November 2008 Archives

Guest Voice  |  November 13, 2008 10:06 AM

Burma's Black Hole

By Meredith Walsh

A 6-week-old girl sleeps peacefully in the delivery ward at Mae Tao Clinic, a health center in northwestern Thailand, not 2 km from the Burma border. Her mother crossed the border from Burma into Thailand to deliver her at the clinic, tested positive for HIV during delivery, and then made a decision every mother hopes never to make: she returned to Burma and left her daughter behind in Thailand. The Burmese military has destroyed health care systems to the point that there is no support or treatment for HIV-positive children or adults.

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Guest Voice  |  November 4, 2008 4:26 PM

Congolese Violence and Mineral Rights

By Salil Tripathi

With rebel forces closing in on Goma, residents fleeing homes, refugees their camps, the Congolese army their posts, and charities like Oxfam and ActionAid shutting their operations, Eastern DRC looks set for a return to high-intensity conflict of the sort that has characterized the region for over a decade now. The country already has the largest UN peacekeeping presence, but that has not spared the region. Some 100,000 to 200,000 people have left their homes in recent weeks and nearly two million have been displaced since last year. The Red Cross has already termed the situation a humanitarian disaster.

Kinshasa has accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels: while it is difficult to begin assign blame at this stage, U.S. officials believe that Rwandan authorities have done little to prevent the rebels from using their territory to launch attacks inside the DRC.

That should stop, to reduce tensions. The Congolese have suffered enormously, as have Rwandans in the past, and international reluctance to commit troops - particularly after global misgivings over the very idea of military interventions following the war in Iraq - does not inspire confidence that an amicable solution might be found. But protection of civilians is the primary responsibility of states and rebel forces during armed conflict, and irrespective of political persuasions or ethnic loyalties, warring parties must not breach that international standards. This means providing more resources for
relief: even though, clearly, the exodus from UN-administered camps and seasoned NGOs stopping operations does not bode well.

The tragedy is that the rebels have shifting alliances and what prompts a particular attack varies depending on whom you ask. Ethnic rivalries dating back to the 1994 conflict do matter, but so does the way the country administers its resources.

Beyond the immediate, the DRC must change the way it awards contracts for precious mineral resources. According to some reports, rebel forces are unhappy over the granting of exclusive mineral rights worth $9 billion to Chinese companies. The Lutundula commission of 2005 had expressed grave concerns over the manner in which concessions were awarded, and it was reasonable to expect future awards would be transparent, but nothing is reasonable in this context.

This is not to suggest that the rebels come with squeaky-clean reputations, or that all fault for opaqueness lies with the state alone. But given the abundance of minerals in the country, and given the predatory forays into the country made by its neighbors and external powers, the state must clean up its act and ensure greater transparency. Failure to do so would provide more triggers, more causes, and more sparks, to keep the fires burning.

Guest Voice  |  November 5, 2008 3:22 PM

Syria's Murky Motives

Based on past behavior, it is more likely than not that Syria's primary motivation is to gain increased respectability and access (diplomatic, political, economic) to France, Europe and especially the U.S. This, rather than a fundamental desire to active a real peace with Israel, is what motivates its recent diplomatic activity. Moreover, even if Assad were intent on a fundamental change of course, Iran probably has the ability to act as a spoiler, via Hezbollah or Hamas, or even by means of its assets within Syria itself.

Robert Lieber is Professor of Government and International Affairs at Georgetown University. He has written 14 books on international relations and U.S. foreign policy, including his most recent book
The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century

Panelist View  |  November 6, 2008 3:24 PM

Talks Poised to Bring Iranian Rebirth

Iran will respond to an Israeli/Syrian peace agreement by saying: "It is Syria's decision and therefore we will accept it". The peace may also result in Iran reducing its assistance to Hamas. A Syrian peace agreement with Israel as well as the falling price of petrol may halt Iran's generous help to Hamas.

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Guest Voice  |  November 7, 2008 11:11 AM

Brzezinski on Israel-Syria Talks

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PostGlobal interviewed Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski on Oct. 30, 2008 about the ongoing Syria-Israel talks, their significance for the region, and whether they're different from other talks in the past. The interview was conducted as part of a larger project with PostGlobal panelists and outside experts on prospects and outcomes for the talks. We've posted video highlights from our conversation here, and hope you'll weigh in with your thoughts in the comment thread.

Editor's Note  |  November 7, 2008 4:33 PM

Syria and Israel Talk Peace

PostGlobal has released a special debate, 'Syria and Israel Talk Peace', discussing the ongoing talks, their significance for the region, and whether they're different from other peace attempts in the past. You'll find video interviews with Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, Amb. Theodore Kattouf, and Prof. Michael Oren; reactions and thoughts from members of the PostGlobal panel; and reader's views.

The Global Power Barometer has also weighed in.

We hope you'll you'll weigh in with your thoughts in the discussions above, or in the comment thread below.

 |  November 26, 2008 3:02 PM

Iraqi Women Face Trials, Tribulations in Jordan

By Sarah Chynoweth and Ada Williams Prince

"Every time a bomb went off I thought the baby was coming."

This is what a young Iraqi woman told us about her experience giving birth in Iraq. Many Iraqi women have demanded caesarean sections rather than risk delivering their infants during war, even though some were well short of their due date, putting the mother and child's health in danger. The woman, a gynecologist in fact, fled to Jordan soon after the delivery with her baby and husband in search of safety.

Although life in Jordan is free of gunfire and explosions, it is not free from fear, particularly for Iraqi women and girls.

If you are an Iraqi woman in Jordan, your life is filled with dread and uncertainty. Since Iraqis do not have legal status there, they are afraid of being caught by the authorities and deported back to Iraq--even though this does not occur very often. Because of this, many are afraid to come forward to receive health care, even if the services are available and accessible.

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Guest Voice  |  November 28, 2008 1:17 PM

Mumbai May Derail India-Pakistan Peace Progress

By Shuja Nawaz

Even as the civilian death toll of the Mumbai attacks climbs, fallout from these terrorist actions threatens thawing relations between India and Pakistan.

The danger signals are already evident, as first reactions from the Indian government tended to blame "foreign" intervention, a code word for Pakistan. However, the prompt response from the Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi indicates a willingness to stem the ratcheting of tensions between the two rival states.

Pakistan will send the head of its Inter Services Intelligence, Lt. General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, to India to help in the investigation. Referring to Lashkar-e-Tayaba, the group whose tactics in the past resemble those employed in the Mumbai attacks, Qureshi told an Indian press conference "we have no patience for such organizations" in Pakistan.

Pakistani civil society has been generally quiet in attacking religious extremism. Neither the government nor the military can successfully proceed against terrorism without public support. Yet, there are signs of hope. President Asif Ali Zardari recently offered to open up borders with India for visa-free travel and to eschew a first nuclear strike. Earlier this week, the Home Secretaries of India and Pakistan met in Islamabad and agreed to begin cooperating against terrorism and to bring the Federal Bureau of Investigations of Pakistan and the Central Bureau of Investigation of India in close contact to that end.

But the Mumbai attacks and India's response to them could derail the peace process -- presumably what the militants would want -- particularly if India's leaders attempt to tie homegrown militants to Pakistan-based Islamist groups or the Pakistani state.

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