S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Ballot has not yet trumped bombs

Iraq elections -
(Current Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari)

Iraq teters on the edge of civil war. Violence has trumped the ballot so far in this deeply divided country. Despite several successful elections, Iraq's elected parliament is unable to force the country's potential leaders to form a permanent government, partly because there was not a clear majority victory by any single faction. Now the most prominent members of those factions have no idea how to share power in the face of spreading violence. With no sense of nationhood, all they know how to do is jockey for position. To quote from a BBC article,

Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari says he is willing to withdraw his nomination to lead the new government if the Iraqi people want him to do so. . .
The Shias' nomination of Mr Jaafari has been a major sticking point in forming a government as he lacks wider support. He has been criticised for not doing more to curb Iraq's violence. . . .
It is three months since the election, and unresolved differences between the parties are likely to delay the formation of a new government for several more weeks at least, our correspondent says. The inaugural session lasted just 30 minutes as wrangling over power meant members were not even able to elect a speaker. The job is part of a wider power-sharing package. Political sources say one idea that has been agreed in principle, partly because of heavy pressure from the US ambassador, is the formation of a new leadership council. This would be made up of the president, the prime minister, the speaker of parliament, the head of the judiciary and political chiefs. . . .
Adnan Pachachi, the oldest member, addressed those gathered, urging Iraqis to avoid a civil war. "The country is going through very difficult times and it faces a big dilemma after the Samarra bombing and the attacks that followed. Sectarian tension has increased and it threatens national disaster," Mr Pachachi said.
Iran's role - What role Iran has had in the Iraqi crisis is a matter of disagreement amongst our own leaders. But it seems clear that it has been significant. Iran's current leadership came to power in a free and fair election. However, their militant leader appears to feel that his country must have the bomb as well as the ballot, in order to be a significant player in the strife torn Middle East. U.S.-Iranian relations have become more and more strained over that country's nuclear program. Now Iran seems willing to talk with the U.S. about the crisis in Iraq, according to a recent Reuters story. To quote,
Iran is willing to open a dialogue with the United States on Iraq, a senior official said on Thursday.
"We accept this proposal and we will appoint a negotiating team for talks soon," Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran Supreme National Security Council, told reporters in response to a call by Iraqi Shi'ite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim for Iran to start talks with Washington on Iraq.
Iranian officials had previously said Tehran was not interested in discussions before U.S. troops pulled out of Iraq.
Ballots vs. bombs - Democracy has been a mixed bag for the United States in the Middle East. It is relatively frequent that people in Middle Eastern countries get together and vote on who they want to be in charge. Israel will soon hold an election. Palestine, Iran and Iraq all used the ballot box to decide in recent years. But in all three of those cases, the U.S. might have chosen a different outcome. "Be careful what you wish for," as the old saying goes.

Democracy or an arranged marriage? Our new National Strategy even alludes to the mixed blessings of spreading democracy. To quote from the New York Times' excellent article about the recent publication of this very significant document on security and foreign policy,

While the new document hews to many of the administration's familiar themes, it contains changes that seem born of bitter experience. Throughout the document there is talk of the need for "effective democracies," a code phrase, some of its drafters said, for countries that do not just hold free elections but also build democratic institutions and spread their benefits to their populations. "I don't think there was as much of an appreciation of the need for that in 2002," one senior official said.

U.S. weighs talk or military action- Up to this point the U.S. is still advocating a diplomatic solution to Iran's nuclear threat, along with Russia and China. But that could change. In the most recent national security strategy document, the document continues to hold out a threat of confrontation. To quote,

An international diplomatic effort to force Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions must succeed "if confrontation is to be avoided," the White House said on Thursday in a new national security strategy. "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," said the document, which also described national security challenges in Iraq and across the Middle East as well as in Russia and China.
The United States and its European allies are locked in a test of wills with Iran over suspicions that Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapons program despite its insistence that it merely wants atomic power for civilian use.
"This diplomatic effort must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided," said the document without elaborating. President George W. Bush has insisted on a diplomatic outcome to the negotiations but has never taken the military option off the table, although experts believe U.S. involvement in the Iraq war is a limiting factor. . . .
The new strategy is an update of a 2002 document that itself reversed a Cold War policy aimed at containing the Soviet Union. The 2002 document advocated pre-emptive strikes against hostile states or terrorist groups -- a policy critics said was used to launch the Iraq war.
In the new document, the United States insists that "we must be prepared to act alone if necessary." But in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq three years ago, which strained international ties, the document emphasized the need for diplomacy, saying "there is little of lasting consequence that we can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of our allies and partners."
Strike first again? CNN, tells the story this way, however. Headlined, "Bush restates pre-emptive doctrine," the story continues,
Undaunted by the difficult war in Iraq, President George W. Bush reaffirmed his strike-first policy against terrorists and enemy nations on Thursday and said Iran may pose the biggest challenge for America.
In a 49-page national security report, the president said diplomacy is the U.S. preference in halting the spread of nuclear and other heinous weapons.
"If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur -- even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack," Bush wrote.
Unintended consequences - The most ironic outcome to the neocon dogma of democracy as the all encompassing panacea for the world came in the recent election of a new Palestinian parliament. Hamas won. Now the U.S. and the world are looking at how a perceived terrorist organization can put down its bombs and use ballot results. So far Hamas and Fatah have been unable to reach agreement on governing together in Palestine. According to Aljazeera, to quote,
Hamas and the other parliamentary blocs in the Palestinian Legislative Council
have failed at the end of a meeting in Gaza to agree on a common programme for a Palestinian government, Aljazeera reports. Rudwan al-Akhras, the Fatah representative in the dialogue, said on Wednesday - the fourth day of inconclusive coalition talks in Gaza - that the gap with Hamas's position was still big.
Aljazeera reported him as saying that all the presentations and amendments in the revised Hamas offer did not meet the minimum demands of Fatah for joining a Hamas-led government.
Reuters quoted Akhras as saying: "I do not see any encouraging signals that we will be able to reach an agreement over the programme to form a joint government between the factions." . . .
Palestinian officials said Fatah and Hamas were trying to find common ground and avoid tensions that could result in political paralysis or even violence, but that a confrontation was inevitable. Palestinian officials involved in the talks said the main sticking points were Hamas's refusal to accept existing agreements and respect obligations by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which includes recognition of Israel.
My "creative post" today at Southwest Blogger is about Mars exploration.

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