International Relations


Well, gotta love this:

Some faction of the Kurds have revealed their own strategic goal by dissassociating themselves from it.  That is, some diaspora groups are protesting in the United States that Turkey wants to invade Kurdistan for Kirkuk.  It doesn’t have anything to do with PKK depredations on their soil, of course–or the incipient threat of destabilization throughout Iraq, spreading north, and compromising Turkey’s security in general.  Oh, no, it’s that oil again.

Let’s go for that conspiracy scenario, just long enough to kill it For Ever:
1. Turkey, with, uh, WAY MORE military capability than the U.S., has decided that they could conduct war with Iraq in a far more efficient fashion than the U.S. ever could. 

Nah.  The paranoids may have a point with that efficiency thing: on the other hand, seeing that the U.S. actually has the capability, and can’t guarantee security, it seems past ridiculous to think that Turkey would go flying, marching, and tanking on in to the same revenue-threatening and life-threatening black hole of Iraq in order to take on a town that is primed for resentment and strife.

2.  One protester stated that Turkey is not afraid of the PKK, but rather afraid of a Kurdish state.  And of course this makes, yes, perfect sense. 

Nope: The PKK wants to bomb Turkish towns and resorts, killing innocent people and being sneaky about it, disrupt the economy and create conflict and strife.  The Kurdish state wants to ship oil through Turkey and get on with making money.  Uh, I know Turkey is completely unfavorable to the idea of generating income, preferring instead to foment domestic instability and gleefully hailing each incident of lost infrastructure.  It’s just this attitude that makes Turkey a force for good in the international system–

Personally, I believe that Kurdish-Americans would go a lot further by deprecating the PKK and trying to help Turkey provide goods and services for its own ethnic Kurdish residents.  Oh, and building partnerships to keep those pipelines in northern Iraq in good order: for the good of Iraq, Kurdistan, and Turkey–heck, the world at large.  Hope you’ll think about it–and then do something constructive. 

Kirkuk is a mess, but not Turkey’s mess:
Consider the machinations, forced importations and deportations that have been occurring in Kirkuk: the blame doesn’t rest with Turkey: a history of forced Kurdish deportations from the Kirkuk area has been rectified with new human rights violations–forced non-Kurdish deportations from Kirkuk. 

The stratagems may be based upon history, but history has not taught compassion.  Right now, the paranoia of the non-Kurdish Kirkuk residents is the justifiable paranoia: because they’ve been had.  It’s a bad business, and Turkey’s got nothing to do with it.

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On Sunday, October 7, Costa Rica’s voters approved the entry of the state into the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with their first-in-history vote by referendum.  In Costa Rica, the agreement was known as TLC, or, Tratado Libre Commercio (Free Trade Treaty) and was hotly contested, publicly fought, and barely passed.   

The dramatic enactment of democracy in Costa Rica barely made a stir in United States news agencies.  For instance, the Washington Post published one short article on October 8, page A-11, dateline: Mexico City, with the results of the vote.  Other local news in states with large textile concerns were a little more interested–many in the U.S. believe that CAFTA will continue to take manufacturing jobs away from U.S. labor.  But I was there and can write a little about the conduct of the controversy.  The photos below (not the map, which is from NPR) I took this month.

CAFTA/TLC
PBS-CAFTA MapThe Central American Free Trade Agreement is a burgeoning economic community in the Western Hemisphere.  Its member countries are: the United States, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic–and now, Costa Rica.  Because the Dominican Republic is considered Caribbean rather than Central American, the agreement is sometimes called by the acronym DR-CAFTA or CAFTA-DR.  It is a counterpart of sorts to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.   Belize and Panama are not signatories to the agreement. 

The Caribbean states also have their own trade agreement (in which the U.S. is not a signatory), but (as stated earlier) only the Caribbean’s Dominican Republic is a signatory to CAFTA.

The case for Free Trade
TLC SiA free trade agreement allows states to lower tariffs between each other and can be bilateral or multilateral.  Currently, a network of free trade treaties, both bilateral and multilateral, link states of the Western Hemisphere to each other, but they differ in membership and content.  Increasing numbers of multilateral ties both reflect and facilitate the rise of global markets.  Under these agreements, states are given better access to each other’s markets and can export and import more easily.  For Costa Rica, this may enable an influx of engineering and technical assistance, serve to modernize its business management, and streamline its markets for agricultural products–both crops and value-added agricultural merchandise.  It may also add to the job pool for labor, both skilled trades and unskilled.  

Costa Rica is in urgent need of new engineering and better infrastructure, both governmental and non-governmental.  Costa Ricans that I talked to working in business look forward to the development of new kinds of management and new opportunities for their talents.  Costa Rica’s hospitality industry also stands to gain significantly from the agreement.

China
With the EU as a prime example, the global economy appears to be settling into trading blocs which are able to command greater portions of economic power.  This trend has not always aided the Western Hemisphere in gaining economic power for itself–for instance, the U.S. and Central America are further threatened in the textile/soft goods market by the economic power of China.  It should be noted also that China is developing economic power in the Western Hemisphere as well.   Recently, China opened a new consulate in Costa Rica and President Arias will be visiting the state later this month.

The case against Free Trade
Tratado Libre CommercialWhile I was in Costa Rica, it was quite obvious that U.S. commercial presence was already quite strong within the state.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect to me was that many of the arguments mirror arguments in the U.S. over the Farm Bill–large agriculture, particularly that of U.S. grain producers, might threaten the local agriculture in Costa Rica.  This argument was fought mostly over rice–with the rights of Costa Rican domestic rice producers versus the rights of householders to cheaper rice imports.  As always, agriculture hires the most workers and accounts for significant portions of Costa Rica’s GDP–yet it is not as efficient  (or as subsidized) as U.S. grain crops.  Other crops, such as coffee, are currently administered in very small farms utilizing micro-climates and small confederations of farms.  Any unification of coffee markets, for instance, are going to change the nature of local power structures within Costa Rica. 

Most of the agricultural labor, for coffee at least, is migrant labor from Nicaragua–already a member of CAFTA–which seemed to prove to many Costariccenses that CAFTA was not providing jobs for agriculture for their neighbor state.  

Other arguments focused upon a dread of change to various government monopolies such as energy, telecoms, social security, and utilities.  The arguments against change for telecoms, for example, centered upon the state’s mandate to provide service to all against a competitive influx of multinational corporations which might improve efficiency but not provide service to all.  This argument was largely theoretical — TLC did not abolish the national telecommunications monopoly– but serves as an example of the conflict between old and new that Costa Rica will now confront. 

A third aspect of change is that Costa Rica’s environmental importance to the world (cloud forests, rain forests) may well be under assault from continued development.  As usual, this argument seemed to originate more from the international community than from Costa Rica itself.  Nevertheless, coffee growers, for instance, have marked environmental damage due to climate change on their own ability to provide coffee on the market.  Increasing development from the tourist industry and the development of resort/retirement real estate threaten the environmental benefit that Costa Rica’s undeveloped regions bring to the world.   

Further Reading:
PINR, May, 2005: The fight against CAFTA in the U.S. and U.S. reasons for backing CAFTA
U.S. Trade Representative site: CAFTA page, including links to the text of the Treaty

  

A minor adventure:
I’ll be posting this week and weekend (and so forth), but my regular readers might find the schedule to be off here and there, because I’m on a month-long tour into the Spanish language.  I’m so close to being bilingual, and yet: I’m not.  So I’m taking my fate and my frustration with the word ‘almost’ and packing it into a suitcase along with my shoes, my verb book, and my toothbrush.

La Profesora, la Bruja
That's her.As far as U.S. language education is concerned, I think I’ve had most of the problems and some of the benefits.  One semester out of eight I had a native Spaniard, but Dios, that was high school, ages past; in one university semester I had a very good speaker who had traveled all over the Spanish-speaking world.  Two semesters I had the witch from hell, who quite frankly knew little Spanish at all.  The poor woman was ninety years old and her feet hurt, so I don’t blame her–much–but on the other hand, she was wasting time . . . . I learned no Spanish from her except how to say “the devil himself”.  Hmmm.  Wonder why that stuck.

The rest of the professors had exceedingly diminished expectations of our spoiled, Amer-anglicized students (yes, the students from hell, or at least, Purgatory).  Almost all of them are in it to endure only, because we try to keep Spanish-speaking people on the other side of the border around here.  Oh, don’t get me started on that one.

Las frases mas ridicula
Another problem I find with U.S. language instruction: I always learned how to say things I would never say in normal conversation.  My brother has a joke about this: he says, that in Spanish he learned to say “Tengo un lapiz muy grande” which is, “I have a big pencil”  and then we both just laugh.  Pues, quisiera a decir mas que esta, y en la semana que viene, lo empezare’.  (I want to say more than that, so next week, I will get started on it). 

How my coworkers have suffered
uh, Que sufrio’ mis colegios,
(I think).
So, I have spent a lifetime making attempts at the workplace to engage Spanish speakers in conversation, with some good results.  We shall see how it goes. 

So, perhaps upcoming:
Por eso, los que vienen:
La LoteriaOne great thing about going now is I’ll be able to report some different kinds of news than usual.  Some really important issues for my own home state (the U.S., if you haven’t figured it out by now) are obscured by celebrity nonsense, Congressional scandals, next years’ Presidential elections, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. 

But there are more immediate issues just to the South.  New/upcoming issues in Latin America include some important referendums for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), at least one new Chinese consulate in Latin America, new rulings at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR).  Who knows what else I might find out–once I can talk like a sensible person–but more importantly, listen with understanding.

Photos: Witch from easleys.com; JohnTunger, with La Loteria game piece.

Everything but Iraq, since this troubled state got its own post earlier.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ Almost like sports scores with the trade wars: China is now finding small nematodes in U.S. wooden crating.  Something undisclosed was wrong with some U.S.-origin frozen potatoes (no French fries today), and some vitamins and fish oil were guilty of false advertising.  As far as the ick factor in the product du jour goes, we’ve had melamine, lead, fugitive weeds, dirt, worms, and steroids.  Things to look out for next: spit, arachnids, cockroaches, slime molds, and stem cells, depending upon which side of the Pacific you’re on.
♦ Talks between U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and DPRK Ambassador Kim Kye-gan went well in Geneva.  This coming Wednesday, Mongolia hosts the next chapter in the Six-Party Talks with diplomats from North Korea and Japan attending.
♦ The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum is in Sydney this week, with tons of security and a kick-off on climate change issuesAllan Gyngell at The Australian Age has a great backgrounder on the history of the organization, its sometimes sagging progress, and real achievements.
Australia’s contribution to Pacific stability at The Strategist.

Former Soviet Union:
♦ At NewEurasia.net, Ben Paarman looks at possible changes in Central Asia’s relations to great powers via the tired metaphor of the Great Game.  A great read  for Central Asia watchers.
♦ Get up-to-date on the new problems in the Caspian/Kazakhstan oil at the Kashagan field, at FPA Central Asia.
♦ Russia is going to put missiles in Belarus, if NATO is going to put them in Poland.
♦ Anna Politovskaya, the brave, committed, and murdered Russian journalist, would have been 49 this past week.  Robert Amsterdam documents the investigation as driven by political agendas rather than a desire for justice.

Latin America:
♦ Mr. Obama, U.S. Presidential candidate, said during his campaign that the U.S. should consider diplomacy with Cuba and opening up remittance payments, and the LA Times explains why.  H/T: Boz.   Then Professor Weeks sums up the anti-Castro backlash as diplomatic amateur hour in two paragraphs. 
♦ In a move to be imitated by world leaders everywhere, Lula declines a third presidential term.
Grief and destruction from Peru’s earthquake.

Middle East: and North Africa:
A call for unity within Islam, and the adoption of a social agenda, with a look at what makes Hizb ut-Tahrir compelling, at Tabsir.net.
Aquoul has a three part series on Moroccan elections, which is a very interesting beginning on learning the politics of the state.  Part 1 discusses the role of the King in Morocco’s democracy; Part 2, the situation for a free media; and Part 3, on interior security and political parties.  It’s referenced and the comments are good, too.

Afghanistan:
Taken in part from The Afghanistan Aggregator at FPA Central Asia, which has more:
♦ David Rohde on the Taliban v. Afghanistan’s police: the new tactics of the Taliban, including 102 suicide bombings, IEDs–against a police force which is rife with corruption and under-trained, under-equipped, etc, at the NYT.
♦ The last 19 South Korean hostages were freed over the past two days, in small groups at various collection points.  Of 23 hostages from the ROK kidnapped July 17th, two male hostages had been killed, and two previously released.  The South Korean goverment had to agree to withdraw their troops (as previously planned) by the end of the year.  They also had to agree to respect Taliban isolationism, including no missionaries (no surprise) but no visitors of any kind.  An undisclosed ransom has also likely been paid.
♦ Now that the hostages are freed, a backlash against the alleged reckless endangerment of missionaries by Church societies will begin.
♦ A Taliban spokesman has reportedly vowed that the Taliban will continue their kidnapping activities.  And so it seems: the Taliban possibly captured as many as 100 Pakistani soldiers this week.  And Mayor Shah is still missing from last week.  German hostages are still missing. 

Iran:
♦ Mr. Ahmadinejad says Iran has met its centrifuge goal: 3,000 in 164 cascades.  However, this is disputed by analysts in Europe, who say that Iran’s activity has actually lessened, which is disputed by Iran.
♦ So is this deterrence?  The U.S.-planned 1200 military targets in a three-day swipe over Iran, if necessary.
♦ After the U.S. was threatening to list the Quds force as a terrorist organization, Iran replaced its leader.  The new leader is: Brigadier General Mohammed Ali Jafari, replacing General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who has been its leader for the past decade. 
♦ Iran plans to build two new refineries in its southern region/Bandar Abbas.  Also, a new oil dock is being designed for incipient construction.

Energy Issues:
Prices as per August 31, 2007: Brent crude, USD 72.38 per barrel; West Texas Intermediate, USD 73.87.
See also Kashagan field in FSU above, and Iran’s refineries, in Iran above.

Happy Labor Day Norteamericanos, doing no labor–unless, of course, you are in a service industry.  For those of you in the service field, I hope your next day off is very nice.

 

There was Way too Much to editorialize concerning Iraq this week, so it gets its own special edition in the Weekly Rambling Intelligence feature . . .

Announcements:
One: Iraqi Slogger has gone membership only, USD 60 per month as of today.  It’s a great site, aggregating all the Iraq news, and this is your last week to link to it from Ramblin’ Gal (so you can enroll).  Two: for those of you very interested in Iraq affairs, this week Joshua Foust at the Conjecturer gave the blow-by-blow daily readout, which he does extremely well.  This post will get you started

Congress gets a Clue, or Three:
This is so funny/not: finally the Congressional members on FFMs in Iraq realized they were living in a fantasy when they discovered the cheat sheet each person in the Green Zone had on them about their Iraq votes.  It’s very sad when our best personnel in the most dangerous place have to act like they work for Dear Leader.  And it seems to suggest that partisanship, and not military knowledge, continues to run this effort right into the ground.

Worse, this information was available in Harper’s years ago, en embryo, with the wallet sized card the soldiers carry around to remind them how to treat the press.  It’s fatuity that has kept this realization from Congress for so long.  Maybe it will also come to mind that their gratuitous FFMs could be diverting staff from real work–but nah. 

For a different delegation, reality did rear its head: or its surface-to-air missile: evasive maneuvers as the last delegation left.  They were actually being shot at, which is such a bummer for the spinner’s orchestration.  Maybe they can call it the parting strains of the 1812 2007 Overture.  Or maybe that will make these lawmakers feel more falsely akin to the troops who put up with this as a matter of course. 

An independent commission set up by Congress notes the corruption and sectarianist bents of the Iraqi Police.

The U.S. General Accounting Office reports that only three of the eighteen benchmarks are being met, not eight out of eighteen (again an almost useless way to measure the benchmarks), which has electrified Congress yet again– But here’s a surprise: Bush fights back.

Matt Taibbi on the cost-plus contract at Rolling Stone: cronyism created the police academy rendered unusable by poor plumbing, a stock-exchange started by a 24 year old Republican American neophyte–and more.  It reeks.  And if you don’t trust Rolling Stone, you can read GAO Report No. 07-711, DOD cannot ensure that US-Funded Equipment Has Reached Iraqi Security Forces, (pdf, 25 pages), or the one-page Highlights.

The U.S. is not processing enough applications for Iraq refugees who have assisted the U.S. and are most at risk if things get worse: this goes double for those who have worked with contractors and are not acknowledged as being at risk.

Iraq in Iraq:
The Kurdish Region now has a fatal cholera outbreak

I see little political rapprochement-this Iraq analyst sees that political decisions are not so much the problem as that politics has not translated to economic policies, and that neither politics nor economics has been taken to the people.  One case in point: the relatively more-stable Kurdish areas are having difficulty providing utilities to its citizens, because the central Government has not built any power infrastructure in the region.  Therefore, the KRG has made its own arrangements with Qatar.  Yet another reason why the center cannot hold.

The good news is that General Petraeus solicits independent thinking and analysis from his junior officers.  One report he received was leaked to the Washington Post, which says that Iraq’s central government is a participant in Civil War.  All are denying it, because it will serve no purpose in the field, but many are acknowledging its truth in private.

Violence in Karbala, when Shia religious observation was rendered deadly between Sunni/Shia and then became inter-Shia factional fighting between Sadrists and SIIC elements.  On Tuesday, Mr. al-Sadr declares a ceasefire for six months, which, after SIIC headquarters in Najaf, Kufa, Baghdad and Iskandaria are bombed, has actually lasted more than six hours.  However, the Sadrists insist they will not take it well if their members are detained, questioned, or otherwise interfered with.  Huh.

Following al-Sadr’s lead, the Iraqi government calls for a universal cease-fire: not the other way around . . .  not too much good news this week. 

About two weeks until the September Benchmark Report. . . I’ll probably do this again next week.  There’s plenty more news where all this came from; this post could be twice as long . . .

Vintage Cover, Ugly AmericanThe best book on effective diplomacy ever.  The best book on how to read a report promugated by a government agency, a politician, or a newspaper.  The best book on why it is important to be culturally and historically aware.  Et cetera:

Is a work of fiction.

William J. Lederer’s and Eugene Burdick’s The Ugly American is an easy, entertaining, fast read–and a frame story, where each chapter can be read alone and picked up later.  This novel details the fortunes of U.S. diplomats in a exemplar state, “Sarkhan”, in Southeast Asia.  The novel looks in at the embassy, the battlefield, and in reconstruction and Track II diplomacy.  “Track II” is where non-diplomats interact with the people of a host state–agricultural experts, for instance. 

When this book came out in 1958, it created an instant dialogue and outcry for a new diplomacy from the U.S.   President Kennedy used the ideas from this book to develop the Peace Corps. 

Once read, it makes a non-foreign service public almost instantly literate in foreign affairs.  One thing to note: the word “ugly” covers a lot of ground, starting with an overweight & oily political appointee as diplomat to Sarkhan and ending with an engineer who’s physically unattractive but a man of techniques and skills.

Anyway, below the jump, there’s one phrase per chapter showing the lessons given in the book.  The main thing is to read it, laugh, weep, and get mad–and let it get you thinking. (more…)

Pakistan soldierNot so long ago, the United States looked at Pakistan as a “valuable ally in the war against terror” and relied upon Pakistan’s military and security forces for intelligence and aid in capturing Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects.  Prior to the Twin Towers Massacre, Pakistan, like Afghanistan, was not much on U.S. diplomatic radar.  Recently, Daniel Markey wrote an article in Foreign Affairs (see reference below) that essentially says we need a broader approach–and not reproach–when talking to Pakistan.

College of Family MedicineMr. Markey notes that many U.S. officials, legislators, (and Presidential candidates) have become disenchanted with Pakistan’s contribution to Afghanistan’s security.  They have questioned Pakistan’s commitment to counter-terrorism in the wake of rising trouble in Afghanistan, the near-anarchic rule in the Pakistan’s northwest territories, and incidents such as the Red Mosque confrontation, which, from our vantage point, never should have been allowed as long as it had been.  Wedding Guests, PakistanIn essence, U.S. observers see Pakistan as a beneficiary of U.S. aid and trade ties, but with no effect on terrorism.  Over at Registan.net, Dr. Azari writes that Afghanistan’s delegates to the Peace Jirga seemed to feel that Taliban depredations were either permitted or aided in some way by the military. Most recently, on August 21, the NYT reported that Pakistan had released an al-Qaeda suspect that it had held in detention for the past three years.  The release was determined by the Supreme Court, who said that his detention without trial was unlawful.  

Pakistan missileLeaving U.S. negligence and mistakes aside, as these arguments surely do, Markey notes first that Pakistan left U.S. diplomatic orbit in much the same way and at the same time that Afghanistan did: when the Soviets left Afghanistan.  Post 9/11, Bush II’s U.S. diplomacy has not extended past the military and security apparatus in Pakistan.  Civil society, poverty reduction, the rule of law and democratization have not been on the U.S. agenda for Pakistan, which gives its diplomacy a one-note character.

 Pakistan's Agosta-3 SubsIn the intervening years between Soviet pull-out and U.S. entry,  Markey says that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) retains ties to militant groups and recruits personnel from them.  This was not in support of terrorism, but in support of Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir.  To me, this is somewhat of a stretch, but it does serve to remind policymakers that Pakistan has more than one issue as part of its foreign policy.  Just this week, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Mr. Khursid Mehmood Kasuri stated in Parliament (during debates occasioned by disparaging remarks from the U.S.) that Pakistan could not afford to be isolated, that it desired good relations with the U.S., with the EU, China, Russia, Japan, Germany, and Asian states in general. 

Pakistan WinsU.S. arguments against Pakistan’s commitment also ignore the risks that Mr. Musharraf has undertaken, with several assassination attempts against his life.  (The third attempt was in September of 2002; another in December 2003; another this year).   Furthermore, numerous terrorist suspects apprehended in Pakistan.

The rest of Mr. Markey’s article suggests ways to broaden U.S. diplomacy.  He cautions that engagement in Pakistan’s civil society cannot be at the expense of the military diplomacy, but that ensuring Pakistan’s good will has to extend to the people.  Elections, for instance, are widely expected this fall in Pakistan, and giving fodder for isolationist candidates would be foolish and without utility for U.S. interests.

Karachi Golf CourseThe rest of his solutions also recommend a balanced approach, remembering that Pakistan is diverse and complex.  The illustrations throughout this post are intended to convey that diversity.  Mr. Markey’s article can be found at:

Daniel Markey’s  A False Choice in Pakistan.  Foreign Affairs, July/August 2007, pp. 85-102; or at the Council of Foreign Affairs Web site

Photos: Defenselink of USDOD; Global Family Doctor.com; Graham Hays of Australia; The Hindu; Warships IFR.com; Tribune India; Answers.com. 

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