Archives for posts with tag: Obama

Diplomat Artist Buzz – You never know who or what you’ll meet on The Everglades “Anhinga Trail.” By, Susan Sacirbey

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Putin Recognizes Crimea Secession, Defying the West

From 18 March NY Times: Moscow remains undaunted by Western pressure in clash of wills that created the most profound rift in East-West relations since end of Cold War, & threatens redrawn borders established by breakup of Soviet Union in 1991.

Acting Officials in Ukraine Seek Stability & Ousted Leader

President Obama approached the unrest with clinical detachment aimed at avoiding instability, but his administration said it was prepared to provide financial assistance beyond that from the I.M.F., but it did not say how much.

“Inclusive” or “Democratic” Egypt?

The UN stands out as perhaps catalytic institution to help address & resolve Egypt’s deepening crisis on levels of democratic-human rights as well as Egypt’s pivotal position.

 

imagesDIPLOMAT ARTIST George Clooney accuses Sudan of Crimes Against Humanity. Don’t miss this insightful article from Digital Journal.  http://digitaljournal.com/article/338508#ixzz2EK1vqww2 Actor George Clooney and a group of genocide scholars in the U.S. have accused Sudan of committing crimes against humanity in Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.

The actor backed his accusations by emphasizing that 26 villages were intentionally burned down during last month as part of a scorched earth policy. The information was obtained by the Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP), an organization co-founded by Clooney. The SSP used satellite imagery to determine that around 140 square km were burned last month and claimed that these acts were committed by the Sudan army and police, with the support of the Popular Defense Force , in order to disperse the supporters of rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N). The Sudanese government has denied these allegations and claimed that it is protecting its citizens in the two regions. Clooney has emphasized that the current situation in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile is similar to what has occurred in Darfur and added that the international community must take strong action and ensure that there are clear and serious consequences for these crimes. The Sudanese government has also prevented international organizations from accessing South Kordofan and the Blue Nile regions and delivering assistance to those in need, leading agencies to warn of a hunger crisis as food supplies are shrinking. During the civil war, the SPLM-N rebels fought with the southern insurgents, but were left with Sudan, when South Sudan seceded under the 2005 peace deal. The rebels claim that they are fighting to protect their ethnic minority from governmental persecution, while the Sudanese government accuses them of inciting violence and mayhem on behalf of South Sudan. While the humanitarian crisis in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile is only intensifying, the international community seems only preoccupied with reaching a resolution for the border dispute between South Sudan and Sudan over the Abyei region, largely because of its direct connection with both countries’ oil production and exports. On Wednesday, Samuel Totten, a professor at the University of Arkansas, sent a letter signed by more than 70 scholars to the Atrocities Prevention Board, a U.S. panel created in 2011 by Obama to focus on the prevention of genocide and mass atrocities. Totten’s letter emphasizes that the situation in South Kordofan is just like that in Darfur, with the difference that currently there is no international outcry over the atrocities that are being committed there and no action being taken. The devastating effects of the fighting are clear. Some 250,000 have already fled Blue Nile and South Kordofan. Yida, South Sudan’s largest refugee camp, is experience in an influx of refugees arriving from South Kordofan, which have taken its population to almost 70,000. According to the International Rescue Committee, only in the past two weeks, more than 4,500 refugees have been registered at Yida. John Prendergast, co-founder of the SSP, has called on the UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council to pressurize Sudan into stopping the fighting in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile and into finally allowing aid to be delivered. George Clooney’s gesture to step out and publicly condemn the Sudanese government for its crimes against humanity conducted in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile will hopefully raise the international public’s awareness about the current crisis and determine individuals to take action, but also set a precedent for other international public figures to take a stance on this important matter and demand action on the part of their countries and the international community. There is a desperate need for an international acknowledgement of and reaction to the situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, in order to put an end to the crimes against humanity that are currently being conducted.

Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/article/338508#ixzz2EK1vqww2

From Susan Sacirbey

 

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Watching President Obama travel to Myanmar this week reminds me of 20 years earlier sitting across the table from US Acting Secretary of State Thomas Eagleburger at breakfast in London in August 1992 and asking for more action to stop ethnic cleansing in Bosnia & Herzegovina. Unfortunately, the response was inadequate and failed on both strategic and human rights level. I had this sense that Eagleburger was still under the impression that Slobodan Milosevic was someone the US could and wanted to deal with as regional partner. As communism collapsed, Eagleburger was one of the promoters of the view that Milosevic was a reformer, part of a new pragmatist generation in the former Yugoslavia. In the end, Milosevic proved himself more opportunist than pragmatist. It is perhaps difficult to judge whether Milosevic was a true Serb nationalist, but he employed ethnic chauvinism to wage aggression and genocide against neighbors and promote his authoritarian rule over Serbia & Montenegro.
 
Myanmar’s current President U Thein Sein is marketed as someone the globe’s democracies can work with – who is inclined to counter the ethnic chauvinism and cleansing now underway in Rakhine state against the Rohingya Muslim minority. However, Thein is at the tip of an authoritarian junta, which is still guaranteed its paramount and controlling role over Burma’s Government by an outdated and non-democratic constitution. Thein and his Government have also failed to be responsive to various peace and rapprochement initiatives. In fact, NGO workers for UN affiliated agencies and Doctors Without Borders have been prosecuted in trials lacking transparency and due process. Multiple sources from the ground indicate that high level Government Burma officials espouse one view for global public consumption but that the dirty work of instigation, terror and killing is left to Myanmar’s military as well as paramilitary and “religious zealots.”
 
The Rohingya are only one of several minorities that has been under assault. The mostly Christian Karen, Kachin, Shan and several other ethnic minorities have faced rounds of repression and conflict. The Rohingya though are the easiest targets as they have been internally marketed as “non-Burmese” who entered the country illegally. They are subjected to various other crude bias with one Myanmar official describing them as obviously non-Burmese because they are darker and “ugly as ogres.” However, the Rohingya have actually lived on these lands for decades and centuries even before India and Burma were separated under British Colonial rule in the 1930’s. The Rohingya had Burma citizenship until the ascending Myanmar junta successfully launched a campaign to take it away in the 1970’s and early 80’s. The Rohingya have again become a convenient target for the Myanmar junta to rally support under the banner of ethnic purity and chauvinism as well as repelling a non-existent Muslim and/or Christian threat, as opportunism affords.
 
Many of Myanmar’s political dissidents have remained in gulag type prisons – only this last week almost 500 were released by the junta in anticipation of President Obama’s visit. The role of former dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, (ASSK), held for years under house detention, has been in some eyes apologetic for the current Myanmar Government’s official discrimination and repression.  Unlike Serbia’s longstanding women human rights activists Sonya Biserko and Natasa Kandic, ASSK has been at best ambiguous. Unlike Ms. Biserko and Kandic, ASSK has become a politician contesting elections in the new presumably more open political system of Myanmar. Ethnic politics wins votes, as Milosevic proved. While Ms. Biserko and Kandic have not been recognized by a Nobel Peace Prize, they have been much more consistent with their commitment to the rule of law, justice and a truly more open and democratic Serbia. They understand that Serbians as a whole incurred a great cost along with minorities and Serbia’s neighbors in the dalliance that Washington and Brussels promoted with Milosevic (well after the war in Bosnia & Herzegovina and until the effort to also cleanse Kosovo).
 
As President Obama travels to Myanmar, it is an opportunity to secure new markets and access to valuable resources no doubt. However, President Obama also must be aware that he could be embracing the Milosevic of this generation or at least providing a further veneer of legitimacy to the chauvinist, authoritarian regime that stands behind U Thein Sein. The wisdom of President Obama’s trip now to Myanmar can be questioned. However, the US President cannot overlook the human rights abuses and ethnic chauvinism that is in conflict with US values, strategic interests as well as international standards that have evolved since the Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, Cambodia and Bosnia genocides.
 
Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

TWITTER @MuhamedSacirbey

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Foreign policy surprises? After Obama’s reelection, most focus is on “fiscal cliff” and domestic policy, but could it be that international challenges/initiatives will come to forefront as the incumbent is now more liberated of political caution in his Second Term? Within a day or so of his reelection, President Obama announced a foreign trip to Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia. While Myanmar’s thinly veiled ethnic cleansing of Rohingya and broad ethnic/chauvinism may have been cause to pause before giving credibility to what was only a year so earlier viewed as repressive, undemocratic military dictatorship, the purpose of this trip appears more strategically expedient: to counter Beijing’s growing influence and symbolically put into motion Washington’s “pivot” toward far Asia and the new challenge of China. What other foreign policy initiatives might we expect from the Obama Administration?

—Press Beijing on Human Rights?

While China has made significant economic advances, its human rights records remains poor with regards to Tibet and the Muslim indigenous population of Xinjiang and its overall population. Dissent is suffocated and there is little transparency on both the political and legal/judicial systems. President Obama would garner support from key Republicans including House Foreign Relations Chair Rep. Chris Smith. Up to now though, the Obama administration had significantly lagged its rhetoric on human rights and rule of law issues regarding China but also such areas as Sudan/Darfur.

—Will Washington take steps to bring US toward International Criminal Court Membership?

US joining the ICC would make support of human rights and the rule of law consistent with Washington’s rhetoric. However, Washington is at best ambivalent and at worst antagonistic toward the ICC. While many on the Right-Wing have sought to suffocate a permanent international criminal tribunal, on the Left there is a preference for engagement with the ICC. However, neither is inclined to subject the US to the ICC’s jurisdiction even if it is unlikely that US citizens would be prosecuted by the Court (as it operates in complementary fashion to national courts). While the UK, France, as well as Brazil, Jordan, Canada and Australia have joined almost two thirds of the globe’s states as state parties to the ICC, US continues to be a holdout along with China, Russia, Iran, India, Sudan and Israel. The minimum that should be sought from a Second-Term Obama Administration is for the US to re-sign the Rome Statute, but I’m not certain that will exists even though the Clinton Administration had moved in that direction in 1998 without adoption/ratification. (George W. Bush renounced the US signature).

—Syria Action Coming?

The Obama Administration had been avoiding any potential foreign conflict prior to the November elections, but now may feel more confident in flexing military muscle via Turkey and NATO.  Any intervention is not likely to be driven by human rights and/or humanitarian considerations but rather the risk of Syria’s conflict being gradually exported to its neighbors, from Lebanon to Israel. Further, any action would not have UN Security Council approval as Moscow and Beijing would oppose; however, regional organizations as the Arab League and neighbors as Turkey can provide legal pretext. While there is significant support for greater US response on Syria among Republican stalwarts including Mitt Romney and Senator John McCain, nonetheless, actual military intervention is most likely through proxies. The emergence of the new Syria opposition via the “National Coalition” will present new opportunities as well as dynamics.

—Palestine UN Membership?

There is no US initiative to further US peace, and to contrary, the risks/trend toward another downward spiral is rising. The current Netanyahu Government is either unable or unwilling to move ahead with a credible initiative, and is perceived as more committed to land than peace. The Palestinian Authority is losing credibility, and the risk to US and western interests is that more hardline Palestinian organizations as Hamas will gain more credibility at expense of those on the road toward co-existence with Israel. Washington now may have to deliver, even if the Israeli Government may be unwilling. Even if more symbolic, Palestine membership at UN would reset the dynamics and infuse the moderates with credibility for further engagement or at least wait until Israel delivers a Government more committed to the two-state solution.

—Latin America & Caribbean-America’s forgotten neighbors?

All of the last few US Administrations have come into office promising a new era of progressive engagement with the US’s southern neighbors, but in end little changes – Latin America and the Caribbean get lost in US domestic debate over illegal immigration or illicit narcotics. In truth, America’s neighbors to the south have been rapidly evolving in terms of economic vibrancy and political stability – most are not only members but the most active supporters of the ICC and the rule of law. Most critically, Latin America and the Caribbean cannot be addressed in a homogeneous fashion. The diversity of economic opportunities, governmental ideologies and social fabric necessitate a more tailored, individualized approach – Brazil, Venezuela and Trinidad & Tobago are as diverse from each other as Indonesia, China and the Philippines.

—Eurozone Crisis needs Greater Global Engagement, particularly US?

Both the US and Eurozone economies need more emphasis on growth and less on the drain of austerity. In the context of the US election debate it had become politically dangerous to speak of assisting Europe, but we believe it is even more risky for the US not to be an active part of the solution to the EU fiscal/economic crisis. The US/European relationship is one of most enduring and critical politically and economically. The US must work directly and via the IMF toward such solution, and it would be an unfortunate political and economic consequence if China were perceived as more committed to Europe’s health than the US.

—Africa a new engagement?

While many Africans have taken pride in President Obama’s election, the engagement of this Administration with Africa has been spotty. Most of the focus has been on providing support (at times blank check to even repressive Government’s as Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi regime) to fight “Islamist terror” threats. However, there has been no particular overt trend toward promoting economic well being or greater human rights/democracy. The previous Bush Administration has been credited with some of the then more progressive AIDS and poverty eradication initiatives. Finally, as Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa cannot be painted with one brush stroke. From Libya, Tunisia and Egypt in the north to Ivory Coast in the West, Somalia in the East and South Africa in the South, democracy is taking ever greater root offering its own unique opportunities despite uncertain and irregular advances.

—Bosnia & New Europe:

The US via NATO was critical in catalyzing the transformation of “new Europe” in the post-Soviet era. However, in the last two decades such engagement has gradually waned. However, US interaction is still a critical ingredient as Europe continues to redefine itself, and especially as the future belonging of countries like Greece as well as Turkey are open for debate. Unfortunately Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH) has gone too far down the priority list and is mired in the outdated and counterproductive phraseology of the Dayton Accords. Facing obstructionist forces from within the country and outside, BiH does not have the opportunity even if most population has the will to bring it forward two decades, but neither Washington nor Brussels are particularly inclined to act progressively, that is without another overt crisis challenging also their stale vision of the region.

—Afghanistan & Pakistan:

Drones, military engagement and “green on blue” killings have provided no sound foundation for future. To the contrary, civilian casualties and prolonged military intervention have poisoned the perception of the relationship on both continents. The Obama Administration is only likely to speed up the disengagement and only leave behind a veneer of previous promises/commitments.

—BRICS:

Brazil, India and South Africa are developing both a diplomatic/political and economic alliance with China and Russia. The foundations of such alliance are not particularly homogeneous but increasingly it has come to rely upon a policy to counter Washington’s influence on a broad range of issues. The US will have to challenge such tendency but formulating policies that better address cooperation and/or coordination based upon the unique interests of each of the rising BRICS and not allow Beijing or Moscow to pull such states into their agendas.

—Indonesia, Philippines, ASEAN & SE Asia:

As part of its pivot to face the rise of China, Washington would not only seek to strengthen old alliances with East Asia, Japan and South Korea, but redefine relationships with rising democracies particularly Indonesia which has already made significant economic and political progress and the Philippines which under Benigno Aquino is seen as rapidly moving forward. These states, along with Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan already face Beijing’s spreading territorial claims in the South China Sea providing Washington with a natural opportunity to play a more visible role. Finally, Indonesia’s rise as economic as well as diplomatic power complements its status as largest Muslim-majority state. Muslim does not mean Arab, or a single definition. Indonesia is a good example of how diverse the Muslim world is.

—Climate Change:

The environment and climate change have fallen off the priority list not only in US. However, both the proof of man-induced climate change and its consequences is ever more evident. The Right Wing had first sought to cast doubt upon man-induced climate change and then offered the false choice of either jobs or the environment. If you believe in God or just respect “Mother Nature,” Hurricane Sandy was a fitting reward to the Romney campaign and those who ignored the health of our Earth. Now it is up to President Obama to hear the ever more urgent message of environmental health. Climate change is a global issue. Will Washington now lead rather than be a drag in global/multilateral forums addressing solutions?

—Women’s/Girls’ Empowerment:

Increasing awareness of sexual violence against women/girls has been a growing priority particularly as it was evident that females were not merely the coincidental victims but frequently the targets of mass rapes as part of genocide/ethnic cleansing in recent conflicts, from Bosnia & Herzegovina, to Rwanda, to Syria. The ICC and the Rome Statute have also incorporated “gender based crimes” as a separate category to highlight and further empower prosecutors and victims. However, it is not only about deterring victimization. It has been evidenced that from education of girls to greater equality in the work place to more equal access/ownership of land, benefits society as a whole. Society is more productive, partners treat each other more equally, and more food is produced by women owning and tilling their land. It is women that gave President Obama his reelection victory, but the US has not necessarily been the leader on empowering women/girls. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey have had women Prime Ministers. The US has not had a woman nominated for President, and the 2012 election was a record for women elected to the US Congress; but it is still only 90 out of 535 Senators and “Congressmen”.

Human Rights & Rule of Law Consistency:

The US has exhausted its reserves of goodwill among many. While Obama’s reelection was received positively by both potential friend and foe overseas, there is a perception that much of the positive momentum of 4 years earlier has been squandered. More of substance is expected this time around but particularly that the US avoids hypocrisy and in both deed and word promote the rule of law and human rights consistently for all as shared values to be shared by all global citizens similarly committed regardless of region, religion, race and/or ethnicity.

By, Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey

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