Clint Williamson, the American chief prosecutor of the European Union Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) yesterday issued a progress report on its criminal investigation into the allegations contained in Dick Marty’s Council of Europe report, issued in 2010. This is out of the ordinary: prosecutors don’t often announce an intention to indict unnamed individuals, but Clint is leaving his position and seems to have felt a need to report on what has, and has not, been achieved.
Once a special court staffed by internationals is established outside Kosovo, he said, SITF will file indictments against still unnamed senior officials of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) for a campaign of persecution against Serbs, Roma and other minorities as well as fellow Kosovo Albanians, who were intentionally targeted by top levels of the KLA leadership with acts of persecution, including
…unlawful killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, illegal detentions in camps in Kosovo and Albania, sexual violence, other forms of inhumane treatment, forced displacements of individuals from their homes and communities, and desecration and destruction of churches and other religious sites….
Clint also said that there is still insufficient evidence to bring indictments against individuals for murders committed for the purpose of harvesting and trafficking human organs, as alleged in the Marty report. He nevertheless concludes that
…this practice did occur on a very limited scale and that a small number of individuals were killed for the purpose of extracting and trafficking their organs.
While at pains to emphasize his agreement with the Marty report, Clint’s refusal to promise indictments for these offenses is an implicit rejection of some of the allegations made in it, or at least an indication that the standards of proof for indictment could not be met.
Clint also registered his concerns about witness intimidation, which hindered his investigation. He regards it as the greatest single greatest “threat to rule of law in Kosovo and of its progress toward a European future.”
While I assume this is all headline news in Kosovo and Serbia today, none of it is surprising. The campaign of violence against non-Albanians and some Albanians immediately following the 1999 NATO/Yugoslavia war was well known at the time. I warned more than one KLA member in the summer and fall of 1999 that accountability would come some day. Those who wish Kosovo well can only be pleased if individuals are at last to be held responsible. Witness intimidation is also a well-known problem in Kosovo’s tight-knit society, though proving it in court has been difficult.
The allegations of organ trafficking were not well known at the time. I became aware of them a couple years after the war, but I was also aware that Michael Montgomery, the journalist who uncovered them, felt he had insufficient documentation to publish the story, never mind accuse anyone in court. Three years of proper criminal investigation more than ten years after the fact have still failed to assign specific responsibility but have nevertheless ascertained that there were no more than a “handful” of such outrages.
So what does all this prove? Some KLA members committed atrocities. A few included killing people for their organs. Such savagery is disgraceful. The people who do these things also intimidate witnesses. As Clint says,
In the end, this was solely about certain individuals in the KLA leadership using elements of that organization to perpetrate violence in order to obtain political power and personal wealth for themselves, not about their larger cause. And, it is as individuals that they must bear responsibility for their crimes.
Would that it be so. Instead, we’ll be inundated with media reports denouncing Albanians as a group or the KLA as an organization, with replies denouncing Serbs as a group. What the others did will be claimed as justification. The acts of a few will be assumed to reflect the morality of many. Specific individuals will be assumed responsible even though the prosecutor has not yet named anyone. Charges and counter-charges will be mounted for political purposes–to prevent this person or that political party from gaining power. The numbers of deaths involved will be exaggerated.
None of that media circus has anything to do with justice, which is agonizingly slow and disappointingly imperfect. But it is nevertheless important.
I’ve been wondering, as many of my readers have, how long the war in Gaza will continue. This depends on what Hamas and Israel are trying to achieve. What is the mission? What is an acceptable end state?
Hamas has been pretty clear: it wants an end to the siege of Gaza, which means opening it to trade and commerce with both Egypt and Israel. Hamas also wants release of the West Bank operatives Israel arrested in the prelude to this latest Gaza war. It will resist demilitarization and try to maintain its hold on governing Gaza.
Israel is more of a mystery to me, so I listen carefully when an Israelis speak. They initially seemed to focus on ending Hamas’ rocket threat. But Iron Dome has effectively neutralized the rockets, one-quarter to one-third of which have either been used or destroyed. Destroying many more would require a full-scale reoccupation of Gaza, which the Israelis are loathe to do.
The tunnels into Israel now loom larger as a security threat, albeit one limited to the immediate surroundings of Gaza. So far, the Israelis have destroyed about half the tunnel network. But in order to be effective, the tunnels have to come up inside Israel. Sooner or later–likely sooner–the Israelis will acquire the technical means to detect the digging. The tunnels could then be destroyed inside Israel, making the kind of operation now going on in Gaza unnecessary. It may provide some satisfaction to destroy a couple of years of digging, but it puts Israeli soldiers at risk. If alternative ways are developed to reduce the threat they would obviously be preferable.
Israel’s objectives do not seem to be limited to restoring calm (aka ending the rocket attacks) and destroying the tunnels. It appears to want to break Hamas’ will to fight. The Israelis think they share this objective with Egypt, which regards Hamas as a Muslim Brotherhood organization and therefore an implacable enemy of the restored military regime in Cairo.
Both Egypt and Israel would like to see a post-war political evolution that puts the Palestinian Authority (PA) back in charge of Gaza. Israel has had bad experience trying to engineer regime change in the Arab world (witness the 1956 effort to overthrow Nasser and its later Lebanon machinations). But the Israelis still imagine they can, with cooperation from the international community, help the PA by steering reconstruction funding from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and border openings in the right directions. Hamas was already in trouble before this latest war, perhaps even on the verge of collapse as a viable governing entity. More radical groups like the Islamic State have little traction in Gaza, the Israelis think.
Unless one side or the other is victorious, the end of this war will likely involve a trade: improved security for Israel, reconstruction and economic benefits for Gaza. But there is no guarantee of the political outcome the Israelis and Egyptians are hoping for. Displacing Hamas entirely is not just mission creep but mission leap. In the meanwhile, Gaza’s civilians are paying an exorbitant price.
For most Muslims, today marks the begining of Eid al Fitr, the feast thats end the month of Ramadan. It won’t be an Eid Mubarak (Blessed Eid) for lots of people: there is war in Syria, Iraq, Gaza/Israel, Sudan and Libya, renewed repression in Egypt and Iran, instability in Yemen. The hopes of the Arab spring have turned to fear and even loathing, not only between Muslims and non-Muslims but also among Shia, Sunni and sometimes Sufi. Extremism is thriving. Moderate reform is holding its own only in Tunisia, Morocco and maybe Jordan. Absolutism still rules most of the Gulf.
The issues are not primarily religious. They are political. Power, not theology, is at stake. As Greg Gause puts it, the weakening of Arab states has created a vacuum that Saudi Arabia and Iran are trying to fill, each seeking advantage in their own regional rivalry. He sees it as a cold war, but it is clearly one in which violence by surrogates plays an important role, even if Riyadh and Tehran never come directly to blows. And it is complicated by the Sunni world’s own divisions, with Turkey and Qatar supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and Saudi Arabia opposing it.
The consequences for Arab civilians are dramatic. Well over 100,000 are now dead in Syria, half the population is displaced, uncounted more are dead in Iraq and millions more displaced. Egypt has largely reversed the liberation of its aborted 2011 revolution but still faces more violence than before it. Libya has been unable to tame or dissolve its militias, which are endangering its population and blocking its transition. While the total numbers killed in the Gaza war are far smaller than in Syria or Iraq, the percentage of civilians among the victims–and the broader impact on the civilian population–is causing anti-Israel revulsion worldwide.
Greg wants the United States to favor order over chaos. The trouble is it is hard to know which policies will do what. Will support for Iraq Prime Minister Maliki block the Islamic State, or will it incentivize extremist recruitment and make matters worse, perhaps even causing partition? The military government in Egypt, with which Greg thinks we should continue to engage, is arguably creating more problems with extremists in Sinai and the western desert than it is solving with its arbitrary and draconian crackdown against liberals as well as Islamists. The Obama administration is inclined to support America’s traditional allies in the Gulf, as Greg suggest, but what is it to do when Qatar and Turkey are at swordpoints with Saudi Arabia ?
Many Arab states as currently constituted lack what every state needs in order to govern: legitimacy. The grand failure of the Arab spring is a failure to discover new sources of legitimacy after decades of dictators wielding military power. The “people” have proven insufficient. Liberal democracy is, ideologically and organizationally, too weak. Political Islam is still a contender, especially in Syria, Iraq and Libya, but if it succeeds it will likely be in one of its more extreme forms. In Gaza, where Hamas has governed for seven years, political Islam was quite literally bankrupt even before the war. Their monarchies’ ability to maintain order as neighbors descend into chaos is helping to sustain order in Jordan and Morocco. Oil wealth and tribal loyalties are propping up monarchies in the Gulf, but the demography there (youth bulge and unemployment) poses serious threats.
The likelihood is that we are in for more instability, not less. Iran and Saudi Arabia show no sign of willingness to end their competition. They will continue to seek competitive advantage, undermining states they see as loyal to their opponent and jumping in wherever they can to fill the vacuums that are likely to be created. Any American commitment to order will be a minor factor. This will not, I’m afraid, be the last unhappy Eid.
The Hill published my piece this morning:
The idea of partitioning Iraq is once again getting traction. It may of course happen. But it is not a good idea to pursue it and will not help to stabilize Iraq or Syria. It is a formula for more war, for decades to come.
You’ll have to read the rest on their website.
1. The Elusive Final Deal with Iran: Developments and Options Going Forward Monday, July 28 | 12:00 pm – 1:30 pm JINSA; 1307 New York Ave NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND In the wake of the recent four-month extension of negotiations for a comprehensive deal on Iran’s nuclear program, JINSA’s Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy will hold a lunch panel event to assess this outcome and discuss steps going forward for U.S. policy to prevent a nuclear Iran. SPEAKERS: Ambassador Dennis Ross, Ambassador Eric Edelman, Stephen Rademaker, and Ray Takeyh.
2. Nuclear Politics on the Korean Peninsula Monday, July 28 | 3:00 pm – 5:15 pm Korea Economic Institute; Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The evolving security environment around the Korean Peninsula presents new challenges and opportunities for addressing the North Korean nuclear threat. What do South Koreans expect from Beijing after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent visit to Seoul? What do South Korean aspirations for full nuclear fuel cycle capabilities mean for dealing with North Korea and for the balance of power in the region? And what do these trends mean for the US-ROK alliance? SPEAKERS: Douglas H. Paal: VP for Studies, CEIP, Donald A. Manzullo, President & CEO, KEI, Park Jin, Executive President of the Asia Future Institute, Kang Choi, Vice President, Asan Institute for Policy Studies, and others.
3. Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova: How Corruption Threatens the Eastern Partnership Monday, July 28 | 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm National Endowment for Democracy; 1025 F Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Last month, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova signed EU association agreements, putting to paper a clear desire to turn westwards and break from an unhappy post-Soviet legacy. Yet difficult issues remain, principally that of corruption. Entrenched corruption in these three countries persists as a result of the networks of criminality that thrived in the lawlessness of the 1990s. As these countries look to strengthen the rule of law and democratic accountability within their borders, the panel will discuss current corruption challenges and how outside actors – from Russia to the US – are influencing the reform process in each country. SPEAKERS: Oliver Bullough, Peter Pomerantsev, Vladimir Soloviev, Olga Khvostunova, Anne Applebaum, and Christopher Walker.
4. Contemporary Media Use in Turkey Tuesday, July 29 | 9:00 am – 10:00 am Gallup Organization; 901 F St NW # 400, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Gallup invite you to attend a research briefing on news consumption habits and attitudes in Turkey, along with, for the first time, an in-depth look at the distinctive media consumption habits among Turkey’s Kurdish population. This briefing will share data on media usage, a methodological overview and a review of attitudinal data on government and foreign policy. SPEAKERS: Chris Stewart, Bruce Sherman, William Bell, and Rajesh Srinivasan.
5. Doing Colombia Peace Forum: Peace Proposals from Victims of Colombia’s Armed Conflict Tuesday, July 29 | 10:00 am – 12:00 pm US Institute of Peace; 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND In June, the government of Colombia and the FARC parties issued a ground-breaking declaration of principles on victims. They announced that they were inviting a delegation of victims to participate in the talks, and that other opportunities will be created for victims to be heard within the peace process. They requested that the United Nations and the National University convene a series of three regional and one national forum for victims to present their proposals. Two forums have already taken place and the others are scheduled for late July and early August. This event will discuss victims’ rights and proposals from four victims of different groups, including guerrillas, paramilitaries, and the State. A half a century of internal armed conflict has resulted in more than 6.5 million victims officially registered with the Colombian government’s Victims’ Unit. This is an opportunity to hear diverse perspectives of leaders who are survivors of violence to discuss their proposals for a just and lasting peace. SPEAKERS: Clara Rojas González, Colombian National Congress Representative, Aida Quilcué, Director of Human Rights, Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, Deyis Margarita Carmona Tejada, Spokeswoman, Peasants’ Assembly of Cesar for Land Restitution, José Antequera Guzmán Co-Founder, Sons and Daughters of Memory and Against Impunity, and Gimena Sánchez, Senior Associate for the Andes, WOLA.
6. Book Launch—Made in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka: The Labor Behind the Global Garments and Textiles Industries Tuesday, July 29 | 10:00 am – 12:45 pm Woodrow Wilson Center; 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The garments and textiles sector is one of the world’s oldest export industries. It has often served as the “starter” industry for many countries, especially in Asia. Dr. Saxena’s book, based on original, in-depth research in three different Asian countries, casts light on some of the significant policy and attitudinal shifts that have occurred in this industry. The book also puts the entire garments and textiles sector into the larger context of international trade policy. SPEAKER: Sanchita Saxena, Executive Director, Institute for South Asia Studies and Director, Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, UC-Berkeley.
7. Great Expectations? Assessing US-India Strategic Relations Tuesday, July 29 | 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm East-West Center; 1819 L St NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C REGISTER TO ATTEND American enthusiasm for a strategic partnership with India has risen and fallen over the years. Optimism about US-India relations in the 2000s has been tempered by pessimism about these ties in the 2010s. Was the initial enthusiasm about US-India relations inflated? How valid are more recent skeptical perspectives? In his presentation, Dr. Dinshaw Mistry will discuss these questions, drawing upon ten contemporary cases where New Delhi’s policies converged with or diverged from Washington’s expectations. The answers offer important lessons for future US strategic engagement with India. Also with Dr. Stephen P. Cohen, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati.
8. The Protection Project Review of the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons Report 2014 Wednesday, July 30 | 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm Johns Hopkins SAIS – Nitze Building; 1740 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Luis CdeBaca, ambassador at large in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the U.S. Department of State, and Mohamed Mattar, senior research professor of international law and executive director of The Protection Project, will discuss this topic.
9. The Iraq Meltdown: What Next? Wednesday, July 30 | 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Heritage Foundation; 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND The swift collapse of Iraqi security forces in northern Iraq in the face of an al-Qaeda-spearheaded Sunni insurgency is a disastrous setback for U.S. counterterrorism and Middle East policies that will have dangerous regional spillover effects. The Islamic State, formerly known the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and before that as Al-Qaeda in Iraq, now poses a rising threat to the United States and U.S. allies. Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) will discuss Iraq and the broader implications for the American foreign policy. Following his remarks, a panel of experts will discuss the current trends in Iraq. SPEAKERS: Jessica Lewis, Research Director, Institute for the Study of War, Steven P. Bucci, Ph.D., Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, The Heritage Foundation, and James Phillips, Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs, The Heritage Foundation.
10. Africa Development Forum Event: What should African Leaders know to accelerate the achievement and sustainability of health goals in the post 2015 agenda? Thursday, July 31 | 9:00 am – 12:00 pm Chemonics International; 1717 H St. NW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Panelists will discuss the lessons they have learned from their experiences and efforts working towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Setting policy, developing plans, and coordinating and managing programs that deliver services across hundreds of hospitals and health centers requires resources and technical skills. This capacity needs to be quickly and effectively developed in most health systems where governance structures are vaguely defined. The panelists will draw from the lessons learned from the MDGs to propose ways African leaders can meet and even go beyond the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 4-Ensuring Healthy Lives targets in an efficient way that makes the best of all resources available and protects the poor. SPEAKERS: Darius Mans, Africare, Elvira Beracochea, Founder and CEO, MIDEGO, and Akudo Ikemba, CEO, Friends Africa.
11. The North Korean Economy: Challenges and Opportunities for Reform Thursday, July 31 | 9:00 am – 10:00 am Korea Economic Institute; 1800 K Street NW Suite 1010 Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTENDIn an era of globalization, North Korea remains one of the most isolated economies in the world. While normally still functioning as a planned economy, Pyongyang has pledged in recent years that no North Korean will ‘have to tighten their belts again.’ However, to truly fulfill that pledge, North Korea will need to engage in the types of reform that China, South Korea, and others have been advocating. What steps has North Korea taken under Kim Jong-un to reform the economy and how successful have they been? What obstacles does North Korea face in developing a normal functioning economy? Please join the Korea Economic Institute of America and the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy for a discussion on these and other issues that face the North Korea economy today. SPEAKERS: Lee Il Houng, Bradley Babson, and William Newcomb.
12. NPC Luncheon with Denis Sassou-Nguesso, President of the Republic of the Congo Friday, August 1 | 12:30 pm – 2:00 pm National Press Club; 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND President of the Republic of Congo Denis Sassou-Nguesso will discuss peace, security and stability of the central Africa region and oil investments in his country at a National Press Club luncheon on Friday, August 1. Sassou-Nguesso, who met President Vladimir Putin in 2012, recently was quoted in a Nigerian newspaper as saying that Congo plans to attract Russian investment in oil industry, agriculture and education services.
13. Cultures of the Mekong Saturday, August 2 | 10:00 am – 3:15 pm S. Dillon Ripley Center; 1100 Jefferson Drive, SW, Washington, D.C. REGISTER TO ATTEND Civilizations have risen and fallen for centuries on the banks of the Mekong River. Long before there was Phnom Penh or Hanoi, there were the settlements at Ban Chiang, Angkor, and Champa in the areas now known as Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Robert DeCaroli, associate professor in the department of history and art history at George Mason University, explores these cultures that grew up along this massive 2700-mile river. Other speakers include Michael H. McLendon, Joseph Antos, Richard V. Burkhauser, Peter Schuck, and Sally Satel,
Brett McGurk, an assistant US secretary of state, said recently that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is “no longer a terrorist organization. It is a full-blown army.” Others contend that the group will self-implode, or that the threat it poses to the United States is overblown.
On Thursday, Johns Hopkins and the Middle East Institute hosted an event to explore these questions. Omar al-Nidawi of Gryphon Partners joined Middle East Institute scholars Richard Clarke, Steven Simon, and Randa Slim in a discussion moderated by Daniel Serwer.
Simon argued against too much US engagement. He recalled that in 2006, a debate raged over to how to stem the tide of violence in Iraq. One camp, led by General David Petraeus, advocated a sweeping counterinsurgency strategy spearheaded by a troop surge. The other faction, headed by General George Casey, was more circumspect. Petraeus’s theory was flawed, he said, because Maliki’s was not a legitimate government, but rather a sectarian faction in a civil war. Petraeus prevailed, and President Bush deployed 20,000 additional troops. But in retrospect, Simon argued, Casey’s view seems shrewder than Petraeus’s, which was short-sighted. The resources required for a counterinsurgency effort are no longer available. America is powerless to do much now that its forces are out of Iraq and Prime Minister Maliki is in charge. We can use drones or other military tools to decapitate ISIS as a counter-terrorism measure, but counter-insurgency efforts by the US are no longer possible.
Maliki retains a large degree of support among Iraq’s Shia majority, said Slim. Indeed, as ISIS rounds up and executes Shia in Iraq and Syria, Maliki, Assad, and Hezbollah only grow more popular among the Shia. However, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s public split with the Prime Minister could be a game changer. This could pave the way for the formation of a consensus government, led perhaps by Basra governor Majid al Nasrawi. Another possibility is an alliance between Sadrists and former Iraqi premier Iyad Allawi, who won a majority of seats in 2010. But Allawi lacks Iranian support. The only way this could work is if the Sadrists aligned with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
The Iranians believe ISIS is part of a larger Sunni conspiracy to destabilize its Shia allies, Iraq and Syria, Slim said. They see Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and even the US as conspiring against Iranian interests in the region. Tehran has argued that forcing Maliki to step down would hand ISIS a victory. But Iran is much more concerned with losing Assad than with losing Maliki. There are any number of Shia leaders in Iraq who could replace Maliki, but Assad is probably the end of the line in Syria.
Sunnis are not as united as the Shia, said al-Nidawi. Divisions have deepened since 2010, when Maliki formed a government in spite of Allawi’s Iraqyyia bloc having won more seats. The rifts were exacerbated when Maliki purged the military and government of perceived (Sunni) enemies. His victory in April weakened the argument of those who sought a political solution, and gave traction to those Sunni who want to use violence to affect change. Short term reforms accommodating Sunni interests in gaining real power, self-government and security could however pave the way for a lasting solution, even if a complete reversal of de-Ba’athification is not feasible. Reintegrating some high profile Sunni politicians would also go a long way towards stemming the conflict. There are thousands of young Sunni men in Anbar and elsewhere who could be persuaded to fight against ISIS.
The Iraqi army is not as hopeless as people imagine. Assad’s army was in shambles during the first months of the Syrian rebellion. But they ultimately got their act together. Some remnant of Iraq’s army will do the same. The Americans have found units with as many as 300,000 troops worthy of support. Syria integrated its irregular Shabiha militia into its regular forces. Maliki will likely follow suit with the Shia militias in Iraq.
It is tempting to wait patiently and allow the Sunni insurgency and the Iran-supported government fight each other to a standstill, as Israel did during the Iran-Iraq war, Clarke said. But if ISIS is allowed to remain in Iraq and Syria, it could pose a threat akin to the Taliban in 1990s. In addition, regional stability is a legitimate American interest, as is blocking an expansion of Iran’s power and influence.
Clarke agreed with Simon that American policy options are limited. The first is to peel off some of the more nationalist Sunnis from the insurgency. Second, we need to think seriously about supporting independence for Kurdistan, if the Kurds will fight ISIS. Even Turkey is warming to the idea of an independent Kurdistan, whose establishment could shift the balance of power in the region away from the ISIS. A Kurdish state could also be a boon to Israel, which has imported Kurdistan’s oil and has long pursued alliances with its non-Arab neighbors. The US should also get serious about arming moderate Syrian rebels, who are fighting ISIS in northern Syria. Clarke called the administration’s current policy “flat ass pathetic.” Simon cautioned that by supplying them with weapons, we take ownership of the conflict. We may also cause more fragmentation, as factions compete for resources. Clarke countered that Obama’s “half assed” approach is undermining confidence of our allies in the region.
The speakers agreed that ISIS poses a serious threat to the region, and could ultimately endanger the United States and its allies. In the end, however, the US must recognize its limited capacity to affect change in the region.
The complete audio of this rich discussion is here.
Here is the video: