Tag: European Union

From Bosnia to Iraq, with love

Some colleagues interested in Iraq asked what lessons had been learned from states that have emerged from a collapse of central authority. I was assigned Bosnia. Here is what I had to say:

  1. Central authority never completely collapsed in Bosnia. The internationally recognized government continued to exist in Sarajevo.
  1. But its authority did not extend during more than three years of the war to the three-quarters of the country controlled by unrecognized Croat and Serb military and governing structures, analogous in a way to Kurdistan under Saddam Hussein.
  1. Nor has central authority in Bosnia been fully restored, 22 years after the wars ended.
  1. Let me offer a short version of the story.
  1. After Croat (Catholic) and Bosniak (Muslim) “Federation” forces swept through western Bosnia in August and September 1995, the US peace initiative imposed a ceasefire.
  1. At Dayton, we rolled back the Federation forces from about 67% of the territory to 51% and accepted the governing authority of Republika Srpska on the remaining 49%. The Federation and Republika Srpska are two sub-state units of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  1. This was done with the concurrence of Croatia and Serbia, Bosnia’s nearest neighbors. They were responsible for the war; peace could not be made without them.
  1. NATO initially deployed 60,000 troops, one-third Americans, to guarantee no reversion to war.
  1. We also created a thin central government with limited competences: foreign affairs, customs, currency, immigration, and a few other things like international communications and law enforcement.
  1. The currency used was the Deutschmark, as there was no possibility of agreement on anything else. As a consequence, there could be no: no printing of money and no devaluation.
  1. Under the Dayton constitution, this thin central government and the corresponding parliament were power-sharing arrangements: no important decisions could be made without all ethnic groups agreeing. This was repeated in the Federation down to the municipality level.
  1. Most responsibilities were devolved to the two “entities” created by the warring parties: the Federation and Republika Srpska. The Croat entity was to disappear.
  1. But that Dayton formula proved insufficient to create a functioning state. A civilian international community “High Representative,” designed at Dayton as powerless, was entrusted in 1997 with virtually dictatorial powers to fire officials and promulgate laws.
  1. From 1997 to 2006, he undertook the strengthening of the central government by fiat, with authority derived from a Peace Implementation Council in which the major powers were represented.
  1. With support from the NATO forces, he and the other civilian organizations he reigned over dismantled the separate Croat governing structures, organized elections, unified the army and defense ministries, the customs, the banking system, the license plates, and to some degree the courts, arrested war crime indictees, vetted the police, blocked broadcast of hate speech, instituted direct election of mayors, and beefed up the central government’s authority.
  1. This was vigorous international state-building backed by the stick of military force.
  1. The carrot was entry into Euro-Atlantic institutions.
  1. In 1999, four years after the war, a summit meeting in Sarajevo opened for all the countries of former Yugoslavia the prospect of membership in NATO and the European Union, a commitment that has been reiterated several times since.
  1. While Bosnia lags most of the rest of the Balkans in qualifying because of its still dysfunctional governing structure, incentives like a Stabilization and Association Agreement and a Schengen visa waiver have proven critical in thickening the authority of the central government.
  1. Present circumstances—which include Brexit, the refugee crisis, and a long recession as well as a decision not to admit any new EU members before 2020—have postponed the most important carrot and reduced its attractiveness, which accounts for a lot of the difficulties the Balkans, and Bosnia specifically, are facing right now.
  1. One other detail from Bosnia that may have some relevance to Iraq: the international community, in the person of an American “supervisor,” took on direct governing authority over the Brcko District, perhaps the most contested area during the war.

Read more

Tags : , , ,

It’s not going to be easy

Iran Friday re-elected President Rouhani, who pressed for and got a nuclear deal with the P5+1 (that’s the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany, aka the EU3+3), with approval from the Supreme Leader. During his electoral campaign, Rouhani prioritized market reforms, negotiation of further sanctions relief, attracting foreign investment, and an enhanced regional and international presence for Iran.

Rouhani’s chief opponent was hard-nosed conservative Ebrahim Raisi, who wanted to close off Iran from further cooperation with the international community and build its “resistance” economy. Adopting a populist tone, he promised an increase in welfare benefits and subsidies. Implicated in the 1988 mass execution of thousands of prisoners, Raisi is “the true face of the Islamic Republic,” according to Elliot Abrams.

Iranians rejected that true face: Raisi lost by 19 percentage points, in an election that reportedly drew 70% turnout. Though far from free and fair, since candidates were vetted and many eliminated by the Guardian Council, that’s a definitive result, especially as there were two additional candidates. The Supreme Leader may be delighted that Iranians returned to the polls and did not boycott or otherwise protest too much, as they did in 2009. He may even be satisfied with Rouhani, who is no liberal but rather a stalwart of the regime who attracted support from would-be reformers because of the nuclear deal and the opening to the international community. But Iranians are clearly dissatisfied with clerical domination and isolation from the rest of the world.

Should Americans be happy with the election result or not?

Elliot preferred Raisi, as the human rights situation in Iran has not improved during Rouhani’s presidency and Tehran has become bolder in intervening in the region. The interventions in Iraq, Syria and Yemen have not been a big strain. Iranians would have been far more likely to rebel against Raisi than Rouhani, and the international community far more ready to act. President Trump aligned with that view during his visit to Riyadh, when he backed the Saudis and their effort to organize the Sunni world to counter not only terrorism but also Iran. Confrontation, not Obama’s rapprochement, is now American policy.

Others think Iran is drifting in a more liberal, less religiously conservative direction that should be encouraged, not discouraged. Confrontation will make moderation less likely. Iranians seem to want pretty much what people in the West want: equality of opportunity, transparency, fairness, and rule of law. They oppose the corruption and cronyism that have become endemic in finance and the bureaucracy. Sharia has evaporated. The ideology of the Islamic Republic is fading. Few women are wearing even the hijab.

Of course both views can be correct: the hard core of the regime remains very much in place. Rouhani likely does have a better chance of extending its life than a hardliner like Raisi. But if the people of Iran see only hostile words and new sanctions, how likely are they to warm to the West?

Russia is the alternative, one with which Tehran has been developing stronger ties, especially in Syria. The Iranians like what they have seen of Russian weapons, even if the Russians think the Iranians militarily inept. Their marriage is one of convenience, not a real alliance, but effective enough on the battlefield in Syria. No divorce is likely. New sanctions on Iran, which Congress is contemplating, would not only drive Iranians towards Moscow but also split the Europeans from the US, as they want to continue doing business in Iran.

Iran’s growing power projection capabilities complicate the issue for Washington. Tehran has developed longer-range missiles (up to 4000 km) but has not yet much improved their accuracy. Intended primarily for use against Israel, the missiles can frighten a civilian population but cannot reliably hit military targets. Iran’s Shia militia proxies have strengthened over the past five years, including not only Lebanese Hizbollah but also Popular Mobilization Forces from Iraq and other groups from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Having been attacked by Stuxnet, Iran has quickly acquired cyber warfare and drone capabilities. All these capabilities are relatively inexpensive, difficult to counter, and readily deployed.

Like Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Trump has gone from a diehard opponent of the nuclear deal to its de facto strong supporter. The Trump Administration would like to renegotiate it so that the restraints on Iran’s nuclear program do not expire. It is not, however, clear what the Administration is prepared to offer in return, or even what would be attractive to Tehran. Trump would have to do more to open US financial markets to the Iranians, or somehow get the Europeans to join in new sanctions, in order to get the better nuclear deal he promised during his campaign. What are the odds of that?

The bottom line: Washington needs to learn to do more than one thing at a time: keep the nuclear deal in place (or even extend it), counter Iranian trouble-making in the region, and encourage the Iranian people to moderate their Republic’s commitment to exporting revolution using its unconventional but economical capabilities. It’s not going to be easy.

Tags : , , , , ,

Concerned and uncertain

Pantelis Ikonomou, a former IAEA nuclear safeguards inspector who holds a PhD in nuclear physics from the University of Vienna, writes:

Nuclear capability is a key factor in global alignments and strategic balances. President Trump has upset both:

  1. He has failed to block North Korea’s nuclear program or insist on its adherence to the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).
  1. He has encouraged US friends such as Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to obtain nuclear weapons, in breach of the NPT, which could initiate such efforts by other middle powers, including Turkey and Egypt.
  1. During his visit to Saudi Arabia and Israel, Trump did not refer to a Middle East Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone, a goal set by UN Security Council Resolution 687 (April 1991) and reinforced in the 2010 NPT Review Conference. Neither did the US president urge the Saudis to abandon the notion of a possible nuclear capability under “certain circumstances,” as often expressed by Saudi Arabian officials.
  1. The US president has suggested abandoning the P5+1 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which would end the related International Atomic Energy Agency monitoring mission that provides unprecedented transparency for the Iranian nuclear program.
  1. President Trump additionally disrespected basic international commitments (NPT article VI and the New Start Treaty) by planning to extend and upgrade the US nuclear arsenal.

These moves cast a shadow over the NPT, which is the cornerstone of global arms control and non-proliferation efforts. Lack of US adherence dramatically weakens the treaty, since universality is already its Achilles heel.

The May 2015 NPT review conference in New York failed to produce conclusions, which demonstrated the gap between the nuclear weapons states (and their allies) and the rest of the world. Most UN member states have now joined an effort to produce this year a legally binding global treaty to make nuclear weapons illegal. The objective is to pressure the nuclear powers to eliminate nuclear weapons.

German chancellor Angela Merkel at the Munich Security Conference this year questioned the President’s understanding of the UN and EU. She wondered “will we be able to act in concert together or (will we) fall back into parochial policies?”

Trump has not offered a clear vision of a new world order. Nor does he (and the rest of the Western world) appear ready to accept the ongoing redistribution of power and international realignments. Aristotle defined the “final cause” as “the end, that for the sake of which a thing is done.” Trump’s purposes remain obscure. The world remains concerned and uncertain.

Tags : , , , , , ,

Preventing new Balkan conflicts

Here are my speaking notes for the testimony I delivered today at the hearing on “The Balkans: Threats to Peace and Stability” of the Subcommittee on Europe, Asia and Emerging Threats of the House International Relations Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. With permission, I would like to submit a written statement for the record and use the few minutes I have for just three key points.

First, the countries of the region made remarkable progress in the 10 years or so after the NATO intervention in Bosnia in 1995. But in the last 10 years, the U.S. effort to pass the baton of leadership to the European Union has allowed slippage. In Bosnia, Kosovo, Serbia, and Macedonia there are now risks of instability that could trigger a regionwide convulsion. That would reflect badly on America’s global leadership role, unravel three peace agreements, and cost us far more than conflict prevention.

Second, those who say ethnic partition through rearrangement of borders would be viable are playing with matches near a powder keg. Moves in that direction would lead to violence, including ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and even genocide. It happened in the 1990s and could again. Monoethnic states cannot be achieved without a massive and expensive peacekeeping deployment.

Ethnic partition would not only be violent, it would also generate a new flood of refugees and creation of Islamic mini-states in parts of Bosnia, Serbia, and Kosovo. This was a main reason we refused to move borders in the 1990s. Americans should be even more concerned about it today. The Islamic State and Al Qaeda have had more success recruiting in the Balkans than many once thought possible given the pro-Western and pro-American attitudes of most Muslims there. Reducing Balkan Muslims to rump monoethnic states would radicalize many more.

Damage would not be limited to the Balkans. Russia would welcome ethnic partition, because it would validate Moscow’s destructive irredentist behavior in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Transnistria, Crimea, and Donbas as well as give Moscow a stronger foothold in the region. It would also leave a geographic gap in NATO and the EU that we have long hoped would be filled with friends and allies.

My third point is this: I see no serious alternative in the Balkans to the political and economic reforms required for each of the countries of the region to be eligible for NATO and EU membership. All want to join the EU, which unfortunately will not be able to begin admitting them until 2020 at the earliest. That leaves NATO membership as the vital “carrot” for reform, except in Serbia. We need to do more to enable Balkan countries that want to do so to join the Alliance, as Montenegro is doing.

In Macedonia, this means Europe and the U.S. need to tell Greece “The FYROM” will be invited to join NATO once it reestablishes transparent and accountable democratic governance. In Kosovo, it means ensuring Pristina develops an army designed for international peacekeeping that poses no threat to Serbs. For that, Serbia will need to accept Kosovo’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, by allowing UN membership. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, NATO members should tell Republika Srpska secession will gain no Western recognition or aid for it or any country it joins, including from the IMF or World Bank.

These and other suggestions in my written testimony would put the region back on track and prevent the peace agreements of the 1990s and 2001 from unraveling. So too would ensuring that all Balkan countries have access to energy supplies from countries other than Russia: natural gas from Azerbaijan, LNG from the U.S., or eventually Mediterranean gas from Cyprus or Israel.

Mr. Chairman, I’ve just outlined a substantial list of diplomatic tasks. If the Administration commits to them, implementation might require an American special envoy. But a policy should come first: one based on maintaining current borders, preventing ethnic partition, and pushing harder for NATO and EU membership. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Tags : , , , ,

Phew!

Neophyte politician Emanuele Macron today is projected to have won the French presidency, defeating nationalist Marine Le Pen. The outcome will not end the anti-European Union, anti-euro, anti-NATO, anti-immigrant surge in French politics, but it settles the presidency in reliably liberal democratic hands for the next five years.

The potential problem lies in the National Assembly, which is scheduled for elections in June. Macron lacks a well-established political party, so he may have trouble gaining the same kind of dominant legislative power French presidents have usually wielded. Le Pen may do much better in legislative elections, as her party is well-established and her support is spread through much of the country.

That said, this is the second European election that has repudiated Trump-like nationalists, aka white supremacists. The first was in the Netherlands, where racist Geert Wilders did less well than expected. The next will be in September in Germany, where Chancellor Merkel also did well in a regional election yesterday. In any event, both she and her principal opponent, Social Democrat Martin Schulz, are reliable anti-nationalists.

What does this mean for the US? We seem far less able to reject the nationalist upsurge than Europe, where only Britain has fallen victim by approving exit from the EU. But there is no doubt President Trump and his minions have been hoping for nationalist fellow travelers in Europe, where he might even hope they would break up the Union, which he loathes. Their disappointment will be felt all the more deeply because Barack Obama endorsed Macron while Trump all but endorsed Le Pen.

Trump’s last European hope now is likely Italy, where elections are due before May 2018 and may be held early. There populist comedian Beppe Grillo’s Five Star movement has been gaining ground. The Italians, remember, invented the businessman/populist/nationalist more than 20 years ago, when Silvio Berlusconi first came on the political scene. He is blessedly discredited, but Grillo is no better.

Trump, who endorsed Le Pen, now has more important things to worry about. He won the vote in the House last week to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the health insurance law that has greatly expanded coverage for Americans, especially (the irony!) Trump voters in key states. Trump is trying hard to crash Obamacare by trashing the state-level marketplaces in which people can sign up for health insurance. He figures then the Democrats in the Senate will have to cooperate with some modified version of “repeal and replace” that would then have to be sent back to the House for final approval.

Trump is also planning his first foreign travel as president this month: Saudi Arabia, Israel/Palestine, Rome for the Pope as well as the Italian government, then Brussels for meetings with the EU, NATO and the Belgian government, and Taormina (Sicily) for the G7 summit.

The Saudis are no doubt looking forward to a meeting with a president who won’t harass them about human rights and is hostile to Iran, the Israelis and Palestinians are still waiting to see if the administration has any serious ideas about their peace process, the EU and NATO will hope the visit marks the end of the president’s skepticism about their institutions, and the G7 will be thankful their club has survived the rise of China and the death of the G8 (which included Russia).

Trump’s past foreign trips have been notable for serious gaffes as well as aggressive pursuit of his business interests. I’d bet we’ll see more of the same on this one. But they serve another purpose: they’ll help us all forget that he has been unsuccessful so far in dunning North Korea into submission and hasn’t made any progress on renegotiating NAFTA or blocking people from his selected Muslim countries from entering the US.

A Le Pen win would have made Trump’s upcoming travel a triumphal march through a Europe on the ropes. At least, phew!, that is not going to happen.

 

Tags : , , , , ,

Let him try to govern

Thugs supporting the erstwhile ruling party VMRO-DPMNE broke in to the Macedonian parliament yesterday, in an apparent effort to block election of an Albanian Speaker, a prelude to the opposition (SDSM) forming a government. SDSM leader Zaev was injured in the melee. Other parliamentarians as well as journalists were also injured and taken hostage.

This is a big setback for Macedonia’s fledgling democracy as well as its ambitions to become a NATO and EU member. The country can hardly claim it meets NATO’s criteria if its parliament is unable to meet and freely choose its Speaker in an orderly fashion. Ditto the EU, which won’t be interested in pursuing negotiations with Macedonia, already stalled because of Macedonia’s “name” problem with Greece. Macedonia’s substantial Albanian population, which regards NATO and EU membership as vital to its future security and prosperity, will enormously resent the Macedonian nationalist attempted violence against the parliament.

This is not where Macedonia should be 17 years after the negotiated end of an Albanian rebellion in Macedonia.

No one is to blame but the Macedonians, first and foremost those who wear balaclavas whle attacking parliamentarians and journalists. But the broader political context is also important: for months, the politicians whom the thugs support have been claiming that Zaev and his Albanian allies are trying to steal the country from VMRO-DPMNE patriots. Never mind that VMRO-DPMNE has been deeply implicated in malfeasance revealed with the publication of embarrassing wiretaps. Or that President Ivanov made things worse when he refused weeks ago to allow Zaev to form a government because he disliked the platform his Albanian allies were bringing to the proposed coalition.

I might not like everything in that platform, or the fact that it was negotiated and agreed in Tirana rather than Skopje. But in a democracy people are entitled to organize politically wherever they want and for what they want, even if I don’t like it. That doesn’t mean they will get it. Americans know all too well how little platforms count when it comes to actually governing. Any new government in Skopje will have a narrow majority and need to move cautiously.

Sadly, it will take some bold action by outsiders–the US and EU–to fix what ails Macedonia. President Trump should ask that the US Treasury “designate” today’s rioters and their political masters, so that their assets are blocked as well as their travel to the US. While this rarely has any great practical effect, it is vital to signaling that the individuals involved are non grata to the US government. Unfortunately, the EU has no comparable mechanism, if I understand correctly, though similar moves can be made at the member state level. I would hope that as many European countries as possible would follow suit.

President Ivanov and his ilk will cry foul, claiming that we are being unfair and acting precipitously. I don’t think so. To the contrary, we’ve been far too patient. Brussels and Washington have treated Macedonia like the fragile state it is, giving it rewards before performance and hoping that will fix what ails it. But its leadership–especially President Ivanov and former Prime Minister Gruevski–seem to have decided they aren’t interested in either NATO or EU membership but prefer an illiberal democracy with a weak judiciary that lines their supporters’ pockets and guarantees they stay in power. They also enjoy and appreciate Moscow’s blessing and support.

The citizens of Macedonia deserve better. They have made enormous progress in the years since independence in 1991. Gruevski even deserves some credit for economic reform and for deployment of Macedonia’s troops to help NATO in Afghanistan under US command. But past performance is no guarantee of future results, as they say on Wall Street. The country is now stuck in a political and economic rut that will require new, more daring leadership. I’ve never met Zaev and I’m not convinced he is the right guy. But he is the guy with the majority in parliament. Let him try to govern.

Tags : , , ,
Tweet