Archive for the ‘International Law & Organizations’ Category

5
Feb

100205e-005 Press conference by the NATO Secretary General - Informal meeting of NATO Defence Ministers - Istanbul, TurkeyThere is an unmistakeable sense among Western decision-makers of power slipping away.It’s not an argument about American abstention or decline, although that plays into it for some critics of the Obama administration.It is more to do with the exhaustion – moral, political and economic – of nations that have been in the forefront of the international security business, and the vibrant ascendancy of some other players.Talking on Monday to Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary general of Nato, he can see the reasons for austerity, for cutbacks in government spending in order to reduce deficits, but he can also see its likely results.”It means,” he says, “we will have less influence on the international scene. The vacuum will be filled by other powers and they do not necessarily share our interests and our values.”Many Britons or Americans still fuming at the destruction wrought in Iraq or Afghanistan may find a loss of influence preferable to a repetition of the past decade’s adventurism, but it troubles many diplomats, soldiers and politicians deeply.Indian nuclear submarines

General Sir Nick Houghton, the UK’s chief of defence staff, said a couple of months ago that he had come to the “stark conclusion” that one of his biggest professional challenges “is to help re-validate the utility of the military instrument of national power in the minds of the government and the wider public”.It might be argued that a rejection of force by Western countries is a temporary phenomenon following the losses of two difficult foreign wars, and an economic downturn that has forced an emphasis on cutting deficits.

But the reduction of spending by Nato countries is just one aspect of this power shift – indeed it is the lesser aspect of it compared with the increases in military spending by countries like China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Read more…

By Mark Urban, Diplomatic and Defence Editor, Newsnight

Published on 4 February in http://www.bbc.co.uk/news

4
Nov

By Ryan C. Crocker

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There were high expectations after President Obama and Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, talked on the phone in late September. Those hoping for a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff were excited that a breakthrough was imminent; meanwhile, some American allies, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, expressed deep skepticism over a potential American rapprochement with Iran.

No breakthrough was achieved when American and Iranian officials met for negotiations last month, but few observers expected one. Later this week, another round of talks is scheduled to begin in Geneva.

The window for achieving a diplomatic solution to the nuclear crisis is not open-ended. Both Mr. Obama and Mr. Rouhani face domestic pressures — from skeptical members of Congress in Washington and anti-American hard-liners in Tehran.

Nevertheless, despite three decades of frosty relations and although most Americans may be unaware of it, talks with Iran have succeeded in the past — and they can succeed again.

Immediately after 9/11, while serving in the State Department, I sat down with Iranian diplomats to discuss next steps in Afghanistan. Back then, we had a common enemy, the Taliban and its Al Qaeda associates, and both governments thought it was worth exploring whether we could cooperate.

The Iranians were constructive, pragmatic and focused, at one point they even produced an extremely valuable map showing the Taliban’s order of battle just before American military action began.

They were also strong proponents of taking action in Afghanistan. We met through the remaining months of 2001 in different locations, and Iranian-American agreement at the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan was central to establishing the Afghan Interim Authority, headed by Hamid Karzai, now the president of Afghanistan.

I continued to hold talks with the Iranians in Kabul when I was sent to reopen the United States Embassy there. We forged agreements on various security issues and coordinated approaches to reconstruction. And then, suddenly, it all came to an end when President George W. Bush gave his famous “Axis of Evil” speech in early 2002. The Iranian leadership concluded that in spite of their cooperation with the American war effort, the United States remained implacably hostile to the Islamic Republic.

Real cooperation effectively ceased after the speech and the costs were immediate. At the time, we were in the process of negotiating the transfer of the notorious Afghan warlord, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, from Iranian house arrest to Afghan custody and ultimately to American control. Instead, the Iranians facilitated his covert entry into Afghanistan where he remains at large, launching attacks on coalition and Afghan targets. Read more…

Ryan C. Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, is dean of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A & M.

As published in www.nytimes.com on November 3, 2013 (a version of this op-ed appears in print on November 4, 2013, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Talk to Iran, It Works).

7
Oct

By Ana Palacio

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At first glance, the entire greater Middle East appears to be sliding into chaos. Civil war continues to rage in Syria, while its neighbors – particularly Jordan and ever-fragile Lebanon – strain under the weight of more than two million refugees. Libya has largely descended into tribal anarchy, and a weak Afghan regime is bracing itself for NATO’s withdrawal in 2014. Egypt’s military-backed government has extended the state of emergency, and Iraq is witnessing a surge in sectarian violence, with more than 5,000 civilians killed and almost 14,000 wounded so far this year.

And yet there is an exception to this pattern where one would perhaps least expect it. For decades, Iran has cast a menacing shadow of confrontation over the Middle East; now the Islamic Republic appears eager to end the showdown with the West over its nuclear program.

This shift – and Iran’s surprising role as an outlier of hope in a region of disorder – invites reflection on America’s global leadership and what the United States can achieve when it uses multilateralism (and transatlanticism in particular) to its full potential. At a time when the US often projects an image of indecision and weakness – reflected in the unfortunate slogan “leading from behind” – Iran exemplifies the potential of an international response with the US leading from the front.

The US has maintained a broad sanctions regime against Iran since the mid-1990’s, and has enforced it vigorously – imposing $1.9 billion in penalties on the bank HSBC last year, for example, and blacklisting entities that help Iran evade financial restrictions. But it was only with growing participation by a wide range of countries that the sanctions really began to bite.

This was clearly reflected in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s overwhelming election victory in June. Rouhani campaigned on a pledge to pursue “constructive engagement” with the international community. His early momentum and the apparent support – or at least tolerance – of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reflect Iranians’ weariness with international isolation and their bitterness over the economic havoc that ever-tightening sanctions have wrought. Read more…

Ana Palacio, a former Spanish foreign minister and former Senior Vice President of the World Bank, is a member of the Spanish Council of State.

As published in www.project-syndicate.org on October 2, 2013.

18
Sep

The struggle to find a diplomatic solution on Syria within the Security Council exposed the need for a new global decision-making body.

By Jim Arkedis

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In March of 2011 and just hours before the United Nations Security Council vote, Libyan dictator Muammar Ghaddafi promised citizens of Benghazi–his own countrymen–that he was “coming tonight” and that would show them “no mercy and no pity.” Gaddafi’s brazen statement telegraphed an impending attack with a high possibility massive civilian casualties.

In the Security Council immediately following Gaddafi’s threats, Russia and China–two permanent members with noted authoritarian governments themselves–abstained from voting on resolution 1973, which authorized “all necessary measures to protect civilians… including Benghazi.” (Germany, Brazil, and India, then-rotating members of the Security Council, abstained as well for their own reasons.)

In hindsight, Russia seems to have regretted its abstention. In January 2012, speaking about the growing civil war in Syria, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Australian TV that “the international community unfortunately did take sides in Libya and we would never allow the Security Council to authorize anything similar to what happened in Libya” in Syria.

That seems odd, because “what happened in Libya” was, on balance, a good thing: A sustained NATO air campaign unquestionably protected many more innocent civilians than it harmed and weakened Gaddafi’s forces en route to his downfall. What’s more, the Libya operation served as validation for those supporting the “responsibility to protect,” a 2006 Security Council mandate that called on parties involved in armed conflict to bear primary responsibility to protect civilians, approved by a unanimous 15-0 vote.

NATO’s mission in Libya seems to have fundamentally changed Moscow’s calculus. Russia’s firm opposition to any resolution authorizing military action against its client-state derailed American, French, and British hopes of a “legal” intervention. Russian President Vladimir Putin went a step farther, pointing out the illegality of military action without a UN mandate:

Under international law the only body that can authorize using weapons against a sovereign state is the UN Security Council. Any other reasons and methods to justify the use of force against an independent and sovereign state are unacceptable and they can be seen as nothing but aggression.

This is, of course, a rich statement from the man who invaded the Republic of Georgia in 2008 with 9,000 troops and 350 tanks and nary a Security Council vote in sight. But if Putin’s calculation is that standing for the sanctity of the Security Council is the best way to protect Russia against anything hinting of intervention, it’s clearly his best trump card. Read more…

Jim Arkedis is a Senior Fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and was a DOD counter-terrorism analyst.

As published by The Atlantic on September 17, 2013.

17
Sep

Europe cannot decide the course of the Arab spring, but it still matters

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After the butchering of soldiers in the first world war and of civilians in the second, one should not be too hard on Europeans—especially Germans—for losing their love of killing. Post-war Europe is, increasingly, past wars. To judge from the parliamentary vote in Britain and the debate in France over military action in Syria, even the more martial countries are now less warlike. Yet pacifism can be too much of a good thing. When news of the chemical-weapons attacks in Syria broke on August 21st, European foreign ministers were holding an emergency meeting in Brussels. The gassing of civilians was barely discussed; the topic of the day was the military coup in Egypt. Eurocrats claimed that information was too scant; cynics said many ministers wanted to ignore the horror lest they were forced to act.

The European Union only formally got around to Syria on September 7th, at a long-planned meeting in Vilnius, after an embarrassing flip-flop by Germany. The day before the Germans had refused to sign a declaration by Western leaders at the G20 summit demanding “a strong international response”. They reversed course when a softer version, with an exhortation for UN action and peace talks, was agreed on in Vilnius. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, clearly did not want a repeat of 2011, when she was isolated among Western leaders in rejecting military intervention in Libya. But nor did she want, just before a German election, to allow the Social Democrats to repeat their feat of 2002, when Gerhard Schröder came from behind to win the election partly by strongly opposing military intervention in Iraq. The odd thing is that nobody has even asked Germany, or most other Europeans, to take part in strikes against Syria. Only Britain and France have the wherewithal to fire cruise missiles from a safe distance. There was no pressure to arm the rebels, a cause of previous divisions. Yet still the Europeans havered.

All of which raises questions about Europe’s declared wish to be a “global player”. The Arab world is where the EU should make its influence felt. Thanks to its growing energy independence America may one day feel less burdened by the region. Not so Europe: the Middle East is next door. France and Britain took the lead in Libya (with much American help). But for Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe, a think-tank in Brussels, the vacillation over the chemical attacks in Syria shows that “the Europeans have never been able to get out of the passenger seat to become the driver—and silently they are quite happy with that.”

For decades the Middle East has been a region where, as an old cliché puts it, “America plays, Europe pays”. This remains true in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The EU is a huge financial supporter of the Palestinian Authority. But it was the Americans who got the two sides to start talking again. Now the EU stands accused by Israel of prejudging the talks by issuing formal guidelines to prevent any funding of projects in territories that were occupied by Israel in 1967. Read more…

As published in www.economist.com on September 14, 2013 (from the print edition).