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Proliferation Press

Monday, January 08, 2007

Proliferation Press Has Moved!

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-Proliferation Press

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Perkovich Blows Up the "Democratic Bomb" Doesn't Help Much on Fallout

George Perkovich, a Carnegie Endowment senior fellow, blasts the Bush White House's handling of WMD proliferation, urging the United States to adopt the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and work towards making nuclear proliferation a recognized international crime. But the policy brief fails to compelling links these proposals to solving the nuclear dilemmas of Iran and North Korea.

Opponents of the dismal Bush foreign policy record must begin to link their overall proliferation strategies with clear steps to alleviating today's nuclear stand-offs.

If not progressives risk losing on foreign policy in '08, regardless of who wins the White House.

The report follows a mid-term election that has been seen as a rebuff to President Bush and his foreign policy of democratic regime change in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another aspect of this foreign policy has been the administration's push to stem worrisome nuclear proliferation by focusing on certain states. The Bush administration has harshly criticized Iran and North Korea for developing their nuclear capabilities, while also leading a charge to modernize the U.S. nuclear forces and pursue a nuclear deal with India.

Perkovich calls the approach "risky," citing that "Iran and North Korea and perhaps others may see nuclear weapons as the best bulwark against U.S. intervention."

Perkovich makes the case for universal rules to manage the numerous aspects WMD proliferation. Such a strategy demands that America engage and come to accommodation with its strategic rivals, instead of pushing for regime-change.

His most potent arguments against selectively rewarding "good" states and "punishing" bad states, are also the most well-known: a) most states are "gray"--neither completely good nor bad-- and b) states change.

The unilateral, regime-centric approach undermines cooperation between the nuclear powers, according to Perkovich. Alienating or provoking Russia and China with nuclear deals to India or encouraging Japanese re-militarization breaks the ability of the world's great nuclear powers to work together to tackle worrisome proliferation--whether through sanctions or other diplomatic strategies.

The report offers little new, but does digestibly present the complicated issue of WMD proliferation. Only the charge to make nuclear proliferation an officially recognized international crime succeeds in spinning a new yarn on an old theme.

Yet the report fails to show how universal rules for proliferation get us to solve the nonproliferation regime's two great challenges: North Korea and Iran.

And when it comes to picking policy makers, it will be those two pressing issues--not the wonkish issue of universal guidelines or selective strategy--that will define the '08 elections and the next White House's foreign policy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Bush-Malaki Meeting Postponed

Talks between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki have turned into a diplomatic nightmare for President Bush, showing the world just a stressed U.S.-Iraq relationship.
Bush did not cancel the meeting with al-Maliki, but postponed it until Thrusday. I guess this was to buy time while a final decision is made on whether or not to meet is made.
WaPo reports:

President Bush’s planned meeting Wednesday in Jordan with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was put off following the public disclosure of U.S. concerns about the Iraqi leader’s ability to control the raging sectarian violence in his country.

This last minute change seems to show just how little the Bush administration understands about Iraq political situation. A major Shiite partner in the governing coaltion, allied with Moqtada al-Sadr, had commenced a boycott of their government roles.

Or perhaps it just reflects the leaked White House memo gives an unflattering description of al-Maliki’s performance. As reported by the New York Times:

“His intentions seem good when he talks with Americans, and sensitive reporting suggests he is trying to stand up to the Shia hierarchy and force positive change,” the memo said of the Iraqi leader. “But the reality on the streets of Baghdad suggests Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or that his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action.”

The postponement seems to only show how weak the American position in Iraq is, and settles nothing for al-Maliki on his domestic front.

Iraq's Unity Government-- Fraying or Surging?

The blogosphere and general media is abuzz with news of a boycott by a powerful Shiite group—led by Moqtada al-Sadr—in Iraq's governing coalition. And yesterday Iraq’s President Jalal Talibani went to Iran to meet with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .

Alex, over at Martini Republic, writes:

"An already weak and ineffective Iraqi government led by Nouri al Maliki loses the backing of a powerful faction of lawmakers..."

Yet he fails to mention an important aspect of the boycott, found in WaPo's coverage:

But Rubaie cautioned that their action did not mean the officials were pulling out of the government [emphasis added], which would all but guarantee the collapse of Iraq's unity government.

"The suspension does not mean our withdrawal from the political process," said Rubaie. He added the Sadr bloc would meet in coming days to discuss how long members would remain out of the government.

To hit up Bush for meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a tad unfair. I doubt Bush pushed this meeting because he thinks such an action "imbues them [Iraqi officials] with domestic legitimacy."

In fact, I think he made the right calculation: knowing that Sadr wouldn't risk being blamed for worsening Iraq’s already dire civil crisis. And maybe such independence by Prime Minister al-Maliki, dovetailed with what appears a very successful visit to Iran by Iraq's President, is the right diplomatic path for the embattled Iraqi regime to take.

This observation shouldn't be mistaken for a blanket endorsement of the Iraqi regime or Bush's Iraq policy. But it does point to a regrettable truth: something positive has to happen in Iraq to improve the situation. And just maybe this boycott is necessary if there be any hope for a stable national Iraqi government of any type or strength-- seemingly the only way to avoid a Yugoslavia-like breakdown.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

North Korea Hot for Nuclear Talks and Asian Games, Not Human Rights

Six-Party Talks Back On!

WaPo's Benjamin Kang Lim reports on North Korea's return to the negotiating table-- in the form of six-party talks.

Lim shows sheds light on yesterday's diplomatic shuffle in Beijing. North Korean official Kim Kye-gwan met with the chief North Korean diplomat Christopher Hill, South Korea's
nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo, Japan's envoy Kenichiro Sasae, and China's Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei.

The U.S. has refused to entertain North Korean calls for bilateral talks between the two nations,
favoring instead the six party framework that brings together North Korea, South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

North Korea's recent testing of a nuclear weapon provoked harsh reactions from the international community, including China, and saw intensified pressure for North Korea's return to the six-party talks.

But while Lim caved to these demands yesterday, he made sure to employ two face-saving measures--one hard, one soft.

China Daily showcases a sympathetic portrayal of the North Korea position—big shock! In it we see it was always North Korea's intent to return to six-party talks, but only after it could do so from a "dignified position":

Kim said the timing "depends on the United States."

"There are too many outstanding issues" and both parties should narrow their differences, Kim told reporters on arrival at the airport.

"I said on October 31 that we can enter the talks at any time," he
said. "I said that because we can do that from a dignified position as we
have taken defensive measures through our nuclear test to counter sanctions and
pressure against us."

This flurry of activity comes near ASEAN (a group of ten South East Nations that includes Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines) putting its diplomatic weight behind returning North Korea to the negotiating table.

Asian Games

This diplomatic thawing comes on the heels of the Asian Games, an-all Asian nation Olympics.
The games open this Friday in Doha, Qatar.

The sporting competition is hoped to warm chilled relations between the two
Korean nations.

From the International Herald Tribune:

Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, said it would be the eighth time the Koreas have marched together at an international sports event.

The two countries will not be competing together, however.

South Korea's 830-member delegation, most of which was to arrive on Wednesday, is hoping to win 70-75 golds, while the North is setting its sights on a much more humble goal of about 10 gold medals. The North is expected to participate in 16 events.

Kim Jang San, the North Korean delegation chief, said the North is hoping to win medals in boxing
and the Korean martial art of taekwondo.

Perhaps this good-will diplomacy will push some good-will into the contentious six party talks.

U.N. Flags DPRK’s Human Rights Record

This diplomatic activity also comes after an embarrassing United Nations
resolution on North Korea's poor human rights record. Amnesty
International reports

On 17 November, the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly adopted its second resolution condemning North Korea's record on human rights with a vote of 91 in favour of the resolution, 21 against and 60 abstentions. The resolution contains tougher language than the earlier resolution adopted in November 2005. It also requests the UN Secretary General (the SG designate is Ban Ki-moon, former South Korean Foreign Minister) to submit a comprehensive report on the human rights situation in North Korea.

The press release brings attention to North Korea's continuing food crisis, rampant child malnutrition, executions of political opponents, use of torture, and restrictions of free speech.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

News Update and Opinion: Low Approval Ratings Undermine Olmert's Plea for Peace

(Updated version of a previous CampusProgress.org posting)

News Update

Today's NYTimes leads with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plea for peace between Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The NYTimes does not dwell on Olmert's low popularity within Israel or his Kadima party's dwindling support. As the reported by the International Herald Tribune, a recent poll put Olmert's approval rating at an anemic 20 percent.

And Reuters reported three days ago on a recent newspaper poll putting the Kadima party Olmert's leads behind Benjamin Netanyahu's more hard-line Likud party.

Olmert's unpopularity has come in large part from the botched Israeli military incursion into Lebanon he green lighted earlier this year. (Link to Olmert's political history and role in the Lebanon invasion)

Perhaps Olmert is giving peace a chance to have gain a chance at the polls.

But even if this cynical reading of Olmert's proposal is unfounded (and it probably is), the question remains: is Olmert is any position to conclude a high-stakes peace agreement with Palestine?


Olmert may just become one of the most tragic leaders of current Israeli history.

Never meant to be Prime Minister (that was supposed to be the still-comatose Ariel Sharron), Olmert headed up the Lebanon invasion to both improve Israeli security and increase his standing on military matters.

The plan: repeal the threat of missiles on Israel, and then take that hawkish capital to make peace in Israel. A reasonable but risky plan.

Had Sharon been able to lead Kadima, this appearance concern would have not existed.

But the plan didn't turn out: the invasion failed. Now Olmert is trying to forge support for the Kadima party by suing for peace, from an extremely weakened position.

Perhaps the voters who rallied to support Sharon last summer will see that it's time for a real peace process and that Netanyahu does not offer a better course. But it seems likely that Netanyahu will succeed in making this last-ditch attempt for political survival look just like that-- and not a principled or workable plan towards peace.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Proliferation Press News Roundup

"Did I Skip Over Pakistan?"
China & the U.S. India Deal According to Prakash Ambegaonkar: Trade Relations = Strategic Balancing

A good article by Dr. Prakash Ambegaonkar on the India-US nuclear deal. It delves into how the deal may affect trade calculus between these three countries; therefore it sheds light on what might be the real aim of the deal (winning over India on trade, and pushing China to do the same).

Thus it helps flesh out what is meant by U.S. advocates when they say the deal will make India an American partner in the region.

But the article left me after the first read going, "Okay...did I skip over the discussion on Pakistan?" So I re-read, and found that indeed there was not one mention of this country-- nixing much of the value of a still very useful approach to understanding the full contours U.S.-India nuclear deal.

The article's main warrant: India still plays the role neutral (or unaligned) power-- looking to take a little from all ends. It's other--more controversial warrant: All these three countries are fundamentally looking to find a mutually satisfying way to improve relations with one another.

The first warrant is on the money, highlighting something many supporters of the deal refuse to acknowledge: The deal doesn't buy Indian loyalty or fundamentally change their foreign policy. Hopes to turn India into a China-balancer/U.S. partner on par with Japan are just fantasy.

On the second warrant, while all these countries do want peaceful and profitable relations, the article forgets they each want it on their own set of terms.

But by moving beyond the zero-sum view on diplomacy so rampant in other accounts, the article reflects one of the better descriptions of the Indian diplomatic perspective. But its focus on trade undervalues the strategic rationale that propelled the deal from America's end.

Glaring omission: not one mention of Pakistan or the evolving Sino-Pakistani relationship.

(Note: such add-on criticisms are the softest of all, since no article can be exhaustive. But when ones throws China into the U.S.-India deal discussion, it's hard to forgive not giving Pakistan a seat as well at the ongoing diplomatic poker game between China, America and India.)

Leaving out Pakistan makes the "soft power" paradigm the article rests on appear to hold greater explanatory power than it actually does. The omission removes the need to refute clear cases of China balancing an ascendant India by lending Pakistan support. (Note: Pakistan doesn't mind taking from both ends; it enjoys significant American support-- lest it become a terrorist hotbed).

Pakistan is the most significant (and volatile) variable in the diplomatic equation. With it's weak regime, significant extremist support, nuclear armaments, and history of internal terrorism, Pakistan is the one powder-keg no one wants to-- but needs to-- imagine going off.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Getting Different Views on Iraq: Hudson Institute Chimes In

The Hudson Institute hosted an event today on the future of Iraq.

Subject of particular interest: the panelists view of the Iraq Study Group (ISG).

You my coverage of the event at Campus Progress.

Highlight: You get to watch atendees Hillel Fradkin, Hudson Senior fellow and ISG member, and Peter Prost, former CIA terrorism official, fight over Vietnam and (by analogy) America's mission in Iraq.