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Posts Tagged ‘Geneva’

Key talks on Syria plan under way

June 30th, 2012 Comments off

An international conference aimed at salvaging a peace plan for Syria gets under way in Geneva, but differences between the US and Russia remain.
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Categories: Arab News Tags: , , , , ,

Assad rejects external solution

June 29th, 2012 Comments off

Syria’s president says he will not accept any solution to his country’s crisis imposed from outside, as key nations prepare for a meeting in Geneva.
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Fresh Iran nuclear talks agreed

December 7th, 2010 Comments off

Two days of talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme end in Geneva, with a new round agreed for January in Istanbul.
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‘New round’ of Iran talks agreed

December 7th, 2010 Comments off

Key talks on Iran’s disputed nuclear programme end in Geneva, with Iranian sources saying a new round has been agreed for January.
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Bullish Iran set for Geneva talks

December 6th, 2010 Comments off

Iran says it has delivered domestically produced uranium to an enrichment plant, ahead of talks on its disputed nuclear programme with world powers in Geneva.
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Iran, P5+1 to meet in Geneva

November 29th, 2010 Comments off

The authorized secret activities could strain relationships with the likes of Saudi Arabia … & could anger the likes of Syria and Iran…"

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

NYTimes/ here

“The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents. The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said. Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, the document said. The order, however, does not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries.

In broadening its secret activities, the United States military has also sought in recent years to break its dependence on the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies for information in countries without a significant American troop presence.

General Petraeus’s order is meant for small teams of American troops to fill intelligence gaps about terror organizations and other threats in the Middle East and beyond, especially emerging groups plotting attacks against the United States.

But some Pentagon officials worry that the expanded role carries risks. The authorized activities could strain relationships with friendly governments like Saudi Arabia or Yemenwhich might allow the operations but be loath to acknowledge their cooperation — or incite the anger of hostile nations like Iran and Syria. Many in the military are also concerned that as American troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees……. A Pentagon order that year (2004) gave the military authority for offensive strikes in more than a dozen countries, and Special Operations troops carried them out in Syria, Pakistan and Somalia…..”

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Petraeus Memo Widens scope of US Military Covert Operations in ME

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

The 7-page memo seen by the NYT and signed by CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus authorizes US troops to engage in clandestine intelligence-gathering in the greater Middle East. The article implies that the memo also authorizes more military teams to go into unconventional conflict situations in both unfriendly and friendly countries.

Critics worry that the order blurs the line between combat soldiers and spies and weakens the claim of all soldiers to human treatment under the Geneva Conventions.

My own view is that the United States was founded as a government of laws, not men, and that the siren call of covert operations is steadily undermining the rule of law. Blurring the line between military action and spying makes it impossible to talk about the covert missions, since they are typically classiified. The same is true for predator drone strikes.

Military action such as launching drones should be carried out by the uniformed military, not by CIA operatives or, worse, contractors. The former action would allow us to discuss the campaigns as free citizens of a republic. As it is now, often civilian contractors are piloting drones long-distance and we cannot so much as get a straight answer out of the elected officials. Where the US is striking at friendly countries, there should be a Status of Forces agreement to provide a legal framework for the actions.

And intelligence gathering should be carried out by the civilian such agencies. The more you make elements of the military actually intelligence assents, the more likely it is that the lines between them will get strained. That blurring could be bad for all troops. There is already a tendency in the ME for locals to see all Americans as CIA, and giving troops a lot of covert missions will reinforce these views.

We still can be a country of laws, not men, can’t we? It isn’t too late?

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"America Moves the Goalposts"

May 21st, 2010 Comments off

Roger Cohen in the NYTimes/ here

“… Americans see Iranians as “devious, mendacious, fanatical, violent and incomprehensible.” Iranians, in turn, see Americans as “belligerent, sanctimonious, Godless and immoral, materialistic, calculating,” not to mention bullying and exploitive.

That’s Ground Zero in the most traumatized relationship on earth and the most tantalizing. Tantalizing because Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice. Limbert, a bridge-builder, has spent half a lifetime trying to deliver that message. It never flies. Poisonous history gets in the way. So do those that profit from poison.

If all the mistrust needed further illustration, it has just been provided by the Brazilian-Turkish deal on Iran’s low enriched uranium (LEU), the peevish U.S. reaction to it, and the apparent determination of the Great Powers, led by the Obama administration, to burrow deeper into failure.

I believed Obama was ready to think anew on Iran. It seems not. (on Iran, Palestine …we all did) Presidents must lead on major foreign policy initiatives, not be bullied by domestic political considerations, in this case incandescent Iran ire on the Hill in an election year.

More on that later, but first let’s take a cold look at the Brazilian and Turkish leaders’ achievement in Tehran, how it relates to an earlier American near-deal, and what all this says about a world undergoing significant power shifts.

I’ll take the last point first. Brazil and Turkey represent the emergent post-Western world. It will continue to emerge; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should therefore be less trigger-happy in killing with faint praise the “sincere efforts” of Brasilia and Ankara.

The West’s ability to impose solutions to global issues like Iran’s nuclear program has unraveled. America, engaged in two inconclusive wars in Muslim countries, cannot afford a third. The first decade of the 21st century has delineated the limits of U.S. power: It is great but no longer determinative.

Lots of Americans, including the Tea Party diehards busy baying at wolves, are angry about this. They will learn that facts are facts.

Speaking of facts, I must get a little technical here. Iran has been producing, under International Atomic Energy Agency inspection, LEU (enriched to about 5 percent). It is this LEU that would have to be turned into bomb-grade uranium (over 90 percent) if Iran were to produce a nuclear weapon. The idea behind the American deal in Geneva last October was to get a big chunk of LEU out of Iran to build confidence, create some negotiating space, and remove material that could get subverted. In exchange, Iran would later get fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran.

Iran, doing the bazaar routine, said yes, maybe and no, infuriating Obama. Iran now wanted the LEU stored on Iranian soil under I.A.E.A. control, phased movement of the LEU to this location, and a simultaneous fuel rod exchange. Forget it, Obama said.

Well, Turkey and Brazil have now restored the core elements of the October deal: a single shipment of the 1,200 kilograms of LEU to a location (Turkey) outside Iran and a one-year gap — essential for broader negotiations to begin — between this Iranian deposit in escrow and the import of the fuel rods.

And what’s the U.S. response? To pursue “strong sanctions” (if no longer “crippling”) against Iran at the United Nations; and insist now on a prior suspension of enrichment that was not in the October deal (indeed this was a core Obama departure from Bush doctrine).

Obama could instead have said: “Pressure works! Iran blinked on the eve of new U.N. sanctions. It’s come back to our offer. We need to be prudent, given past Iranian duplicity, but this is progress. Isolation serves Iranian hard-liners.”

No wonder Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, is angry. I believe him when he says Obama and U.S. officials encouraged Turkey earlier this year to revive the deal: “What they wanted us to do was give the confidence to Iran to do the swap. We have done our duty.”

Yes, Turkey has. I know, the 1,200 kilograms now represents a smaller proportion of Iran’s LEU than in October and it’s no longer clear that the fuel rods will come from the conversion of the LEU in escrow. But that’s small potatoes when you’re trying to build a tenuous bridge between “mendacious” Iranians and “bullying” Americans in the interests of global security.

The French and Chinese reactions — cautious support — made sense. The American made none, or did only in the light of the strong Congressional push for “crushing” sanctions. Further sanctions will not change Iran’s nuclear behavior; negotiations might. I can only hope the U.S. bristling was an opening gambit.

Last year, at the United Nations, Obama called for a new era of shared responsibilities. “Together we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” he declared. Turkey and Brazil responded — and got snubbed. Obama has just made his own enlightened words look empty.

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Taliban flex muscle amid US troop surge

May 21st, 2010 Comments off

The recent Taliban-claimed attack in Kabul that claimed the life of a Canadian Forces colonel, and which the National Post says marks a “new turn” in the war, was quickly followed by a Taliban attack on nearby Bagram airbase, a major American installment. The pair of attacks has prompted some observers to declare that the Taliban’s Spring offensive has begun.

Mustafa Qadri writes for the Guardian’s site that the Taliban are seen as freedom fighters by many Afghan Pashtuns:

Taliban: the indistinguishable enemy

MAY 16 – They may be repressive fanatics who enslave women and give sanctuary to al-Qaida, but the US-led occupation of Afghanistan has transformed the Taliban into Pashtun freedom fighters. There are two principal reasons for this.

First, despite our best attempts, the foreign troops and the state they prop up are viewed as outsiders who have come not to liberate the country but subjugate it.

Second, so long as our presence in Afghanistan is primarily military, our relationship to ordinary Afghans will be based primarily on violence. Armies, by their very nature, must intimidate and coerce the population into accepting their authority. Despite the talk of winning hearts and minds and civilian surges, much of what we do in Afghanistan creates fear and hostility. …

The problem for foreign powers in a foreign land is their limited interest in the welfare of the people whose lands they occupy. There can be no sustainable resolution of the current violence, however, unless and until the locals take the lead in looking for political solutions. (link)

Julian E. Barnes reporting for the Los Angeles Times discusses recent indications that the Taliban-led insurgency is not disappearing in the face of President Obama’s military surge. The surge, which is expected to peak in September, is in fact the fourth troops increase which the Afghanistan war has seen. All of the previous ones have resulted in heightened violence.

Afghan Taliban getting stronger, Pentagon says
A Pentagon assessment, while expressing confidence in U.S. strategy, says the movement has flourished despite repeated assaults.

WASHINGTON, April 29 (L.A. Times) – A Pentagon report presented a sobering new assessment Wednesday of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, saying that its abilities are expanding and its operations are increasing in sophistication, despite recent major offensives by U.S. forces in the militants’ heartland.

The report, requested by Congress … concludes that Afghan people support or are sympathetic to the insurgency in 92 of 121 districts identified by the U.S. military as key terrain for stabilizing the country. Popular support for Karzai’s government is strong in only 29 of those districts, it concludes. …

A senior Defense official who briefed reporters on the report said violence increased last year in part because of the additional U.S. troops. …

The report also notes that insurgents’ tactics are increasing in sophistication and the militants have also become more able to achieve broader strategic effects with successful attacks. … (link)

And an Associated Press report cites the Red Cross in shedding some light on the extent of insecurity in southern Afghanistan. Note that insurgents are not the only source of insecurity, as personal and tribal rivalries also commonly break out into armed clashes. These rivalries are often fueled by the accoutrements of the US-led war and occupation of Afghanistan.

UN refugee chief: Security worse in Afghanistan, foreign staff can’t access half of country

GENEVA, May 5 (AP) – Security in Afghanistan has deteriorated in recent months to the extent that foreign staff of the U.N.’s refugee agency are unable to travel to half of the country, its top official said Wednesday.

The agency has to rely on local staff or Afghan partner organizations to reach tens of thousands of displaced people and returning refugees it is trying to aid, said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres.

“There was a worsening security situation in the recent past,” he told reporters in Geneva. “Access of our international staff to the territory is now limited to about 50 percent.”

Last month the United Nations announced it had relocated several foreign employees from the southern city of Kandahar to Kabul and told more than 200 Afghan workers to stay home after security threats.

Guterres said aid workers have become targets for violence in part because the distinction between the foreign military and humanitarian groups has been blurred. … (link)

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