10.31.2005

Middle East Dictators' System

After the laughable direction of the futile play of the Egyptian presidential elections, Mr. Mubarak is doing his best to maintain the current system in the Middle East, which I believe that is based on the authoritarianism and relies on the interdependence of the Middle East regimes to maintain stability. This stability in their Middle East system means the regimes' security and lastingness.

That is a very important point must be considered in the Middle East policy-making process.

The despot makes his foreign policy on the considerations of his interior policy. He knows the necessity of the interior and foreign policies to be consistent because they belong to and represent the same decision-making system and intend to enable it as the intrinsic dynamics of the regime in power. And knows the indispensability of the compatible foreign context for his rule's integrity.

The motives of Mubarak's Middle East recent initiative are understandable, but the nature of his initiative indicates that either he did not understand the significant changes in the Middle East and in the international input of the Middle East, or he does not want to understand them. But the most obvious that he is seriously anxious about his rule.

I will take occasion to post an article of a prominent Egyptian scholar and activist, who has long strived, and still, against tyranny and for democracy in Egypt and Middle East. Here is an article of the director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim:

Mubarak’s War on Egyptian Liberals

Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim

For nearly a quarter century, President Hosny Mubarak has ruled the pivotal country of Egypt as a modern day pharaoh. In ancient times the pharaoh was propagated by the priesthood as a God-King with absolute power over the lives of his subjects and their sole means of livelihood, the river Nile. The pharaoh was not accountable to any authority. Today’s Mubarak is the same and even more. He enjoys the largess of the US and other western donors from whom his regime has been getting more than $3 billion annually. How has Mubarak managed to do that?

At home, Mubarak created a huge internal security force, over one million in number, nearly three times the size of the Egyptian army. Some of its units--mainly the Central Security Forces and The Republican Guard -- are equipped with the latest from western arsenals. Mubarak justified this in the aftermath of the assassination of President Sadat in October of 1981, citing the need to confront his Islamic militant threat. Few inside the country or abroad questioned his sincerity at the time nor did they object when he simultaneously imposed a State of Emergency. Equally, Mubarak inherited a reservoir of foreign good will which the late Anwar Sadat had accumulated. Western capitols, especially Washington, were more than eager to give Mubarak all the political and economic support he needed to quash Islamic militants and to stay the course on the peace process with Israel.

By the end of the 1980’s, the militant threat had greatly subsided and the peace process was at a standstill. Butros Ghali, then Egypt,s State Minister of Foreign Affairs, described the latter as a “cold peace”. Meanwhile, external debt was sky-rocketing despite all the generous foreign aid and billions in remittances sent home by Egyptians working abroad, due to flagrant mismanagement and rampant corruption. Polite, then candid, and finally blunt warnings from international institutions over the need for reform fell on deaf ears in the Mubarak regime. But then first Gulf War with Iraq came as a reprieve for Mubarak. He lined up with the US-led coalition that was skillfully put together by a more seasoned Bush. After the war was successfully concluded, the Mubarak regime was bailed out of its debt crisis by the cancellation of half of its overdue loans –over $24 billion --and rescheduling of the rest.

Despite several years of economic revival which followed in the 1990’s, the political scene remained stagnant, and the peace process had fallen into a deep freeze by the end of 2000. Mubarak’s role along with that of Saudi Crown Prince Abdulla in discouraging Yasser Arafat from accepting the Camp David deal brokered by President Bill Clinton has and will be debated for years. Even the economic gains of the 1990’s soon quickly eroded. Budding liberal forces raised steady demands for political reform, not only for the sake of good governance, but also to recoup economic losses and restore the comfidence of foreign investors. The latter’s incoming capital had sagged from $3 billion annually in mid-1990’s to a mere 300 million. The fact that the masterminds behind the 9/11 attacks, Ayman Zawahery and Mohamed Atta ,were Egyptians dramatized the dismal failure of the Mubarak regime before the world.

Finally, the domestic voices calling for change were joined by external counterparts. Feeling cornered, unable to effect the demanded reforms without power sharing and opening up the system, Mubarak opted for a dual strategy of repression at home and stone-walling vis-à-vis external pressures, especially that coming from the US. The calculation was that a change in the White House or a failure in Iraq might get him off the hook. If that didn’t materialize, the Mubarak regime thought it might still bargain a way out by playing a more constructive role in bringing the Israelis and Palestinians together, and by providing a standing service of torturing terrorist suspects for US intelligence.

But the other part of the strategy at home is an all out war on Egypt’s small contingent of liberals. They are calling for constitutional reforms that would make the choice of the president a direct competitive election instead of a referendum on a single candidate and they want a maximum limit of two five-year presidential terms. The reformists have also demanded an end to 24 years of a State of Emergency, ending the State monopoly over the mass media, press freedoms and the right to freely establish political parties and civil society organizations.

Small in number as these liberal forces may be, five of them recently declared their intentions to become candidates for the upcoming presidential election. They are daring Mubarak to respond positively to the demand for constitutional amendments so they can challenge him through the ballot box. In recent weeks, these reformists stepped up the pressure, encouraged by the Palestinian and Iraqi elections which some of them participated in as observers. The Egyptian Popular Movement for Change (EPMC) has defiantly organized rallies, marches and demonstrations. Though the participants were initially in the hundreds, they were encircled by thousands of armed security forces. If foreign media were present, the police would be self-restrained, confining themselves to intimidation tactics.

But as these acts of collective protest grew, the regime’s nerves got more edgy. Three signs of this were displayed recently. A prominent journalist, Reda Hillal of Al-Ahram newspaper was kidnapped from his apartment in a Cairo suburb and has not been heard from since. Close associates claim that his forced disappearance is due to statements made by Hillal about young Gamal Mubarak, who is being groomed to succeed his father. The second episode was more bizarre and directed against the Executive Editor of Al-Araby opposition newspaper, A. H. Kandil, who has been fiercely vocal against Mubarak running for a fifth six-year term. Kandil was abducted late at night by four masked men, taken in an unmarked van to an isolated desert area 50 miles outside Cairo, where he was stripped naked, beaten and abandoned. He wandered until finding a military police unit that administered first aid, gave him clothing and contacted his family. As details of the story became known, public opinion was outraged and Egypt’s Press Syndicate deplored the incident, demanding an immediate investigation. When the Government dragged its feet on the matter, several voices in the opposition papers and on independent Arab satellite networks, began to point accusing fingers at Mubarak directly.

But the latest and most flagrant assault on democracy activists was on January 29th, when Egypt’s rubber-stamp Parliament was convened in an emergency session in order to suspend the parliamentary immunity of one of its members, Ayman Nour. He had not been notified of any wrongdoing or of a request to suspend immunity before hand. The regime justified its request by the need to investigate allegations of forgeries related to the registration of the Al-Ghad Party, which Nour heads. The session was over in less than 30 minutes. As Nour was leaving the Parliament building, he was arrested by the notorious State Security Agency. With unprecedented judicial speed, a prosecution order was issued detaining Nour, not for the normal four or the unusual 14 days pending interrogation, but for 45 days without bail. Again, the opposition and much of the public are up in arms.

Mubarak’s wrath this time is attributed by the English language Al Ahram Weekly (Feb.10) to a meeting Nour and other party members had with former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Congressman Ben Weber, during a fact-finding visit for the Council on Foreign Relations, and because of his active lobbying in parliament to amend the Constitution. The Mubarak regime is quite touchy about both matters. They are keen on presenting Egypt to the West as having only two alternatives: a Mubarak or the Islamists. With people like Ayman Nour and his new but fast-growing Al-Ghad Party, a third peaceful liberal alternative was looming on the horizon for all to see. That is why Mubarak is determined to eliminate Egypt’s liberals. But fortunately history will not be on his side this time.

Iraq's Message to Mr. Blair

The President of Iraq has made it clear what Iraq wants and what is his perspective of the situation. It is important to be read interestedly.

Following is an article by Mr. Jalal Talabani the President of Iraq has appeared in The Times:

Iraq's message to Mr Blair: we still need the troops that saved us from tyranny

Jalal Talabani

The Times
October 10, 2005

EVENTS OF recent weeks have reaffirmed the need for the alliance between the new Iraq and Britain. The lesson of the ghastly drumbeat of terrorism, the rioting in Basra and the vile murder of the leadership of the Iraqi Anglican Church is that the battle of Iraq cannot be won by retreat or compromise, but by the vision and determination for which Britain is renowned. Above all, Britain owes no apology for delivering the enslaved people of Iraq from the hands of a callous tyranny.

The challenge is to show fortitude in the face of horror so that we can finish the job that began in 2003 of uprooting dictatorship and implanting a democratic government. Reforming Iraq, restoring a society distorted by fascism, was never going to be easy.

The alternative — to pretend that sanctions were working and that Saddam Hussein was contained — was an illusion. As has now been established, the United Nations Oil-for-Food programme was corrupt in root and branch. Saddam manipulated Oil-for-Food to become his personal chequebook for a campaign of international bribery and a trough from which his psychopathic progeny supped. Saddam’s regime openly declared in August 2001 that the sanctions had collapsed. Indeed, in 2003, as Saddam proclaimed his innocence to the world, his envoys were in Syria to negotiate the purchase of North Korean long-range missiles.

The Baathist regime, guilty of aggression and genocide, was overturned because Britain and the United States had courageously enforced the UN Security Council resolutions that others would barely support with words. Today the painstaking effort to enable Iraqis to express their views freely is also grounded in international legality. Foreign troops are in Iraq on the basis of a Security Council resolution, just as Iraq was liberated through the enforcement of 17 such resolutions that Saddam chose to flout.

Those who preferred the stability of the mass grave to liberation, and who raised their voices to save Saddam, but not his victims, have spuriously claimed that the war was fought to discover stocks of weapons of mass destruction. But Rolf Ekeus, the first head of the UN weapons inspectors, has argued that stocks were not the issue. Saddam could always re-create his stocks and until the end he could restart mustard gas production within months and nerve gas production within a couple of years. Moreover, Saddam used chemical weapons casually, gassing 5,000 Kurdish civilians at Halabja in 1988 and then using chemical bombs against Shia Arab civilians in 1991 — after the Gulf War ceasefire.

It is from this perspective, of the need to rebuild Iraq after decades of being run by a criminal state, that I have come to ask Tony Blair to keep British troops in Iraq. There are very few countries whose armed forces have the broad range of skills that Britain’s do, skills vital to the sometimes volatile situation in Iraq and skills that have been evident in your troops’ impressive performance.

While Iraq has often proved unpredictable, substantial progress has been made in rehabilitating a country that from the moment of its British colonial creation in 1921 was a failed state. Unfortunately, many in Britain are unaware of the advance of Iraqi democracy and of the desire of its first democratically elected government to have British and other foreign troops remain. Instead, some parts of the media have elevated the hooligans of Basra into tribunes of the people.

The stone throwers of Basra do not speak for the 8.5 million Iraqis who defied terrorist violence to vote on January 30, 2005. Nor do they speak for the vast majority of Iraqis whose democratically chosen representatives negotiated a final constitution in record time. That constitution reflects the realities of today’s Iraq and is, like the March 2004 interim charter, a remarkably progressive document. No constitution elsewhere in the Islamic Middle East is as democratic.

Similarly, those who attack mosques and churches, who murder schoolchildren and labourers, who behead foreigners and who kidnap humanitarian workers are not engaged in “resistance”. Those sabotaging Iraq’s first democracy bear no resemblance to the resistors of foreign occupation in wartime Europe. Rather, they are, in their ideology and record, contemporary representatives of the fascism that wreaked such havoc 60 years ago in Europe. They are supremacists and racists, as worthy of our contempt as those who practised apartheid in South Africa.

Nor do these terrorists have a popular base. They are drawn from a minority within Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority. They have no political wing and no manifesto beyond punishing their fellow Iraqis for welcoming British and American liberation and for daring to vote. Many of the suicide terrorists are not even Iraqis, but foreigners driven by religious fanaticism and al-Qaeda’s death cult — the poisonous gift of the Arab world that supported Saddam and now vilifies our nascent democracy.

There are occasional immoral voices that call for a new dictatorship to be installed in Iraq as, they claim, a less laborious means of imposing order. Order is certainly important, but so is freedom. A restored dictatorship in Iraq will be neither friendly nor benign. Animated by vengeance and fed by oil, a new dictatorship will again seek to make Iraq into the Arab Prussia and the overlord of the Gulf, goals that Iraqi regimes before Saddam aspired to.

To abandon us now would be murderously irresponsible and cynical. The resulting devastation would outstrip that of the spring of 1991, when the Kurdish and Shia Arab uprisings were encouraged and then betrayed. Even Saddam’s regime conceded that during those few weeks in 1991 that some 30,000 were killed. The true number was many times higher.

Building democracy in Iraq is not a fanciful quest, but a recognition that all other approaches have failed. True stability comes from consent, not from the illusory “stability” of dictatorships. It is therefore in our mutual interest that we pursue the cause of democracy. We may falter, we may tire, but if we persevere, we shall not be defeated.

Jalal Talabani is President of Iraq

10.28.2005

Middle East's Political Stirring

As I believe, the Middle East is stirring. Because that many relevant objective conditions are existent now or evolving, including media, communication, knowledge availability and the more integration and interdependent with the world, with a special attention to the change in the international input in the Middle East as a key factor.

As a result, the nature of the relation between the state -which symbolized and reduced to the ultimate ruler- and the society has lost its stability and is undergoing another and sometimes different causes.

I intentionally avoided talking about the relation between the state –actually the regime- and the single individuals, and this is a very important consideration. Actually, because it is somewhat early to talk about that as regards the Arab societies. The individualism is somehow an advanced thought and ideology for the Arab publics and the political individualism is something almost absent in the Arab common sense, as a direct effect of the authoritarian political system.

The nature and legitimacy of the Arab states and regimes besides the current challenge they face will be one of the central topics of the "Middle East Policy" future contents. Your participations are welcome.

Following is an example of Arab voices, which want to reach the world. It is an opinion on Tunisian political affairs:

Use the information summit to pressure the Tunisian authorities

By Bassam Bounenni

The Daily Star
October 24, 2005

The choice of Tunisia to host the November 16-18 second World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has provoked much controversy. The idea behind the summit is to bridge the gap between rich and poor countries in a field that has proven to be one of the focal points of present and future progress. Tunisia, however, excels neither in informatics and related fields nor in allowing freedom of expression and respecting the rights of civil society. A September 26 report by the Tunisian Monitoring Group stated specifically that "Tunisia is not the appropriate country to host the Information Society summit," especially in view of escalating measures targeting free speech.

The Tunisian authorities have been working for months on creating a "new look" for the world, exploiting preparations for the summit to improve the image of the country in terms of the media, human rights and civil society. A regulation requiring all newspapers to submit editions to the government in advance of publication, which led to widespread self-censorship, was revoked in May. Numerous other problems remain, however, for opposition newspapers such as the weekly Al-Mawqif, mouthpiece of the Progressive Democratic Party. Opposition newspapers still suffer from frequent confiscations and lack of access to public sector advertising revenues.

As part of their cosmetic efforts, the Tunisian authorities loosened restrictions on television and radio and created new radio stations such as Mosaic FM and Al-Jawhara, as well as the satellite television station Hanbal. These stations are run by individuals close to the government, while members of the independent media wait to obtain licenses to form new stations. Independents will not obtain licenses, in view of the fact that the legislation for loosening restrictions on television and radio media is riddled with loopholes.

This "new look" for Tunisia amounts to no more than an effort to mislead the world into missing the forest for the trees. The Tunisian authorities continue to repress all those who dare question the legitimacy of the political authority as well as its respect for public freedoms and rights.

In April, a Tunisian court sentenced Mohammad Abbou, a lawyer and human rights activist, to three-and-a-half years in prison. Abbou was sentenced after publishing two articles, one of which compared the situation of Tunisian prisons to Abu Ghraib, and the other that compared President Zein al-Abedin ben Ali to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (in reference to the expected visit of the latter to Tunisia for the summit). The International Association for the Support of Political Prisoners described the decision against Abbou as "a thunderbolt," adding that "for the first time in the history of Tunisian justice, a defendant was overtly denied his right to defend himself."

Measures against free expression escalated further when the Tunisian authorities cancelled the first conference of the Tunisian Journalists Syndicate, founded by independent journalists, to have been held in early September. Human rights organizations expressed surprise at this decision, especially as syndicate activities are a right provided for in the Tunisian Constitution as well as in international agreements to which Tunisia is party. Authorities also took measures to restrict the Tunisian League for Human Rights and the Association of Tunisian Judges.

Even if one sets aside the concerns of those in the politically-active elite, ordinary Tunisians are also deprived of information because only a single point of view and limited sources of information are tolerated. Even surfing the Internet is fraught with obstacles because many foreign sites are banned.

What is strange is that Tunisia has been at times a pioneer in many fields such as media and human rights, especially in terms of its legislation and organizations. The Tunisian League for Human Rights, for example, was the first non-governmental organization in the Arab world charged with defending human rights. But like many other such organizations it is now barely surviving, hoping for deeper political reforms or foreign pressures that will strike a balance between economic interests and the need for democracy.

Tunisian civil society organizations, along with those in media and human rights groups, are hoping to use the WSIS as an opportunity to demand their foremost right: to exist. So far Tunisian authorities deny this right and continue their harassment of such forces. The silence of Western countries - or even in some cases their approval of repressive Tunisian policies, in light of the so-called war on terror - has only exacerbated the situation.

It is possible, rather it is imperative, for the international community to use the summit to turn a spotlight on the problems that have afflicted Tunisian society and led to an all-time high in internal tensions. As the summit will be held in Tunisia, the international community must at least use that opportunity to apply its recommendations both to faraway countries and to the host country itself.

Bassam Bounenni is a Tunisian journalist and researcher based in Paris. He wrote this commentary for THE DAILY STAR.

Iraq's Federalism

I previously posted an opinion on the Iraq's federalism "On Iraq Integrity" represents the Sunni stance and criticizes adopting federalism in the new Iraq. Here is an opinion of different viewpoint:

Iraq's federalism ensures justice

By Ali al-Awsi

13 October 2005
aljazeera.net

Since the establishment of the Iraqi state in 1921, there has been little improvement in democratic conditions for ordinary Iraqi citizens.


Successive regimes have failed to get to grips with many issues, the main one being the discrimination among Iraq's regions, and this underlines the need for federalism as a solution to these persistent problems which have left Iraqis living under injustice and discrimination.

Iraqis and Arabs alike have been living with values inherited from successive tyrannical regimes which left behind suffocating legacies and robbed the people of their will.

That legacy has been based on consolidating the one-man-rule and establishing a climate of fear in which the public is unwilling to accept anything other than the centralised regime.

We now have an opportunity to change direction and Iraq needs a new culture that would stop the old values from continuing to flourish.

The autocratic rule which started in 1968 - the year the Baath Party assumed power in Iraq - was based on a monopolisation of power to the extent that even local municipalities could not make decisions without the permission of the absolute leader and his ruling party in Baghdad.

This bureaucracy prevented progress in many aspects of life; Saddam Hussein's regime had introduced horrific discrimination through classifying Iraqis into black and white governorates. It sorted citizens into two types; those who would be suppressed and left in mass graves and those who enjoyed influence and power.

Just the name of a person was enough to prevent him from getting a decent job, if it indicated the person belonged to a certain sect or was not Arab, and these practices endangered the Iraqi social fabric.

Iraqis will not forget Saddam's tanks entering Nasiriya in southern Iraq to kill Iraqis with the phrase "no Shia from now on" written on them.

The Arab regimes and even Arab pan-nationalists are watching the current crimes being committed in Iraq on a daily basis with glee. This has deepened Iraqis' fears and increased their concerns about their future.

The problem Iraq is facing is represented in those who are interfering in its affairs under the guise of goodwill, but in fact they are after influence and domination of Iraq's riches.

It is sad that there are still some Arabs who think they are able to keep the old formula, and continue to milk Iraq. These include individuals who benefited from the black era in Iraq, and they consist of Iraqis and non-Iraqis.

Their savage crimes in Iraq after the fall of dictatorship proved they were plotting fiercely and savagely against Iraq, after they stole Iraq's money and arms worth an estimated $100 billion.

These circumstances motivate Iraqis to establish a system that guarantees the future of coming generations.

Federalism fears

We can divide fears regarding federalism into two kinds: intentional false fear and naive fear.

The first hides certain agendas, ideologies and interests. It uses pompous slogans, but in fact those who promote this fear are in contact with their alleged enemies and engaging them in discussions. Eventually, they will accept the constitution as it is.

The second kind of fear is held by those who are naive and deceived, who have fallen into the trap of those who promote the false fear.

Then there are those who have been deceived by a theory that says the safety of Iraq lies in a strong ruler and centralised regime.

Iraq was once a federal state under Islamic rule. It was divided into three provinces: Basra, Kufa, and Sharazor – later known as Mosul.

The following articles of the constitution demonstrate that its authors have tried to recognise and answer all the concerns raised by different parties:

- No law that contradicts this constitution shall be passed; any passage in the regional constitutions and any other legal passages that contradict this constitution shall be considered null.

- The constitution approves the new provinces established according to its rulings.

Other articles support this view, so if we ignore political games and media exaggeration, we can demonstrate that federalism is a proper chance for fair wealth and power distribution.

Federalism is applicable in Iraq. The need to get rid of dark memories so makes it the proper choice for Iraqis.

Federalism exists in several countries around the world such as Germany, Switzerland and the US among others. All these countries adopted federalism after taking the views of the people into account.

The federal government keeps the key ministries such as defence, interior, and foreign affairs. Also, there are elected federal councils and these are counted as one of the guarantees provided by the constitution.

As for the right of self-determination, we it would be damaging to allow each province the right to declare its independence. We want all the provinces to continue to exist under the umbrella of the federal state, and this is achievable.

Guarantee for democracy

Federalism represents a guarantee against the return of authoritarian regimes and suppression by centralised government. This could be achieved through establishing a stable democratic government.

Federalism should not be the victim of the fear that it is somehow breaking up the country. That would be legitimate if there was the will for division but that would not be imposed under a democratic system which believes in multi-party rule and peaceful rotation of power.

We could turn the tables and say that centralised rule is what will eventually break Iraq up?

The call for federalism in southern Iraq is not sectarian. We believe in seeking the opportunity to achieve justice in wealth distribution and fairness in all aspects of life.

The constitution must stipulate that federalism is an adopted system in Iraq. We are against the view that says only Kurds should enjoy a federal province just because they are a special case.

Federalism must be secured for all Iraq. Even if it is not applied on the ground right now, the constitution must say clearly that federalism is to be adopted for the sake of Iraq’s future.

Ali al-Awsi is the director of the Centre for Southern Iraq Studies - London, UK

The article has been translated from the Arabic.

10.26.2005

Iraq is Democratic By Law

The Iraqi draft constitution has been adopted by the free will of the people of Iraq. Iraq is democracy now –in the narrow meaning at least- and the Iraqi people are free institutionally and by the force of law; the Iraqi-made law not just by the will of some other nations.

This is a historic milestone in the Middle East history; the statue has been broken now and an Arabic people chose his destiny.

The Middle East politics would undergo structural changes; the rulers would be frightened of the new reality, reflecting on their ability to cope with that besides their enabling resources, and the peoples of the Middle East would be inspired by democratic liberties and rights they don not have but they know that they can claim it now. Because the U.S. attitude has changed and even the Middle East has serious changes inside.

It was easy to maintain a regional stable system in the Middle East, mainly a status quo, when it has not to bring prosperity and has the same essence across the different countries –the authoritarianism. In addition to the third necessity –the international consent and overlooking with pragmatic and cynical support from the powerful states, this system could last but with costs. These costs include persistent underdevelopment and increasing underlying circle of violence, which prevails to be a culture.

The Iraqi democratic process broke the harmony of the authoritarian-based system, nor the international context maintaining it. Hence, the Middle East may not be the same.

Here are some reactions to the passage of the Iraqi constitution:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

Bush, Rice, U.N.'s Annan Welcome Passage of Iraqi Constitution Draft

All three say constitutional vote indicates Iraqis' desire for democracy

By Phillip Kurata
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan have welcomed the announcement from the Iraqi electoral commission that voters have approved Iraq’s draft constitution in a referendum October 15.

"With their courageous vote, the Iraqi people have once again proved their determination to build a democracy united against extremism and violence," Bush said in a speech in Washington October 25.

The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq released the preliminary results of the referendum on the draft constitution October 25. Election officials reported that more than 78 percent of the voters approved the document.

The president said the draft constitution guarantees fundamental freedoms and lays the foundation for lasting democracy. He noted that many more Sunnis cast ballots in the referendum than in the elections in January for a transitional government.

Bush related an anecdote of an 85-year-old woman casting her vote in favor of the constitution after her son carried her on his back to the polls.

"She said, 'I went out to vote for it because I want the future to be safe and peaceful for my sons and my grandchildren,'" the president said.

In expressing congratulations to the Iraqi people on the passage of the document, Secretary Rice said, "Iraqis have met every challenge before them, from the transfer of sovereignty and the elections last January to the writing of the constitution and the holding of the referendum."

Rice said she hopes that all Iraqis will turn out to vote in the December 15 elections to choose the first permanent government of a free Iraq.

"As Iraq enters this new phase in its history, the United States vows its continued support," she said.

U.N. Secretary-General Annan called the referendum an "historic event," which he hopes will mark a milestone on Iraq's path to democracy, according to a statement issued by the United Nations.

He said the high voter turnout throughout the country and among all the main political groups despite threats of violence against them was a "welcome sign of their desire to choose ballots rather than bullets to express their political views."

The secretary-general expressed a hope that the adoption of the constitution will encourage a spirit of national reconciliation and an inclusive political process in the effort to build a democratic and united Iraq.

"The United Nations will continue to make every effort to support the efforts of the Iraqi people and government to that end," he said.

Rice's Testimony on Iraq Strategy

I have previously posted the Dr. Rice remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee explaining the U.S. strategy on Iraq. Here is the New York Times report on the entire hearing including Dr. Rice's key answers:

Rice, in Testy Hearing, Cites Progress in Iraq

New York Times
10/20/2005

By STEVEN R. WEISMAN

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, facing tough questions about Iraq from Republican and Democratic senators, asserted that progress was being made in securing the country but declined to predict when American forces could withdraw or to rule out widening the war to Syria.

In three and a half hours of hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ms. Rice was both conciliatory and combative, rebutting the gloomy assessments from senators of both parties but at the end offering a weary concession to Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois.

"I understand that, yes, it might not work," Ms. Rice told Mr. Obama, referring to American plans to raise the effectiveness of Iraqi forces and heal Iraq's fractious society. "But every day we have to get up and work at our hardest to make it work."

It was a day that echoed the anguish, anger and skepticism that opinion polls show have begun to dominate the thinking of Americans. The hearing was punctuated by a heckler who called for an end to the war, only to be hustled out. There were also a few glimmerings of a change in the administration's tone on a few subjects.

For example, Ms. Rice said for the first time that the American ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, had the "flexibility" to reach out to Iranian envoys to discuss the problem of insurgents entering Iraq from Iranian territory and other matters related to the stability of the country. Such contacts have been forbidden for the last couple years.

"We're considering whether that might be useful," she said of such contacts.

There were also hints in her testimony of mounting American impatience with countries around the world unwilling to support Iraq financially and politically, and the unwillingness of Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-dominated Arab countries to do more to encourage Iraqi Sunnis to work with Shiites.

The Iraqi government also did not escape criticism for its troubles unifying the country and for not working with other governments. She said Iraqis "must continue to come together in order to build their nation" and that the government "must forge a more effective partnership with foreign governments."

"I have said our strategy is to clear, hold and build," Ms. Rice said. "The enemy's strategy is to infect, terrorize and pull down." She explained that this meant efforts to clear out insurgents' sanctuaries, occupy these areas with Iraqi and other forces and build a political consensus while reconstructing the country.

Led by Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, all eight Democrats on the committee expressed doubts about administration goals, as did most of the six Republicans at the hearing. Senators Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, and George Allen, Republican of Virginia, offered the most extensive praise for the administration on its handling of Iraq.

Several Democrats pressed Ms. Rice to set some kind of timetable for withdrawing troops, and Senator Richard G. Lugar, Republican of Indiana and chairman of the committee, said that even though withdrawal timelines were "unwise," Americans "need to more fully understand the basis upon which our troops are likely to come home."

But Ms. Rice said troop withdrawals had to be based on results, not arbitrary timetables. She declined a request by Senator Paul S. Sarbanes, Democrat of Maryland, to say whether American troops could be pulled out in 10 years, saying it was "not appropriate" to "try and speculate" about such matters.

Later she told Senator Russell D. Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, she had "no doubt" that as Iraqi forces got better at holding territory "we are going to be able to bring down the levels of our forces," and said she had "no doubt that that's going to happen in a reasonable time frame."

Ms. Rice was also peppered with questions about possible expansion of the fighting to Syria and Iran, especially after she said both countries had to decide whether they were on the side of war or peace in Iraq.

Asked about news reports that fighting on the border could spread to Syria, Ms. Rice repeatedly indicated that no options were being ruled out. When Senator Lincoln Chafee, Republican of Rhode Island, asked whether President Bush would seek Congressional approval for a military action against Syria, she declined to say anything to "circumscribe" his powers as commander in chief.

Even those Republican senators who said they believed that the Iraq war was going well expressed dismay, saying other countries were not doing their share. Ms. Rice said $13.5 billion had been pledged in aid from other countries but did not dispute a suggestion that only about $3 billion had been disbursed, partly because of security problems.

Ms. Rice offered a cutting comment about Saudi Arabia, which administration officials say has not come forward with aid or debt relief commensurate to its wealth.

Asked by Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, about the recent comments of the Saudi foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, that Iraq was disintegrating, she said: "I really think that the proper role for Saudi Arabia or for any other country in the region is to help them, not critique them. And I've made that point very clear to countries in the region."

Administration officials say Ms. Rice was incensed by Prince Saud's comment last month.

10.25.2005

The U.S. Strategy on Iraq

Dr. Rice laid out a three-part political-military strategy for achieving success in Iraq in her Remarks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

As usual, she was realistic, methodological and competent as a scholar and a skilful diplomat.

She is aware of historical context of some disagreements between Iraqi sects ( I talked about that in a previous post) and aware of the de facto troubling points and has a comprehensive vision of healing toward a stable democracy; actually toward a de facto democratic representative system as a political way and framework toward the stable democracy.

She stresses on the importance of building state institutions and infrastructure besides the responsibilities of the Iraqi government in her pursuit to introduce a comprehensive and realistic U.S. strategy; a strategy relies on surveying on-ground realities and action plans more than rhetoric.

Her refusal to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq is the right sign to the Iraqi people, the Middle East reformists, Islamic and Ba'athist terrorists, and the regional totalitarian deconstructive powers.

Everyone must know that the job will be done entirely until the Iraqi state be able to take the full charge, founded on the first Arab democracy.

Here is an outline of Rice's remarks from the U.S. information programs website then the full transcript:

Rice Lays Out Political-Military Success Strategy for Iraq

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice October 19 laid out a three-part political-military strategy for achieving success in Iraq, saying the coalition forces and the Iraqi government must clear all parts of the country from insurgent control, ensure that those areas remain secure and build durable, national Iraqi institutions.

Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the strategy would not be successful through military or civilian action alone. “This requires an integrated civil-military partnership,” she said.

The secretary listed several recent offensives aimed at depriving insurgents of safe havens and said coalition and Iraqi forces are integrating political and economic outreach into their military operations to ensure that the secured areas do not return to insurgent control.

Rice also outlined what the Iraqi government must do to be effective. She said it must bridge sectarian and ethnic differences, guarantee the rule of law, deliver essential services and provide hope for a better economic future.

The secretary spoke of four major objectives that could serve as benchmarks for success in Iraq. These are: breaking the back of the insurgency; preventing Iraq from becoming a sanctuary for Islamic extremists; demonstrating the potential for democratic change in the Arab and Muslim world; and providing hope for a brighter economic future.

Rice told the senators that Iraqis have adhered to an ambitious political schedule and said it is not surprising that the parties have not yet resolved all of their differences, many of which have been hundreds of years in the making. She said, however, that the proposed constitution would provide a framework to address their disagreements. This democratic political process, she said, is the only way that the different communities can hope to achieve peaceful coexistence. (See Iraq’s Political Process.)

Rice said she believes that Iraq’s Sunni Arabs have come to appreciate the importance of participating in the political process and is optimistic that they will remain engaged in the process through the upcoming elections even if the constitution is approved over a majority rejection by the Sunni community.

“If the referendum passes, those who voted ‘no’ this time will realize that their chosen representatives can then participate in the review of the constitution that was agreed upon last week,” she said.

If the constitution passes, it will serve as the basis for national elections December 15, and the resulting government will have the right to review and amend the document. Rice expects that the Sunnis will want to ensure that their voices are heard in this review process.

“People recognize that their best bet to protect their interests is to elect candidates who will protect their interests,” she said.

Rice offered no expectation that the strength of the insurgency will diminish in the near future. “The enemy's strategy is to infect, terrorize, and pull down,” she said. “Sadly, this strategy has some short-term advantages because it is easier to pull down than to build up. It is easier to sow fear than to grow hope.”

This strategy is ultimately doomed to fail, Rice said, because it offers no vision for the future. She said that in contrast the U.S. strategy is to help build up the physical, security and economic infrastructure necessary to ensure a brighter future. Specifically, she noted that the United States would begin to establish provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs) similar to those that have been used in Afghanistan. (See Rebuilding Afghanistan.)

“These will be civil-military teams, working in concert with each of the major subordinate commands, training police, setting up courts, and helping local governments with essential services like sewage treatment or irrigation,” she said.

Rice refused to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, saying that the withdrawal will be contingent on conditions on the ground, specifically the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security. She said, however, that a joint U.S.-Iraqi committee has been formed to define the conditions that would allow for a U.S. withdrawal.

For additional information, see Iraq Update.

Following is a transcript of the secretary’s statement to the committee:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
October 19, 2005
(As Delivered)
REMARKS

Opening Remarks by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
October 19, 2005
Washington, D.C.
(10:00 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. I would like to deliver this in full. It's my first opportunity to talk to you specifically about Iraq. I've spoken many times about why we are there, but I would like to talk about how we assure victory.

In short, with the Iraqi government, our political-military strategy has to be to clear, hold, and build: to clear areas from insurgent control, to hold them securely, and to build durable, national Iraqi institutions.

In 2003, enforcing UN resolutions, we overthrew a brutal dictator and liberated a nation. Our strategy then emphasized the military defeat of the regime's forces and the creation of a temporary government with the Coalition Provisional Authority and an Iraqi Governing Council.
In 2004, President Bush outlined a five step plan to end the occupation: transferring sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government, rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, getting more international support, preparing for Iraq's first national election this past January, and helping to establish security. Our soldiers and marines fought major battles, major battles, against the insurgency in places like Najaf and Sadr City and Fallujah.

In 2005, we emphasized transition: a security transition to greater reliance on Iraqi forces and a political transition to a permanent, constitutional democracy. The just-concluded referendum was a landmark in that process.

And now we are preparing for 2006. First we must help Iraqis as they hold another vital election in December. Well over nine million Iraqis voted on Sunday. Whether Iraqis voted yes or no, they were voting for an Iraqi nation, and for Iraqi democracy.

And all their voices, pro and con, will be heard again in December. If the referendum passes, those who voted no this time will realize that their chosen representatives can then participate in the review of the constitution that was agreed upon last week.

This process will ultimately lead to Iraqis selecting a lasting government, for a four year term. We must then have a decisive strategy to help that government set a path toward democracy, stability, and prosperity.

Our nation -- our servicemen and women -- are fighting in Iraq at a pivotal time in world history. We must succeed. And I look forward to working together with you on winning.

We know our objectives. We and the Iraqi government will succeed if together we can:

-- Break the back of the insurgency so that Iraqis can finish it off without large-scale military help from the United States.

-- Keep Iraq from becoming a safe haven from which Islamic extremists can terrorize the region or the world.

-- Demonstrate positive potential for democratic change and free expression in the Arab and Muslim worlds, even under the most difficult conditions.

-- And turn the corner financially and economically, so there is a sense of hope and a visible path toward self-reliance.

Now, of course, to achieve this, we must know who we are fighting. Some of these people are creatures of a deposed tyrant, others a small number of home-grown and imported Islamist extremists. They feed on a portion of the population that is overwhelmed by feelings of fear, resentment, and despair.

As I have said, our strategy is to clear, hold, and build. The enemy's strategy is to infect, terrorize, and pull down.

They want to spread more fear, resentment, and despair -- inciting sectarian violence as they did two weeks ago in Hillah, when they blew up devout worshippers in a mosque, and committed this atrocity during the holy month of Ramadan. They attack infrastructure, like electricity and water, so that average Iraqis will lose hope.

They target foreigners. The enemy forces have never won even a platoon-size battle against our soldiers and marines. But their ultimate target is the coalition's center of gravity: the will of America, of Britain, and of other coalition members. Let us say it plainly: The terrorists want us to get discouraged and quit. They believe we do not have the will to see this through. They talk openly about this in their writings on their websites.

And they attack the Iraqi government, targeting the most dedicated public servants of the new Iraq. Mayors and physicians and teachers and policemen, soldiers -- none are exempt. Millions of Iraqis are putting their lives on the line every single day to build a new nation and the insurgents want most to strike at them.

Sadly, this strategy has some short-term advantages because it is easier to pull down than to build up. It is easier to sow fear than to grow hope.

But the enemy strategy has a fatal flaw. The enemy has no positive vision for the future of Iraq. They offer no alternative that could unite Iraqi as a nation. And that is why most Iraqis despise the insurgents.

The enemy leaders know their movement is unpopular. Zawahiri's July letter to Zarqawi reveals that he is "extremely concerned" that, deprived of popular support, the insurgents will "be crushed in the shadows." "We don't want to repeat the mistakes of the Taliban," he warned, whose regime "collapsed in days, because the people were passive or hostile."

Knowing how unpopular they are, the enemy leaders also hate the idea of democracy. They will never let themselves or their ideas face the test of democratic choice.

Let me now turn to our political-military strategy. We are moving from a stage of transition toward the strategy to prepare a permanent Iraqi government for a decisive victory.

The strategy that is being carried out has profited from the insights of strategic thinkers, civilian and military, inside and outside of government, who have reflected on our experience and on insurgencies in other periods of history.

We know what we must do. With our Iraqi allies, we are working to:

-- Clear the toughest places -- no sanctuaries to the enemy -- and to disrupt foreign support for the insurgents.

-- We are working to hold and steadily enlarge the secure areas, integrating political and economic outreach with our military operations.

-- We are working to build truly national institutions by working with more capable provincial and local authorities. We are challenging them to embody a national compact -- not tools of a particular sect or ethnic group. These Iraqi institutions must sustain security forces, bring rule of law, visibly deliver essential services, and offer the Iraqi people hope for a better economic future.

None of these elements, as you have said, Mr. Chairman, can be achieved by military action alone. None are purely civilian either. This requires an integrated civil-military partnership. And let me briefly review that partnership.

Clear the toughest places -- no sanctuaries. As we enlarge security in major urban areas and as insurgents retreat, they should find no large area where they can reorganize and operate freely. Recently our forces have gone on the offensive. In Tall Afar, near the Syrian border, and in the west along the Euphrates valley in places like Al Qaim, Haditha, and Hit, American and Iraqi forces are clearing away insurgents.

As one terrorist wrote to another: "[I]f the government extends its control over the country, we will have to pack our bags and break camp."

Syria and Iran allow fighters and military assistance to reach insurgents in Iraq. In the case of Syria, we are concerned about cross-border infiltration, about unconstrained travel networks, and about the suspicious young men who are being waved through Damascus International Airport.

As a part of our strategy, we have taken military steps, as with our offensive in Tal Afar, to cut off the flow of people or supplies near that border. And we are also taking new diplomatic steps to convey the seriousness of our concerns. Syria and indeed Iran must decide whether they wish to side with the cause of war or with the cause of peace.

Secondly, to hold and enlarge secure areas. In the past our problem was that once an area was clear militarily, the Iraqi security forces were unable to hold it. Now, Iraqi units are more capable.

-- In August 2004, five Iraqi regular army battalions were in combat. Today, 91 Iraqi regular army battalions are in combat.

-- A year ago, no American advisors were embedded with these battalions. Now all of these battalions have American advisors.

With more capable Iraqi forces, we can implement this element of the strategy, holding secure areas -- neighborhood by neighborhood. And this process has already begun.

-- Compare the situation a year ago in places like Haifa Street in Baghdad, or Baghdad's Sadr City, or downtown Mosul, or Najaf, or Fallujah, with the situation today.

-- Security along the once notorious airport road in Baghdad has measurably improved. Najaf, where American forces fought a major battle last year, is now entirely under independent Iraqi military control.

As this strategy is being implemented, the military side recedes and the civilian part -- like police stations and civic leaders and economic development -- move into the foreground. Our transition strategy emphasized the building of the Iraqi army. Now our police training efforts are receiving new levels of attention.

Third, we must build truly national institutions. The institutions of Saddam Hussein's government were violent and corrupt, tearing apart the ties that ordinarily bind communities together. The last two years have seen three temporary governments govern Iraq, making it extremely difficult to build national institutions even under the best of circumstances. The new government that will come can finally set down real roots.

To be effective, that government must bridge sects and ethnic groups. And its institutions must not become the tools of a particular sect or group.

Let me assure you, the United States will not try to pick winners. We will support parties and politicians in every community who are dedicated to peaceful participation in the future of a democratic Iraq.

The national institutions must also sustain the security forces and bring rule of law to Iraq.

The national institutions must also visibly deliver essential services. Thanks to you and other members of Congress, the United States has already invested billions of dollars to keep electricity and fuel flowing across Iraq. In the transition phase, we concentrated on capital investment, adding capacity to a system that had deteriorated to the point of collapse. But, with freedom, the demand for electricity has gone up by 50% and the capability we have added is not being fully utilized because of constant insurgent attacks. We are with the Iraqis developing new ways to add security to this battered but vital system. And the Iraqis must reform their energy policies and pricing in order to make the system sustainable.

The national institutions must also offer the Iraqi people hope for a better economic future.

Millions of farmers, small businessmen, and investors need a government that encourages growth rather than fostering dependence on handouts from the ruler. The government, the next government, will need to make some difficult but necessary decisions about economic reform.

In sum, we and the Iraqis must seize the vital opportunity provided by the establishment of a permanent government.

Well, what is Required?

First, Iraqis must continue to come together in order to build their nation. The state of Iraq was constructed across the fault lines of ancient civilizations, among Arabs and Kurds, Sunni and Shi'a, Muslims and Christians. No one can solve this problem for them. For years these differences were dealt with through violence and repression. Now Iraqis are using compromise and politics.

Second, the Iraqi government must forge more effective partnerships with foreign governments, particularly in building their ministries and governmental capacity.

-- On our side of this partnership, the United States should sustain a maximum effort to help the Iraqi government succeed, tying it more clearly to our immediate political-military objectives.

-- On Iraq's side, the government must show us and other assisting countries that critical funds are being well spent -- whatever their source. They must show commitment to the professionalization of their government and bureaucracy. And they must demonstrate the willingness to take tough decisions.

Third, Iraq must forge stronger partnerships with the international community beyond the United States.

The Iraqis have made it clear that they want the multinational military coalition to remain. Among many contributors, the soldiers and civilians of the United Kingdom deserve special gratitude for their resolve, their skill, and their sacrifices.

Now the military support from the coalition must be matched by diplomatic, economic, and political support from the entire international community. Earlier this year, in Brussels and Amman, scores of nations gathered to offer more support. NATO has opened a training mission near Baghdad. And now, as Iraq chooses a permanent, constitutional government, it is time for Iraq's neighbors to do more to help.

-- The major oil producing states of the Gulf have gained tens of billions of dollars of additional revenue from rising oil prices. They are considering how to invest these gains for the future.

-- These governments must be partners in shaping the region's future.

-- We understand that across the region, there are needs and multilateral programs in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan as well as Iraq. Rather than consider them in a disjointed way, they together form part of a broad regional effort in transforming the Arab and Muslim world. We hope the governments of the region, as well as others in Europe and Asia, will examine these needs and then invest decisively, on an unprecedented scale, to become continuing stakeholders in the future of Iraq and of the region.
Finally, the U.S. government must deepen and strengthen the integration of our civilian and military activities.

-- At the top in Iraq, we have established an effective partnership between the Embassy and Ambassador Khalilzad on the one hand, and the Multinational Forces command and General Casey on the other.

-- To be sure, civilian agencies have already made an enormous effort. Hundreds of civilian employees and contractors have lost their lives in Iraq. But more can be done to mobilize the civilian agencies of our government, especially to get more people in the field, outside of Baghdad's International Zone, to follow up when the fighting stops.

-- We will embed our diplomats, police trainers, and aid workers more fully on military bases, traveling with our soldiers and marines.

-- To execute our strategy we will restructure a portion of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Learning from successful precedents used in Afghanistan, we will deploy Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in key parts of the country. These will be civil-military teams, working in concert with each of the major subordinate commands, training police, setting up courts, and helping local governments with essential services like sewage treatment or irrigation. The first of these new PRTs will take the field next month.

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, to succeed, we need most your help and your support, and that of the American people. We seek support across the aisle, from both Democrats and Republicans.

And I know that we all, as Americans, know the importance of success in this mission. It is hard. It is hard to imagine decisive victory when violent men continue their attacks on Iraqi civilians and security forces and on American and coalition soldiers and marines. And we honor the sacrifice because every individual has life stories and friends and families -- and incalculable sorrow that has been left behind.

But of course, there is a great deal at stake. A free Iraq will be at the heart of a different kind of Middle East. We must defeat the ideology of hatred, the ideology that forms the roots of the extremist threat that we face. Iraq's struggle -- the region's struggle -- is to show that there is a better way, a freer way, to lasting peace.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

(end transcript)

10.24.2005

The International Institutionalization of Human Rights

The United States is working to replace the U.N. Commission on Human Rights with a new, legitimate and effective body.

That is truly a necessary task. I see the efforts for combining the human rights into the international order as a deliberate pursuit to vitalizing the international order by providing extraordinary foundations may replace the chaos of the post-cold war international order.

The United States and the European Union must do their best, including practicing pressure, to impose preliminary foundations of the authority of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. It is not enough to have an auxiliary U.N. human rights body. It must have a competence and some mandate albeit this mandate, in its scope, is subject to the evolving of the international order.

Here are some details on the U.S. initiative:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

U.N. Human Rights Body Must Exclude Violators, U.S. Official Says

Supports doubling funding for Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights

Washington -- The United States is committed to working with other United Nations members to replace the discredited U.N. Commission on Human Rights with a new, legitimate and effective body before March 2006 when the current commission is scheduled to again convene, says a senior official in the State Department’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs.

Mark Lagon, speaking October 18 in New York to the U.N. working group seeking to replace the commission with a new Human Rights Council, said that the essential component of the new body’s mandate would be the ability quickly to address urgent and continuing human rights violations and to offer technical assistance and capacity-building resources to countries seeking to strengthen domestic human rights protections.

“We are seeking the creation of a U.N. human rights mechanism that can more effectively reach out to countries to assist them in meeting their human rights commitments and obligations,” he said.

Deputy Assistant Secretary Lagon said the United States believes the new organization should be limited to “a strong, committed, and smaller membership” of about 30 nations. The U.N. members, he said, “should not make room on the council for countries that only seek to undermine the effectiveness of the U.N.’s human rights machinery and limit its appropriate role.”

At a minimum, governments that are under Security Council sanctions for human rights abuses should be ineligible for membership, he said.

The United States also proposes that prospective members be individually and directly elected by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly, that they submit a letter outlining their membership qualifications to the secretary-general, and that they have the specific endorsement of majority of U.N. countries within their region.

“The United States is committed to working with the U.N. member states until we arrive at an entity we can stand by with pride and confidence,” Lagon said.

He also noted that the United States supports a doubling of the regular funding of the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights because “when states seek help, they should get it.”

The text of Lagon’s remarks is available on the Web site of the United States Mission to the United Nations.

Peace and Reform in the Middle East

Moving forward in the Middle East peace process is an important matter. The region needs the congestion to be relieved somewhat. That will ensure an improved environment more proper for the new deal in the Middle East.

It is important to know that is extremely important to focus on administrating this conflict in the context of the peace process. Actually, the mere focus on settling this long conflict was neither productive nor realistic.

Restricting the use of force is essential and entails U.S. and European engagement. Without effective international engagement, I doubt any settlement or progress would be achieved.

Moving directly from the crisis to the settlement is unrealistic policy and may be counterproductive. My evidence on that is the Clinton administration policy and what it yielded.

It is necessary, in my view, for the U.S. to adopt a policy targets relief accompanied with improving security and economic conditions for Palestinians, and ensures Israeli commitment to a powerful Palestinian Authority, which is essential for Israeli security.

Powerful Palestinian Authority, relieved and more secure Palestinian population, more security for Israelis, and effective international engagement are key conditions for implementing the road map.

The calm and a progressive action plan, albeit not fast, are important for the U.S. interests and strategy in the Middle East on the short range. However, the peace settlement, which provides an appropriate climate, is not ever a condition for the Middle East reform. The linkage between them is deceiving and misleading and is a part of the official propaganda of the system of despots in the Middle East.

Following is the main points of the remarks by President Bush and Palestinian President Abbas after their meeting:

(Source: International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)

Palestinians Moving Closer to Independent State, Bush Says

Praises President Abbas' commitment to peaceful solution

After an “eventful year” in which Israel withdrew from Gaza and presidential and municipal elections were held in the Palestinian Territories, the Palestinian people are closer to achieving an independent state, President Bush said October 20.

Speaking at the White House with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Bush praised Abbas as “a man devoted to peace and to his people's aspirations for a state of their own,” and said, “today the Palestinian people are closer to realizing those aspirations.”

Bush said there now are partners in peace on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and that Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon “are showing strong leadership toward achieving that objective.”

“This is a time of great possibility in the Middle East, and the people of the region are counting on their leaders to seize the opportunities for peace and progress. This work isn't going to be easy, but the path forward is clear,” Bush said.

The president said the United States expects both Israel and the Palestinians to adhere to the road map agreement for peace. He called on Abbas to confront “armed gangs” that pose a threat to peace and to “a genuinely democratic Palestine.”

Bush, calling on Sharon’s government to remove unauthorized settlement outposts and to stop settlement expansion, said Israel must work to improve the daily lives of Palestinians and “should not undertake any activity that contravenes its road map obligations or prejudices the final status negotiations,”

The barrier Israel is erecting in the West Bank must be a security enhancement, not a political barrier, the president said. Israel also must “take into account the impact the security barrier has on Palestinians not engaged in terrorist activities,” he said.

“[W]e are holding people to account on the pledges that both the Palestinians and the Israelis have made on the road map. And we do so publicly, and we do so privately,” Bush said.

The president rejected the notion of a U.S. timetable for peace, saying “the United States will [not] try to conform and force parties to make decisions based upon the political schedule in America.”

“I'd like to see two states. And if it happens before I get out of office, I'll be there to witness the ceremony. … [I]f it doesn't, we will work hard to lay that foundation so that the process becomes irreversible,” he said.

Bush also called for the rebuilding of the Palestinian economy through measures such as opening the Rafah border crossing, connecting the West Bank and Gaza, easing travel restrictions in the West Bank and beginning work on the Gaza seaport.

“These are all practical steps that will help the Palestinian economy grow and flourish,” Bush said. The international community, especially Arab states, “have a particular responsibility to help the Palestinians build a strong and prosperous economy,” the president said.

The president thanked General William Ward, who is completing his services as senior U.S. security coordinator for the Palestinians, and said he would be naming a new coordinator within days to “take on an enhanced mission” to help the Palestinian Authority “end terror attacks, dismantle terrorist infrastructure, maintain law and order and one day provide security for their own state. “

ABBAS REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO PEACE

Abbas reaffirmed the Palestinians’ “commitment to peace and negotiated settlement,” and called for a Palestinian-Israeli partnership to create “a better future for the entire region” by ending decades of wars and occupation.

He said the U.S. position on the conflict “contributes fundamentally to advance the chances of reviving and resuming the peace process in the region.”

Abbas also said that approximately 100 days remain before Palestinians vote for their representatives on the Palestinian Legislative Council for the first time in 10 years, marking a “very important landmark” he said.

He said that the Palestinian Authority, to discourage terrorism, asked all groups to accept a "hudna," or calming, and then obtained an agreement from all groups to end armed demonstrations.

“Now all groups are under way to the electoral process, so all groups will become a part of the political Palestinian fabric. I believe this will create a new phase in the life of Palestinian people, a phase of democracy and pluralism . . . in order to be a solid base for peace in the region,” Abbas said.

He said his administration is undertaking other reforms, including security and advancing the rule of law, and has started launching a series of economic projects in the occupied territories. Abbas thanked the United States, Arab countries and others in the international community for their assistance and said “we hope that all these projects will be activated by the donor countries in order to increase the number of projects” that help the Palestinian people.

Thanking the president, Abbas said, “we are leaving Washington more sure and more confident of the possibility of reviving and resuming the peace process, and more determined to forge ahead along with the path of peace, democracy and freedom.”

10.22.2005

The Future of Political Crimes in the Middle East

Saddam's trial is a milestone in the Middle East history.

The monster is in the cage. that is simply rightful and just. Actually, the first comment I wrote was "the dictator in the cage, freedom outside." It is simple but meaningful comment.

My colleagues in the free world have written thousands of pages on democracy's possibilities and deficits in the Middle East. They introduce a lot of status analysis, case studies, historical analysis and policy recommendations. With my respect to their work outcomes, I think it is necessary to make a point clear; in the democratization process the first target is the power (the ruler).

The first wall faces democracy march in the Middle East is the regimes (the de facto political power). This is due to one fact, we perceive a western difficulty in well grasping of, -almost because they did not experience the totalitarian state. This fact is that the political power (the regime) dictates the entire political game with its rules i.e. the regime is constructing the entire political scene in the country and has no participants in doing so because of the nature of totalitarianism.

We understand the nature of the democratization process and its requisites and conditions but we realize that dealing with the current regime is the first indispensable requisite.

For that, I can say "the dictator in the cage and freedom outside."

On the political projections of Saddam's trial concerning the Middle East, I think it a clear sign that the political crime in the Middle East is not tolerated anymore and the despots of the Middle East must coexist with this new reality; if they can, and I doubt it. And when we pay attention to the international investigation into Mr. Hariri's assassination, the message would be clearer.

To get an Arabic dictator from the presidency palace to try him publicly by his long-oppressed people is the end of an era and an overture to a new era in which the United States is leading the international community to make a definite choice. The political crime in the Middle East including the crimes against peoples will not be tolerated anymore and the perpetrators will face justice.

The international commitment to this new deal will put the Middle East in the right course, free of political crimes. Let us hope.

10.20.2005

Some News Concerning Middle East Reform

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has an active project on the Middle East reform theme. This project includes The Arab Reform Bulletin "Objective, timely, and incisive analysis of political reform in the Middle East." I will quote the news section of October issue:


Jordan: National Agenda for Reform

A 27-member government-appointed steering committee for the Jordanian National Agenda is expected to release soon its final report, which will outline a vision for comprehensive economic, social, and political reform over the next ten years. Among the most contentious elements so far is a proposed change in the electoral law from the unpopular one-man one-vote system, in which each citizen may vote for only one candidate although multiple seats are contested in each district. The new law is expected to institute a mixed system combining district candidates and proportional lists on the national level, with the long-term goal of electing a lower house entirely on the basis of proportional representation. Unresolved issues include the percentage of seats to be selected on the basis of proportional representation initially and whether citizens would continue to cast a single vote (choosing between an individual candidate and a list) or be allowed to vote twice, once for a district candidate and once for a proportional list.

Another controversial provision of the Agenda would lift the requirement for membership in the Jordan Press Association (JPA) for journalists. This issue has triggered a heated debate about government efforts to weaken syndicates, typically pockets of Islamist opposition, as well as claims that the provision violates the Professional Associations Law.


Palestine: Third Round of Municipal Elections

Palestinians voted on September 19 in the third of four rounds of municipal elections in the West Bank and Gaza. According to official results, announced by local elections commissioner Jamal Shobaki, Fatah won 51 of 104 municipalities (22 of them uncontested) and Hamas won 13. In the remaining 40 towns and villages, there was no clear winner and coalition talks were underway. The turnout of registered voters was 81 percent. Before the elections, Israel arrested 35 Hamas members in the West Bank, 17 of whom won in the elections. For the first time in municipal elections, the Palestinian parties fielded slates rather than individual candidates, a move intended to streamline the vote count. Results from previous rounds of municipal elections in December 2004 and May 2005 are still being contested. The final phase of elections will be held on December 8 in 107 districts, including major cities such as Gaza City, Nablus, and Hebron. Palestinian legislative elections are scheduled to be held on January 25, 2006, but Arab media have recently reported rumors of possible postponement.


Lebanon: Government Moves on Security Reform

The Lebanese government appointed new security chiefs on October 6 following months of controversy since the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. The cabinet named Wafiq Jizzin to head the General Security Department, the intelligence department formerly headed by Jamil Sayyed (now under arrest in connection with the assassination). In an effort to consolidate the security services, the cabinet announced that the State Security Department—a position introduced for political reasons in 1989—will be eventually disbanded and a central operations center established to coordinate activities and share intelligence among the security services. A committee of judges and military officers will oversee security reform.


Morocco: New Political Parties Law

After several months of debate, the Moroccan parliament is expected to pass a new political parties law by the end of October. Some provisions have created heated debate between political parties in Morocco, particularly the stipulation that only political parties that win five percent or more of the vote in parliamentary elections will be eligible for public funding. The two largest parties in parliament, the Socialist Union of Popular Forces and the Istiqlal party, have asked that the figure be raised to 10 percent, inciting opposition from the National Rally of Independents and the Popular Movement Party. The Justice and Development Party (PJD) suggested that 10 percent of the funds be distributed among all parties and 90 percent distributed among the parties that received seven percent or more of the vote. Ultimately, the parliamentary committee in charge of the bill decided on the five percent minimum. Another controversial provision is a ban on religious, racial, regional, socio-professional, or linguistic references in party platforms, which could jeopardize the status of the Islamist PJD as well as that of Berber parties.


Bahrain: Political Societies Abide by New Political Associations Law

After months of protesting a new law of political associations ratified by King Hamad in August, Bahrain's main political societies (Al Wefaq National Islamic Society and the National Democratic Action Society) have decided to register under the new law. The law—which says that associations may not be based on class, profession, or religion and which raises the minimum membership age from 18 to 21—requires all existing political societies to re-register with the Ministry of Justice by November 2. Bahrain's largest political society, Al Wefaq, witnessed a split in its ranks, with some 100 members (including vice president Hasan Mushayma and board member Abd Al Jalil Al Singace) resigning in protest of the decision to abide by the new law. Political groups operate in Bahrain as associations due to a continued ban on political parties.


Saudi Arabia: Human Rights Developments

King Abdullah decreed the establishment of a government human rights agency on September 12 to “protect human rights and spread awareness about them … in keeping with the provisions of Islamic law.” The organization is chaired by former government official Khaled Al Sudairi, who will hold ministerial rank; the 18 board members will be appointed by the King. This is the kingdom's second official human rights organization. In March 2004, the Saudi government gave a green light for the establishment of the National Human Rights Association to review complaints about human rights violations and monitor the Kingdom's compliance with international human rights agreements.

Saudi women will run in an election for the first time. Trade Minister Hashem bin Abdullah Yamani accepted the nominations of businesswomen for positions on the board of the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce. More than 30 women are expected to seek seats on the 18-member board in November 15 elections.

The U.S. administration has postponed a decision on whether to sanction Saudi Arabia for violations of religious freedom. The U.S. State Department's 2004 International Religious Freedom Report lists Saudi Arabia among the countries that violate or restrict the religious freedom of their citizens, for the first time designating it a "country of particular concern" (CPC). The CPC designation can be used as a basis for sanctions, but since the State Department first began evaluating religious freedom in 1999, it has never applied sanctions against any CPC. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice authorized a 180-day waiver of action to allow more time for talks with the Saudi government on improving its record on religious freedom. Click here to read recommendations for U.S. government action by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.


Upcoming Political Events

  • Iraq: Referendum on Draft Constitution, October 15, 2005.
  • Egypt: Parliamentary Elections, three rounds November 9, November 20, and December 1, 2005.
  • Palestine: Municipal Elections, last round, 107 districts in the West Bank and Gaza, December 8, 2005.
  • Palestine: Legislative Elections, January 25, 2006.

The Scene of Iraq Parliamentary Elections

The Arab Reform Bulletin (October 2005) of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has included an article on the political dynamics in Iraq before the parliamentary elections in December. It makes a good briefing for whom have no clear idea on this subject.

Following is the full article:

Iraq: Political Dynamics in Advance of Parliamentary Elections

Zaineb Naji and Daud Salman

Whether the Iraqi constitution is approved or not in the October 15 referendum, there will be new elections in December for the National Assembly and party alignments are beginning to emerge. The broad political coalitions that scored a clear victory in the January 2005 elections are attempting to expand and diversify their constituencies to ensure that they remain relevant to the Iraqi political scene.

The United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the Shiite coalition that won more than half the parliamentary seats in January, might lose as many as 20 to 30 percent of its members due to the withdrawal of Muqtada Al Sadr's National Independent Cadres and Elites. Ultimately, the UIA's success in the upcoming elections depends on the force of a fatwa to be issued by the supreme religious guide Ayatollah Sistani. Sistani can have an enormous effect on voters, particularly in the Shiite-majority south, as demonstrated in the previous elections. The main change in the UIA's platform this time will be the new call for southern federalism.

Of all Iraqi coalitions, the Kurdish list (a coalition of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party) is the most unified and no notable changes are expected in the alliance. The success and cohesion of this list is driven by the group's shared desire to establish a state of Kurdistan that includes oil-rich Kirkuk through a process of compromise with Shiites and Sunnis.

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi seeks to expand his Iraqi National Accord party to include secularists, technocrats, Shiite Islamists, and Sunni tribes who boycotted the previous elections. The name of his list might be changed to “The Nation” or simply “Iraq.” Allawi is attempting to distance himself from the poor image and accusations of corruption that still surround his former government, as well as to learn from mistakes in the previous elections (in which his list won only 43 of 275 seats). He represents a moderate, liberal trend preferred by many Iraqi politicians who believe his return to power could place Iraq on the path to real democracy. Many Iraqi voters, particularly Shiites, however, hold against Allawi his inclusion of some members of the dissolved Baath party in his former government.

Sunni Arabs who boycotted the vote in January are preparing to participate in the upcoming elections despite their opposition to the constitution. So far there are no clear alliances on the horizon due to the deteriorating security situation in the Sunni triangle and to the fact that, unlike Shiites and Kurds, Sunni Arabs lack a large popular base. The success of a Sunni Arab campaign would hinge on whether Sunnis can capitalize on nationalist sentiments by calling for an end to the U.S. occupation and a timetable for withdrawal. They are already attempting to portray themselves in a nationalist light and have changed their name from “The Sunni Congress” to “The Iraqi Congress.” Sunni parties that will probably run independent lists include Tariq Al Hashimi's Iraqi Islamic Party (the only Sunni group that participated in the political process last January, although it withdrew before elections), Adnan Al Dulaymi's Iraqi Congress Party, and Sheikh Khaf Al Alyan's Iraqi National Dialogue Council.

If the Sunni bloc participates in the upcoming elections, it will be challenged by groups who refuse to participate in politics while Iraq is under U.S. occupation and shun anyone who does, particularly in areas such as Al Ramadi, Haditha, Al Qaim, Samra, and Mosul. Thus the participation of a Sunni bloc would be unlikely to end the violence.

Still, Sunnis' decision whether or not to take part in elections is critical in a political sense. If they choose not to participate, they will be unrepresented in parliament for the next four years and the political situation will return to square one. On the other hand, if Sunnis participate and win a significant number of seats, implementing the principle of national consensus in the parliament would be difficult.

The upcoming elections will also witness a change in the electoral system from a single-district to multiple-district system. The main political coalitions, therefore, are now seeking to incorporate members of minority groups such as the Arab Turkmen, Christians, Assyrians, and Yazidis in order to satisfy the need for sectarian, ethnic, and regional diversity imposed by the new electoral system.

The emergence of a new, relatively balanced political configuration after the December elections could allow the development of clearer policies by the Iraqi state, eroded by continuous political changes and security disruptions since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Establishing a modern state with real democratic institutions is still a distant goal, however, because most political coalitions are motivated by the desire to assert sectarian and ethnic identities rather than by a spirit of nationhood and democracy.

Zaineb Naji and Daud Salman are journalists at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. This article was translated from Arabic by Julia Choucair.

10.19.2005

On Iraq Integrity

It is obvious that Iraqi Sunnis have some legitimate grievances about the Iraqi constitution but they also have to know other important matters:

  • When you make a mistake you have to pay for, and they are paying for their refusal to vote in the previous elections.
  • This constitution is not the end of game, hence they have to deal with this question deliberately and constructively to heal the situation they consider unacceptable. What Islamic party did is a one step in the right road.
  • They need to know clearly and unequivocally that their indifference about the violence tide in Iraq is an irresponsible and unwise stance. And the most important matter that this stance is interpreting into more and more political advantages to the current major political parties in power specially of Shiite. The Sunnis must begin to fight terror in Iraq especially in their regions alongside a proper political process or context to be adopted at the national level encourages the Sunnis.
  • That is extremely important and essential to get rid of the Saddam complex, which matches the power complex, the power the Sunnis had, almost, in the whole history of the Iraqi state. It a difficult task because of history, but it is time to face the truth and to cope with it for the sake of the Sunnis coming generations and the whole Iraq.

Here is a New York Times op-ed by an Iraqi Sunni political activist, which includes the most important Sunni grievances:

Voting 'Yes' to Chaos

New York Times
10/18/2005

By Hatem Mukhlis


The usually bustling streets of this city looked sad and empty on Saturday, other than the occasional herd of people on their way to the voting stations. The children - I never knew there were so many youngsters in Baghdad - oblivious to the event of the day, took to the streets, affirming their newly found democracy by playing soccer.

I knew for sure, alas, that this constitution would not unify the country. My mother once told me - I was 10 at the time - that her father, one of the founders of modern Iraq, had lamented how important, yet impossible, it was to even dream about unifying the national Iraqi attire, let alone our country's hearts.

It is extremely unfortunate that so many people were led to believe that the Iraqi constitution would be a panacea. This document, which early returns indicate is likely to be approved by voters, is nothing more or less than a time bomb.

Why have so many Sunnis so adamantly opposed it? The answer is easy: it would likely divide Iraq into as many as 18 small feuding states. Can anyone imagine every state in the American union having diplomatic representation in foreign missions?

It is a tacit understanding in every civilized state that the whole country joins together to defend itself from an outside threat. But not under this Iraqi constitution; the state Parliaments would probably have to approve. In case after case, provincial regulations would overrule federal laws when there is a dispute. The Iraqi Army would not even have the right to enter a state without the approval of that state's Parliament.

Anyone who thinks that such a constitution would calm the insurgency has probably been spending more time than he should have reading about Alice in Wonderland. I believe that should the constitution pass, the next few weeks will see an escalation of the unnecessary violence that has ripped my country apart. Unnecessary, because the ordinary citizen has no political agenda, and has found himself amid a war he neither understands nor cares about - a war waged by foreigners who could not care less about Iraq or Iraqis. All he seeks is the most basic necessities of life: electricity, security, a job, food, health care, clean water and working sewers.

The constitution was written with the interest of only one group in mind: the Kurds. The Shiites seem to think they can shape the country to their wishes if only they can appease the Kurds and gain their cooperation. But the Kurds have their own plan: their ultimate goal is to form an independent state of Kurdistan, with or without Iraq's help. Even now a "greater Kurdistan," which would absorb Kurdish areas of neighboring countries, is in the cooking.

The so-called concessions over future amendments to the document, given to assuage Sunni concerns last week, were really part of a well-calculated strategic plan with no risks to the Kurds whatsoever.

The idea is that the constitution, if approved, will take effect immediately, while an impotent committee argues for four months about how to make amendments to a poison that has already started dividing the country. A few futile changes would be made to appease the Sunni public, and we will have another referendum on them. Then the final knockout will come, with two-thirds of the voters in the three provinces that comprise Kurdistan voting the amendments down, and blaming the Sunnis for breaking apart the country.

The paradox is that despite the de-Baathification efforts under way, we are doing exactly what the Baath Party always did: we have simply changed "execute and then argue" to "do what you are told and discuss it later."

It is obvious that the Iraqi Islamic Party, a leading Sunni coalition, was given great assurances by Shiite leaders and American officials last week before it advocated a "yes" vote. The party officials apparently believed they could fool the masses with their rhetoric. They have actually shot themselves in the foot (and time will prove to the Americans that a weak ally is a burden rather than a help).

No matter how the vote ends up, the constitution will eventually be thrown into an open fire. This fire is spontaneously combusting across the nation right now, and it will burn the green and the dry.

Rather than unifying Iraqis, this constitution would only increase the rift between our ethnic and religious groups. It could also lead to the Balkanization of the nation, as the 18 states coalesce into three superstates, with the Sunnis trapped between Shiites to the south and Kurds to the north. Hatred toward those Iraqis who returned to Iraq on the backs of the American tanks will be nurtured. Inevitably this would lead to more hatred towards the United States, since even though it is the American troops that are preserving Iraq's unity, it was the invasion that has lead to this chaos.

I, and millions of other Iraqis, Sunnis and Shiites, sincerely hope that this constitution has been voted down. The next National Assembly is going to be of a much more democratic composition, and would be well suited for writing a more effective constitution, one that would better reflect the patriotic desires of all Iraqis. This would also give the Sunnis who now have taken the political path a sign that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

But if the constitution has been passed, many more Iraqis are going to feel that no matter what they do in the political sphere, it would not make a difference, and that the only way out of this is to take up armed struggle.

In any case, after the votes have been counted, a constitution is only a piece of paper. Even if the country does not fly apart because of it, or we get a better one down the road, there are many steps that need to be taken if we are going to achieve any sort of political stability. First, we need a new government whose officials are in power based on qualifications rather than loyalty to a certain sect, political party or ethnic group. This government needs to give the ordinary Iraqi a tangible positive change: better electricity; more jobs; more security.

We must also reassemble the Iraqi Army and disband all ethnic and religious militias; and this military must end the current wave of reprisals against those who fought on the Iraqi side in the Iran-Iraq war.

In addition, we have to re-establish the judicial system that Iraq had before it was corrupted by the Baathists. Last, we need to control the graft that pervades every level of government, and gain better control of the economy, including fashioning a system that shares the nation's oil wealth with all citizens.

As Winston Churchill is supposed to have said, "The Americans will always do the right thing - after they've exhausted all the alternatives." Let's hope that this will prove to be true about Iraq; it is the only way to avoid converting the liberation of Iraq into an Iraqnam.


Hatem Mukhlis, a doctor, is the chief executive of the Iraq National Movement, a Sunni political party.