Latest Developments, September 12

In the latest news and analysis…

Exceptionally dangerous
In a New York Times op-ed, Russian President Vladimir Putin calls it “alarming” that US military interventions in foreign conflicts have become “commonplace”:

“The world reacts by asking: if you cannot count on international law, then you must find other ways to ensure your security. Thus a growing number of countries seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. This is logical: if you have the bomb, no one will touch you. We are left with talk of the need to strengthen nonproliferation, when in reality this is being eroded.

I carefully studied [US President Barack Obama’s] address to the nation on Tuesday. And I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

Lethal aid
The Washington Post reports that the CIA has started arming Syrian rebels:

“The shipments began streaming into the country over the past two weeks, along with separate deliveries by the State Department of vehicles and other gear — a flow of material that marks a major escalation of the U.S. role in Syria’s civil war.

The CIA shipments are to flow through a network of clandestine bases in Turkey and Jordan that were expanded over the past year as the agency sought to help Middle Eastern allies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, direct weapons to moderate Syrian rebel forces.”

Excessive murders
Al Jazeera reports that the Dutch government has issued a formal apology for mass executions in Indonesia during the colonial era:

“Special forces from the Netherlands carried out a series of summary executions in its former colony between 1945 and 1949, killing thousands.
In total, about 40,000 people were executed during the colonial era, according to the Indonesian government; however, Dutch figures mention only a few thousand.

‘They are apologising for all the war crimes, which the Dutch merely call excesses,’ [Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen] added.
The Hague had previously apologised and paid out to the widows in individual cases but it had never said sorry or offered compensation for the victims of general summary executions.”

New boss
Reuters reports that Mali’s newly elected government has announced plans to review all existing oil and mining contracts:

“ ‘If there are contracts which it is necessary to revise in the interests of Mali, we will start negotiations with the partners in question,’ [Mines Minister Boubou Cisse] said.
Cisse, a 39-year-old former World Bank economist, said the inventory would be conducted under complete transparency and its results would be made available to the public.

Cisse said his ministry aimed to increase the contribution of the mining sector in the national economy from around 8 percent at present to 15 to 20 percent in the long term.”

No strikes
The UN’s commission of inquiry for Syria has released its latest report on recent atrocities in the war-torn country, along with a statement making clear its position on the prospect of foreign military intervention:

“For the Commission, charged with investigating violations of international law committed by all parties to the conflict, any response must be founded upon the protection of civilians. The nature of the war raging in Syria is such that the number of violations by all sides goes hand in hand with the intensity of the conflict itself. With the spectre of international military involvement, Syria – and the region – face further conflagration, leading to increased civilian suffering.

There is an urgent need for a cessation of hostilities and a return to negotiations, leading to a political settlement. To elect military action in Syria will not only intensify the suffering inside the country but will also serve to keep such a settlement beyond our collective reach.”

Peddling wars
The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries has put out a press release suggesting Canada’s government wants to increase arms sales abroad:

“CADSI also took the opportunity to thank the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, for her department’s recent decision to provide financial support to CADSI to strengthen the Canada brand at major international defence and security trade shows and increase the visibility of western Canadian businesses at those events.
‘Our Government is pleased to partner with CADSI to help promote western Canadian companies on the global stage,’ said Minister Rempel. ‘The defence and security industries are important economic drivers in Canada, and Western Economic Diversification Canada is committed to strengthening these key sectors.’ ”

Words and deeds
The Guardian reports that the US has thus far failed to keep its promises under the Chemical Weapons Convention that Syria is now under pressure to sign:

“About 2,611 tons of mustard gas remains stockpiled in Pueblo, Colorado. The second stockpile, in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, is smaller – 524 tons – but more complicated to decommission, because it consists of a broader range of lethal gases and nerve agents, many of which are contained within weaponry.”

Divide and rule
Georgetown University doctoral candidate Nick Danforth argues that European colonialism’s most enduring harm has little to do with arbitrary borders:

“In Syria, the French cultivated the previously disenfranchised Alawite minority as an ally against the Sunni majority. This involved recruiting and promoting Alawite soldiers in the territory’s colonial army, thereby fostering their sense of identity as Alawites and bringing them into conflict with local residents of other ethnicities. The French pursued the same policy with Maronite Christians in Lebanon, just as the Belgians did with Tutsis in Rwanda and the British did with Muslims in India, Turks in Cyprus and innumerable other groups elsewhere.
The militarization of these ethnic and religious identities, rather than the failure of perfectly placed state borders to alleviate tension between them, explains much of violence in the Middle East today. Blaming imperialism is usually sound politics and good comedy. But in this case, focusing on bad borders risks taking perpetual identity-based violence as a given, resulting in policies that ultimately exacerbate the conflicts they aim to solve.”

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Latest Developments, March 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Treaty postponed
Carol Giacomo of the New York Times calls on America’s president and lawmakers to resist opposition from domestic heavyweights and sign/ratify a proposed international arms trade treaty, assuming it receives majority approval at the UN General Assembly after failing to obtain consensus support from member countries:

“The opposition included the conservative Heritage Foundation and the National Gun Rifle Association. As usual they ginned up dark visions of how any limits on conventional arms sales would deprive Americans of their weapons, which is totally false: The Obama administration bent over backwards to make sure the treaty excluded domestic sales and, in any event, as the American Bar Association affirmed, the treaty did not and could not infringe on Americans’ constitutionally-guaranteed Second Amendment Rights.

The world is awash in conventional weapons with a market valued at upward of $70 billion a year. These arms are fueling conflicts and killing innocents in Syria, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and beyond. But while trade in virtually every major commodity, from oil to bananas, is subject to strong international agreements, conventional arms, absurdly, are not. The treaty would require states to review all cross-border arms contracts, establish national control systems and deny exports to purchasers who might use the weapons for terrorism or violations of humanitarian law.”

Not going anywhere
The Associated Press reports that French troops will remain in Mali “at least through the end of this year”:

“[French President François] Hollande said on France-2 television Thursday night that the first of France’s more than 4,000 troops in Mali will pull out in late April.
By July, he said about 2,000 French soldiers will still be in the former French colony, and at the end of the year ‘1,000 French soldiers will remain.’ He said the French troops would likely be part of a U.N. peacekeeping operation that France is pushing for.”

International corporate liability
Global Diligence reports that International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda recently stressed her commitment to investigating “business institutions” that contribute to war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity:

“She said that it had always been the [Office of the Prosecutor’s] strategy to investigate the link between international crimes and business. Conflicts are driven either by financial enrichment or ideology: a thorough investigation of the finances behind a conflict therefore helps to identify suspects and develop a more complete picture of responsibility.
‘We need to look beyond the structures that commit the actual atrocities … to the broader network around the criminal organization,’ Bensouda said. In other words, examining who is responsible for arming, supplying and equipping the troops committing the atrocities. Prosecutors should also scrutinise the exploitation of trade and natural resources, such as the minerals used in communications and technology devices, in order to trace the direct and indirect financial influence on the course of a conflict.”

Lawyering up
Reuters reports that the government of Guinea has assembled a stable of international lawyers to “help review and, if need be, renegotiate” mining contracts signed before the country’s first democratic elections were held in 2010:

“The review, pledged by President Alpha Conde after he came to power in 2010, will scrutinise contracts with companies such as BHP Billiton, Vale, Rio Tinto, RUSAL and BSGR to ensure the mineral-rich but impoverished West African nation is benefiting sufficiently from deals.
‘Our objective is to point out to our partners areas in their contracts where the country is at a flagrant disadvantage, and discuss openly with them,’ [review head] Nava Toure told Reuters.”

Coast to coast
The Associated Press reports the US is considering applying anti-piracy tactics used in Somalia to the Gulf of Guinea off Africa’s west coast:

“No final decisions have been made on how counter-piracy operations could be increased in that region, and budget restrictions could hamper that effort, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about emerging discussions between senior U.S. military commanders and other international leaders.

After repeated urgings from military commanders and other officials, shipping companies increased the use of armed guards and took steps to better avoid and deter pirates [off Somalia’s coast].”

Military non-intervention
Le Figaro’s Alain Barluet argues the French decision to send only a few hundred troops to the Central African Republic during recent violence is an example of France’s new policy of “non-interference” in Africa:

“French military engagement was limited to sending 300 troops to Bangui over the weekend, as reinforcements for the 250 soldiers already on the ground, to protect French, European and American citizens.

With the Central African crisis, we see an example of the policy outlined last October in Dakar by [French President] François Hollande who had announced, once again, the end of ‘Françafrique’. [Deposed CAR President] François Bozizé ‘did not receive our military support, any more than any other African president will from now on,’ according to a source close to Hollande.
But these same sources insist non-interference is not the same as indifference. The head of state is ‘involved’, he had phone conversations with a number of African presidents, including two with South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, according to an Élysée source.” [Translated from the French.]

The Future of R2P
Mount Holyoke College’s Jon Western and American University’s Joshua Goldstein argue the international community must “decouple” regime change from the responsibility to protect:

“The [R2P] doctrine will lose legitimacy if it is seen purely as an instrument of neoimperial adventurism. In an effort to prevent such misuse, Brazil, in 2011, introduced the concept of Responsibility While Protecting (RWP), which calls for increased UN Security Council monitoring and review of R2P actions. Brazil’s proposal was initially met with a tepid response by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom, who feared it would lead to slower international responses to mass atrocities. But the concept is now gaining support; Ban endorsed it in a July 2012 report. Mitigating concerns that R2P will be misused, RWP might help the international community strike the right balance between maintaining the support of the UN Security Council and effectively responding to mass atrocities in a timely manner.”

Cyber limits
Al Jazeera explores America’s policies on and alleged commission of attacks on computer networks:

“Now a 300-page manual commissioned by NATO and written by legal scholars and military lawyers from member countries suggests the [Stuxnet] attack was an act of force prohibited under the United Nations charter.
After months of the US national security establishment sounding the alarm on the need to defend against potential cyber threats, questions are again being raised about how far the US itself is pioneering offensive cyber policy.”