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Ed Webb

Obama administration steps into Western Sahara minefield - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the... - 0 views

  • Congress is in effect siding with Morocco, which claims historic sovereignty over its southern half and has proposed an autonomy plan. Native Sahrawi activists, backed by neighboring Algeria, want a referendum on independence as promised by the United Nations a quarter century ago.
  • Thrust into the debate, the State Department has opted to thread the needle by focusing its efforts on democracy-building. In a letter explaining its approach to the congressional mandate, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Julia Frifield made clear that the $1 million grant “does not reflect a change” in the Obama administration’s policy of supporting a “peaceful, sustainable and mutually agreed solution to the conflict.”

    "This program will address the legitimate needs of the people of the Western Sahara,” Frifield wrote in a Dec. 23 letter to Rep. Joseph Pitts, R-Pa., the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission and the top Sahrawi advocate in Congress. “It will seek to strengthen civil society organizations and local representative bodies to bolster the ability of citizens to play an active role in making decisions that affect their lives.”

  • Mouloud Said, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic’s US envoy, said Moroccan lobbyists have been trying to legitimize Rabat’s administration of the region ever since the 2004 trade deal with the United States excluded the Western Sahara. With the new program, he said, they’re one step closer to that goal.

    “This sort of program is very welcome once we find a solution to the conflict. But this is not the right moment,” Said told Al-Monitor in a phone interview. “It’s not a good idea because the real Sahrawi civil society is not going to be a part of it. They understand that this is a game by Moroccans to try to legitimize their occupation by getting the US involved through what appears to be an innocent and genuine program — which is everything but genuine or innocent.”

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  • While it could help strengthen Western Sahara groups, he said there’s also a risk that it could end up legitimizing unrepresentative, pro-government organizations on the ground.
Ed Webb

US and Israel lose UNESCO voting rights - Americas - Al Jazeera English - 0 views

  • UNESCO has suspended the voting rights of the United States, two years after it stopped paying dues to the UN's cultural arm in protest over its granting full membership to the Palestinians, according to a UNESCO source.

    The US has not paid its dues to UNESCO due to the decision by world governments to make Palestine a UNESCO member in 2011. Israel suspended its dues at the same time and also lost voting rights on Friday.

  • The US decision of not paying UNESCO was blamed on US laws that prohibit funding to any United Nations agency that implies recognition of Palestinian demands for their own state.
  • The withdrawal of US funding, which to date amounts to about $240m or some 22 percent of UNESCO's budget, has plunged the organisation into a financial crisis, forcing it to cut programmes and slash spending.
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  • Some fear that a weaker US presence will lead to growing anti-Israeli sentiment within UNESCO, where Arab-led criticism of Israel for territorial reasons has long been an issue.

    "We won't be able to have the same clout," said Phyllis Magrab, the Washington-based US National Commissioner for UNESCO. "In effect, we (now won't) have a full tool box. We're missing our hammer."

    Israel's ambassador to UNESCO, Nimrod Barkan, told The Associated Press that his country supported the US decision, "objecting to the politicisation of UNESCO, or any international organisation, with the accession of a non-existing country like Palestine."

    Elias Sanbar, Palestinian Ambassador to UNESCO told Al Jazeera: "We need them (the United States) to be active. By taking this decision, first of all, they have created big problems for UNESCO, but they have also lost part of their role and we need their role."

    UNESCO designates World Heritage sites, promotes global education and supports press freedom among other tasks.

  • The Palestinians have so far failed in their bid to become a full member of the UN, but their UNESCO membership is seen as a potential first step towards UN recognition of statehood.
Ed Webb

To Ousted Boss, Arms Watchdog Was Seen as an Obstacle in Iraq - NYTimes.com - 0 views

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    Seems to support the realist view of international institutions: largely instruments of the will of the powerful states. But not straightforwardly so.
Ed Webb

Obama to World: Bad News. The American Empire Is Dead. | The Cable - 0 views

  • "The United States has a hard-earned humility when it comes to our ability to determine events inside other countries," he said in his address before the 193-member General Assembly. "The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn't borne out by America's current policy or public opinion."
  • The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war -- rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world -- may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill
  • In addressing the conflict in Syria, Obama said U.S. aims were largely humanitarian.

    "There's no 'great game' to be won, nor does America have any interest in Syria beyond the well-being of its people, the stability of its neighbors, the elimination of chemical weapons, and ensuring it does not become a safe haven for terrorists,"

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  • a rather modest account of American "core interests" in the Middle East and North Africa: countering military aggression against U.S. partners in the region, protecting global energy reserves, and confronting the dual threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation
  • The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure these core interests in the region," he said. "But I also believe that we can rarely achieve these objectives through unilateral American action -- particularly with military action. Iraq shows us that democracy cannot be imposed by force. Rather, these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and people of the region."
Ed Webb

Syria isn't Kosovo and this isn't 1999. Not even close | openDemocracy - 0 views

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    Useful contrast of the two cases, reflecting how careful one must be with historical analogies.
Ed Webb

Samantha Power's case for striking Syria - 0 views

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    Well worth 20 minutes. Whether or not one agrees, this is an admirably clear account of how we got here and the logic of compellent force in this instance, where deterrence has failed.
Ed Webb

Exclusive: Intercepted Calls Prove Syrian Army Used Nerve Gas, U.S. Spies Say | The Cable - 0 views

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    Leaks prepare the ground for military action - standard procedure in Washington.
Ed Webb

At United Nations, Renewed Focus on Syria, if Not New Ideas - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • “The Americans have a talent for finding reasons not to act on the peace process,”
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