domingo, 25 de setembro de 2016

The Broken Policy Promises of W. Bush, Clinton, and Obama | Foreign Policy

And why, from the Persian Gulf to Iraq to Syria, Americans haven’t gotten — and won’t be getting — the foreign policy they want.
SEPTEMBER 18, 2016

What do Americans want from the country’s foreign policy? The same things that most countries want: security first and foremost, followed by prosperity, and (if possible) the sense that the country is advancing desirable political or moral values. Some Americans also think it’s nice if the United States wins a lot of medals at the Olympics, enjoys a certain status as “leader of the free world,” and even stages a few spectacular symbolic events like landing a live human on the moon. But mostly they want to be safe, reasonably comfortable, and to believe their country is on the side of the angels.

But as I look back at the last three presidential administrations and I contemplate the utterly bizarre campaign that is going on before our disbelieving eyes, what strikes me is how each of the three post-Cold War presidents failed to give the American people the foreign policy that they promised when they ran for office. In each case, in fact, the candidate promised a more restrained, sensible — dare I say “realist”? — foreign policy, and in each case they delivered an overly ambitious, decidedly unrealistic, and largely unsuccessful product. Some failed worse than others (see under: George W. Bush) but none gave the American people the foreign policy they promised or that the people seem to have wanted.

Think back to 1992. Running against George H.W. Bush, whose foreign-policy credentials and achievements were undeniably impressive, Bill Clinton told Americans “it’s the economy, stupid” and promised to spend the “peace dividend” here at home. But once in office, he couldn’t resist the siren song of liberal hegemony. He expanded NATO eastward, which just gave America more weak countries to protect and did little to enhance U.S. security, and he embraced “dual containment” in the Persian Gulf, which added even more to U.S. defense burdens and helped persuade Osama bin Laden to direct his attention toward the “far enemy” and put the country on the path toward 9/11.

To be sure, 
Clinton was wary of costly international quagmires and refused to send U.S. ground troops anywhere really dangerous.Clinton was wary of costly international quagmires and refused to send U.S. ground troops anywhere really dangerous. His strategy of “engagement and enlargement” rested on the assumption that spreading democracy and expanding U.S. security guarantees would be cost-free, because democracies wouldn’t fight each other, Russia would remain weak forever, and all those new multilateral guarantees would never have to be honored. Clinton also got lucky, insofar as the consequences of some of his missteps (such as 9/11 and Russian revanchism) didn’t come home to roost until he was safely out of the White House.

Next, consider the 2000 election. Running against Vice President Al Gore and lacking foreign-policy experience, George W. Bush sounded a modest and realistic note throughout the campaign and relied on the so-calledVulcans, several of whom had decidedly realist pedigrees. He promised Americans a foreign policy that would be strong but “humble,” and both he and his advisors chided Clinton and Gore for their misguided efforts at “nation-building.” In short, Americans were told that Bush would focus on great power politics, avoid messy quagmires in countries of marginal strategic importance, and keep our powder dry.

Bush’s good intentions were blown off course completely by two distinct factors. First, instead of relying on realists from the Brent Scowcroft/Colin Powell wing of the Republican Party, he allowed Dick Cheney to populate his administration with neoconservatives who had greater ambitions and even worse judgment than the Clintonites. Second, the 9/11 attacks allowed the neocons to convert Bush to their misguided worldview and pave the way to the disastrous quagmires in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of giving Americans the foreign policy they had voted for, Bush, Cheney, and the neocons gave them the absurd goal of trying to transform the Middle East and then spread liberty throughout the world. We all know how well that worked.

Fast forward to 2008. A little-known senator from Illinois runs a successful upstart campaign, based in part on his undeniable eloquence but also on the singular fact that he had opposed the Iraq war from the start. He vows to end that war and, more importantly, to rebuild America’s troubled relations with the rest of the world by embracing a more sensible, farsighted, and realistic foreign policy. Given what had happened in Iraq and also Afghanistan, surely he would heed the wishes of the American people (and the lessons of these latest experiments in nation-building) and not repeat his predecessors’ errors. And surely this former lecturer in constitutional law would correct the excesses of the Bush/Cheney era: closing Gitmo, ending torture, halting warrantless surveillance, reducing secrecy, and running a transparent and accountable government.

But that didn’t happen, either. Obama gave some great speeches, and his eloquence and evident idealism did win over publics in a number of places (and especially the Norwegian Nobel Committee). To his credit, he also led partly successful efforts to address climate change, nuclear security, and Iran’s nuclear program. But he increased U.S. reliance on targeted killings, prosecuted more whistleblowers than Bush did, and refused to hold top official national security officials accountable when they deceived the public. He approved an ill-conceived “surge” in Afghanistan to no good purpose, waffled in his response to the Arab Spring, backed a foolish intervention in Libya that created a failed state, and has been unable to fully disengage from the tar baby in Iraq. His efforts to advance an Israeli-Palestinian peace came to naught for the same reason that the previous 20 years of U.S. “peace processing” had failed: AIPAC and the rest of the Israeli lobby made it impossible for Washington to be a genuine, honest broker or to halt the endless expansion of Israeli settlements.

To be sure, Obama kept the United States out of Syria and has taken a measured approach toward the crisis in Ukraine. This good judgment has led hawks to criticize him for “weakness” and to claim that excessive U.S. restraint is creating a more dangerous world. Predictably, such views are echoed by client states that have become accustomed to Uncle Sucker’s protection and that are quick to complain about our credibility whenever Washington refused to do their bidding. But as Daniel Larison points out, the claim that the United States is retreating “makes the slightest sense if the point of comparison is the height of the Iraq war 10 years ago, and even then it’s risible.” Will Ruger unpacks the charge and demolishes it:

“[T]he United States under Obama has continued to pursue a variant of primacy despite what [Robert] Lieber and others keep saying in their critiques. The United States is still committed to defending over 60 other countries and commanding the global commons. It still has a forward-deployed military living on a globe-girdling network of hundreds of military bases. In fact, it has recently sent more troops and equipment to Iraq, Eastern Europe, and even Australia. The United States still enjoys the world’s strongest military force, costing taxpayers around $600 billion a year. This sum represents nearly a third of all global spending and is equal to that of at least the next 10 countries combined. Its nearest competitor, China, spends far less, about $150 billion. And during the Obama years, the United States surged forces in Afghanistan, fought a war against Libya that led to regime change, re-entered Iraq and engaged (even if tepidly) in Syria, supported Saudi Arabia’s dubious fight in Yemen, continued to conduct drone strikes abroad, became unprofitably enmeshed diplomatically in Ukraine’s troubles, and continued to exert its power and influence in Asia. And just recently the U.S. again bombed targets in Libya. Retreat, you say?”

In short, Obama has hardly run a left-wing foreign policy, or one that departed from the broad establishment consensus about American exceptionalism and its alleged indispensability as the provider of global order.

Which brings us to 2016. 
Once again, the American people seem to want a foreign policy that is less hyperactive and a lot more effective.Once again, the American people seem to want a foreign policy that is less hyperactive and a lot more effective. A Pew Research Center survey in April found that 57 percent of Americans think the United States should “deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with theirs the best they can,” and 41 percent thought the country was doing “too much” in world affairs while only 27 percent thought it was doing “too little.” And as was the case in 1992, 2000, and 2008, we have one candidate (Trump) suggesting — however incoherently — that he’d do a bunch of things differently. He’d stop allies from free-riding, stay out of the nation-building business, and (supposedly) browbeat friends and foes alike on the force of his personality alone. This might sound good at first hearing, but anyone who believes he’d do any of these things effectively is precisely the sort of gullible customer that Trump has conned throughout his checkered business career. Caveat emptor.

And then there’s Hillary Clinton. She’s been a hawkish internationalistthroughout her political career, and believes it is better for the United States to try and fail than not to try at all. And her large foreign policy team is chock-full of bright-eyed liberal internationalists who are convinced the United States can solve lots of vexing international problems in places it doesn’t understand if only they get the chance.

But even Clinton recognizes that support for liberal hegemony is soft, which is why she told an audience last week that the United States would “never” send ground troops back into Iraq. But one may question whether she’d stick to that statement — especially if she continues to listen to the people who have advised her in the past and are likely to do so in the future.

So why don’t Americans get the foreign policy they want? One could argue that it is because the American people don’t know enough about foreign policy, and so they have to leave it to the experts in the foreign-policy establishment. That is certainly possible, but this explanation would be a lot more persuasive if that same establishment hadn’t blown it big-time repeatedly in recent years, and for the same reasons (inflating threats, exaggerating the utility of military force, being too deferential to allies of little strategic value, and letting domestic politics override broader strategic considerations).

The real reasons Americans don’t get the foreign policy they want are threefold.

First, because the country is still so wealthy and so secure, it is mostly immune from the consequences of its foreign-policy follies. Other countries may suffer grievous harm when the United States miscalculates, but most Americans don’t.

Second, the United States built a lot of global institutions, took on a lot of global burdens, and created a large set of national security organizations during the Cold War. The status quo is well-entrenched, and that helps explain why U.S. leaders are loath to abandon attitudes, commitments, and policies that have been in place for decades, even though the condition of the world has changed in a number of important respects.

Third, America’s foreign-policy establishment — to include the usual government bureaucracies, interest groups, think tanks, schools of public policy, charitable foundations, and a lot of the media — is deeply committed to liberal hegemony both for idealistic reasons and because it maximizes their own power and status. Dissenting voices do exist (as this column often proves), but they are a distinct minority. Or as scholars Benjamin Page and Marshall Bouton observed some years ago, there is a persistent “disconnect” between elite and mass opinion on foreign policy, and “official U.S. foreign policy often differs from the policies most Americans want.” And in American politics, when a well-positioned minority believes strongly in a particular approach and the public at large is indifferent or only intermittently engaged by the issue, the minority usually wins.

And that, my fellow Americans, is why you aren’t getting the foreign policy you want or deserve.

Photo credit: ALEX WONG/Getty Images

quarta-feira, 14 de setembro de 2016

South Sudan: Surviving on goat bones and water lilies - News from Al Jazeera

Nearly half of the war-torn country is facing "catastrophic" food shortages, aid group warns.

After a visit to South Sudan earlier this month, the UN said hunger has reached "unprecedented" levels [AP]

Tens of thousands of people in South Sudan are on the brink of starvation with many living in swamps and surviving on water lilies and goat bones.

A hunger crisis affecting an estimated 4.8 million people could turn catastrophic unless humanitarian relief is urgently stepped up, Mercy Corps country director Deepmala Mahla warned.

"The situation is dire," she said.

Mahla said the worst of the hunger is in the south of Unity State, where people have moved deep into swamp areas.

"People have been surviving for weeks, maybe months, just eating water lilies. People are also cooking goat skin and bones because there is nothing else," she said, adding about 40,000 people are at risk of dying unless swift action is taken.

S Sudan: Aid workers caught in the crossfire

"It doesn't take much time for a crisis to become a catastrophe. It's a race against time."

In the capital Juba, vegetable traders are now cutting tomatoes in half to sell because some customers can no longer afford to buy a whole one, Mahla said.

The crisis has been fuelled by nearly three years of war that has killed thousands, uprooted more than two million people, and disrupted markets. Inflation is at 661 percent - the highest rate in the world, Mahla said.

The fighting pits supporters loyal to President Salva Kiir against allies of his former deputy, Riek Machar. The pair signed a shaky peace deal a year ago but violence continues.

Mahla said the difficulties of delivering aid in a country the size of France with only 200km of paved road were compounded by increasing assaults on aid workers.

South Sudan had more attacks on aid workers than any other country last year, including shootings, rapes and mass lootings. At least 57 aid workers have been killed since the end of 2013 and many more are missing.

Across South Sudan many people have been uprooted multiple times meaning they cannot farm their land. Around South Sudan UN peacekeepers are protecting nearly 200,000 people at six compounds.

One third of children are out of school with girls being pulled out first to be married off in exchange for cows.

The United Nations estimates that half of the 12 million people in South Sudan, which gained independence from Sudan in 2011, are going hungry because of the conflict, poor rains, and a battered economy.

A version of this story first appeared on the Thomson Reuters Foundation news site

The South Sudanese student who spent her summer saving refugees | World news | The Guardian

Betty Asha left her home and studies behind to help nearly 2,300 people escape violence and cross the border into Uganda
Betty Asha with Viola, 12, who she safely evacuated from South Sudan and lives with in an apartment in Kampala. Photograph: Adam Bemma

Adam Bemma in Kampala

Monday 12 September 2016 07.00 BST

Betty Asha’s phone rings constantly. Each time she picks up, a voice on the other end asks for help, and each time, she springs into action.

Asha, 23, has become an unlikely hero in the conflict that has gripped South Sudan since July, when warring factions of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) clashed outside the presidential compound before celebrations to mark the fifth anniversary of independence.

When the fighting spread from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, and reached her home city of Yei, close to the borders with Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Asha decided to act. Reports of targeted civilian killings had begun to surface, she said, perpetrated by both sides of the SPLM – those loyal to the president, Salva Kiir, from the Dinka tribe, and those supporting the former vice-president Riek Machar, from the Nuer tribe.

In her first week on the border, Asha successfully brought 800 people from Pukuka village to safety in Uganda

Receiving distress calls from friends and family in her village, Asha left behind her studies and small apartment in Kampala and travelled north to the border between Uganda and South Sudan.

For the next month, Asha worked to coordinate the safe evacuation of 2,296 refugees across the border, a figure confirmed by the Ugandan prime minister’s office and refugee agencies working in the area.

With the help of Chris Hurley, an American sponsor, she arranged four lorries and 10 motorbikes to make numerous trips transporting people.

In her first week on the border, Asha successfully brought 800 people from Pukuka village to safety in Uganda. Over the next three weeks, she helped a further 1,496 Yei residents reach refugee camps after word of her hasty evacuation plan spread.

“When they arrived at Oraba, I was there to pay the drivers. It was also my responsibility to feed everyone, to be with them and to see that everybody was safe,” Asha said. “I took them straight to the UN reception centre.”

Most of the South Sudanese refugees she helped are settled at Rhino camp near Arua, in north-west Uganda, including Asha’s mother and five siblings.

They are the latest of more than 88,000 South Sudanese refugees to seek asylum at the border since early July. UN field coordinator Jens Hesemann said: “I thought the number of refugees from South Sudan was going down, but it has spiked.”

Ugandan refugee laws grant new arrivals the freedom to live anywhere in the country, either in a refugee settlement or a town. The UN has described this policy as a “model for Africa”.
South Sudanese families shelter at the Rhino refugee camp near Arua, Uganda. Photograph: Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images

Hurley met Asha six years ago when he visited southern Sudan as part of a church trip from Tennessee. Missionaries have played a key, if controversial, role in Sudan since the 19th century. They helped form a large Christian minority there prior to the separation in 2011. Many believe that this contributed to the religious unrest that caused the two Sudanese civil wars.

Hurley supports Asha’s studies and paid for the evacuation of the 2,296 South Sudanese refugees. “It cost only $5.66 (£4.26) per person [to transport them to the border]. I spend more than that on lunch every day,” he said.

“I am still shocked by the sheer number of people Betty was able to rescue. She is proof that people can achieve greatness if they are only given the opportunity and support needed.”

'We just want to live' – on the road with South Sudan's refugees

Alemi Charles, 47, from Yei, was among those safely evacuated to Uganda. He lives with his wife and two children in Kampala.

“I received Betty’s phone number and called her to tell her I was in trouble,” he said. “Betty told me to board any vehicle leaving Yei for Oraba, at the border, and she will pay for transport. She really saved my life.”

Asha has since returned to Kampala and resumed her second year of university. She is sponsoring Viola, a 12-year-old South Sudanese refugee she helped evacuate from Pukuka. The two of them live together in a one-bedroom apartment.

“I want to make a difference in the lives of people from Pukuka,” Asha said. “I keep receiving calls from Pukuka and Yei. I want to go back and help more [people] get out of South Sudan safely. Yei used to be a peaceful town. Now it’s not.”

Asha’s phone rings once more, as it does constantly throughout the day. She answers it again.

Millions of children fleeing war 'systematically denied' basic rights | Global development | The Guardian

As world leaders prepare to meet in New York for summit on refugees, charity War Child says urgent action is needed to protect displaced children
Refugee children from Syria play in a makeshift camp in Idomeni, Greece. Only 5% of humanitarian funding goes on child protection and education, according to War Child. Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou/EPA

Harriet Grant

Wednesday 14 September 2016 00.01 BSTLast modified on Wednesday 14 September 201600.10 BST

Chronic underfunding of aid programmes is having a devastating impact on child refugees around the world, the charity War Child warns, with vulnerable children being “systematically denied” fundamental rights such as access to education or protection from forced marriage.

War Child’s report, I’ve Moved but My Rights Haven’t, says the enormous and growing number of children who are forcibly displaced is making it more urgent than ever to set out a global plan of action for children forced to flee.

'I've seen things that nobody, especially a child, should ever have to see' Oscar

Recent research by Unicef says the next 10 years could see an enormous rise in the number of displaced children, with 63 million forced to leave their homes by 2025, more than double the current figure of 28 million.

Hannah Stoddart, director of advocacy and communications for War Child, says the shortage of funding is hitting children particularly hard.

“I’ve just come back from Za’atari [camp] in Jordan where many Syrian refugees have no source of income and often pull their children out of school to engage in illegal forms of child labour. There are zero opportunities for higher education and it’s really sad to see when the young girls have so much ambition.”

Stoddart says the needs of displaced children go beyond the basics of food and water. “Children who have fled violence are suffering extreme trauma … There is acute long-term damage when children are not supported through trauma, or are out of school.” She says there is also a risk of sexual violence, as girls may be married off at the age of 12 because their parents believe it will give them protection.

The global picture for funding all humanitarian response work is one of persistent and chronic underfunding, with appeals for Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia underfunded by around 60%.

But the report notes that children’s services are particularly poorly resourced. Only 5% of humanitarian funding is dedicated to child protection and education. Schooling was the least funded sector in almost a third of countries affected by conflict in 2015, with 73% and 85% of funding needs unmet in Iraq and the Democratic Republic of the Congo respectively in 2015.

Nearly half of all refugees are children, says Unicef

Adding to the complex picture of need faced by humanitarian groups working with children is the fact that more young people than ever before are travelling without their families. In 2015, nearly 100,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in 78 countries (pdf), almost triple the number seen the year before. The report warns that in the next 10 years on current trends at least 300,000 child refugees will end up separated from their families.

Stoddart says the projected increase is related to the changing nature of hostilities. “The intensity and the protracted nature of the conflict means there are higher concentrations of people fleeing conflicts that seem to know no end. Syria is an illustration. It is intense, brutal and has been ongoing for six years. If there isn’t a dramatic change then people will flee, children will flee and families will be separated as they seize any opportunity for a better life.”

World leaders are due to meet in New York on 19 September for a high-level summit on refugees and migrants. In a pre-summit statement completed in August, negotiators removed an earlier promise to move one in 10 refugees to the developed world.

Emily Garin, Unicef’s policy specialist, says there will be a concerted effort to put the rights of children at the heart of discussions in New York. “We believe children should be the primary focus. The real tragedy is that children have been suffering because of conflicts not of their making, and that this is not new. There are children born into refugee camps in northern Kenya who are second- and third-generation Somali refugees. We hope we can turn outrage over individual child cases into care for the bigger issue.”

sábado, 6 de agosto de 2016

UNHCR steps up shelter programme in eastern Ukraine

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 5 August 2016, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Luhansk resident Petro (left) talks to a UNHCR staff member during a mission to the region in eastern Ukraine.  © UNHCR/Daria Volkova
For the first time in five months, UNHCR convoys have reached conflict-affected populations in the non-government controlled area of Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, delivering vitally needed construction materials for thousands of people who had their homes damaged or destroyed during the conflict.
Two separate convoys of 25 trucks each travelled with support from the World Food Programme (WFP) and local partners to deliver supplies that will enable UNHCR to expand its shelter programme in the region. The first 25 trucks arrived on Thursday and delivered 23,000 roofing sheets to the UNHCR warehouse in Luhansk.
Another 25 trucks arrived today (Friday) with cement, bricks, roofing material, tarpaulins and nails as well as kitchen sets, jerry cans and shoe dryers for use in winter.
Despite the ceasefire agreed in 2015, the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains tense and volatile. Flare-ups of hostilities continue to lead to daily casualties among civilians and the destruction of homes. UNHCR estimates that some 10,000 houses in non-government controlled areas of Luhansk have been damaged as a result of the conflict.
Since the onset of the conflict in 2014, more than 2 million people have been forced to flee their homes to seek sanctuary elsewhere in the country or abroad. Nearly 800,000, including the elderly and others in the most vulnerable categories, remain in need of assistance in or close to the conflict zone.
Many homes damaged by shell and mortar fire had their windows and roofs blown off. During an assessment mission to Luhansk in May, UNHCR officials met 77-year-old former construction worker Petro and his wife. They had lived in a tiny basement room – the only part of their shelled home that protected them from snow, rain and wind – for more than two years.
UNHCR remains extremely concerned about restrictions on freedom of movement that have aggravated hardships for people like Petro, who must also struggle to have access to benefits and entitlements – including pensions – on the government-controlled side.
A major problem is the limited number of checkpoints to cross the front line. In the Luhansk region, only one pedestrian checkpoint in Stanitsa Luhanskaya remains open, with people queuing up to eight hours to cross. Long lines of 200-400 cars were observed this week at checkpoints in the Donetsk region.
The payment of social benefits and pensions to Internally Displaced Persons has been suspended until their residential addresses have been verified. This is a major challenge, especially for the elderly, people with disabilities and other individuals with specific needs who face insecurity while waiting for long hours at check points without shelter or adequate sanitation. UNHCR renews its call to all actors to guarantee unrestricted access to benefits and rights to all displaced persons, regardless of registration status or current place of residence.
The delivery of humanitarian assistance has decreased to non-government controlled areas in the Luhansk region, as many UN agencies have not been able to operate there since February 2015.
This year the UNHCR team in Luhansk, working with a local construction company and volunteers, and in coordination with local village administrators, plans to complete the rehabilitation of 1,500 damaged houses by October 2016, in addition to 1,500 households repaired in 2015. About 1,100 families in 15 villages located close to the dividing line have already received construction materials, but 40 per cent of the targeted population will not be able to complete shelter works without UNHCR’s support.
For more information on this topic, please contact:

Last Call to Cash In on a Vicious Civil War

Two-and-a-half years into South Sudan’s fighting, the U.N. might finally make it illegal to sell tanks and attack helicopters to the combatants.
Last Call to Cash In on a Vicious Civil War
Uganda, especially, has become a key supplier of weapons to South Sudan, purchasing weapons on behalf of its government from , among other countries. The South Sudanese government has also to buy four additional attack helicopters worth $35.7 million from a Kampala-based company called Bosasy Logistics. (It’s unclear whether that sale was ever completed.)
JUBA, South Sudan — Latjor Thiyang was sitting on his bed in a displacement camp protected by U.N. peacekeepers here in the South Sudanese capital of Juba last month when a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) crashed into his makeshift home and knocked him unconscious. Moments later, he came to with a river of blood flowing from his head, legs, and one of his arms.
“A rocket has pieces,” Thiyang later explained, producing what remained of the RPG’s shell. “Once it falls or it explodes, there are many pieces, which cause cuts and bleeding.”
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Roughly the length of an American football, though slightly slimmer, the shell probably came from a Type 69 RPG intended to destroy tanks, according to a weapons expert who reviewed photographs of the exploded rocket for Foreign Policy. It was most likely manufactured by Norinco, the Chinese state-owned arms dealer, and supplied to the South Sudanese government as part of a 2014 deal with the company worth $38 million for 40,000 such weapons, as well as 2 million rounds of ammunition and 2,394 grenade launchers, the expert said.
Since civil war broke out here in December 2013, the South Sudanese government has purchased hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of weapons and military hardware on the international market, including attack helicopters, armored personnel vehicles, and heat-guided missiles, that have been used to kill an unknown number of civilians — estimates for the total death toll over the last two-and-a-half years range from 50,000 to 300,000 — and to carry out what the United Nations has said may be war crimes. All of these weapons have been acquired legally, since the U.N. Security Council has declined to put in place an arms embargo despite repeated calls by European countries to do so. (Rebel forces also acquired weapons during the course of the war, but in smaller quantities and mainly from Sudan.)
One of the biggest impediments to an arms embargo was the United States, which helped negotiate South Sudan’s independence from Sudan in 2011 and remains an important backer of the young country. Since the beginning of the current civil war — which was supposed to have ended almost a year ago after President Salva Kiir signed a power-sharing agreement with rebel leader and former Vice President Riek Machar in August 2015 — the United States has used its position on the U.N. Security Council to shield the South Sudanese government from an arms embargo. U.S. officials offered various justifications for this position, including that a weapons ban would incentivize the government to escalate the war and that it wouldn’t work unless South Sudan’s neighbors agreed to enforce it. U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, whose involvement with South Sudan policy dates back to former President Bill Clinton’s administration, was reportedly one of the staunchest opponents of the proposed embargo.
But after fierce fighting erupted once again last month in Juba, leaving hundreds of people dead and casting doubt on the viability of the August 2015 peace agreement, U.S. officials are finally working behind the scenes to put an embargo in place. Last week, U.S. officials met with their Russian and Chinese counterparts at the U.N. to discuss a draft resolution containing an embargo, as well as a mandate for a new regional peacekeeping force, that could be brought to the full Security Council as early as Aug. 12.
The negotiations come at a perilous moment for South Sudan, with rebels threatening to march on the capital if a regional intervention force is not sent in to secure Juba and enforce a faltering peace agreement. The government, meanwhile, has said it won’t accept a regional force, and a military spokesman has threatened to fight foreign troops that enter the country without permission. More bloodshed could soon be on the horizon, and if the past is any guide, new weapons purchases will surely follow.
Experts say an arms embargo is unlikely to fully halt the flow of small arms or ammunition into South Sudan. Bullets are easily hidden and difficult to trace, making it simple for suppliers to skirt the ban. Likewise, light weapons like AK-type rifles are already common in even the most remote of villages. But where the ban would make a difference, experts say, is in prohibiting purchases of the kind of heavy military equipment — including vehicles and aircraft — that has been used with devastating effect against soldiers and civilians alike over the past two-and-a-half years.
Attack helicopters acquired in 2014 and 2015 gave the government a key military advantage, enabling it to roll back many of the rebels’ gains in the northern part of the country. The government purchased four Mi-24 helicopters during this period, at least three of them from a Ukrainian company as part of a $42.8 million deal. But rebel soldiers were not the only ones targeted. In July 2015, government Mi-24 helicopters fired rockets in what the U.N. called an “attack” on a Red Cross hospital in the town of Kodok, in Upper Nile state, killing two people and injuring 11. Attack helicopters were reportedly used again last month to bomb Machar’s compound in Juba during a week of fighting that left at least 500 people dead, including dozens of civilians.
Other heavy weapons purchased by the government during the war include Cougar- and Typhoon-type armored personnel carriers, supplied by a Canadian company, and what experts believe to be 10 Russian-made amphibious tanks whose seller remains a mystery. All of these vehicles appear to have been used to target civilians. During a scorched-earth offensive in Unity state last summer, for example, the government used amphibious tanks purchased in 2014 to chase “fighters and civilians into the swamps of the Sudd,” a U.N. report reads. Likewise, a 2015 Human Rights Watch report recounted scores of instances where government tanks were used to crush civilians during the same offensive.
An arms embargo would not only prevent the government from purchasing additional attack aircraft, tanks, and amphibious vehicles. It would mean that foreign personnel, like Ukrainian nationals who service the government’s Mi-24 helicopters, would have to leave the country, according to Lucas van de Vondervoort, a former member of the U.N. panel of experts for South Sudan. As a result, some equipment might eventually become inoperable.
An arms embargo would also provide a symbolic deterrent to countries funneling weapons to the warring parties. China pledged to suspend weapons transfers to the government after its Norinco shipment became public in 2014, prompting an outcry from rights groups, but other countries have stepped in to fill the void.
Uganda, especially, has become a key supplier of weapons to South Sudan, reportedly purchasing weapons on behalf of its government from Israel, among other countries.
On the rebels’ side, Sudan has been the major supplier of arms, at times airdropping weapons and ammunition deep into South Sudanese territory. In 2014, the weapons research organization Conflict Armament Research analyzed hundreds of small and heavy ammunition rounds that had been airdropped to rebels but later captured by the government. It found that a large portion of the ammunition was manufactured in Sudan after the civil war began — meaning that it would have been illegal to transfer had an arms embargo been in place.
The success of the proposed arms embargo will likely turn on the support of other African countries. Russia and China, which have vetoed similar measures in the past, are not expected to block the weapons ban if African countries present a unified front in favor of the embargo at the U.N. Security Council. Egypt could end up being the key vote, as Senegal and Angola — the two other African countries on the Security Council — are in favor of the proposal, according to foreign diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
South Sudan’s minister of information, Michael Makuei Lueth, opposed the idea of an embargo, saying it threatens the country’s sovereignty and would weaken the government more than the rebels.
“This is an elected government being equated with rebels,” Lueth told FP. “We are a sovereign state.… Why should others talk about an arms embargo simply because we are fighting rebels?”
Thiyang and other civilians in South Sudan are likely to suffer the most from renewed conflict. At the U.N. camp in Juba, a bullet was found behind one of the medical clinics that was hit during the recent round of fighting. It was manufactured in Sudan in 2014, according to the weapons expert who examined it for FP.
If an arms embargo is put in place, bullets like these will probably continue to fly. But larger weapons like the RPG that hit Thiyang’s house could become less common as both sides deplete their stocks. For a country perched on the brink of yet another civil war, that could be a step in the right direction.
Photo credit: CHARLES LOMODONG/AFP/Getty Images

domingo, 8 de maio de 2016

More than 50 mass graves found in former Isis territories in Iraq as evidence of genocide mounts

A UN envoy said government forces were uncovering evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity
Lizzie Dearden @lizziedearden 
para o The Independent, link original (

An Iraqi security forces forensic team works at at the site of a mass grave, one of two discovered containing the bodies of dozens of men, women and children killed by Isis militants in Ramadi

More than 50 mass graves containing the bodies of men, women and children murdered by Isis have been uncovered in Iraq.

Government forces have been uncovering the sites one by one as they sweep territory formerly held by the so-called Islamic State, revealing further evidence of war crimes and possible genocide, a United Nations envoy said.

Jan Kubis, the Special Representative for Iraq, said the most recent grave was discovered at a football ground in Ramadi on 19 April, containing 40 bodies.

“As territory is retaken from the criminal and terrorist gangs of Daesh (Isis), evidence of the heinous crimes they have committed continues to be uncovered,” he told the UN Security Council on Friday. “More than 50 mass graves have been discovered so far in several areas of Iraq.”

Iraq exhumed 470 bodies from Tikrit mass graves (2015)

Mr Kubis warned that Isis continues atrocities against women and children in the country, including forcibly recruiting Yazidi boys as child soldiers, while the fate of thousands of women and girls from the religious minority remains unknown.

Although efforts by the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional governments have led to some being released, he said “much more needs to be done”.

American defence officials have recently hailed the re-capture of up to 40 per cent of territory overrun by Isis in Iraq, with Barack Obama claiming the group’s fighters realised their “cause is lost” amid continuing air strikes and military operations.

But Mr Kubis said that civil unrest and a political deadlock in Baghdad, which saw hundreds of protesters storm parliament in a protest last month, was serving the interests of Isis and other militant groups.

“Despite the notable and consistent progress on the ground against Isil (Isis), it remains a formidable and determined enemy that constantly adjusts its tactics and attack patterns,” he added.

“Isil cannot be defeated by military means alone. Without addressing the root causes of violent extremism and the underlying ideology, efforts will not be sustainable and lasting.”

The envoy said that military victories must be accompanied by rehabilitation efforts, the rule of law and unified government to fight the ideology of Isis, which originally started as a band of jihadist militants in Iraq.

Read more
How close is Isis to losing the war?

Supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been holding demonstrations and sit-ins for months to demand an overhaul of the political system put in place by the US following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, culminating in the storming of parliament on 30 April.

Iraq's ambassador to the UN, Mohamed Alhakim, said the country's leaders and elected political blocs are working to implement the prime minister's reform programme.

In a speech to the Security Council, he said: “The year 2016 is a crucial year for Iraq, it is crucial for combatting terrorism and recovering all the territory taken over by the (Isis) terrorist gangs,” he said.

He urged the US-led international coalition to target Mosul, the country's second-largest city and Isis’ de-facto capital in Iraq.

An Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighter fires at Islamic-State (IS) militant positions, from his position on the top of Mount Zardak (Getty)

Government control is gradually expanding in Anbar province, with the re-capture of Hit last month hoped to pave the way for further gains in Salah al-Din, Kirkuk and Nineveh provinces.

Britain and other nations in the US-led coalition are conducting air strikes in support of Iraqi forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga, as well as targeting senior Isis officials and positions.

But there have been set-backs, including the death of a US Navy Seal in battles against Isis north of Mosul.

The Pentagon originally said Charles Keating died while “advising” Kurdish troops miles behind the frontlines, but footage obtained after his death showed fierce battles after their vehicles were attacked outside the town of Tel Osqof, which was later secured.

Additional reporting by AP

segunda-feira, 18 de abril de 2016

Burundi election: President Pierre Nkurunziza's victory has reignited fears of genocide like that endured by Rwanda | Africa | News | The Independent

Jessica Hatcher talks to opponents in the capital Bujumbura, desperate for UN intervention after the brutal deaths of hundreds
Jessica Hatcher Bujumbura 
Friday 13 November 2015

The violence in Burundi has continued to escalate since May’s presidential election, during which police officers fired at and beat anti-government protesters in the capital EPA

Many of the dead never make it to the morgue. Bodies are found bloated in drainage canals and rivers, or bloodied on the streets. The “before” and “after” photographs – a graduation picture and a mutilated corpse – are common. 

Janvier, a 22-year-old who refuses to give his surname, wants to go to university. For now, amid fears of another genocide in Burundi, he just hopes to stay alive. “If three or four hundred have been killed in six months, what will happen in five years?” he asks.

Official estimates put the number of dead in the East African country at 240; anecdotally, the estimates are far higher. The crisis began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza declared that he would seek a third term in office – and escalated when he won a contested vote in July. 

This week, as Mr Nkurunziza’s deadline for protesters to hand in their arms passed and amid rhetoric closely associated with the Rwandan genocide, calls were made for UN peacekeepers to enter Burundi. “Nkurunziza has a strategy of eliminating all his opponents one by one,” said Janvier, who claims to have been beaten by police. 
Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi has suffered two ethnic slaughters in the past 50 years. The country’s 12-year civil war, which pitted rebels of the Hutu majority against the Tutsi-led army, claimed 300,000 lives a decade ago. The same ethnic divide fuelled the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, in which 800,000 mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. 

In Kamenge, a district of the capital Bujumbura, the body of a young man has lain in the four-berth cooler fridge at the Roi Khaled hospital morgue for four weeks now. Police delivered his bullet-ridden corpse to morgue officials on 18 October. If no one arrives to identify and bury him, it will be another job for the local council. 

One 54-year-old man, Eloi Ndimira, was reportedly found beaten, stabbed and shot, his heart removed from his chest, after he intervened when police were beating someone on the street. In Mutakura, to the north of the capital, residents unearthed a decaying, unknown man from beneath a maize crop. 

Janvier’s theory – “one by one” – is a sentiment shared by many Burundians who oppose Mr Nkurunziza. “The government, they organised to kill everybody who is against this government, one by one,” said Pierre Bigirindavyi.
A protester sets up a barricade during a protest against Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza

Mr Bigirindavyi says his older brother, Zacharia, was forced to lie on his front before being shot in the back of his head by men in police uniform last Saturday. He was one of 10 men killed that night, seven of them in a small, neighbourhood bar. Families of victims have received anonymous threats, warning them not to talk or they will be next. 

The government accuses the opposition of the murders to garner international sympathy. “The opposition has been killing innocent people and throwing corpses in the street,” said Willy Nyamitwe, a spokesperson for Mr Nkurunziza, “to attract attention from the international community, who say the government is killing its people.” 

“There will be killing, but there will not be what we call genocide,” says a senior Burundian political analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity, who believes the government is responsible for a majority of the attacks. 

“The President has no chance – he knows human rights groups are recording all the extrajudicial killings, assassinations, torture. He knows he’ll be arrested in the end by an international tribunal so he wants to achieve as much as he can.”

A UN Security Council resolution on Thursday called for urgent talks and for the groundwork to be laid for peacekeepers to pull the country back from the brink of “possible genocide”. On Friday, Belgium advised its citizens to leave Burundi due to the potential for violence, while the European Union said it was evacuating families and non-essential staff.
Police point a rifle at protesters who erected a barricade in protest against Pierre Nkurunziza

Burundi’s government did not specifically respond to the Security Council’s call to look at boosting the UN presence. Instead, it said the resolution was “generally speaking” in line with its view and its desire for dialogue. Charles Nditije, the head of the opposition Uprona group, told Reuters: “We deplore, however, that they [the UN] didn’t decide to deploy peace enforcement forces in the near future.”

A former Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, warned on Wednesday that the hate speech being used by senior politicians in Burundi is reminiscent of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. 

“Today, the police shoot in the legs... but when the day comes that we tell them to go to ‘work’, do not come crying to us,” the President of the Burundian senate said last week. The “work” is a euphemism used in Rwanda to describe the mass killings of 1994. 

One man was found beaten, stabbed and shot – with his heart removed from his chest

In late October, police opened fire on mourners travelling back from a funeral, killing at least one person and injuring a dozen more. The government said the police were fired on first. Since the incident, many in the capital are too afraid to attend the burials of their dead.

It was fun at the start of the unrest, says Janvier, recalling the protest movement that sprang up at the end of April and snowballed into an attempt to dislodge President Nkurunziza, led by dissident factions within the military. 

Every morning, Janvier would wake at 7am, hurry to meet the hundreds of other young men and women from his home in the district of Musaga who were protesting, and march under the hot sun all day, singing the national anthem, marching, laughing, and taunting police who prevented them from reaching the city centre. 

After the attempted coup in May, when Mr Nkurunziza was briefly forced out of power by General Godefroid Niyombare, everything changed. The government accused the protesters of being terrorists, and instructed police to use all force necessary to put down any protests. 

In September, Janvier claims he spent a week in prison being systematically beaten, interrogated by the dreaded “Documentation”, or secret service, which human rights groups say has carried out some of these extrajudicial killings. 

“We’re going to kill you,” Janvier said policemen told him, as he lay quivering on the floor of the prison. Since then, like many young men in Musaga, he sleeps in a different house every night in order to avoid being caught.

domingo, 17 de abril de 2016

Cientistas descobrem outro oceano debaixo da terra na cidade de Juína MT

Pesquisadores descobriram um pequeno diamante que aponta para a existência de um grande depósito de água sob o manto da Terra. Seu volume poderia preencher três vezes os oceanos que conhecemos.


O principal autor do estudo, Graham Pearson, membro da Universidade de Alberta, no Canadá, disse que “Uma das razões da Terra ser um planeta dinâmico é a presença de água em seu interior. As mudanças da água dependem da forma como o mundo funciona”.

Depois de discutir a teoria há décadas, os cientistas relatam que finalmente encontraram um grande oceano no manto da Terra, três vezes maior do que os oceanos que conhecemos.

Esta descoberta surpreendente sugere que a água da superfície vem do interior do planeta como parte de um ciclo integrado da água, desbancando a teoria dominante de que a água foi trazida para a Terra por cometas gelados que passaram por aqui há milhões anos.

Cada vez mais os cientistas estão aprendendo sobre a composição de nosso planeta, compreendendo os acontecimentos relacionados às mudanças climáticas. O clima e o mar estão intimamente relacionados com a atividade tectônica que tem estado continuamente vibrando sob nossos pés.

Assim, os pesquisadores acreditam que a água na superfície da Terra poderia ter vindo do interior do planeta, tendo sido “impulsionada” para a superfície por meio da atividade geológica.

Depois de inúmeros estudos e cálculos complexos para testar suas teorias, os pesquisadores acreditam ter encontrado um reservatório gigante de água numa zona de transição entre as camadas superior e inferior do manto, uma região que se encontra em algum lugar entre 400 e 660 km abaixo da superfície da terra.

Como sabemos, a água ocupa a maior parte da área de superfície do nosso planeta, que é paradoxalmente chamado de Terra. Embora seja verdade que, em comparação com o diâmetro terrestre a profundidade dos oceanos represente apenas uma fina camada semelhante à casca de uma cebola, descobrimos agora que a presença deste precioso líquido não está limitada à superfície visível.

Na realidade, a cerca de centenas de quilômetros de profundidade no subsolo há também enormes volumes de água, com uma importância fundamental para a compreensão da dinâmica geológica do planeta. Quase um oceano no centro da Terra.

A descoberta do oceano subterrâneo

A importante descoberta foi realizada por pesquisadores canadenses, que se basearam em um diamante encontrado numa rocha, em 2008, em uma área conhecida como Juína, no estado do Mato Grosso, Brasil.

A descoberta ocorreu por acidente, pois a equipe que estava, na realidade, à procura de outro mineral, ter comprado o diamante de alguns garimpeiros que o tinham encontrado através de uma coleta de cascalho realizada em um rio raso. Ao analisar a pedra detalhadamente um estudante descobriu, um ano depois, que o diamante, de apenas três milímetros de diâmetro e de pouco valor comercial, continha em sua composição um mineral chamado ringwoodite, que até agora só tinha sido encontrado em rochas de meteoritos e que contém significativa quantidade de água. No entanto, a confirmação final da presença deste mineral levou muitos anos, pois foi necessária a realização de vários testes e análises científicas.

De onde vem este mineral?

A análise detalhada da amostra encontrada revelou que, neste caso, o mineral não provinha de meteoritos, mas do manto da Terra, a uma profundidade de cerca de 410 e 660 km, em uma área que é conhecida como “zona de transição”.

Anteriormente, discutia-se muito sobre a possibilidade da existência de grandes quantidades de água muitos quilômetros abaixo do subsolo, mas nunca tinha sido antes demonstrada nenhuma prova real de tal teoria, que tem implicações muito importantes para a forma como entendemos os fenômenos geológicos planetários, pois acredita-se que este é o mineral mais abundante na zona do manto. Desta forma, como a amostra encontrada possui até 1,5 por cento de seu peso em água, pode-se afirmar que existem volumes de água realmente extraordinários, como um grande oceano.

Esta descoberta é, sem dúvida, uma das mais importantes realizadas no campo da geologia nos últimos anos, e forçará os peritos a modificarem, até certo ponto, a abordagem que se tem utilizado até agora para analisar fenômenos como vulcanismo, placas tectônicas e muitos outros processos de importância na compreensão da dinâmica da Terra – cujo nome, depois dessa descoberta, se tornou ainda mais paradoxal.

A peculiaridade desta descoberta é que esta água não existe em qualquer um dos três estados que conhecemos: líquido, sólido ou gasoso. A água foi encontrada em estruturas moleculares de formações rochosas no interior da Terra.

Uma concentração tão importante de água trás uma mudança significativa nas teorias relacionadas com a origem da água na superfície da Terra.

Esta descoberta é a prova de que nas partes mais profundas do nosso planeta, a água pode ser armazenada. Fato este que poderá colocar fim em uma polêmica de 25 anos, sobre se o centro da terra é seco ou úmido em algumas áreas.

A capacidade de armazenar água em seu interior não é exclusiva da Terra. Outros planetas, como Marte, podem conter grandes quantidades de água, algo que nos faz pensar se o planeta vermelho poderia abrigar vida.

Por em Ciência e Tecnologia – Descobertas

quinta-feira, 14 de abril de 2016

Israel’s ‘weapon exports to Rwanda during genocide’ to stay secret, following Supreme Court ruling

Between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed over the course of 100 days in Rwanda in 1994 
20 hours ago

Metal racks hold the bones of thousands of Rwandan Genocide victims inside one of the crypts at the Nyamata Catholic Church Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Documents detailing Israel’s alleged defence exports to Rwanda during the country’s civil war and genocide in the 1990s are to remain sealed, the country’s Supreme Court has ruled.

Two years ago Professor Yair Auron and attorney Eitay Mack submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Israel’s defence ministry to discover the nature of any arms exports made to Rwanda between 1990 and 1995, the Times of Israel reports.

Between 800,000 and 1 million people were killed over the course of 100 days in Rwanda in 1994 during the civil war, kick started by the death of the Hutu President Juvenal Habyrimana whose plane was shot down over Kigali airport.

Weapons used in the genocide allegedly included Israeli-made 5.56mm bullets, rifles and grenades, the newspaper reports, but information apparently detailing this is sealed in the contested documentation.

Mr Auron and Mr Mack’s request reportedly stated: “According to various reports in Israel and abroad, the defence exports to Rwanda ostensibly violated international law, at least during the period of the weapons embargo imposed by the UN Security Council.”

The request was denied by the Ministry of Defence and later by the Tel Aviv District Court, upholding the argument that the release of information would undermine state security and international relations.

The Supreme Court has also rejected the appeal for the documents to be released, stating: “We found that under the circumstances the disclosure of the information sought does not advance the public interest claimed by the appellants to the extent that it takes preference and precedence over the claims of harm to state security and international relations,” Haaretz reports.

Mr Mack responded to the decision by calling it “mistaken and immoral,” but said that “at no point during the proceedings was there a denial that there were defence exports during the genocide,” and vowed to “continue to fight to expose the truth”.