2.17.2006

U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

Here is a recent policy watch of the U.S. democracy promotion efforts and attitudes:

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

Foreign Affairs Budget Would Foster Freedom, Democracy, Rice Says

Secretary of state says U.S. must support principle of democratic processes

By David Anthony Denny
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- The Bush administration's proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 aims to support a foreign policy "devoted to the creation of a more hospitable environment for the forward march of freedom and democracy," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says.

The secretary was testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the president’s proposed $31.9 billion budget for international operations for fiscal year 2007, which begins October 1. The proposal submitted to Congress would increase the fiscal 2007 spending approximately $3 billion from the amount Congress approved for fiscal year 2006.

In opening remarks at February 15 hearing, Rice said that democratic processes around the world "must be supported."

"Democratic transitions are indeed difficult," and especially in the Middle East, Rice said. "But people have to have their voice, and the United States must stand for a principle that democratic processes, no matter how difficult, are always preferable to the false stability of dictatorship."

Rice also said the United States congratulates the Palestinian people for holding a January 25 election "largely free of violence and largely believed to be free and fair."

"The Palestinian people voted for change," Rice continued. "We believe that they voted for change against long-term corrupt practices that had made their lives difficult and their progress difficult." Now, she said, the winning side -- the political wing of the terrorist group Hamas -- "has both an obligation and a choice … to fulfill the Palestinian people's desire for a better life."

Hamas must recognize Israel's right to exist, disarm as a militia and renounce violence, she said, "because only under those circumstances can there be true international support for … the next Palestinian government."

IRAN

Turning to Iran, the secretary characterized that regime's policies as destabilizing, in that they "support terrorism and violent extremism."

The Iranian regime has "ideological ambitions and policies that are, frankly, a challenge to the kind of Middle East that I think we would all like to see -- one of tolerance, one of democracy," she said.

The United States will actively confront the policies of this Iranian regime while trying "to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom," Rice said. She charged the Iranian government with "toxic statements and confrontational behavior," especially regarding its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

"No one wants to deny the Iranian people or the Iranian nation civil nuclear power," Rice said, noting the U.S. diplomacy has resulted in a decision of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors to refer the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council.

The United States will continue to develop "sensible security measures" such as the Proliferation Security Initiative "to try and deny to regimes like Iran, North Korea and others the materials for covert programs that threaten the international system."

The United States will also work to use money already approved by Congress for fiscal year 2006 "to develop support networks for Iranian reformers, political dissidents and human rights activists," Rice said. She added that the administration planned to seek $75 million in supplemental funds in the fiscal 2006 budget to support democracy in Iran.

Rice said that money would enable the United States to:

• Increase support for democracy and improve U.S. radio broadcasting,
• Begin satellite television broadcasting,
• Increase the contacts between our peoples through expanded fellowships and scholarships for Iranian students, and
• Bolster U.S. public diplomacy efforts.

"In addition, I will be notifying that we plan to reprogram funds in 2007 to support the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people," she said.

Another U.S. goal for Iran is to expand educational exchanges with young Iranians. In the 1970s, 200,000 Iranians studied in the United States, Rice said, adding that just 2,000 do so now. "We must change this and we will," Rice said.

A transcript of Rice’s opening remarks to the Senate panel and a related fact sheet are available on the State Department Web site.
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State Department Wants $75 Million To Promote Democracy in Iran

U.S. officials hope to focus world attention on Iran's "democracy deficit"

By David Shelby
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington – The State Department plans to request a $75 million supplemental appropriation during 2006 to support democracy promotion activities in Iran, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Congress February 15.

“That money would enable us to increase our support for democracy and improve our radio broadcasting, begin satellite television broadcasts, increase the contacts between our peoples through expanded fellowships and scholarships for Iranian students, and to bolster our public diplomacy efforts,” Rice told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing on the Bush administration’s foreign affairs budget proposals.

A senior State Department official, speaking at a February 15 background briefing on U.S. support for democracy in Iran, acknowledged that there are limitations to what the United States can do in Iran given its lack of diplomatic ties, but added, “What we can do is show support for those in Iranian society … who wish to see a different type of Iran, who wish to see further democracy and freedoms both for the press as well as for political figures [and] individual citizens.”

Another senior State Department official at the same briefing said the United States already has programs in place supporting Iranian labor unions, dissidents and human rights activists. The official said civil society organization is the key to effecting positive change in Iran.

At the Senate hearing, Rice said, “We think the Iranian people deserve to live in freedom, and if you watch how people across the globe over the course of the last couple of decades in particular have been able to rise up and call for their freedom, it’s been through organization.”

She added, “I think the Solidarity model is a good one, where you had numbers of people come together. You had the labor unions in Poland come together, but they also then were joined by the academics, by human rights activists. When people organize themselves and really become unified in calling for change, then you get the change that you need, and we believe that the Iranian people deserve change.”

The State Department would use $50 million of the supplemental funds, if they are approved by Congress, to establish around-the-clock satellite television and radio broadcasts into Iran. An additional $15 million would go to support the development of civic organizations within Iran. Iranian students and professionals who wish to visit the United States would benefit from an additional $5 million in funding for exchange programs. Finally, the department would devote an additional $5 million to public diplomacy efforts aimed at Iran, including its Persian language Web site.

The State Department official indicated that the United States is not planning to work with existing nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Iran because, as she said, they all have been infiltrated by government agents.

“The challenge is to help to organize other networks and help to take some of the extremely brave people who are risking their lives to speak out against the regime, who are standing up to the regime, and help to give them the tools to organize themselves and to form new groups that are not infiltrated by the government, that we can work with,” she said.

For the time being, she said, the State Department will work through American and international NGOs and is negotiating an umbrella license with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to circumvent legal delays on providing U.S. government funding to organizations that have dealings with Iran.

Rice also told the Senate committee that she intends to bring greater international pressure on the Iranian regime to address the full spectrum of its domestic and foreign policies.

“We must now expand the international consensus on the Iranian regime's nuclear ambitions to address the full scope of its threatening policies,” she said.

A senior State Department official said that in addition to the nuclear issue, the United States hopes to focus greater international attention on Iran’s support for terrorism and extremism, which destabilizes the region, and its lack of political freedom.

He said that the secretary would carry this message to the Middle East when she travels there February 20-24. “What the secretary would like to do is broaden that international discussion and discuss with the Arab countries – who obviously have a lot of concerns about Iran – not just the nuclear issue, but the terrorism issue, the aggressive Iranian foreign policy in the region as well as the democracy deficit,” he said.

He said State Department officials also will raise these issues during an upcoming G8 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, United States and Russia -- meeting in Moscow.

“We would hope that countries that have normal relations with Iran would reflect on those relations and would use the instruments at their disposal, in terms of normal economic trade relations, to begin to think what they could do to push back on what has been a radical series of proposal out of the government of Iran since August 4, [2005]” he said, referring to the date Iran’s president, Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad, was elected.
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U.S. Commemorates Anniversary of Hariri Assassination in Lebanon

Secretary Rice says Syria must cooperate fully with ongoing U.N. investigation

The United States commemorated the one-year anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri February 14 and stated its solidarity with the people of Lebanon in the effort to investigate the circumstances surrounding his death.

President Bush hailed the late prime minister as “a great Lebanese patriot who worked to rebuild a free, independent, and prosperous Lebanon after years of brutal civil war.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "we reiterate our unconditional support for the U.N. International Independent Investigation Commission's work and the urgent need for Syria's full and complete cooperation with the investigation."

At the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said that the sad occasion for Lebanon "recalls to us why it is important that all members of the United Nations comply strictly with resolutions 1559 and 1595 and all the related resolutions so we can get to the bottom of who assassinated Rafik Hariri. And I am confident that we will. That is our determination to do that."

Syria's continued supply of weapons to armed groups inside Lebanon, Bolton added, is in violation of Security Council resolution 1559.

Following are the texts of Bush’s and Rice's statements:

(begin text)

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
February 14, 2005

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

One year ago today, former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated. Mr. Hariri was a great Lebanese patriot who worked to rebuild a free, independent, and prosperous Lebanon after years of brutal civil war. Our thoughts are with the people of Lebanon as they mark this anniversary.

Lebanon has continued to make progress in the year since Mr. Hariri's murder, thanks to the foundation of freedom he laid and the determination of the Lebanese people. Lebanon has conducted a free and fair parliamentary election and begun economic reforms. Great challenges remain, and the United States will continue to stand with the people of Lebanon as they strive to build a free and democratic future.

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
February 14, 2006

Statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

First Anniversary of the Assassination of Former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri

As we commemorate the first anniversary of the brutal assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, MP Basil Fuleihan, seven body guards and 13 innocent bystanders, our thoughts are with the people of Lebanon and the families of the innocent victims who continue to live with the consequences of that terrorist attack. We recall today the legacy of Rafik Hariri who symbolizes Lebanon's resilience after decades of civil war and turmoil and its determination to rebuild itself into a free, democratic and prosperous nation. Those who killed Mr. Hariri and 21 others one year ago today tried to suppress that work and ensure that Lebanon remained subject to foreign domination. They have failed to do so, due to the foundation of freedom laid by Mr. Hariri and the determination of the Lebanese people.

The Lebanese people have accomplished much over the past year: They have compelled Syrian troops to withdraw from Lebanon, and they have held free and fair parliamentary elections. Much remains to be done, but the forces of repression will not stifle the voices of freedom, and the Lebanese people will prevail.

The United States and the international community remain united with the people of Lebanon in determination to bring those responsible for this heinous crime and other subsequent acts of terrorism to justice. In this regard, we reiterate our unconditional support for the UN International Independent Investigation Commission's work and the urgent need for Syria's full and complete cooperation with the investigation.

The United States, and the international community, stand with the Lebanese people as they work to reassert their independence and strengthen their democracy. We will not be deterred from supporting Lebanon's call for national dignity, truth, and justice.

(end text)
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U.S. Wants Rights Abusers Barred from U.N. Human Rights Council

Council should not be haven for worst offenders, says State Department's Lagon

By Carol Walker
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- Liberal democracies around the world need to speak outagainst human rights abuses and not allow "spoilers" to squelch them, aState Department official says.

"It is deplorable when countries like Sudan and Zimbabwe, which lack thewill to protect the human rights of their own people, are charged withprotecting the human rights of all people," Mark Lagon, deputy assistantsecretary of state for international organization affairs, told the Congressional Human Rights Caucus February 7.

Lagon updated congressional leaders on the proposed U.N. Human Rights Council, a body he hopes will replace the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.

"The Commission on Human Rights has become a safe haven for the world's worst human rights violators, who use their membership to protect themselves from reproach," Lagon said. Sudan, Zimbabwe and Cuba, all countries withpoor records on human rights, are members of the current commission.

The proposed new Human Rights Council would include 45 member states elected by a two-thirds majority vote of the 191-member U.N. General Assembly. Elected country members would be subject to a human-rights reviewat least once during the three-year term.

"We must do more in order to demonstrate that there are some standards that every country must meet to merit membership in the U.N.'s human rights body," Lagon said. "We support an exclusionary clause that would prohibit human rights violators from serving on the Council, barring countries under U.N. Security Council sanctions for human rights violations or terrorism from the Human Rights Council."

Currently there are 53 members of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights,which meets once a year for six weeks in Geneva. More than 3,000 delegatesfrom member and observer states and from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) participate in the Geneva meeting, or "circus," according to William Davis, director of the U.N. Information Center in Washington.

"U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has acknowledged that this fresh startis badly needed," Davis told congressional staff members and leaders. "The Human Rights Council provides an opportunity to restore the United Nations' credibility on human rights."

Lagon said the U.N. reform proposal calls for a Human Rights Council,which would be smaller than the current commission, to meet four times peryear for a total of 12 weeks. The proposed panel would be able to be moreresponsive to human rights violations as they arise, he added. The United States has donated $2 million to the United Nations' democracy fund tosupport the new council.

Lagon also said the new council must have a mandate on how to deal withgross violators. "There needs to be an option to condemn governments that routinely repress their people."

Davis said he hoped the U.N. General Assembly would vote on the resolution to establish the new Human Rights Council by February 15, so that the existing Human Rights Commission could be replaced in time for the March 13 meeting in Geneva.

In 1947, former U.S. first lady Eleanor Roosevelt was elected chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, which authored the Universal Declarationof Human Rights adopted by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Human Rights Day is celebrated around the world on December 10 each year.
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Russian NGO Law Criticized by State Department Official

Nongovernmental organizations are not your enemy, Lowenkron tells Russia

Washington -- Russia is working against democratic trends as a new law takes effect restricting activities of domestic and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), according to Barry F. Lowenkron, the State Department's assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, in an interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty on February 1.

The restrictions affect how NGOs raise and spend money in Russia. (See related article.)

"We have been above board in terms of helping Russians organize themselves in a whole range of activities, from helping the media, to the forming of political parties, to weighing in on their concerns," Lowenkron said. "Thisis what democracy is all about; this is what NGOs are all about."

Lowenkron said there is a misunderstanding in Russia about the roles of the United States and NGOs. Russian officials believe, he said, that the "U.S.government or the West directs the activities of NGOs in order to weaken Russia, or in order to advance, as one Russian said, 'your own geopolitical games in our neighborhood.' And nothing could be farther from the truth."

NGOs, including human rights groups and promoters of democracy, help localgroups organize themselves on a number of issues, especially elections.

"When NGOs ask for help -- when they ask for help in terms of how to organize, when they ask for help in terms of how to observe elections --then I think American taxpayers, or German taxpayers, or taxpayers anywhere around the world that support NGOs are very comfortable offering that,"Lowenkron said. "Nobody gets on a plane with sacks of money and flies into Kyiv [Ukraine] or any other capital and says, 'Here, go ahead and overthrowa legitimate order.'"

Lowenkron said NGOs are integral to international politics. "NGOs can support governments, they can criticize governments, but they should neverbe viewed as enemies of governments."
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Bush Pledges Active Foreign Policy To Promote Democracy

President discusses plan for Iraq, Iran in remarks

By Todd Bullock
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington -- An active foreign policy that alleviates suffering and helps those most in need serves both the short and long-term interests of the United States, says President Bush.

"One reason to be active in the world is to spread peace," Bush said February 1 in a speech in Nashville, Tennessee, "If the United States were to withdraw, we'd miss an opportunity to make this world a more peaceful place for generations to come."

The president's remarks in Nashville marked the first of several speeches in which he will discuss his agenda for 2006 as laid out in his January 31 State of the Union address to Congress and the American people. In that address Bush called for the United States to engage the international community as a means of building prosperity, security, freedom and hope around the world.

BUSH OUTLINES U.S. STRATEGY FOR IRAQ

The president said victory in Iraq will be achieved when that nation is a self-sustaining democracy capable of governing and defending itself, as well as an ally in the War on Terror.

The goal is to help Iraq become “a country which will serve as a powerful example of liberty and freedom in a part of the world that is desperate for liberty and freedom,” Bush said.

"The Iraqis have shown incredible courage, and a strong desire to live in [a] democracy,” he said, citing successful elections in 2005 in which Iraqi voters not only ratified a constitution but chose legislators for the Council of Representatives.

“This young democracy has gone from tyranny -- a brutal dictator that killed or had killed thousands of people, to a country which had a transitional government in an election, to a country which wrote a progressive constitution … and had that constitution ratified, to a country in which 11 million people voted in elections last December,” he said.

Regarding security in Iraq, Bush said his administration would continue to focus on training Iraqi security forces.

"There is a great bravery amongst these Iraqi soldiers," he said. "Our job is to convert their desire to protect their new democracy into effective forces, and that's what we're doing."

The president lauded Iraqi security forces' success during the December 2005 elections as there was significantly lower violence than during the October 2005 elections.

Additionally, he noted U.S. commanders were turning over more Iraqi territory to Iraqi security forces to maintain. "As the Iraqis are capable of taking the fight to the enemy, we will reduce our troop levels," Bush said, adding that U.S. troop withdrawals will depend on recommendations from U.S. military commanders.

"We've defined victory, and now it's up to the commanders on the ground to help us achieve that victory," he said.

IRAN

The international community will remain unified in calling for Iran to abandon its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, Bush said.

[.....]

In a February 1 interview with the Associated Press, Bush said he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about Iran and that the two countries share the same goal. Speaking to reporters en route to Nashville, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush voiced his support for a Russian plan that would limit Tehran’s access to nuclear material and waste that could be used to make a weapon, but still provide Iran with material for peaceful nuclear energy uses.

In his Nashville speech, Bush also echoed remarks from his State of the Union address that the United States seeks greater friendship with a free and democratic Iran.

"I believe that everybody desires to be free, and I just wanted to assure them [the Iranian people] that some day that they'll be able to have a choice in their government, and the United States looks forward to a friendship with a free and democratic Iran," Bush said of his message to the Iranian people.

In his State of the Union address, Bush said Iran is a nation “held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people” and “defying the world with its nuclear ambitions.”

A transcript of Bush’s Nashville speech is available on the White House Web site.
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Bush Says Muslims Turning Against Terrorists

President says number of U.S. allies growing in War on Terror

Washington –- The number of U.S. allies in the global War on Terror is growing and Muslims are turning against terrorists, whose tactics usually kill and maim innocents and fellow Muslims, President Bush says.

The president gave his assessment of the war against terrorism in a speech to the National Guard Association February 9.

Critics, who predicted his strategy of taking the fight to the terrorists would drive away international support, have found that the opposite has happened, Bush said.

“Today more governments are cooperating in the fight against terror than ever before,” the president said. And “many nations that once turned a blind eye to terror are now helping lead the fight against it,” he added, calling this a “most significant development.”

The president said that at the time of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, only three governments –- one of which was Pakistan -- recognized the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, which gave sanctuary to terrorists. But now Pakistani soldiers “are risking their lives in the hunt for al-Qaida,” he said.

The president also quoted Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as saying, "Terrorism threatens to destabilize all modern societies. It cannot be condoned for any reason or cause."

Saudi Arabia, Bush said, has changed from a place where al-Qaida fund-raisers and facilitators plied their trade. Noting the Riyadh bombings of May 2003, he said, now the Saudi government recognizes that it is a prime terrorist target.

Since May 2003 bombings, Bush said, “Saudi forces have killed or captured nearly all the terrorists on their most-wanted list. They've reduced the flow of money to terror groups and arrested hundreds of radical fighters bound for Iraq.”

The president said that the terrorists “cannot hide the inhumanity of their ideology.”

Since 9/11, he noted, the majority of terrorist victims have been innocent Muslims. In the cities of Riyadh, Istanbul (Turkey), Sharm el-Sheikh (Egypt), Jakarta, and Bali (Indonesia), all sites of terrorist attacks, “the people of those countries are starting to turn against the terrorists, he said.

“When people in the Arab world see al-Qaida murdering Iraqi children or blowing up mourners in an Iraqi mosque, their outrage grows,” Bush said.

After dozens were killed in November 2005 in the bombing of a Palestinian wedding in Amman, Jordan, Jordanians protested in the streets. One demonstrator, Bush said, carried a sign calling the attack, "Jordan's 9/11," while others chanted, "This is not Islamic. This is terrorism."

When it became known that the author of the attack was the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his own tribe denounced him, Bush said, saying they “disown him until Judgment Day." Zarqawi is the leader of the terrorist group, al-Qaida in Iraq.

“Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by spreading the hope of freedom to troubled regions of the world,” the president said.

The United States still has a long way to go in spreading “the hope of liberty across the broader Middle East,” Bush said. But the effort is necessary, he said, because free nations “don't wage wars of aggression … [and] don't give safe haven to terrorists.” Instead, they “replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against the terrorists.”

The president gave details about a 2002 terrorist plot against the United States that was foiled through cooperation with Southeast Asian governments. (See related article.)

A transcript of Bush’s remarks is available on the White House Web site.
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Some related posts:

-U.S. Democracy Promotion, a Round-up

-Bush Will Not Retreat, U.S. To Advance Freedom

-Bush, Americans and Spreading Democracy

-Rice, Foreign Policy and Promoting Freedom

-WORLD FREEDOM 2005

-The Realities of Promoting Democracy

-Promoting Freedom and Democracy is a Vital Part of the War on Terror

-The bases of the U.S. Mideast policy

-Terror and democracy in the Middle East

-U.S. National Intelligence Strategy Highlights Democracy Promotion

-Iraq and Lebanon: Ongoing Liberation

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