Tuesday :: Dec 11, 2007

Some international news


by Turkana

  • British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in big trouble. He's down in the polls, making mistake after mistake, mired in a donations scandal, infuriating even his own party's MPs. So, what does he do? The New York Post says he's hired Bob Shrum. Brilliant move.

    "What is Brown thinking?" mused our source. "Shrum lost eight presidential elections, including Al Gore, which should have been a shoo-in."

    Hopefully, digging a deeper hole for Brown will keep him occupied enough to prevent his digging any new ones for the Democrats.

  • Yesterday, Agence France-Presse reported:

    President Vladimir Putin endorsed technocrat ally Dmitry Medvedev as his successor on Monday in a surprise announcement that could clear the way for the Kremlin leader to retain power behind the throne.

    Putin, whose support is seen as virtually guaranteeing victory in a March 2, 2008, presidential election, threw his weight behind Medvedev, a longtime ally who chairs gas behemoth Gazprom and serves as first deputy prime minister.

    The choice surprised observers because Medvedev is a relative liberal in the Kremlin and unlike most of Putin's allies is not known to have served in the Soviet KGB. Although touted in the media as a possible successor he has never suggested he wanted the job.

    Today, they have this:

    Months of uncertainty over Russia's future power structure ended Tuesday when President Vladimir's handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, said Putin should become prime minister on quitting the Kremlin.

    Medvedev, the soft-spoken technocrat endorsed by Putin to succeed him as Russian president, said Putin, 55, should switch to become head of the government after stepping down.

    "I consider it of utmost importance for our country to keep Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin in the highest post of executive power, the post of head of government of the Russian Federation," Medvedev said in an address on national television.

    Were the Bush Administration not distracted by a war of choice, a failed attempt to bring the September 11 terrorists to justice, the implementation and defense of war crimes, trying to drum up support for yet another war of choice, blocking international treaties, and every other foreign policy failure imaginable, they might have had the time and energy to more constructively engage, as Russian democracy dies of birth pangs. Then again, given the abilities of this administration's "grown-ups"- probably not.

  • Horrible news, from Algeria, as reported by The Guardian:

    At least 60 people, including a member of UN staff, were reported to have been killed in two car bomb attacks in the Algerian capital today.

    A car packed with explosives rammed into the offices of the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) in Algiers, and another was detonated outside the constitutional court.

    Reuters put the death toll at 67, while the BBC said at least 62 people has died. A further 43 people were injured.

  • Potentially even more horrible news from Darfur. On Saturday, Smith College professor Eric Reeves wrote in the Boston Globe:

    THE BRUTAL REGIME in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, has orchestrated genocidal counter-insurgency war in Darfur for five years, and is now poised for victory in its ghastly assault on the region's African populations.

    United Nations Security Council Resolution 1769, adopted in July, authorized a force of 26,000 troops and civilian police to protect Darfur's civilians and the humanitarian groups serving some 4.2 million desperate people. Without protection, these groups will be forced to withdraw. But Khartoum has obstructed the force authorized by the UN, and final success in these efforts seems within grasp. On Nov. 26, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the UN undersecretary for peacekeeping, raised the prospect that the UN-authorized force for Darfur may have to be aborted because of Khartoum's actions.

    Guéhenno asked a question that answered itself: "Do we move ahead with the deployment of a force that will not make a difference, that will not have the capability to defend itself and that carries the risk of humiliation of the Security Council and the United Nations and tragic failure for the people of Darfur?"

    The UN/African Union mission, called UNAMID, has been crippled because no one will give it the two dozen helicopters it needs. The combined forces of NATO have offered none. I guess the NATO nations simply can't afford to provide any helicopters to stop genocide. They have better ways to waste money.

    But it is, of course, Sudan's government that is truly to blame. They are stalling on allowing the UNAMID troops, refusing basic logistical access, and demanding that UNAMID shut down all its communications during its own military exercises. In other words, they are completely shutting UNAMID down. The current African Union mission is utterly ineffective, and its mission is supposed to end New Year's Eve. It now looks like there will be nothing to replace it.

    With no international presence - by the UN, the AU, or aid organizations - nothing will constrain Khartoum, or the rebels, or various armed elements and bandits. Confrontations between Khartoum's forces, including its Janjaweed militia allies, and increasingly militarized camps for displaced persons will escalate quickly. Khartoum is likely to use its bombers and helicopter gunships in such battles, ensuring massively disproportionate civilian casualties.

    Reeves says UNAMID was poorly planned and structured, but it was the only option. Soon, there will be none. He says UNAMID must be allowed to succeed, but offers little hope that it will.

    Yesterday's New York Times editorialized:

    The world’s leaders say they care desperately about Darfur’s suffering, until they get distracted. It took years of international hand-wringing before the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution to send in 26,000 peacekeepers to replace a current force of 7,000, to try to halt the killing. With the deployment now set for Jan. 1, major countries are ignoring the U.N.’s appeals for essential aircraft, and Sudan’s government — which unleashed the genocide — is again reneging on its promises to cooperate.

    The Sudanese government continues to thumb its nose at the U.N., and the U.N. continues to do nothing about it. The Times acts as if the U.S. commitment is sufficient, but it really isn't. But the U.N., China, and the Arab League are also failing to act.

    By some accounts, deaths in Darfur are down, but the region remains in severe crisis. People who flocked to refugee camps as a temporary escape from the government-backed janjaweed militias have been trapped there for nearly five years. Life inside the camps, where crime is rampant, is only slightly better than life outside. The rebel groups who claim to be Darfur’s defenders are increasingly fragmented and adding to the violence.

    And as Reeves made clear, after the New Year, things are likely to get dramatically worse. Given the recent history, it seems unlikely that anyone will respond in a manner that will actually help. As the Times concludes:

    The credibility of the Security Council is on the line. So are the lives of 2.5 million Darfuris.

    Does anyone care?

  • Turkana :: 9:23 AM :: Comments (4) :: Digg It!