Tag: Kyrgyzstan

The world according to CFR

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) survey of prevention priorities for 2014 is out today.  Crowdsourced, it is pretty much the definition of elite conventional wisdom. Pundits of all stripes contribute.

The top tier includes contingencies with high impact and moderate likelihood (intensification of the Syrian civil war, a cyberattack on critical US infrastructure, attacks on the Iranian nuclear program or evidence of nuclear weapons intent, a mass casualty terrorist attack on the US or an ally, or a severe North Korean crisis) as well as those with moderate impact and high likelihood (in a word “instability” in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq or Jordan).  None merited the designation high impact and high likelihood, though many of us might have suggested Syria, Iraq  and Pakistan for that category. Read more

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Peace Picks: March 4 to March 8

Quite a busy week:

1. Understanding the Behavior of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Monday March 4, 9:00 AM- 11: 00 AM, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Venue: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20036

Speakers: Mohsen Milani, Bijan Khajehpour, Geneive Abdo, Ellen Laipson, Sebastian Gräfe

You are invited to a discussion of a new paper by two Iranian scholars that examines the behavior of Iran’s government in a broad range of areas, including nuclear negotiations. The paper is based on discussions during the meeting of the Iran Advisory Group that the Stimson Center and the Heinrich Böll Foundation hosted last November in Berlin, Germany.

Panelists will review critical negotiations that begin Feb. 26 in Kazakhstan between the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and Iran designed to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The panelists will shed light on the constellation of political power in Iran, discuss the behavioral patterns of the Iranian government, and suggest steps that can be taken to affect Iran’s behavior.

 Website: http://www.boell.org/calendar/VA-viewe…

2. Unwilling to Wait: Why Activists are Taking the Initiative on the Peace Process, Monday 4, 12:00 PM-1:00 PM, Woodrow Wilson Center

Venue: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20004

Speakers: Wasim Almasri, Tom Bar-Gal

This event is co-sponsored with OneVoice.

Two youth activists from OneVoice Palestine and OneVoice Israel will speak about their motivations to take personal responsibility to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through grassroots activism. In speaking about the ongoing challenges to resolving the conflict, they will discuss civil society efforts to overcome these obstacles. Given the many transitions taking place in the region, and OneVoices experience in the past ten years, Almasri and Bar-Gal will speak about their vision of where future opportunities for Israeli-Palestinian conflict resolution lie and about the important role of the American foreign policy community in moving the peace process forward.

Website: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/unwi…

3. Can We Call Iraq a Success?, New America Foundation, 1899 L St., NW, Washington, DC 20036, Monday, March 4, 1:00 PM- 2:30 PM

Venue: New America Foundation, 1899 L St, NW, Suite 400, Washington DC 20036

Speakers: Lt. Col. Joel Rayburn, U.S. Army Military Fellow, New America Foundation; Peter Bergen Director, National Security Studies Program, New America Foundation; Douglas A. Ollivant, Senior National Security Fellow, New America Foundation

As we approach the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, news of that country has largely faded from American headlines. But a myriad of questions remain to be answered about the eight-year American involvement in the Iraq War. Specifically, what were the major decision points for the United States, and what directions did the conflict take after those decisions were made? What was gained from the deaths of many of tens of thousands of Iraqis and thousands of Americans, and hundreds of billions of dollars the war also consumed? And where is Iraq now in terms of security, economic strength, political stability, and alignment with U.S. regional interests?

Please join the New America Foundation’s National Security Studies Program for a debate over these questions and more between Douglas A. Ollivant, who was Director for Iraq at the National Security Council during both the Bush and Obama administrations, and Lt. Col. Joel Rayburn, who served on the staff of General David Petraeus in Baghdad in 2007 and 2008, where he focused on political-military issues.

Website: http://www.newamerica.net/events/2013/…

4. Constitutionalism and Human Rights in Tunisia: The Islamist-Led Democratic Transition Post-Arab Spring, Johns Hopkins SAIS, Tuesday March 5, 9:00 AM- 4:00 PM

Venue: Johns Hopkins SAIS- NItze Building, 1740 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington DC, 20036, Kenney Auditorium

Speakers: Nejib Ayachi, Mohamed Mattar, Issam Saliba, William Zartman, Alexis Arieff, Alaya Allani and more
Experts and policymakers will discuss post-revolution political and constitutional transitions, the future of minority rights and freedom of expression in Tunisia, and the relationship between Islamists in power and democratic transition in the context of the Arab Spring. For a complete conference agenda, visitbit.ly/YzShnG.

Website: http://sais-jhu.edu/events/2013-03-05-…

5. Understanding Conflict and Ethnic Violence in Kyrgyzstan, Elliot School of International Affairs, Tuesday March 5, 12:00 PM- 2:00 PM

Venue: Voesar Conference Room, Elliot School of International Affairs, 1957 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20052

Speaker: Neil Melvin

Neil Melvin, Director, Program Armed Conflict and Conflict Management, SIPRI

Over the last two decades, Kyrgyzstan has experienced two major outbreaks of violence involving the main ethnic communities in the country: the Kyrgyz and the Uzbeks. These violent incidents have generally been viewed as ethnic conflicts and much of the response to the violence from the government, local communities, and the international community has been framed within this understanding. At the same time, Kyrgyzstan has also experienced other, less significant violent events and political crises that have often been linked temporally to the ethnic conflicts. This suggests that a full understanding of the nature of armed conflict in Kyrgyzstan and the involvement of ethnic communities in violence at a minimum requires a broader examination of the context of the violence.

RSVP: tinyurl.com/March5-Melvin

Sponsored by the Central Asia Program

Website: http://www.elliottschool.org/events/ca…

6. Palestinian Refugees in a Changing Middle East, Foundation for Middle East Peace, Tuesday March 5, 12:00 PM- 1:00 PM

Venue: Middle East Institute, 1761 N Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036

Speaker: Filippo Grandi

While profound changes sweep across many parts of the Middle East today, the plight and status of the Palestine refugees—a present day reminder of one of the very first Middle East crises in 1948—remain left behind, unresolved and in the shadows of these uncertain times.  The dynamism of change for others in the region contrasts with the growing sense of stagnation, marginalization and new dangers faced by Palestine refugees.  Since its creation in 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been at the forefront providing essential humanitarian and human development services to the now approximately 5 million registered Palestine refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza.  The challenges to the Agency and its beneficiaries are many—from continuing to operate in some of the most dangerous parts of Syria, to addressing the aftermath of the recent war in Gaza, to providing care and protection to now 2nd and 3rd time Palestine refugees from Syria seeking safety and shelter in Lebanon and Jordan.  UNRWA Commissioner-General Grandi will offer an update on the rising tensions in the region, the international community’s response and new dangers that lie ahead from the perspective of the Palestine refugee.

Filippo Grandi was appointed Commissioner-General of UNRWA on January 20, 2010 having previously served as Deputy Commissioner-General since October 2005.  Prior to joining UNRWA, he distinguished himself in a variety of headquarters and field functions around the globe for the United Nations encompassing refugee assistance, protection, emergency management, donor relations, and humanitarian and political affairs.

Website: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/564758…

7. The Rise & Fall of Iran in Arab and Muslim Eyes- A New Poll, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Tuesday March 5, 12:30 PM- 2:00 PM

Venue: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC, 20004

Speakers: Jane Harman

Zogby Research Services will release their latest poll of views on Iran and its policies from 20 Arab and Muslim nations including the Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula States, the Maghreb, Egypt and Sudan and non-Arab Muslim neighbors of Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan.

Website: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-…

8. Obama and the Middle East Peace Process: Déjà Vû?, New America Foundation, Washington DC 20036 Wednesday March 6, 9:15 AM-10:45 AM.

Venue: New America Foundation, 1899 L St., N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036

Speakers: Daniel Levy, Husam Zomlot, Hisham Melham, Matt Duss

On the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reelection and in anticipation of President Obama’s forthcoming trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordanthe New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force will host a discussion on expectations for the visit and for the president’s second term.

We’ll examine the likely motivations for and possible outcomes of the President’s upcoming trip. Is the visit an attempt to reinvigorate his administration’s relationship with Netanyahu, restart peace talks, or an equal effort to achieve both objectives? Is the newly reelected Obama serious about an Israeli-Palestinian settlement? Does the new Israeli government (and a weakened Netanyahu) present a fresh opportunity for dialogue on a settlement? Or, will other regional conflicts take precedence on the agenda.

Join us for an in-depth analysis of these issues and more on March 6.

On Twitter? Follow @MideastChannel to join the conversation online.?

Website: http://www.newamerica.net/events/2013/…

9. The Rise of Islamism: Its Impact on Religious Minorities, Hudson Institute, Washington DC 20005, Wednesday March 6, 12:00 PM-1:30 PM.

Venue: Hudson Institute, 1015 15th Street, NW, 6th Floor

Speakers: Nina Shea, Farahnaz Ispahani, Jamsheed K. Choksy, Anthony Vance, Stephen Schwartz

Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom invites you to attend

The Rise of Islamism: Its Impact on Religious Minorities
Wednesday, March 612:00 1:30 PM
Lunch will be served.
This event will be streamed live here: www.hudson.org/WatchLive.

Submit questions via Twitter: @HudsonInstitute

With the rise of Islamism in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa, religious minorities have come increasingly under siege. Already this year, nearly two hundred Hazara Shiite Muslims in Baluchistan, Pakistan have been killed in bombings launched by the Sunni extremist group Lashkar-e-Jangvi. In Egypt, the nation’s new constitution denies Baha’is the right to houses of worship, while Iran’s denies Baha’is any rights at all. In Mali, Islamists have destroyed historic Sufi shrines, and in Iraq, a campaign of terrorist violence has driven almost the entire Mandean community from its ancient homeland. Across a broad geographic area and in once culturally diverse societies, Christians, Jews, Baha’is, Ahmadi Muslims, Zoroastrians, Sufis, Shiites, Mandeans, Yizidis, Sikhs, Hindus, and other religious minorities face a range of threats from ascendant Islamists.

Please join moderator Nina Shea, Hudson Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Religious Freedom, and our expert panel to discuss Islamism’s impact on religious minorities and recommendations to strengthen the cause of religious freedom and cultural pluralism.

Panelists will include former Pakistani Parliamentarian (2008-12) Farahnaz Ispahani; Professor of Iranian, Central Eurasian, and Islamic Studies at Indiana University Jamsheed K. Choksy; Director of the Office of Public Affairs for the Baha’is of the United States Anthony Vance; and Executive Director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism and author Stephen Schwartz.

Website: http://hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction…

10. What should Obama do on North Korea?, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Thursday March 7, 9:00 AM

Venue: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1800 K Street, NW, Washington

Speakers: Victor D. Cha, Walter L. Sharp

A Korea Chair Platform event with

Dr. Victor D. Cha
Senior Advisor and Korea Chair, CSIS

General (Ret) Walter L. Sharp
Former Commander of U.S. Combined Forces Command & USFK and

Amb. Joseph R. DeTrani Special Envoy for Six Party Talks with North Korea

Please join us for a Korea Chair Platform event with Victor Cha, Walter L. Sharp, and Joseph R. DeTrani. In the wake of the December 2012 missile launch and the February 2013 nuclear test, our distinguished panelists will share their views on the road ahead and what President Obama should do on North Korea. We hope you can join us!

To RSVP for this event, please email KoreaChair@csis.org.

The Korea Chair Platform is made possible by the generous support of Samsung Electronics America.

Website: http://csis.org/event/what-should-obam…

11. Reporting on Conflict in Burma: Challenges and Opportunities, US Institute of Peace, Thursday March 7, 10:00 AM- 11:30 AM

Venue: US Institute of Peace 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Speakers: Stephen Gray, Thiha Saw, Kyaw Zen Thar, Theo Dolan, John Knaus

This event will be webcast live beginning at 10:00am ET on March 7, 2013 at www.usip.org/webcast. Join the conversation on Twitter with #BurmaMedia.
The opening of media freedoms in Burma by the government of Thein Sein has been gradual, but encouraging. The phasing out of formal censorship and the reinstitution of private daily newspapers are positive steps toward informing a public which is increasingly seeking out news and information. However, reliable coverage of ongoing conflicts in Burma, such as in Kachin and Arakan states, has been difficult to obtain. With information on these conflicts still largely controlled by the government, local journalists struggle to present a holistic picture of the violence.

This event will explore the steps that can be taken by the Burmese media, government and other key stakeholders to advance existing media freedoms in order to report more effectively on conflict. Experts will present an overview of the present conflicts in ethnic states and prospects for peace an analysis of media sector reforms, including current challenges and opportunities; and perspectives on conflict reporting from a journalist from Arakan state.

Website: http://www.usip.org/events/reporting-c…

12. Yemen’s Political Transition and Public Attitudes Toward the National Dialogue, National Democratic Institute, Thursday March 7 12:00 PM- 1:30 PM

Venue: National Democratic Institute455 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 8th Floor Washington, DC

Speakers: Barbara Bodine, Les Campbell, John Moreira, Brian Katulis

The agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for political transition in Yemen calls for a National Dialogue Conference to help the country’s leaders develop consensus for draft constitutional reforms and prepare for elections in 2014.During the past year, the transition has faced considerable challenges from wrangling among competing political factions to violent activity by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, tribal disputes, and a southern secessionist movement. Later this month, the country’s leaders will finally join together for the start of the National Dialogue Conference in an effort to end gridlock on the country’s stalled political reform process and address worsening economic conditions.

As the country heads into this important dialogue, how does the Yemeni public view the future of the nation and the priorities they want their leaders to address? What are the key points of consensus and disagreement we can expect during the dialogue? How can the United States government support Yemen’s political transition as it seeks to advance other national security interests?

Please join the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Center for American Progress for a joint panel discussion featuring Barbara Bodine, Lecturer and Director of Scholars in the Nation’s Service at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen; Les Campbell, NDI Senior Associate and Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa who has recently returned from pre-Dialogue discussions in Yemen; and John Moreira, lead consultant for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research who oversaw recent polling in Yemen.

In conjunction with this event, the National Democratic Institute will release the results of a new public opinion poll conducted in Yemen.


13. Peacekeeping and Protection of Civilians in South Sudan: Rhetoric and Reality, US Institute of Peace, Friday, March 8, 10:00 AM- 11:30 AM

Venue: US Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

Speakers: Hilde Johnson, Jon Temin

This event will be webcast live beginning at 10:00am ET at www.usip.org/webcast.

The United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) maintains civilian protection as one of its core responsibilities. However, ethnic tensions and a weak national security architecture across South Sudan, coupled with UNMISS’s own limited resources, have made this objective of protecting civilians from physical violence difficult to achieve. There have been sporadic, violent tribal clashes in several South Sudanese states, most notably inter-communal violence in Jonglei state that has claimed hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

USIP is pleased to host Ms. Hilde Johnson, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general and head of UNMISS, to discuss some of the challenges that UNMISS has faced and lessons learned in striving to protect civilians.

Website: http://www.usip.org/events/peacekeepin…

14.The Arab Awakening: Lessons Learned and Challenges Ahead, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Friday March 8, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Venue: Woodrow Wilson Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington DC, 20004

Speakers: Rami Khouri, Robin Wright

Rami Khouri, Former Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center; Director, Islam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; Editor-at-large, The Daily Star
Robin Wright, Journalist and Author/Editor of eight books, most recently editor of ‘The Islamists Are Coming: Who They Really Are’

Website: http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-…

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Reconciliation: a new vision for OSCE?

I am speaking at the OSCE “Security Days” today in Vienna on a panel devoted to this topic.  Here is what I plan to say, more or less:

Reconciliation is hard.  Do I want to be reconciled to someone who has done me harm?  I may want an apology, compensation, an eye for an eye, but why would I want to be reconciled to something I regard as wrong, harmful, and even evil?

At the personal level, I may be able to escape the need for reconciliation.  I can harbor continuing resentment, emigrate, join a veterans’ organization and continue to dislike my enemy.  I can hope that my enemy is prosecuted for his crimes and is sent away for a long time.  I don’t really have to accept his behavior.  Many don’t.

But at the societal level lack of reconciliation has consequences.  It is a formula for more violence.  We remain trapped in the inner circle of this classic diagram, in a cycle of violence.  Victims, feeling loss and desire for revenge, end up attacking those they believe to be perpetrators, who eventually react with violence:

What takes us out of the cycle of violence and retaliation?  The critical step is acknowledging wrong doing, a step full of risk for perpetrators and meaning for victims.  But once wrong doing is acknowledged, victims can begin to accept loss, manage anger and confront fears.  This initiates a virtuous cycle of mutual understanding, re-engagement, admission of guilt, steps toward justice and writing a common history.

What has all this got to do with OSCE?  Some OSCE countries are still stuck in the inner cycle of violence, despite dialogue focused on practical confidence-building measures that moves the parties closer.  But the vital step of acknowledging wrong has either been skipped entirely or given short shrift.  Conflict management is a core OSCE function.  The job will not be complete until OSCE re-discovers its role in reconciliation.

I know the Balkans best.  We aren’t past the step of acknowledging wrongdoing in Bosnia and Kosovo.  Even Greece and Macedonia are trapped in a cycle that could become violent.  The situation is less than fully reconciled in Turkey, the Caucasus, Moldova and I imagine other places I know less well.  Is there a good example of Balkans reconciliation?  The best I know is Montenegro’s apology to Croatia for shelling Dubrovnik.  That allowed them to build the positive relationship they have today.

Should reconciliation be a new OSCE vision?  Its leadership and member states will decide, but here are questions I would ask if I were considering the proposition:

  1. How pervasive is the need for reconciliation in the OSCE?
  2. Would it make a real difference if reconciliation could be established as a norm?
  3. If it did become a new norm, how would we know when it is achieved?
  4. What would we do differently from what we do today?

I was in Kosovo earlier this month.  There is little sign there of reconciliation:  it is difficult for Belgrade and Pristina to talk with each other, they have reached agreements under pressure that are largely unimplemented, OSCE and other international organizations maintain operations there because of the risk of violence.  There is little acknowledgement of wrong doing.  The memorials are all one-sided:  I drove past many well-marked KLA graveyards.  We have definitely not reached the outer circle yet.

Would it make a difference if there were acknowledgement of wrong doing?  Yes, it would.  It would have to be mutual, since a good deal of harm has been done on both sides, even if the magnitude of the harm differs.  Self-sustaining security in Kosovo will not be possible until that step has been taken.  I would say the same thing about Bosnia, Kyrgystan, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, Cyprus, Turkey and Armenia.  Your North African partners might benefit from focus on reconciliation.

Dialogue is good.  Reconciliation is better.  Maybe OSCE should take the next difficult but logical step.


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What threatens the United States?

The Council on Foreign Relations published its Preventive Priorities Survey for 2012 last week.  What does it tell us about the threats the United States faces in this second decade of the 21st century?

Looking at the ten Tier 1 contingencies “that directly threaten the U.S. homeland, are likely to trigger U.S. military involvement because of treaty commitments, or threaten the supplies of critical U.S. strategic resources,” only three are defined as military threats:

  • a major military incident with China involving U.S. or allied forces
  • an Iranian nuclear crisis (e.g., surprise advances in nuclear weapons/delivery capability, Israeli response)
  • a U.S.-Pakistan military confrontation, triggered by a terror attack or U.S. counterterror operations

Two others might also involve a military threat, though the first is more likely from a terrorist source:

  • a mass casualty attack on the U.S. homeland or on a treaty ally
  • a severe North Korean crisis (e.g., armed provocations, internal political instability, advances in nuclear weapons/ICBM capability)

The remaining five involve mainly non-military contingencies:

  • a highly disruptive cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure (e.g., telecommunications, electrical power, gas and oil, water supply, banking and finance, transportation, and emergency services)
  • a significant increase in drug trafficking violence in Mexico that spills over into the United States
  • severe internal instability in Pakistan, triggered by a civil-military crisis or terror attacks
  • political instability in Saudi Arabia that endangers global oil supplies
  • intensification of the European sovereign debt crisis that leads to the collapse of the euro, triggering a double-dip U.S. recession and further limiting budgetary resources

Five of the Tier 2 contingencies “that affect countries of strategic importance to the United States but that do not involve a mutual-defense treaty commitment” are also at least partly military in character, though they don’t necessarily involve U.S. forces:

  • a severe Indo-Pak crisis that carries risk of military escalation, triggered by major terror attack
  • rising tension/naval incident in the eastern Mediterranean Sea between Turkey and Israel
  • a major erosion of security and governance gains in Afghanistan with intensification of insurgency or terror attacks
  • a South China Sea armed confrontation over competing territorial claims
  • a mass casualty attack on Israel

But Tier 2 also involves predominantly non-military threats to U.S. interests, albeit with potential for military consequences:

  • political instability in Egypt with wider regional implications
  • an outbreak of widespread civil violence in Syria, with potential outside intervention
  • an outbreak of widespread civil violence in Yemen
  • rising sectarian tensions and renewed violence in Iraq
  • growing instability in Bahrain that spurs further Saudi and/or Iranian military action

Likewise Tier 3 contingencies “that could have severe/widespread humanitarian consequences but in countries of limited strategic importance to the United States” include military threats to U.S. interests:

  • military conflict between Sudan and South Sudan
  • increased conflict in Somalia, with continued outside intervention
  • renewed military conflict between Russia and Georgia
  • an outbreak of military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, possibly over Nagorno Karabakh

And some non-military threats:

  • heightened political instability and sectarian violence in Nigeria
  • political instability in Venezuela surrounding the October 2012 elections or post-Chavez succession
  • political instability in Kenya surrounding the August 2012 elections
  • an intensification of political instability and violence in Libya
  • violent election-related instability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • political instability/resurgent ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan

I don’t mean to suggest in any way that the military is irrelevant to these “non-military” threats.  But it is not the only tool needed to meet these contingencies, or even to meet the military ones.  And if you begin thinking about preventive action, which is what the CFR unit that publishes this material does, there are clearly major non-military dimensions to what is needed to meet even the threats that take primarily military form.

And for those who read this blog because it publishes sometimes on the Balkans, please note:  the region are nowhere to be seen on this list of 30 priorities for the United States.


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Civilian stabilization efforts in Kyrgyzstan

Please visit the writeup of Ambassador Robert Loftis’ presentation Monday at Johns Hopkins/SAIS, where he talked about civilian whole-of-government efforts at stabilization in Kyrgyzstan.

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The end is nigh…

Not really, but 2010 is coming to a close.  Never easy to look ahead a year, but let me give it a try.  It’ll make for a nice mea culpa post a year from now.  And if I cherry pick a bit maybe I’ll be able to claim clairvoyance!

  • Iran:  the biggest headache of the year to come.  If its nuclear program is not slowed or stopped, things are going to get tense.  Both Israel and the U.S. have preferred sanctions, covert action and diplomatic pressure to military action.  If no agreement is reached on enrichment, that might change by the end of 2011.  No Green Revolution, the clerics hang on, using the Revolutionary Guards to defend the revolution (duh).
  • Pakistan:  it isn’t getting better and it could well get worse.  The security forces don’t like the way the civilians aren’t handling things, and the civilians are in perpetual crisis.  Look for increased internal tension, but no Army takeover, and some success in American efforts to get more action against AQ and the Taliban inside Pakistan.  Judging from a report in the New York Times, we may not always be pleased with the methods the Pakistanis use.
  • North Korea:  no migraine, but pesky nonetheless, and South Korea is a lot less quiescent than it used to be.  Pretty good odds on some sort of military action during the year, but the South and the Americans will try to avoid the nightmare of a devastating artillery barrage against Seoul.
  • Afghanistan:  sure there will be military progress, enough to allow at least a minimal withdrawal from a handful of provinces by July.  But it is hard to see how Karzai becomes much more legitimate or effective.  There is a lot of heavy lifting to do before provincial government is improved, but by the end of the year we might see some serious progress in that direction, again in a handful of provinces.
  • Iraq:  no one expects much good of this government, which is large, unwieldy and fragmented.  But just for this reason, I expect Maliki to get away with continuing to govern more or less on his own, relying on different parts of his awkward coalition on different issues.  The big unknown:  can Baghdad settle, or finesse, the disputes over territory with Erbil (Kurdistan)?
  • Palestine/Israel (no meaning in the order–I try to alternate):  Palestine gets more recognitions, Israel builds more settlements, the Americans offer a detailed settlement, both sides resist but agree to go to high level talks where the Americans try to impose.  That fails and Israel continues in the direction of establishing a one-state solution with Arabs as second class citizens.  My secular Zionist ancestors turn in their graves.
  • Egypt:  trouble.  Succession plans founder as the legitimacy of the parliament is challenged in the streets and courts.  Mubarak hangs on, but the uncertainties grow.
  • Haiti:  Not clear whether the presidential runoff will be held January 16, but things are going to improve, at least until next summer’s hurricanes.  Just for that reason there will be more instability as Haitians begin to tussle over the improvements.
  • Al Qaeda:  the franchise model is working well, so no need to recentralize.  They will keep on trying for a score in the U.S. and will likely succeed at some, I hope non-spectacular, level.
  • Yemen/Somalia:  Yemen is on the brink and will likely go over it, if not in 2011 soon thereafter.  Somalia will start back from hell, with increasing stability in some regions and continuing conflict in others.
  • Sudan:  the independence referendum passes.  Khartoum and Juba reach enough of an agreement on outstanding issues to allow implementation in July, but border problems (including Abyei) and South/South violence grow into a real threat.  Darfur deteriorates as the rebels emulate the South and Khartoum takes its frustrations out on the poor souls.
  • Lebanon:  the Special Tribunal finally delivers its indictments.  Everyone yawns and stretches, having agreed to ignore them.
  • Syria:  Damascus finally realizes that it is time to reach an agreement with Israel.  The Israelis decide to go ahead with it, thus relieving pressure to stop settlements and deal seriously with the Palestinians.
  • Ivory Coast:  the French finally find the first class tickets for Gbagbo and his entourage, who go to some place that does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (no, not the U.S.!).
  • Zimbabwe:  Mugabe is pressing for quick adoption of his new constitution and elections in 2011, catching the opposition off balance.  If he succeeds, the place continues to go to hell in a handbasket.  If he fails, it will still be some time before it heads in the other direction.
  • Balkans:  Bosnians still stuck on constitutional reform, but Kosovo gets a visa waiver from the EU despite ongoing investigations of organ trafficking.

If the year turns out this way, it won’t be disastrous, just a bumpy downhill slide.  Hard to see it getting much better than that, but I could have made it much worse:

  • Iran:  weaponizes and deploys nukes.
  • Pakistan:  finally admits it can’t find two of its weapons, which have likely fallen into AQ hands.
  • North Korea:  goes bananas in response to some provocation, launches artillery barrage on Seoul.
  • Afghanistan:  spring Taliban offensive sweeps away Coalition-installed local institutions; Kandahar falls.
  • Iraq:  Kurds and Arabs fight, without a clear outcome.
  • Israel/Palestine:  Israel attacks Hizbollah in Lebanon, third intifada begins with Hamas suicide bombings inside Israel.
  • Egypt:  Muslim Brotherhood challenges Mubarak in the streets, prevents orderly succession process.
  • Haiti:  hurricanes, food riots, political strife, reconstruction blocked.
  • Al Qaeda:  big hit inside the U.S., thousands die.
  • Yemen/Somalia:  both go south, with AQ establishing itself firmly on both sides of the Bab al Mandab.
  • Sudan:  post-referendum negotiations fail, fighting on North/South border, chaos in Southern Sudan.
  • Lebanon:  Hizbollah reacts with violence to the Special Tribunal indictments, taking over large parts of Lebanon.  Hizbollah/Israel war wrecks havoc.
  • Syria:  succeeds in surreptitiously building nuclear facilities on commission from Iran, Israeli effort to destroy them fails.
  • Ivory Coast:  Gbagbo tries to hold on to office, imitating Mugabe’s successful effort.  Ouattara plays ball and accepts the prime ministry, pressured by internationals who don’t want to do what is necessary to airlift Gbagbo out of there.   A real opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of international solidarity is squandered.
  • Zimbabwe:  Mugabe succeeds, Tsvangirai is out, state in virtual collapse.
  • Balkans:  the EU unwisely begins implementing the acquis communitaire in Republika Srpska due to delays in formation of a national Bosnian government, investigations in Kosovo drag on and make progress towards the visa waiver and other EU goodies impossible.

There are of course other places where we might see bad things happen:  Venezuela, Burma, Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Russia–but I’ll leave the imagining to you.

Happy New Year!

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