises to respect rules, allow credible polls and not exploit state machinery. Chaotic and rigged elections would tarnish the government, undermine confidence in its stability and stall investment. The bar for these elections seems set at “better than 2007”. That may be realistic, given Jega’s late arrival, the INEC’s internal constraints, the stakes of office, entrenched patterns of rigging and violence and fragile rule of law. But such a modest standard – well below Nigeria’s own regional and international commitments for democratic elections – should not disguise that the choices of elites, not an innate Nigerian resistance to democracy, drive shoddy polls. If the country’s politicians want to meet their citizens’ increasingly desperate aspirations for a free and fair vote, nothing stops them from doing so.”

Three opposition candidates in Chad’s presidential elections said, in late March, that they would boycott the April election over concerns that the results would not be credible. The elections were initially scheduled for April 3, and the government of President Idriss Déby agreed to postpone them until April 24, after six opposition candidates threatened a boycott over the voter registration process. Three of those candidates said their demands had not been met, and they called on their supporters not to vote (“Chad: Election Boycott Called,” The New York Times, Published: March 22, 2011m http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/world/africa/23briefs-Elections.html?ref=todayspaper).

ICG, “Chad’s North West: The Next High-risk Area?” Africa Briefing N°78, February 17, 2011, http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/africa/central-africa/chad/B78-chads-north-west-the-next-high-risk-area.aspx, cautioned, “more than five years, public attention relative to Chad has been focused on the armed rebellion in the east and the crisis in the Darfur region of neighboring Sudan, while totally neglecting the country’s North West. However, there are serious risks that the rise of trans-Sahara drug trafficking and terrorism, emergence of radical Muslim movements in neighboring countries, development of inter-communal violence, decline of local traditional justice systems and lack of state governance will destabilize that ignored region. The authorities in N’Djamena need to move to change the governance system there and defuse the multiple roots of potential conflict before a crisis explodes. Historically, the North West has played an ambivalent but pivotal role between the Arab-Islamic culture of North Africa and the sub-Saharan African cultures. Presently, its strategic position makes it increasingly the target of infiltration attempts by armed groups and criminal networks that take advantage of the no-man’s-land areas of the Sahara Desert to expand their activities. Islamic terrorist groups from Northern Nigeria (the Boko Haram sect) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) operating in the Sahel region are making their diffuse but real influence felt. Up to now, this dangerous neighborhood has not produced instability, but greater vigilance is definitely needed. Since the end of the 1990s, the government has not been able to reconcile the communities, despite the improved regional security context following the progressive dismantling of the two main rebel groups operating in the region: the Movement for Democratization and Development (Mouvement pour la démocratie et le développement, MDD), and the Movement for Democratisation and Justice in Chad (Mouvement pour la démocratie et la justice au Tchad, MDJT). The continuous decline of the local traditional justice systems and environmental degradation contribute to the precarious quality of the region’s stability. In such a context, inter-communal political manipulation is likely to awaken old resentments and aggravate local grievances. Moreover, N’Djamena neglects the North West, as shown by its reactions to the very predictable food crisis that began in 2009 and the flood that destroyed the city of Faya Largeau in July 2010. Instead of implementing a sustainable development policy, the authorities make empty promises and prolong the old colonial mode of governance, based on tight regional control via traditional leaders and security forces. Although major trouble is still unlikely in the short term, there is already a high level of tension between pastoralists and farmers. The North West, which provided many fighters during Chad’s earlier civil wars, thus has the potential to become the country’s new hot spot. To prevent this, the government needs to promptly improve the way it runs the region, focus on the attempts by international criminal and terrorist networks to expand their influence and tackle inter-communal tensions by: setting up a regional development plan to improve governance in the North West and build social infrastructure and roads. This plan should be based on the demands of the local communities and include financial incentives for civil servants to work there, rational administrative coverage of the territory and appropriate rules for integrating traditional leaders into the new local governance system. N’Djamena must treat development and security as inter-linked issues, given that significant development programs could contribute to calming the situation in the region; updating and implementing local and national justice systems with respect to the role of traditional leaders and the relationship of natural resource issues to conflicts, especially those between pastoralists and farmers, which require reform of the land tenure system, a disarmament program and dispute resolution mechanisms run by neutral authorities; creating a regional police unit with adequate legal powers and logistical resources (communication equipment, cars, and helicopters) to monitor and secure the North West border. External partners of Chad like France and the U.S. should offer training and operational mentoring to the unit that will be under the authority of the interior ministry; and pursuing involvement in pan-Sahel and Sahara initiatives that seek to improve international cooperation and exchange of information on countering terrorism and drug trafficking and promoting joint operations with the neighboring countries, especially Niger, Nigeria and Libya.”

In early April, the International Criminal Court in the Hague held a preliminary hearings for six prominent Kenyans on charges that they were responsible for the violence that followed Kenya’s disputed elections in 2007. The six defendants are the first members of the country’s political elite to be charged with orchestrating the protests and ethnic fighting that killed more than 1,000 people and drove tens of thousands from their homes (Marlise Simons, “International Court Hears Charges in Kenyan Election Violence,” The New York Times, April 7, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/08/world/africa/08hague.html?ref=world).

Police officers in Uganda, on April 11, forcefully countered a small demonstration over rising commodity prices, swiftly dispersing demonstrators with tear gas and live ammunition and arresting two former presidential candidates. (Josh Kron, “Police Move Swiftly to Prevent Protest in Uganda,” The New York Times, April 11, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/world/africa/12uganda.html?hpw). The protests have continued to grow, over three weeks, reaching their highest level to date, April 29, when the capital was brought to a standstill with largely nonviolent protestors struggling against attacking police, who killed 5, and injured at least 150, firing live ammunition. Protests also took place in other municipalities (Josh Kron, “Protests in Uganda Build to Angry Clashes,” The New York Times, Published: April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/world/africa/30uganda.html?ref=world).

Popular unrest has been growing in Burkino Faso, with police officers joining protesters, April 27, as discontent over high prices, low wages and the 24-year-rule of President Blaise Compaoré spread. On April 29, President Blaise Compaoré stated, after a two-hour meeting with representatives of the armed forces, that he had promised to improve the military’s housing, clothing and food allowances, issues that led to a rash of violent protests that the soldiers agreed to end, that had raised fears of instability and threatened his 24-year rule. Protests have continued.  (Adam Nossiter, “Burkina Faso Police Join in Popular Unrest,” The New York Times, April 28, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/29/world/africa/29burkina.html?ref=world; and “Burkina Faso: Deal Struck With Military,” The New York Times, April 29, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/30/world/africa/30briefs-Burkinafaso.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper).

 

Latin American Developments

Laura Carlsen, “Beyond the Drug War: Building a Stronger Bilateral Relationship for Peaceful Co-Existence,” Americas Program, March 18, 2011, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/4159, commented, “Today’s newspapers are filled with news of yesterday’s summit between presidents Obama and Calderon, so it’s an auspicious occasion to discuss the binational relationship and where it’s headed. I’ve been disappointed to see that most commentaries on the visit seek to gauge how close or distant the relationship is. Again it’s as if proximity—physical or metaphorical—were the only defining feature of the US-Mexico relationships. Many fellow analysts here and in Washington have also focused only on whether the summit served to reduce recent tensions or smooth over friction in the relationship. From this short-term and superficial perspective, US-Mexico government relations seemed to have dipped to another low point. It’s true that the bilateral relationship suffered some blows in the weeks preceding the meeting. Just to mention the most important: 1. Wikileaks: Thousands of Wikileaks cables released between the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and the State Department reveal U.S. officials’ deep concerns regarding the Mexican government’s capacity to carry out its high-risk war on drug cartels and wavering public opinion. Cable 10MEXICO83, for example, states: “the GOM’s (Government of Mexico’s) inability to halt the escalating numbers of narco-related homicides in places like Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere… has become one of Calderon’s principal political liabilities as the general public has grown more concerned about citizen security.” The cable cites “official corruption”, inter-agency rivalries, “dismal” prosecution rates and a “slow and risk averse” Mexican army. In an interview with El Universal, Calderon responded angrily to the cables, calling the statements exaggerated and the ambassador (Pascual) “ignorant”, and counter-accusing the U.S. government for a lack of inter-agency coordination. Continued releases of the cables by the Mexican daily La Jornada promise more embarrassments for both governments as they attempt to portray a confident and united front in the drug war. 2. Murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in San Luis Potosí on Feb. 15, in an ambush. Although the Mexican government has arrested the alleged attackers–members of the Zetas drug cartel–the incident highlighted the risks of the drug war cooperation and the power of the cartels. The Mexican government’s contradictory statements on what happened and the army’s absurd hypothesis that the assassins did not know they were attacking U.S. agents (the agents’ car bore US diplomatic plates) only deepened perceptions of a lack of transparency. Within Mexico, the incident heightened fears that the U.S. government will demand more direct involvement, in particular lifting the ban on foreign agents bearing arms within Mexican territory. 3. The recent spate of comments from high-ranking U.S. officials that increased concerns that the U.S. government is pressuring for deeper military involvement in Mexico. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano’s speculated out loud of possible links between Mexican drug cartels and Al Qaeda, and Undersecretary of the Army Joseph Westphal characterized organized crime in Mexico as an “insurgency”, while openly raising the specter of U.S. troops being sent in. Historically these kinds of exaggerated risk assessments have been a prelude to invasions and other forms of intervention. Mexican columnists and anti-militarization activists responded with criticism of growing U.S. involvement in the country’s national security. Declarations that seem to be “off-script” has been a recurring problem (both Hillary Clinton and Westphal were forced to retract their “insurgency” comments), which either indicates a lot of loose-lipped leaders in Washington or a real window into contradictory interpretations and strategies on Mexico, which I’m afraid is more the case. While these appear on the surface to be neighbors’ spats, they actually arise from the tensions in carrying forward the shared commitment of both governments to deepen and reinforce a military alliance based on a drug war that is rapidly losing the support of their populations and raising doubts. The central concern of the presidential summit wasn’t the public frictions between the countries, but the desire to bolster the beleaguered drug war. Although the presidents discussed other issues, the drug war dominated the visit just as it has grown to dominate bilateral relations.” “The drug war violence today is a direct outgrowth of the US-Mexico drug war strategy. When we look at the sudden rise in deaths, it correlates with the launch of the enforcement/interdiction model against drug trafficking. Given all the doubts that exist and the lack of success, the decision in Washington to reinforce Calderon’s drug war is difficult to understand or justify. Yet that is what is happening. Despite talk of a deteriorating relationship, in fact the Calderon and Obama administrations are overseeing the birth of historically unprecedented cooperation between the two nations. The problem is that almost all that cooperation centers on this severely flawed approach to confronting transnational drug trafficking. The Mexico City US Embassy has expanded into a massive web of Washington-led security programs and infrastructure. The controversial Merida Initiative, up for another round of funding in Congress, has allocated more than $1.5 billion to help fight Mexico’s drug war with devastatingly negative effects. The shared drug war imposes a national security framework on what by all logic should be seen as a far more nuanced and complex bilateral relationship. In addition to the rise in violence, the binational relationship has been hijacked by proponents of a war model aimed ostensibly at reducing illicit drug flows to the U.S. market and confronting organized crime where it’s most powerful—in brutal battle. The Pentagon is thrilled to finally achieve access to the Mexican security apparatus and security decision-making, and the Calderon government—entering election mode—needs the political and economic support from the U.S. to shore up its flagship crusade against organized crime. The new relationship forged in war rooms is bad news for the Mexican people. Executions, femicides, torture, political violence and corruption cases have skyrocketed. The No Mas Sangre (No More Blood) movement has taken hold throughout the country and regions like Ciudad Juarez, where militarization has been heaviest and not coincidentally violence has taken the highest toll, have seen the rise of grassroots movements to defend human rights, call for an end to militarization and put forward alternative strategies. Among their demands is to rechannel scarce resources away from the attack on cartels to address social needs, restore the armed forces to their constitutional mandate of national defense, and end impunity for crime by fixing the judicial and public security systems and attacking government corruption. But it’s also bad news for the U.S. public. Opening up a war front in Mexico has not only destabilized our closest neighbor, but also drains resources needed in U.S. communities. The government-funded contracts granted Blackwater and Blackhawk to fight Mexico’s war could be used for schools in crisis. With an on-going economic crisis and two wars across the ocean, the prospect of long-term involvement south of the border hurts all but the flourishing war economy. We need to re-orient our efforts toward building a rich and multi-faceted bilateral relationship, that does not see Mexico as a problem but affirms its role as a partner through the principles of mutual respect and self-determination that President Obama proclaimed in the Summit of the Americans in Trinidad and Tobago. A relationship focused on building stability, social justice, prosperity and peaceful co-existence, not obsessed with using military and police force to address a single issue.” “Are There Alternatives? We are seeing the first phase of an insidious and possibly longterm war; UNICEF just reported that far more people have died in three years of the Calderon drug war in Mexico than in the decade of conflict in Afghanistan. Before we get in any deeper, we need to rethink the strategy. Both Obama and Calderon have at times indicated a need to defuse the drug war by turning to health-oriented approaches to drug consumption and backing off the cops-and-robbers persecutions, in addition to adopting more sophisticated methods of dismantling financial structures and carrying out more focused intelligence operations. Confrontation by force does not stop the cartels. As long as a lucrative market exists, they will find a way to serve it. Eliminating operatives, even high-level leaders, merely diversifies and redistributes the business. Cartels have years of experience building flexible structures, with new leaders or rival gangs replacing displaced or weakened ones. At the lower levels, they draw from an inexhaustible pool of young men with few prospects in life who have adopted the slogan, “Better to die young and rich, than old and poor.” If the war on drugs is unwinnable, does that mean we have to resign ourselves to the unbridled power of the drug cartels? No. The other tragedy of the war on drugs is that it rules out potentially more effective strategies by positing militarization as the only option. As the U.S. government spends millions of taxpayer dollars to pay U.S. private security and defense firms to “fix” Mexico, it has done little to nothing to address the parts of transnational organized crime that exist within its own borders—demand, transport and distribution, corrupt officials, gunrunning and money laundering. Rethinking the drug war is not tantamount to surrender. Here are a few key elements of an alternative strategy: a) A major binational pact or operation to attack money laundering and illicit financial flows through large financial institutions. These operations must receive more funding, planning and inter-agency support in both countries. b) Support for a youth opportunities program in Mexico that generates employment and educational opportunities for at-risk youth. c) Anti-poverty programs and programs to avoid displacement, including an in-depth look at the impact of NAFTA and needed reforms. d) Public safety, police training programs. We already have sister city exchanges and inter-agency cooperation agreements between the U.S. and Mexico. Mexico needs to look for best practices around the world and adapt them to its own needs. We don’t need a drug war policy to do this and the US Congress does not have to take this patriarchal attitude of helping Mexico build institutions within the framework of a militarized drug war that is actively eroding those already extremely weak institutions. e) Regulation of drugs The U.S. government owes it to the American people to resolve the problem of illegal drug trafficking and consumption within its borders. At some point very soon, we as a society simply have to face up to the social costs of the war on drugs: young lives ruined through early incarceration—predominantly, and shamefully, the poor and people of color–; the human and health costs of untreated addictions and unsafe conditions; the lack of meaningful life projects for young people that often make them more vulnerable to addictions; immense community resources devoted to persecution of victimless crimes; prohibitionist policies that studies have shown to be ineffective; the violence generated by a black market that is never going to go away through moralizing. The regulation of drugs sales–especially marijuana, which is the cash cow of drug-traffickers– deserves at the very least a serious debate. Any new binational strategy should adhere to two overarching principles: Place human rights at the center. We need to support mechanisms to protect human rights defenders in Mexico, and work to comply with international standards in Mexico and the US. Demilitarize the binational relationship. The Defense Department should not be in charge of the definition and management of the US-Mexico relationship. Mexico is a neighbor, a major trade partner, and a nation with close intercultural ties, shared environmental and social issues. These linkages should guide a peace-oriented relationship toward longterm stability. A wide range of alternative policies exists to supplant the endless drug war. Human rights concerns, along with long-term effectiveness, and peace-building options should dominate in considering which of these to adopt. Mexico’s drug war has generated death, an erosion of rule of law, increased gender-based violence and has significantly altered daily life in many parts of the county. This crisis in the model should elicit self-criticism and a willingness to consider reforms from the leaders who developed the strategy. Instead, public relations efforts take precedence over public safety in an attempt to continue to justify the model.”

Laura Carlsen, “Mexican Youth Mobilize to Protest Drug War Violence,” Americans Program,” March 18, 2011, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/4164, speaks of “Thousands of young people, men and women,  who have come out of their classrooms and homes to demand an end to the violence that has become the hallmark of the society they inherit. For them, the war on drugs launched by President Felipe Calderón has created a bloody present that portends an uncertain and risky future. Besides the daily violence, today’s young Mexicans – as they state in the declaration read on Feb. 17 – live in “a society strangled by poverty, injustice, inequality, unemployment, corruption and indifference… The No More Blood protest is made up of contingents of university students from across the city, preparatory school students and women organized against femicides that have increased under the cover of drug war violence.  Other groups that have confronted ilitarization and repression by the state or paramilitary elements linked to it march with the students: the Mexican Union of Electricians, the National Coalition of Education Workers, indigenous Triquis from San Juan Copala in Oaxaca, among others.”

Laura Carlsen “Why Mexico’s War on Drugs is Unwinnable,” Americas Program, March 28, 2011, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/4232, notes, “Whether measured by increased public safety, reduced supply of illegal drugs on the U.S. market, or the dismantling of drug trafficking organizations, the war on drugs is failing. It has been four years since President Felipe Calderon announced the offensive and sent tens of thousands of soldiers into the streets. The results are a record 37,000 drug-war related homicides so far and thousands of complaints of human rights abuses by police and armed forces. Arrests of drug kingpins and lesser figures have set off violent turf wars, with no discernible effect on illicit flows. The murder of politicians, threats to civilians and disruption of daily life have furthered the downward spiral. None of this should come as a surprise. Although Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has held up Plan Colombia as a model for Mexico, the drug war didn’t work there either. A full decade and $7 billion dollars after Plan Colombia began, regional drug production remains stable and smaller paramilitary groups have replaced the large cartels as traffickers. Some violent crimes, such as kidnappings, have gone down but corruption has deepened with scores of Congressional representatives under investigation, prosecution or sentencing for ties to paramilitaries. Militarization with the combined rationale of the war on drugs and counterinsurgency has left Colombia with one of the worst human rights record in the hemisphere. Diplomatic relations have been affected as many neighboring nations view U.S. military presence and involvement in Colombia’s drug war as a threat to regional self-determination. Despite these results, the Obama administration has announced plans to extend indefinitely the Merida Initiative, designed by the Bush administration to last three years and cost $1.3 billion dollars.  The administration has asked requested $282 million for Mexico under the initiative in the 2012 budget. The problem is, the drug war is not underfunded; it’s unwinnable. As long as a lucrative market exists, the cartels will find a way to serve it. Eliminating operatives, even high-level leaders, merely diversifies and redistributes the business. Cartels have years of experience building flexible structures, with new leaders or rival gangs replacing displaced or weakened ones. At the lower levels, they draw from an inexhaustible pool of young men with few prospects in life, who have adopted the slogan, ‘Better to die young and rich than old and poor.”

Wikileaks cable 002882 indicates that U.S. and Mexican authorities were primarily concerned about showing “success” in Ciudad Juarez in advance of the 2012 Mexican presidential elections, and discarded longer-term strategies to resolve the endemic violence that afflicts the border city. At a diner meeting, members of the Calderon cabinet spoke openly of the need to “sustain the confrontation into the next administration” (Laura Calsen, “Wikileaks: Electoral Politics Drive Juarez Drug War Strategy,” Americas Program, March 16, 2011, http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/4125).

The aggressive crackdowns on criminal organizations in Mexico and Colombia, coupled with gains in limiting smuggling across the Caribbean, have increasingly led drug syndicates to increase their operations deeper into small Central American countries incapable of combating it. 84% of known cocaine shipments moving north crossed through Central America last year, up from 44% in 2008 and 23% percent in 2006, the year President Felipe Calderón of Mexico took office and began his assault against the drug gangs in his country. Five of Central America’s seven countries are now on the United States’ list of 20 “major illicit drug transit or major illicit drug producing countries.” Three of those, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras, were added just last year. Meanwhile, management of the drug industry has changed. Mexican cartels have taken over from Colombians in recent years, recruiting local gangs to help bolster shipments, increasing consumption by paying with drugs and expanding extortion and kidnapping networks to round out their enterprise (Randal C. Archibold and Damien Cave, “Drug Wars Push Deeper Into Central America,” The New York Times, March 23, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/24/world/americas/24drugs.html?_r=1&ref=world).

Michel Martelly, one of Haiti’s most popular entertainers, was elected president by a large margin, at the beginning of April (Randal C. Archibold, “Popular Carnival Singer Is Elected President of Haiti in a Landslide,” The New York Times, April 4, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/05/world/americas/05haiti.html?ref=todayspaper).

Repression of the opposition, including political killings, are continuing in Honduras (“Camasinos Rising,” In These Times, March 2011).

President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, while insisting that the United States, long considered Colombia its top ally in the region, remains a “great partner,” even as some in Colombia’s establishment grow increasingly frustrated with a stalled trade deal and a steady reduction in American counterinsurgency aid, in early March, emphasized that Colombia engaged in a major foreign policy shift, with stronger relations in Asia, repairing ties with Venezuela and Ecuador, and adopting a measured posture within Latin America that stands in stark contrast to the hawkish style of Santos’ conservative predecessor, Álvaro Uribe. The new foreign policy includes a plan by Chinese and European investors to build a city for 250,000 people near the Caribbean coast,and a Chinese proposal to build a $7.6 billion rail system that includes a land-based rival to the Panama Canal, while Santos foreign minister has circled the globe in the seven months that Mr. Santos has been president, visiting places such as Cambodia, but not Washington. In a reconciliation that has taken many in Latin America by surprise, Mr. Santos is now so friendly with President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who just last year was accusing Mr. Santos of plotting to assassinate him, that he takes delight in referring to Mr. Chávez as “my new best friend.” Santos is also engaged in domestic policy development, including initiating projects aimed at reducing Colombia’s great income inequality. This encompasses expansion of a program to return land to thousands of farmers who were forced to flee their homes during the country’s long civil war, improvements in tax collection and a broad upgrade in Colombia’s infrastructure (Simon Romero, “Colombia Leader Seeks Wide-Ranging Changes, and Looks Beyond the U.S.,” The New York Times, March 5, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/world/americas/06colombia.html?_r=1&ref=world).

United States and Canadian Developments

President Obama has decided to keep three (rather than President Bush’s decision of two) of the currant four Army combat units (normally 3000-5000 troops) deployed in Europe after 2015, to allow the American military “to maintain a flexible and rapidly deployable ground force” in support of NATO, as well as to “meet a broad range of 21st century challenges” (Thom Shanker, “U.S. to Keep 3 Brigades in Europe, The New York Times,” April 8, 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/09/world/europe/09briefs-Military.html?ref=world).

“U.S. hate groups top 1000,” SPLC Report, Spring 2011, reports that the number of hate groups in the United States has been rapidly expanding, for the first time exceeding 1,000 in 2010, while the antigovernment ‘Patriot” movement expanded greatly for the second consecutive year.

President Obama, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hosted a conference on bullying prevention at the White House, March 10, 2011, bringing together students, parents, and teachers to discuss how communities can work together to address bullying. For more about bullying prevention, go to: http://bullyinginfo.org.

 

The University of Puerto Rico experienced many months of protests, sometimes including struggles with riot police, after the university raised fees by $800, doubling tuition, after a budget cut. Student leaders said many student’s could not pay the fee, and at least 5000 left the university. The administration said the drop in enrolment was because of the instability caused by the protests (Tamar Lewin, “In Puerto Rico, Protests End Short Pec at University,” The New York Times, February 18, 2011).

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