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By James Bovard*
Numerous Indiana elementary school teachers were shot in January as part of a “safe schools” training program. According to the Indiana State Teachers Association, sheriff deputies ordered teachers “into a room four at a time, told them to crouch down and then shot them execution-style with pellets in rapid succession,” leaving several of them bloodied and many of them screaming in terror. The teachers union is “is lobbying lawmakers to add language prohibiting teachers from being shot with any sort of ammunition” during school safety drills, according to the Indianapolis Star.
The Indiana program was part of the school lockdown drills occurring
across the nation spurred in part by a Colorado massacre that occurred
twenty years ago on April 20. Twelve students and one teacher died in a
shooting spree by two students at Columbine High School. The Columbine
carnage helped inspire subsequent school shootings, especially a
Newtown, Connecticut attack in 2012.
While the media is vividly reminding Americans of the Colorado
killings, few people remember how the Clinton administration rushed to
exploit the killings. Attorney General Janet Reno praised the local
police response as “extraordinary” and “a textbook” example of “how to
do it the right way.” President Bill Clinton declared that “we look with
admiration at the… the police officers who rushed to the scene to
save lives.” Clinton invoked the Columbine killings almost every day
from April 20 through mid-June 1999, when the House of Representatives
narrowly defeated Clinton-championed gun control legislation.
In reality, “No efforts were made to stop the assault,” concluded
William Erickson, a former Colorado Supreme Court justice who headed a
commission that issued a damning 2001 report on the Columbine killings.
Instead, hundreds of police waited outside until long after the two
perpetrators had committed suicide.
Appalling police failures turned a multiple homicide into a historic
massacre. A SWAT team had entered the building early on but Jefferson
County Sheriff John Stone ordered it to withdraw. Police spokesmen said
most of the SWAT teams were not sent in “for fear that they might set
off a new gunfight,” the New York Times reported. SWAT teams
did not enter the room where the killers lay until hours after the
shooting stopped. A badly wounded school teacher, Dave Sanders, bled to
death because the SWAT team took four hours to reach the room he was in –
even though students placed a large sign announcing “1 Bleeding to
Death” in the window.
Jefferson County Sheriff John Stone later explained: “We had initial
people there right away, but we couldn’t get in. We were way outgunned.”
However, SWAT team members had flak jackets and submachine guns – far
better protection and weaponry than the unreliable TEC-9 handgun,
semiautomatic rifle, and shotguns that the killers touted.
Fears for “officer safety” paralyzed the police response. Steve
Davis, spokesman for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department, said,
“We had no idea who was a victim and who was a suspect. And a dead
police officer would not be able to help anyone.” Evan Todd, a Columbine
student who was wounded in the initial attack, escaped outside and then
explained to a dozen policemen exactly what was happening inside; he
was told “to calm down and take my frustrations elsewhere.” After the
2001 report was released, Randy Brown, the father of a Columbine
student, scoffed in the Rocky Mountain News: “When children are
being murdered… it is important that you establish a perimeter. Do
not intervene in the shooting. Officer safety is a priority”?
Unfortunately, law enforcement learned too little from Littleton. At
the Parkland school in Florida last year, eight sheriff’s deputies
cowered outside while the shooting rampage left 17 dead. A local cop who
arrived during the shooting was urged not to enter the building: “Hey,
be careful. The guy’s got a rifle,” a deputy told him. After the
killings, the local sheriff’s department put out a deluge of false
claims that were debunked by later revelations. Nikolas Cruz should have
been arrested numerous times because of violence and threats at school
and elsewhere but school authorities may have avoided charging him
because of an Obama administration school grant program that sought to
curb the “school-to-prison” pipeline for minority students. The FBI also
dropped the ball despite receiving at least two explicit calls warning
Unfortunately, school safety policies have long been dominated by
institutional hysteria fanned by politicians, bureaucrats, and much of
the media. The federal Education Department reported last year that
“nearly 240 schools … reported at least 1 incident involving a
school-related shooting” in the 2015-16 school year. National Public
Radio investigated and found that the feds had exaggerated school
shootings by twenty-fold; NPR could confirm only 11 incidents. Cleveland
was credited with 37 shooting incidents when in reality it was simply a
report of 37 schools noting “possession of a knife or a firearm.” One
school system was listed as a shooting locale for an incident involving a
pair of scissors. But fanning hysteria over school hysteria is mother’s
milk for politicians who want to confiscate private firearms.
The #NeverAgain movement that arose after last year’s Parkland
shootings ignores how government officials cannot be trusted to behave
honestly or responsibly to save student lives. New gun control laws will
do nothing to boost either the competence or courage of the police when
every second counts. Unfortunately, there is also no cure for the
political exploitation of such tragedies.
*About the author: James Bovard is the author of ten books, including 2012’s Public Policy Hooligan, and 2006’s Attention Deficit Democracy. He has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Washington Post, and many other publications.
Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute
By Giancarlo Elia Valori*
Haftar’s military advance-started in Jufra on April 4 last – passed from the South, namely Fezzan, and
partly from Central Libya, starting from
the Westernmost point of the area of influence already gained by Haftar in the
last military advances.
The support for his actions against
Tripolitania, which stems from very old tensions (the Senussi King Idris
boasted he never set foot in Tripoli), materialized with the support of Egypt,
the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and the Russian Federation, as well as
France in particular. Other countries, however, are and will be the future
friends of Haftar’s forces, if the General wins throughout the Libyan
Why so many allies? Firstly, Saudi Arabia
regards Haftar as an opponent of Islamic terrorism, the first real danger of
the Saudi Kingdom.
Also the United Arab Emirates, however, start
from this first consideration and assessment.
Moreover, both the United Arab Emirates and
Saudi Arabia have largely funded Al-Sisi’s coup against the Muslim Brotherhood
of the then President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
The Emirates also participated in the secret
negotiations held last summer to have Libyan oil exported through external
channels other than the one approved by the UN, namely the National Oil Corporation
Haftar’s forces have already redirected oil
shipments from the ports they control -to the tune of several thousand oil
Furthermore Saudi Arabia and the Emirates also
funded the electoral campaigns of General Haftar’s candidates. This is a problem close to us,
because the upcoming elections announced by the UN envoy, Ghassam Salamè, at
the Palermo Conference, scheduled for next spring, will anyway be decisive,
whoever funds them.
In any case, they will be blocked indefinitely
due to the now evident proxy civil war
that is taking place in Libya.
In addition, General Haftar started the April
4 offensive after informing Emirate’s Prince Mohammed bin Sayed al-Nayan on
April 2 and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (but not the acting Prince) on
The penetration into Tripolitania had already
been militarily planned by General Haftar with both the Saudi and Emirate
leaders, with whom he had very secret contacts.
The political will of the two Arab States in
the peninsula is to put al-Sarraj’s government in Tripoli under such strong
pressure as to make al-Sarraj accept the agreement that had been defined in the
Abu Dhabi meetings with General Haftar himself on February 28 last.
In Abu Dhabi, the first issue to be discussed
was the Sharara oil field, the most important one in Libya, held by General
Haftar’s forces, as well as the gradual unification of the two State
The signing of that agreement, which
reaffirmed – sine die- the bureaucratic union of the two parts of Libya was
welcomed everywhere, but evidently that agreement had been written on the
For the Sharara oil field, Prime Minister
al-Sarraj accepted the sale of 300,000 barrels/day, managed by the Libyan NOC,
the Spanish Repsol, Total, the Austrian OMV and the Norwegian Equinor. However,
no progress has been made so far.
Nevertheless the “Libyan National
Conference” that the previous Palermo Conference had scheduled for late
January 2019 was never held, despite the passion and enthusiasm shown for it by
the UN envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé.
France sent its DGSE operatives to Haftar’s area in late 2015, encamped near the Benghazi airbase.
What does France want from General Haftar? It
wants to close the Maghreb region to other countries’ influence – especially
Italy’s – so as to create a large Françafrique area from Central Africa to all
Mediterranean African coasts except for Egypt, which is too big for the forces
(of France and Great Britain) that even had to stop – for lack of ammunition – during
the first phase of Gaddafi’s Libya “conquest” and asked the United
States to intervene.
Certainly France also wants all the Libyan
oil, which is currently in General Haftar’s hands.
the Russian Federation? It supports Haftar, although with a sui generis approach.
In fact, while I am writing this article, Haftar is holding a talk with
Vladimir Putin for two reasons: he wants to sell weapons to the Libyan National
Army, but also to avoid competition from Saudi Arabia, which is also a major oil
producer and could add the Libyan oil and gas to its own, thus quickly becoming
the unparalleled top exporter of crude oil in the world.
Here – regardless of OPEC or not – the
situation does not change: the price of the oil barrel would be set by Saudi
Russia’s allies on the field are not
homogeneous in their alliances. Turkey and Algeria support al-Sarraj while – as
already noted – the others support General Khalifa Haftar.
There is also the possibility of a Russian
military base on Cyrenaica’s coast, when
General Haftar fully wins the game.
Nevertheless, rumours are already rife that
the Russians of the Wagner Group, the main private military group used by
Russia, are present in the Benghazi forces’ area.
In late 2018, the Russian newspaper RBC
reported that there were “Russian troops in Libya”.
General Khalifa Haftar’s forces, the Libyan
National Army, moved from Fezzan – through the territories of the various local
tribes – in two ways: with the good – and not only recent – good relations they
had with that tribe world or with large cash payments.
The first military advance line of the
Benghazi Free Army was between Bani Walid and Sabratha, towards Gharyan, the
crossing point to Tripoli from the South.
In late March, many local, tribal and
non-tribal brigades had changed sides, in favour of General Haftar, mainly
thanks to the example of the Seventh Al Khaniat Brigade from Tarhouna, which
started fighting with the Benghazi National Army that, in fact, advanced
through the Southern districts of Tripoli.
The Seventh Brigade’s attack probably had the opposite effect, thus making
some Tripoli’s brigades remain loyal to al-Sarraj’s government, although no one
knows for how long.
Even the “moderates” of Misrata -led
by the current Interior Minister of Tripoli, Fathi Bachaga – that until now
have been open to future negotiations with General Haftar, have stiffened their
stance in defence of Tripoli.
The troops of Misrata, the Libyan
“Sparta”, amount to 15,000
soldiers and would make the difference in any future confrontation.
However, Misrata has already mobilized its
military forces, but for the time being there is only a small Misrata force
alongside the other forces in Tripoli.
The Benghazi Defence Brigades, which also
include some soldiers from Misrata, and
the Halbous militia have instead agreed to be part of Tripoli’s
(Others’) money counts.
The Forces of Zintan, another major military
centre of Tripoli’s armed forces, are
divided between the group still loyal to Tripoli’s GNA, led by Oussama
al-Jouili and Emad al-Trabelsi, while all the others are now supporting General
The latter, can still rely on a large amount
The Rada Militia, led by Abdelraouf Kara, has
not yet made any choice.
It is currently called “Unit for the
Prevention of Organized Crime and Terrorism” and controls Tripoli’s nerve
Hence if Haftar wins, the old Rada Militia
will be on his side.
General Haftar has already had contacts with
this organization, which is affiliated with the same Makhdalist Salafist
movement that is already operating in favour of General Haftar in the East.
The strength of the African Salafist sect,
which aims at an African and Libyan jihad, must certainly not be
The strategy of forcedly re-proposing the Abu
Dhabi agreement to al-Sarraj, who would obviously be weakened, is supported –
on Haftar side – by Russia, which coincidentally voted a UN Security Council’s
motion condemning General Haftar’s advance.
Egypt itself has some fears for the current
advance of the Benghazi forces. It is afraid that this may have repercussions
both on the many Egyptian workers still present in Libya and on the country’s
France has supported General Haftar’s advance,
also with its operatives – not only from the DGSE and its Service Action.
France thinks that General Haftar’s advance is the only barrier against
terrorism, but also the way to reconquer Libya after the disastrous operations
following Gaddafi’s ousting in 2011.
General Haftar is openly pro-Gaddafi, as he
demonstrated by having the Rais image portrayed on his banknotes printed in Russia.
Moreover France has greatly favoured Haftar’s advance in Fezzan by collecting and assigning to the Benghazi General the intelligence gathered by a spy-plane provided by CAE Aviation, a company belonging to DGSE and to its Service Action, in particular.
*About the author: Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France.”
Source: This article was published by Modern Diplomacy
The US Navy kicked off its 25th annual military exercise, Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training Exercise (CARAT), in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port on Friday. Commander, Task Force 73, a U.S. Navy task force of the United States Seventh Fleet, announced the beginning of the 25th annual CARAT exercise series between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of partner nations on April 19.
CARAT, the U.S. Navy’s oldest and
longest continually-running regional exercise in South Asia and
Southeast Asia, strengthens partnerships between regional navies and
enhances maritime security cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific. The
CARAT series begins at sea in the southern region of Sri Lanka, where
U.S. Sailors and Marines join the Sri Lanka Armed Forces to conduct
partnered training focused on building interoperability and
strengthening relationships, along with sharing best practices.
The week-long exercise at Hamantota port
will offer Sailors and Marines a chance to conduct underwater diving
sessions, combat lifesaving training and practice small boat maneuvers.
Navy Seabees will also be working with the Sri Lankan Navy civil
engineering branch to renovate an elementary school in the nearby area.
Sri Lankan Sailors will have the chance
to serve aboard Navy vessels for hands-on learning during the at-sea
phase of the exercise to increase interoperability between the two
countries. U.S. assets participating include the Arleigh-Burke class
guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 90), Military Sealift Command
expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) and a P-8
Poseidon maritime patrol craft.
“Twenty-five years of CARAT speaks for
the enduring partnerships in this region,” said U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Joey
Tynch, commander, Task Force 73. “CARAT represents a quarter century of
partners and allies in the region bringing their enthusiasm, knowledge,
and perspectives to this exercise. CARAT also represents our future
continuing to work together and strengthening our relationships.”
Each CARAT exercise features a shore
phase with professional symposia and a robust at-sea phase that
incorporates complex evolutions that increase combined operations. Both
feature a broad range of naval competencies ranging from explosive
ordnance disposal and live-fire gunnery exercises to search and rescue
and humanitarian assistance and disaster response. CARAT also builds
personal relationships through professional exchanges, sports and social
events, community service projects and band concerts.
The CARAT exercise began in 1995 and
remains a model of cooperation that has evolved in complexity and
enables partner navies to refine operations and tactics in response to
traditional and non-traditional maritime security challenges. Its
continuing relevance for a quarter century speaks to the high quality of
training and the enduring value of maritime cooperation among allies
and partners in South and Southeast Asia.
CARAT builds upon other engagements in
South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific region, including Pacific
Partnership, the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and
disaster relief preparedness mission, Maritime Training Activity
Malaysia, Maritime Training Activity Sama Sama (Philippines), Pacific
Griffin with Singapore and Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training
(SEACAT), which involves nearly a dozen partner nations. These
engagements bring naval forces together routinely based on shared values
and maritime security interests.
As U.S. 7th Fleet’s executive agent for
theater security cooperation in South and Southeast Asia, Commander,
Task Force 73 and Destroyer Squadron 7 conduct advanced planning,
organize resources, and directly support the execution of CARAT and
other engagements in the region.
By William Mullally
At 35, Jesse Eisenberg has already had an accomplished career, including
an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, a published book of short
stories and nearly defeating both Superman and Batman in “Dawn of
Justice” (2016). Still, when Salma Hayek walked on the set of “The
Hummingbird Project” (2019), his latest film directed by Kim Nguyen,
Eisenberg did not know what to do with himself.
“To be frank, she’s intimidating to me. Not only did I grow up watching
her, but she’s one of the actresses who transcends the profession. She’s
almost more iconic than she is an actor, even though she’s a wonderful
actor,” Eisenberg told Arab News.
The feeling was mutual. The Lebanese-Mexican actor, who has also found
success as a producer, CEO, and activist, including spearheading an
animated adaptation of Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” saw something in
Eisenberg as well.
“In person, she came up to me and said, ‘I suspect you have other
ambitions, don’t you?’ I said, ‘yeah, I write plays, books, and I’m
involved in other stuff.’ She said, ‘Yes, I can tell. You remind me of
“I thought it was so nice, and I really admire what she’s doing. In
fact, she’d written a piece for the New York Times about Harvey
Weinstein that was coming out the next day and she asked me to take a
look at it… It was phenomenal. She was able to write not just about
assault, but the humiliating and constant whittling away of her own
agency by this horrible person,” Eisenberg explained.
In “The Hummingbird Project,” Eisenberg and Hayek’s characters are
competing to create a direct connection to the New York stock market, in
order to get a competitive edge in high frequency trading. Hayek plays
Eisenberg’s former boss, someone his character is still intimidated by,
as art imitates life.
“My character thinks of her as this icon. The fact that she personally
carries so much power was very helpful to me and for the scene,”
Notre-Dame’s smallest residents have survived the devastating fire which destroyed most of the cathedral’s roof and toppled its famous spire, the BBC reports.
Some 200,000 bees living in hives on the roof were initially thought to have perished in the blaze.
However Nicolas Géant, the cathedral’s beekeeper, has confirmed that the bees are alive and buzzing.
Géant has looked after the cathedral’s three beehives since 2013, when they were installed.
That was part of an initiative to boost bee numbers across Paris.
The hives sit on top of the sacristy by Notre-Dame’s south side, around
30m (98 ft) below the main roof. As a result, Géant says they remained
untouched by the flames.
European bees – unlike other species –
stay by their hive after sensing danger, gorging on honey and working to
protect their queen.
High temperatures would have posed the biggest risk, but Géant explained that any smoke would have simply intoxicated them.
“Instead of killing them, the carbon dioxide makes them drunk, puts them to sleep,” he told AP.
Beekeepers commonly use smoke to sedate the insects and gain access to their hive.
In this article, it has been tried to present an argument about trade policy development in Afghanistan. Initially, providing a brief background, then summarising key policy achievements and issues in the post and pre Afghanistan WTO membership, arguing how WTO membership has worked out, existing institutional challenges to policy development and finally presenting conclusion and recommendation.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country with its economy mostly dependent on aids. The inflow of billions of US dollars to Afghanistan from donor countries has been the key source of trade since 2001. This is happening despite the fact that the country is rich in natural resources such as Lithium, Iron, Copper, Cobalt and so on which according to The Telegraph (2010) it is estimated to have the worth of 3 trillion US dollars. Afghanistan’s failure to extract its resources has always been criticized by the economists however these institutional voids can turn into great business opportunities for international firms that not only have the financial resources but also have the capacity and experience to successfully explore such resources that would not only benefit them but the whole stakeholders in the country.
Likewise, the country is located in the heart of Asia, connecting three important regions: South Asia, Central Asia and both of these regions with the Iranian plateau in the west to Europe. Afghanistan’s geography has set the course of Afghan history for millennia as the gateway for both invaders and traders. However very little has been done to modernize or expand this connectivity with the needs of the 21st century. Failure to achieve this has resulted in the subcontinent to be one of the least connected regions of the world.
Afghanistan’s post-Taliban economic and the political era is a much different one than it was before the year 2001 (i.e. during Taliban regime) which the improvement is recognized by a great level of interdependence dominating all walks of life in the country. With these positive notes, it is believed that Afghanistan has started moving towards right directions in order to become a geo-economically and geopolitically a strategic nation in the region by connecting all of the six countries that Afghanistan shares a border with; Pakistan, China, Iran, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.
The importance of international trade is realized in Afghanistan National Development Strategy (MoFA, 2013) which under the said strategy (ANDS) the government has so far signed multiple bilateral agreements such as the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) (SAARC, n.d), Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with India (MoCI, n.d)) and Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement (APTTA) (ACD, 2011). Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF), Chabahar Trade and Transit Route, new trade ports established with Turkmenistan and China.
All these agreements were giving the optimism that the country was a pro-free trade country and that was finally proved when Afghanistan formally became the 164th WTO member in 2016 (WTO, 2016). Since then, importantly, Afghanistan has recently launched the 2000 years old Lapis Lazuli Trade/ Transport Route with Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to reach European markets by road and the sea.
Additionally, considering the security and geopolitical issues of the region, Afghanistan has so far launched over 11 air cargo corridors from Afghanistan to Asian and European countries to diversify its connectivity with regional and international countries.
The all-time high exports in Afghanistan is achieved in the post-WTO membership accession era. According to trading economics, exports in Afghanistan increased to 831.93 USD million in 2017 from 596.46 USD million in 2016. Exports in Afghanistan averaged 385.21 USD million from 2000 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 831.93 USD million in 2017 and a record low of 69.10 USD million in 2002.
Overall it is commonly believed in Afghanistan that the country would benefit from more market access, international supply chains, lesser tariffs, significant FDI for vast natural resources, transport of energy through pipelines from surplus energy of Central Asia countries to emerging markets in South Asia, like India, Pakistan, China and beyond (CASA, 2017).
Afghanistan’s WTO membership has given the current administration a clearer direction for the Afghan economy to become more liberalized with a vibrant private sector that is difficult to repeal. WTO membership has pushed the Afghan government to normalize tariffs and implement structural and administrative reforms for private sector development. It has helped the government to improve the weakened economic policies and reduce corruption in the country.
The Afghanistan WTO membership has helped Afghanistan to become top improver with record reforms to improve the business climate in Afghanistan. With the five major reforms, Afghanistan ranked top improver in the World Bank doing business report in the year 2017/18. As a result, Afghanistan has improved its position from 183rd to 167th position in the global ease of doing business rankings.
Within the first decade (2001-2010), the Afghan government free trade policy-making process has had a complicated (many approaches) process due to the fact that the government was newly established, had to meet different donor’s conditions and the overall knowledge about the understanding of the market economy system by the Afghan masses including the civil servant was very limited.
It was further mixed as Afghanistan was experiencing not an organic transition from a traditional and controlled economy to a market economy defined in the Afghan constitution. The (2001-2014) policies were not aligned with the private sector and Afghanistan economic potentials for development and most of them found out to fall short of the commitments those policies used to hold.
Nevertheless, the policy-making in current government generally follows through the following key steps in Afghanistan:
Once approved, the proposed legislation will be handed over to the Afghan parliament for debate and approval. Once it is passed, it is finally approved by President of Afghanistan then sectoral ministry starts implementations.
With having all the pre-WTO membership challenges to trade policy development in Afghanistan, the current administration has come a long way and has managed to overcome some of the challenges and open up the Afghan air cargo routes and land borders with Central Asian countries for trade development in Afghanistan, however, challenges to policy development and implementation still remains.
The recent outcomes show that the current administration is better experienced in trade policy development and implementation than the previous administrations. However, the Afghan government lacks a strong system of trade policy development relying on one specialized institution with strong cooperation, coordination, and collaboration between all stakeholders so that the know-how, know-what, and know-why capitalize in one specialized entity. And the need to continue with Deputy for Policy and Strategic Planning in almost every of 18 government institution dealing with the trade policies appears to be in some or another way obsolete.
Considering the above mentioned contextual challenges, coming up with recommendation would be difficult. However, the lessons learned in the past two decades suggest that it is better for policy development in Afghanistan to establish an independent specialist entity such as Afghanistan Institute of Economic Policy Development under the umbrella of the Ministry of Finance which has the budget at its disposal. This initiative will allow the rest of the entities to specialize in the implementations of the policy developed by the Institute. The capacity and skills will capitalize on one specialized entity, make it easy for the private sector to keep dialogue mostly with one entity, limit politicians to start developing new policy again and reduce corruptions and the institute will be free from conflict of interest in policy-making too.
The institute shall also monitor and evaluate the lead implementing partner of the policy and report to the Office of the President of The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
*Shokrullah Amiri is a private sector development specialist with more than 10 years of work experience. He is currently working as Head of Private Sector Development and Outreach Department at the Administrative Office of the President of Afghanistan (AoP).
Larry Mitchell Hopkins, a 69-year-old New Mexico resident, was arrested for possessing a firearm has a felon. “If migrant families are made to feel threatened, …
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Days of frequent explosive nuclear testing were considered to be passed. The arms race throughout the long duration of Cold War led the United States and the former Soviet Union (and the rest of humanity) to the brink of catastrophe owing to the lack of agreed constraints on nuclear weapons. Today, there are multiple treaties and agreements that avert another dreadful era of unconstrained nuclear development. There is no rationale in dismantling the agreements that bring us stability and peace.
In 2010, former U.S. President Barack Obama and former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, marked a commitment “to reduce further the role and importance of nuclear weapons” and signed The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (commonly known as New START). New START was the successor to START I treaty and expands on commitments enumerated in START I treaty. START I was the similar treaty signed in 1991 aiming at reduction of weapons and putting constrains nuclear developments.
New START was not groundbreaking theoretically but when comes to its commitments, it can be called groundbreaking. The Russian Federation and the United States agreed to not only limit their deployed warheads but also delivery systems, to such levels that do not find any historical counterpart since the start of cold war. In 2018, both countries successfully met the central limits under the treaty and continue to staunchly implement the agreed provisions. New START is set to be expired in 2021 unless extended further. New START limits the number of deployed strategic warheads at 1,550 and deployed ICBMs, SLBMs and Bombers at 700.
Marking the eighth anniversary of the treaty entering into force, its extension is under clouds as President Trump dubbed New START, like all other bi and multi-lateral treaties and agreements, a “bad deal” that only favors Russia. Trump’s statement implies that white house likely to be unwilling to allow the extension of five years. It appears that no nuclear related treaties and agreements are pleasant and favourable enough to be retained by Trump administration. President Trump has already withdrawn from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. President Trump has also announced an impending withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.
International community after massive input and decade’s long struggle created the barriers to nuclear proliferation. The way US is walking away from nuclear agreements is enervating the barrier to both horizontal (more countries acquiring nuclear weapons) and vertical proliferation (countries with nuclear weapons acquiring more). The breakdown of nuclear treaties signed between the United States and Russia could indisputably open the new avenues for a new arms race. New arms race would not only be destabilizing for their economy but equally detrimental to the international security and the security of entire world.
Maintenance of New START is necessary because of multiple factors. Like many other treaties, this treaty also opens channels of communication and allow for transparency on both sides. Besides, both countries maintain 92% of the global nuclear stockpile and this treaty is extraordinary development to significantly reduce the strategic deployed nuclear arsenals of both states.It is also significant to mention that the limits set forth in the treaty allow the United States and Russia to maintain reliable deterrence required at strategic, operational and tactical levels. There is no need to build more nuclear weapons.
President Trump’s bellicose approach and distaste for international agreements that serve to stability of world has made the world less stable. By not extending New START, the two countries would revert back to arms build-up with Cold War thinking. Allied countries would ultimately be embroiled in this race because they would be sought for land and bases for nuclear installation in pursuit of deterrence. Moreover, nuclear miscalculation in absence of any treaty and agreement can lead to horrific catastrophe impinging upon entire world. It is also noteworthy that the chief point of agreements like New START is to foster a sense of stability and collaboration between the two largest nuclear powers. If the Cold War arms race did not result in nuclear annihilation, it does not mean the result would be same in 21st century.
New START should also be preserved because long-standing arms control agreement known as INF Treaty is falling apart. After taking out INF Treaty, New START is the last bilateral arms control treaty which is effectively constraining U.S. and Russian nuclear forces. Such treaties and agreements ensure the restrains in adverse environment and prevent humanity from going to the brink of destruction. There is no rationale to not to extend New START since this extension serves the national interests of Russia and the United States as reassert by a number of civilian experts and military leaders. Therefore, extension is imperative and paramount to maintaining stability and predictability.
*Baber Ali Bhatti, Islamabad based Lawyer and Analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com. He tweets @alibaberali
(RFE/RL) — Pakistan has urged Iran to take action against terrorist groups believed to be behind the killing of 14 soldiers earlier this week.
“We hope that Iran will take visible action,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said during an April 20 press conference.
Qureshi said 15 gunmen wearing military uniforms ambushed a bus in
southwestern Balochistan Province on April 18, killing 14 Pakistani Army
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a letter to the Iranian
government that the assailants came from an alliance of three Baluch
terrorist organizations based in Iran.
The announcement came a day before Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Iran.
Qureshi told reporters that the planned two-day visit, beginning on
April 21, was intact and that Khan would take up the matter with Iranian
Qureshi said he spoke to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad
Zarif, on April 20 to share the initial findings of a Pakistani probe
into the killing of security personnel with him.
There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.
Earlier this year, Iran called on Pakistan to take action against a
militant group behind a deadly attack on the Islamic Revolutionary
Guards Corps (IRGC).
Twenty-seven IRGC members were killed in the February suicide car bombing near the border with Pakistan.
The Sunni Muslim extremist group Jaish al-Adl claimed responsibility for the attack in southeastern Iran.
By Harald Schenker*
is now nearly two years since a nationalist mob stormed the Macedonian
parliament, the most despicable and destructive act of political
cowardice this country has seen in the almost two decades since it
narrowly avoided civil war in 2001.
That act in April 2017 changed
the country and put an irreversible end to the era of Nikola Gruevski
and his cronies. Or did it? Many of them have been amnestied and
continue to enjoy the perks of a large variety of companies and real
Ever since the moment civil society protests were taken
over by the now-governing Social Democrats in March 2015, it seemed that
history was being made on almost a daily basis.
With much support
from the European Union and some of its members, but also from the
United States, the country recovered from total state capture and
continues to stumble along the path of reform towards the end goal of EU
and NATO membership.
Meanwhile, the main problem blocking progress has been solved – ‘North Macedonia’ has become a reality. Or has it?
This Sunday will see the first round of presidential elections.
vote will put an end to the mandate of a president who has never, not
for a single moment in his ten years residing in the villa above the
city, allowed a hint of doubt that he was not the president of his
people, but of his benefactor, Gruevski.
It will put an end to the
mandate of a president of uninspired political manoeuvres, of obscure
convictions, of stubborn denial and of refusal – above all, a refusal to
acknowledge the country’s change of name and the new reality it
created: de-facto NATO membership, an open path towards the EU and a
serious blow to pro-Russian forces.
But total state capture is not something a society recovers from overnight.
The legacy of those who captured it is alive today, as is a collective Stockholm syndrome.
went recently to the opening of a film festival. The opening ceremony
naturally used the official name of the country – North Macedonia. One
could not miss the rolling of eyes, the collective frown at listening to
that name being spoken aloud. It was not the majority in the hall, but
still enough to be noticed.
Meanwhile, what will probably go down
in history as the least inspiring electoral campaign in a long time is
nearing its end. Apart from a heap of unrealistic promises, mainly
ignoring the fact that the president has nearly no executive power, one
thing remains a worry: the opposition’s promise to undo the name change.
is not worrying as a political promise, because nobody in their right
mind would go down that path – they know very well what the consequences
would be. Isolation has never been a good idea. The British Tory party
decomposing in public is a stark enough warning.
No, it is
worrying because it represents an attempt to keep people hostage to a
past that has been overcome, to an ideology of exclusivism which is at
the best atavistic, and to a policy that brought the country to the
brink of dictatorship.
Macedonia has still to enter the hearts and souls of its people, along
with the knowledge that identity is a very personal and fluid thing, one
that is permanently fabricated by a multitude of factors, among which
political manipulation cannot be allowed to dominate. But this is
another, long discussion.
The next president will have to be an
integrative figure, one that will attempt to mend the various rifts and
festering collective wounds.
It will have to be someone to restore
trust in the post, to fill it with new life, with new meaning. It will
have to be a president of all citizens, one that will make that very
clear – irrespective of ethnicity, social category, gender or any other
personal identity markers, like religion, sexual orientation, preference
for a sports team, knowledge and use of languages, preferred literature
or TV show, etc.
It will have to be a president to show the
ethnic Albanians that they belong, and to ask them to act accordingly.
It will have to be a president to lead, in concert with the prime
minister, a long and thorough reconciliation process.
There is not much else for the president of North Macedonia to do. And
it should be clear that the people are the first priority. Another
resident-in-hiding for the villa above the city would be a waste of time
and resources. Windmills are there to be fought.
But of course, the political parties are hostages of a self-created mess, too.
The 40-per cent threshold for the second round of the election to stand is a potential trap.
failure to organise a census, the failure to feed real information into
the databases used to create the voters register offer carte blanche to
both forgery and challenges to the result.
This lack of
responsibility needs to be owned by all political parties, as it
threatens to delegitimise the institution of the president even further.
the elections fail, they will most probably be followed by yet another
political crisis. Early parliamentary elections could be one of the
outcomes. Having in mind that the EU Council is supposed to decide about
the opening of accession negotiations with North Macedonia in June, the
need to avoid another crisis is self-evident.
I started with the
attack on parliament. Now, two years on, those events seem distant and
almost unreal, and a general sense of apathy has conquered the public
space. The presidential election campaign has not managed to change
that. Some say it even contributed.
I wonder if the president
emerging from this election will be the one to inspire the people, to go
out and tell them that democracy is a battle fought every day, that the
bad guys win if citizens don’t fight that battle.
One need only
glance at the state of the cities and their public infrastructure, at
the disastrous state of so many national heritage sites and at the
construction mafia acting nearly unchecked to get the feeling that it is
very nearly five to midnight.
*Harald Schenker is a freelance consultant and political analyst
The opinions expressed in the Comment section are those of the authors only and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.
By Jon Lerner*
To most Americans, there is a certain sameness to their country’s
role at the United Nations, and this role is not an especially pleasant
one. While many U.S. ambassadors have served ably, few have won public
acclaim beyond diplomatic circles. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Jeane
Kirkpatrick clearly did. Many would add to that distinguished short list
Ambassador Nikki Haley, who recently ended her two-year UN tenure.
Haley’s time was marked by several achievements, from North Korea
sanctions, to the South Sudan arms embargo, to financial savings and
reforms. But she was probably best known for her record on Israel. In
fact, Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, went as far as saying, “With
Nikki Haley’s appointment as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, a
new era was born.”
Was a new era really born? If so, what was new about it? And how did
it happen that the former South Carolina governor who had never been to
either Israel or the United Nations before accepting this diplomatic
assignment would come to earn this reputation as a pathbreaker, a
reputation now widely endorsed by both friends and enemies of Israel? I
have thoughts on these questions, having served as Haley’s deputy and as
a member of the National Security Council’s Deputies Committee. I
worked closely with her on policy-making throughout her time at the UN,
including on the Middle East and Israel–Palestinian issues.
Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction
that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows us to
sustain our relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can
create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump
administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that
many had come to take for granted and, in some cases, to refute them.
Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice
to reject myths that pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues
Four factors account for Haley’s extraordinary performance.
First, she served a president for whom pro-Israel positions came
naturally. President Donald Trump supported everything Haley did at the
UN. Had he not, she would not have been able to do to it.
Second, Trump does not micromanage people he trusts. Trump and Haley
got along quite well. They spoke frequently and he valued her counsel.
On no Israeli issue did he ever stand in her way.
Third, like Jeane Kirkpatrick in the 1980s, but unlike UN
ambassadors in Republican administrations since then, Haley was a member
of the president’s Cabinet and National Security Council. This status
gave her greater standing with her UN colleagues in New York. She was a
policymaker, not just a messenger. She had a greater ability than many
of her predecessors to push things through the bureaucracy in both New
York and Washington, which she did frequently.
And fourth, Haley decided early in her tenure that American
interests at the UN, and American principles more broadly, required
steadfast support for Israel. Indeed, she came to this conclusion before her January 24, 2017, Senate confirmation.
Donald Trump had campaigned for president as an outspoken critic of
the Iran nuclear deal and other aspects of President Obama’s Middle East
policies. Then, in the period between the election and inauguration, a
pivotal event occurred that crucially shaped thinking about the Middle
East in the minds of Haley and the wider Trump foreign-policy team.
On December 23, 2016, the United Nations Security Council approved
Resolution 2334. The resolution not only denounced Israeli settlement
activity, but it went much further. It condemned Israeli activity in all
territories acquired in the 1967 war. That included the Jewish quarter
of Jerusalem’s Old City—home to the holiest site in Judaism. It’s an
area that no Israeli leader would ever negotiate away.
Similar efforts had been made at the UN many times in the past
without success. But this was the first resolution of any kind regarding
Israel to pass in the Security Council since 2009, and the first
approved resolution on Israeli settlements since 1980. Resolution 2334
passed because the United States broke with its own long-standing
practice of vetoing resolutions that unfairly attack Israel. Officially,
the U.S. abstained. In fact, the Obama administration orchestrated the
resolution’s passage by pledging privately that it would not veto.
There were two major problems with Resolution 2334. First, America
had betrayed its close ally in the very forum in which Israel is most
diplomatically vulnerable—a forum that has witnessed notorious
anti-Semitic scenes in the past. And second, the resolution sent exactly
the wrong message to Palestinian leaders. Namely, that they don’t have
to negotiate peace with Israel and can nevertheless count on using
international forums to validate their most far-reaching aims, including
President-elect Trump and his team were quick to denounce the
resolution. At her Senate confirmation hearing just four weeks later,
Haley proclaimed, “Last month’s passage of UN Resolution 2334 was a
terrible mistake, making a peace agreement between the Israelis and the
Palestinians harder to achieve.” She went on: “The mistake was
compounded by the location in which it took place, in light of the UN’s
long history of anti-Israel bias. I will not go to New York and abstain
when the UN seeks to create an international environment that encourages
boycotts of Israel. In fact, I pledge to you this: I will never abstain
when the United Nations takes any action that comes in direct conflict
with the interests and values of the United States.”
History is filled with examples of actions that produce the exact
opposite of what was intended. Resolution 2334 belongs on that list.
Palestinian leaders hailed its adoption. But it proved a pyrrhic victory
for them, for it created a fierce backlash that set back many other
Haley viewed passage of 2334 as a betrayal of American values and
interests. She understood that the Security Council would not repeal it,
but she was determined to do what she could to undo the damage. It was
with that understanding that she walked into the United Nations three
days after her confirmation and at her first encounter with reporters
said, “It’s a new day for the United States at the UN. We will have the
backs of our allies, and we will make sure our allies have our back as
Haley’s first test came unexpectedly. This was the curious case of
Salam Fayyad. In her first week on the job, it came to our attention
that the UN secretary general intended to appoint Fayyad, the former
Palestinian Authority prime minister, as UN special envoy to Libya. This
appointment made some sense. Fayyad was well respected in the Arab
world and the West. Libya was a mess, and the talented Fayyad might be
able to help.
Coming close on the heels of passage of Resolution 2334, however, we
saw two difficulties with the appointment. First, when such
appointments are made at the UN, the appointee’s country is listed
alongside his name. Fayyad was listed as representing the “State of
Palestine.” But the United States recognizes no such state, and the
“State of Palestine” is not a member of the United Nations. We did not
want to casually accept this recognition of a mythical state. Second, in
Israel’s 70 years as a bona fide UN member state, no Israeli citizen
has ever received an appointment to a UN position of this kind.
Such appointments require the unanimous backing of the Security
Council members, and we were informed that the other 14 countries did
not object and that an American decision was required immediately.
Previous U.S. administrations of both political parties would likely
have allowed the Fayyad appointment to happen. The question for us was
just how far we were willing to take our new commitment to fighting the
UN’s anti-Israel bias.
In those first days of the new administration, the secretary of
state had not even been confirmed. Haley phoned President Trump aboard
Air Force One and explained the situation. The president asked, “What do
you think?” Haley said she thought we should object. The president
replied, “Good, do it.” And that was that.
The Fayyad rejection met with considerable criticism. Some of this
was thoughtful; Bush-administration veterans who had worked well with
Fayyad, for example, vouched for his capabilities and wondered what the
Trump team was thinking. Some of the criticism was hyperbolic; one
Democratic congressman accused Haley of ethnic bias against
The Israeli government played no role whatsoever in this decision.
The Israelis were not consulted. In fact, they were taken by surprise. I
assume they believed that the Trump administration was not going to
intervene, and they probably had no major objection to a reasonable
Palestinian leader working on behalf of peace in Libya. After the
decision was announced, however, the Israelis complimented it. Prime
Minister Netanyahu said, “The time has come for parity in the attitude
toward Israel, and that the Palestinian side can’t be given freebies all
One got the sense that the Israelis had begun to figure out that
this might in fact be the new day at the UN that Haley had announced.
The UN secretary general and the other Security Council members very
much got that message.
On a personal level, Salam Fayyad was a victim of being in the wrong
place at the wrong time. On a policy level, the word went out that in
the matter of UN appointments, the U.S. would not allow Palestinians to
be treated better than Israelis.
One of the first large policy areas we confronted was the question
of whether to continue U.S. participation in the United Nations Human
Rights Council. The Human Rights Council (HRC)
had long been hostile to Israel and was a badly flawed human-rights
institution more broadly. An organization whose membership included
China, Cuba, Venezuela, and other of the world’s most oppressive regimes
could hardly be counted on as a human-rights advocate. If its only flaw
was ineffectiveness, the HRC would not have
been so objectionable. But it was much worse. The world’s bad actors
would take advantage of the council’s “human rights” imprimatur to press
their own political agendas. Those agendas included protecting
themselves from criticism and scapegoating Israel. From 2006 to 2016,
the HRC condemned China zero times, Iran six times, North Korea nine times, and Israel 68 times.
In 2006, the Bush administration declined to seek another U.S. term
on the council. The Obama administration reversed course, and the U.S.
rejoined the council in 2009. When the Trump administration came to
office, the U.S. was in the middle of its term. No country had ever
resigned from its seat on the HRC. The question was whether we should.
At the top levels of the administration, there was no disagreement that the HRC was a disaster. However, withdrawal from the HRC was more complicated than our earlier withdrawal from another notoriously anti-Israel UN body, UNESCO. At Haley’s urging, shortly after UNESCO
declared the Jewish holy site in the old city of Hebron as a
Palestinian World Heritage Site in need of protection from Israel, the
U.S. announced it would withdraw from the organization. Again, as with
Salam Fayyad, we did not coordinate in advance with the Israelis. We
left UNESCO not at Israel’s behest but based on our own judgment that UNESCO damaged U.S. interests. Israel then joined us on the way out the door.
The HRC was a different case for two
reasons. First, from its earliest days, the Trump administration was
criticized by political opponents for caring little about human rights.
An abrupt retreat from the United Nations Human Rights Council would
have been interpreted by many as confirmation of this criticism. Second,
we had heard from several pro-human-rights countries that they were
keen to try to reform the HRC to make it
harder for outlaw regimes to gain membership and to stamp out the
anti-Israel bias. Haley was convinced that was an objective worth
pursuing, and she took it on with a passion.
What ensued was a serious effort to save the Human Rights Council
from itself. At the end of a strenuous year-long campaign, we ended up
where we suspected we would, though we had hoped to avoid it: The U.S.
withdrew. The reform effort, however, demonstrated that the
administration made a good-faith attempt to fix the UN’s main
human-rights organ. It also demonstrated why the world’s free countries
have such difficulty advancing their principles in multilateral
institutions that depend on unfree countries’ support.
Here’s how it happened: In June 2017, we went to HRC
headquarters in Geneva and met with ambassadors from “like-minded”
countries—mostly Europeans, with a smattering from Latin America,
Africa, and Asia. They were in full agreement that we should keep
dictatorships off the council, and they were embarrassed by the
council’s disproportionate focus on Israel. But in the typical UN way,
they sought only incremental changes. We had no interest in that.
On that trip to Geneva, Haley gave a speech in which she named the
two conditions for continued U.S. participation. One was membership
reform to keep extreme human-rights abusers off the council. The other
was elimination of Agenda Item Seven, which was solely dedicated to
Israel. No other country had an agenda item dedicated to it, and its
existence showed precisely what was wrong with the council. We would not
remain unless Agenda Item Seven was removed.
For a full year, the U.S. Mission to the UN held dozens of meetings
to gain support for our reforms. President Trump championed it in his
2017 UN General Assembly speech. Vice President Mike Pence led a
multilateral meeting on it at the UN. But all to no avail. Russia and
China actively opposed our efforts, as expected. The Europeans were the
bigger disappointment. They talked a big game but were never willing to
expend capital to achieve serious changes, despite their strong
preference that the U.S. stay on the council.
We could have accepted the status quo at the HRC—many made the
argument that the U.S. would gain more by staying engaged than
withdrawing. We could have accepted cosmetic changes and claimed a
victory. We could have completed our term and not run for a new term.
But that’s not what we were there to do.
For Haley, this was a matter of accountability. She had been
transparent about her goals, and she tried very hard to fix the Human
Rights Council. When it became clear that it was irredeemably biased
against Israel and impervious to reforming its own membership rules, she
concluded that it was time to leave. Haley understood that American
participation in international forums is not something that’s taken
lightly by the rest of the world. Our willingness to participate can be a
major source of leverage because it’s important to other countries.
As Haley said upon the U.S. withdrawal, “Many of these [Western]
countries argued that the United States should stay on the Human Rights
Council because American participation is the last shred of credibility
that the council has. But that is precisely why we must leave. If the
Human Rights Council is going to attack countries that uphold human
rights and shield countries that abuse human rights, then America should
not provide it with any credibility.”
The Human Rights Council is mostly symbolic. But another matter that
consumed much time and effort had more practical consequences. That was
our treatment of the UN agency devoted to providing social services to
Palestinian refugees, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for
Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA.
Many have long raised serious concerns about UNRWA. Instead of helping integrate children into communities—thus ending their refugee status—UNRWA uses a unique definition of refugee
in order to perpetually increase the Palestinians’ supposed refugee
population. It extends refugee status to descendants of refugees,
regardless of their circumstances, including having citizenship in
another country. This encourages multigenerational dependency on
international generosity. UNRWA perpetuates
the Palestinians’ mythical “right of return,” implementation of which
would extinguish Israel as a Jewish-majority state. Additionally, in
Gaza, Hamas terrorists have shielded their activities inside and
underneath UNRWA facilities.
At the same time, UNRWA does provide
education and health-care services to hundreds of thousands of children
in desperate conditions. And unlike the Human Rights Council, where our
commitment vacillated from one administration to the next, the U.S. had
been UNRWA’s chief financial backer for decades. UNRWA
also had strong defenders within the national-security bureaucracy.
When the Trump administration entered office, this bipartisan and
bureaucratic support for UNRWA made far-reaching changes in our approach seem unlikely.
In June 2017, Haley and I visited the Aida Palestinian refugee camp
just north of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The circumstances of the
children in this and other camps is truly moving. They deserve a good
education and a good future just the same as any other children. The
question was whether UNRWA, absent major structural reforms, could deliver it.
Events that followed made the Trump administration’s support for UNRWA less tenable.
UNRWA’s leadership and its international backers showed themselves resistant to reforms. I met several times with UNRWA
Commissioner General Pierre Krahenbuhl. A pleasant Swiss diplomat,
Krahenbuhl fulfilled his duty to hear the concerns of his agency’s
number-one financial supporter. But he heard them with incredulity. He
couldn’t fathom what we were asking of him, and we were unsatisfied with
his unbending responses.
One conversation in particular encapsulated the impossibility of the
relationship. In my State Department office, I directed Krahenbuhl’s
attention to the Hamas terrorist tunnels that had been discovered
several times in recent years underneath UNRWA
school facilities in Gaza. These discoveries always happened by
accident, for example, when structural repair work was going on at a
school and workers dug into a tunnel. In each case, UNRWA
officials denounced this illegal misuse of UN facilities and destroyed
the tunnel, claiming this as proof that they really opposed Hamas’s
Experts in the U.S. oil and gas industry had told me that it would
be fairly easy and inexpensive to use geological equipment to detect
these tunnels from the ground surface. So I asked Commissioner
Krahenbuhl: If the U.S. gave this equipment to UNRWA, would he use it to expose terrorist exploitation of UNRWA facilities? His answer was “no.”
Krahenbuhl claimed that such a detection effort would be too provocative and would involve UNRWA,
a social-service provider, too deeply in political and possibly
military matters. He further noted UNRWA’s long-standing position that
it must accommodate itself to the host government wherever it operates.
In Gaza, that’s Hamas. In Syria, it’s a regime run by a major war
criminal. In Lebanon, the host government is under the powerful
influence of Hezbollah terrorists. If resisting the hijacking of UNRWA
facilities and standing up to exploitation by extremely bad actors were
inconsistent with UNRWA’s mandate or practice, then there was real
doubt that the Trump administration could continue to endlessly bankroll
The other big factor that led to the U.S.–UNRWA breach was the
administration’s general attitude toward foreign aid. President Trump
had long been skeptical of aspects of the U.S. foreign-aid program. The
UN response to his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital
intensified his skepticism about UN-managed foreign aid.
On December 21, 2017, 15 days after the Jerusalem embassy decision,
the UN General Assembly voted 128–9 to condemn the president’s action.
Notably, 56 countries either abstained or chose to be absent. Before the
vote, Haley expressed the administration’s unhappiness with the UN’s
treatment of the U.S., warning, “At the UN we’re always asked to do more
and give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American
people, about where to locate our embassy, we don’t expect those we’ve
helped to target us. On Thursday, there’ll be a vote criticizing our
choice. The U.S. will be taking names.”
After the vote, she did more than take names. Our staff at the U.S.
Mission in New York compiled the data on how often countries voted with
us at the UN and compared that with how much foreign aid we sent to each
of them. The disparity is remarkable. Just one of dozens of examples:
South Africa receives half a billion dollars in U.S. aid annually but
votes with us on key issues at the UN just 18 percent of the time. Haley
brought this report to President Trump. He was outraged and determined
to change our foreign-aid policy.
In this context, aid to the Palestinians came squarely into the
crosshairs. There were few actors in the world with a grosser disparity
between the size of American financial assistance they received and the
extreme degree to which they rhetorically or otherwise opposed American
policies. In this period, the Palestinian Authority was refusing even to
speak or meet with any administration representative, yet between UNRWA and direct aid, we were sending them well over half a billion dollars.
Furthermore, the U.S. provided far more support to UNRWA
than did other countries. Since UNRWA’s founding, the U.S. had donated
$6 billion—vastly more than any other country. By 2017, we were giving UNRWA
close to $400 million annually. Compare that with these amounts: Russia
$0; China $300,000; Qatar $1 million; Turkey $1.5 million; Kuwait $5
million; France $15 million; UAE $17 million;
United Kingdom $73 million; Saudi Arabia $148 million. The U.S.
contribution was more than double that of the next largest donor and
dwarfed that of wealthy countries that speak loudly of their solidarity
with the Palestinian cause.
Despite this disparity, UNRWA still had
strong defenders in the U.S. national-security bureaucracy. Many argued
that this was as much of a security issue as a humanitarian one. Without
U.S. support, the argument went, UNRWA schools would close and Palestinian youths would choose to become terrorists. Some Israeli officials shared that view.
In interagency debates, Haley argued that UNRWA
officials routinely threatened school closings to protect its funding
and avoid having to make hard budget or policy choices. We believed that
if the U.S. cut funding, other countries would fill the financial gap.
If not, the pressure to change would be beneficial. Further U.S. funding
for UNRWA was frozen, pending the outcome of this debate within the administration.
As the debate proceeded, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the chief proponent of continued UNRWA
support, made his own decision. As he had the power to do, he
unilaterally authorized a $60 million U.S. donation to UNRWA—half the
amount that had been previously pledged. The Washington Post headline on
January 16, 2018, declared “Tillerson prevails over Haley in
Palestinian funding debate.” UNRWA defenders in our government felt they’d won a victory. In fact, they had sealed the fate of their position.
In the Palestinian territories, the reaction on the ground to this
U.S. “cut” was violent protest. How dare the Americans provide “only”
$60 million? It was apparently lost on the protestors that, at the time,
our $60 million still made the U.S. the single largest UNRWA donor so far that year. UNRWA staff members joined these protests, and pro-UNRWA advocacy organizations blamed the U.S. “cut” for Hamas-orchestrated violence in Gaza.
I phoned Commissioner Krahenbuhl and explained that such ingratitude
toward his largest donor was jeopardizing further U.S. funding. He said
he understood but was unable or unwilling to change course.
On August 31, 2018, the State Department announced the end of U.S. funding of UNRWA. In the end, not a single UNRWA
school closed for a single day, and other countries did fill the
financial gap left by the U.S. withdrawal. That was bad news and good
news. It was bad that UNRWA was not subjected
to enough pressure to reform. But it was good that the U.S. was no
longer financing the agency, and that we had tested and disproven the
long-standing contention that an American-aid cut would create a
humanitarian or security crisis.
Challenging long-held but false beliefs was also the result of the
administration’s biggest move in Israel–Palestinian affairs in its first
two years in office: the aforementioned recognition of Jerusalem as
Israel’s capital. The decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to
Jerusalem was controversial, inside the Trump National Security
Council, as well as around the world.
The internal debate was reminiscent of the drama surrounding
President Truman’s recognition of Israel’s statehood in 1948. Back then,
the State and Defense Departments, and our intelligence agencies,
opposed recognizing Israeli independence, primarily out of concern about
hostile reaction in the Arab world. Now, in 2017, the same departments
and agencies made the same case using the same arguments against
recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
While President Truman was largely alone in his view, President
Trump had supportive team members in Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, and
Ambassador David Friedman. They pushed back effectively against the
arguments of State, Defense, and the intelligence agencies. Trump heard
both sides and made his decision.
For decades, U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that
recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent
explosions throughout the Muslim world. Trump and key colleagues doubted
this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the
Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none
elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries.
In international relations, challenging longstanding beliefs often
frightens those who embrace conventional wisdom. This embrace makes such
beliefs conventional, but it does not always make them wise.
In her speeches, votes, and actions at the UN and in Washington,
Nikki Haley helped usher in a new era in U.S. policy toward the
Arab–Israeli conflict. She upheld the prediction she made after her
first UN Security Council meeting on the Middle East: “I am here to say
the United States will not turn a blind eye to this anymore. I am here
to emphasize that the United States is determined to stand up to the
UN’s anti-Israel bias.”
It’s a new era because Haley challenged and disproved some important basic assumptions about Middle East policy. It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests such as opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows such as UNRWA. Even if future U.S. administrations revert back to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproven. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.
*About the author: Jon Lerner is a senior fellow at Hudson Institute where he pursues policy studies in U.S. foreign policy.
Source: This article was published by the Hudson Institute
By S. Chandrasekharan
The UWSA is perhaps the biggest Non State Ethnic Insurgent Unit in
Myanmar with over 30,000 soldiers and another 10,000 Auxiliary members.
The UWSA was formed after the collapse of Communist Party of Burma in
the year 1989 and celebrated “30 years of Cease fire” with the Myanmar
government. The festivities lasted for three days starting from the 17th of April.
Invitees to the show included the Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing and the
State Counsellor Suu Kyi who both declined to attend. The latter
however sent a message asking the Wa group to join the National
Cease-fire Agreement (NCA) which is just a “threshold to pass on the way
to a democratic Federal Union that grants equality and
self-determination for all ethnic people.”
Suu Kyi’s appeal appeared to be sincere but why should Wa relent when it is already enjoying a de facto
confederal status? That too with the full backing of China that has
trained and supplied UWSA in a region where Chinese is the main spoken
language and the currency used is Yuan? (The bill board at the venue
showed all the three languages- local dialect written in English script,
Burmese and Chinese!
Invitations had also been sent to former President Gen. Thein Sein,
Retired Senior Army General Than Shwe. Of particular interest is the
invitation to former General (evil) Khin Nyunt. Khin Nyunt who
incidentally is of Chinese origin was the one who brokered the cease
fire agreement with the Wa Group and had strongly recommended that the
Wa region should be made a State. Wa has still remained as a special
administrative region since 2008. Khin Nyunt did not attend the function
but sent a congratulatory message.
The was a parade of over 7600 troops of UWSA (Unite Wa State Army) of
various wings and AFP reported that it had armoured cars and a special
“sniper unit” also. It was expected that UWSA would show case its
armoury of new weapons manufactured by them and also supplied by China
that included Light and Heavy Machine Guns, RPGs, Mortars, Recoilless
Rifles, FN-6 Portable Air Defence Systems, anti-tank missiles, artillery
-105 mm guns and surface to surface Missiles. There are reports that
the Wa group has helicopters too to transport troops. This was not so.
Two reasons were given as to why the UWSA did not showcase its
weapons. First- it was said to be the embarrassment that would be
caused to the Myanmar Military Representatives who attend the function
and two- the Myanmar Army would also come to know the type of weapons
the Wa group is holding.
While we can dismiss the second reasoning outright as I am sure the
Myanmar intelligence which should not be under rated would be fully
aware of the arsenal held by the Wa group. The only reason could be
that it would have embarrassed China whose representatives including
Special Envoy, Sun Guoxiang would be present in the parade and most
likely China would have advised against it. There was a talk that that
the top Chinese functionary Song Tao, Head of the International Liaison
Department of Central Committee of the CPC will be present- but it is
not clear whether he was there for the function.
The Wa Chief, Bao Youxiang reviewed the troops (in Chinese style) in
an open jeep but he made sure to declare in his speech that Wa is an
inalienable part of Union of Myanmar and solemnly promised not to split
or seek independence. But other points raised by him who is also the
Chief of the party, the executive and head of the military were
belligerent enough for the Myanmar Army and the Government to take
notice of. This included
To the credit of Wa there has been not a single incident of
violation of cease fire since the signing of the agreement despite
being heavily armed and with an overwhelming presence in the entire
region. That shows the control the Chinese have that despite having
provided with the most sophisticated weapons China has not allowed them
to cross the red line. This has resulted in an economic boom in the Wa
region and it is said that their headquarters at Pangshang matches the
development seen on the other side in China! Add to this boom is the
trade in drugs which the Wa is known to be indulging in though denied
officially. Wa supplies weapons to other ethnic armed units in Myanmar
and thus have some leverage over them. It has also made bold to create a
separate group known as FPNCC (Federal Public and Negotiation and
Consultative Committee seeking a different narrative to the Government
sponsored National Cease fire agreement.
The question that arises is- If the Wa region -a barren one, can cash
in on an uninterrupted peace and stability to showcase its economic
development, should this not be a model for other ethnic insurgent
outfits to emulate it and seek peace and stability for economic
development? Not that the ethnic armed organisations are unwilling but
it is the Myanmar Army which for its own selfish reasons continue with
the conflict as is seen in the Kachin area and now in the Arakan area.
In all, the celebrations of the UWSA for three days and the presence
of a large number of Chinese officials indicate that it was not a
display of the power of UWSA but that of China and the enormous
influence and power China holds in Myanmar.
Incidentally, the Arakan Army Chief Tun Myat Naing was present in the
celebrations as an invitee and it is said that one of the Chinese
officials told him not to start a new offensive to which he called upon
China to negotiate for both sides! In the absence of any initiative from
India, one should not be surprised if China takes the lead in the
western side of Myanmar too.
Mali’s prime minister and his government has stepped down four weeks after militants stormed a village in central Mali and killed more than 150 people.
Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga submitted his resignation to the President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Thursday.
“The president accepts the resignation of the prime minister and that
of the members of government,” a statement from Boubacar Keita’s office
It was noted that a new prime minister will be appointed and a new
government will be established “very soon” following consultations with
the government and opposition, the statement added.
On March 23, militants had stormed the village of Egossagou, leaving at least 161 people dead and many houses burnt.
Tensions erupted in Mali in 2012 following a failed coup and a
Touareg rebellion that ultimately allowed al-Qaeda-linked militant
groups to take control of the northern half of the country.
In 2015, a peace deal was signed between the government and some insurgent groups.
Political and community disputes continue to fuel tensions in northern Mali, thus undermining implementation of the peace agreement.
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) scientists have developed a sustainable way to demonstrate a new genetic modification that can increase the yield of natural oil in seeds by up to 15 percent in laboratory conditions.
The new method can be applied to crops such as canola, soybean and
sunflower, which are in a multi-billion dollar industry that continues
to see increasing global demand.
The research team led by Assistant Professor Wei Ma from NTU’s
School of Biological Sciences genetically modified a key protein in
plants which regulates the amount of oil they produce. This results in
larger oil reserves in the seed that primarily serves as an energy
source for germination.
The team’s patent-pending method involves modifying the key protein
known as “Wrinkled1” or “WRI1”, which regulates plants’ oil production.
After modification, the seeds have a wrinkled appearance, which is the
basis for its scientific codename.
In the lab, these modified seeds have successfully displayed seed oil increase that is able to produce up to 15 percent more natural oils. The research findings were published in the scientific journal Plant Signaling & Behavior.
“Plant seed oil is an essential component in our daily diet and the
agricultural industry is seeking ways to maximise plants’ yield while
reducing environmental effects of crop cultivation, especially land use.
Our research helps to increase the production of seed oil in a
sustainable and cost-effective way, and it also opens up new doors in
agriculture research,” said Asst Prof Ma.
The ability to increase oil yield in a sustainable manner is
expected to result in higher economic gain. Past research has shown
that a small 1.5 per cent increase in oil yield (by dry weight) in
soybean seeds equates to a jump of US$ 1.26 billion in the United States
The increased yield in seed oil would also benefit the production of
biofuel, which is a form of clean fuel produced from organic sources,
such as vegetable oils.
Biofuel is being used in various applications, including powering
machines in protected forests to reduce fossil fuel contamination and
fuelling long-distant transportation by automobiles, ships, and
“Global demand for vegetable oil is increasing very rapidly, and it
is estimated to double by 2030. In addition, research is also ramping up
in the use of biofuels in various applications, which can provide a
cleaner and more sustainable source of fuel than petroleum. Increasing
oil production of key crops such as soybean, sunflower, and canola is
thus essential for a more sustainable and greener future,” said Asst
He is currently exploring industrial collaboration to commercialise and further develop the technology.
The NTU team is also studying other ways to maximise plants’ oil
reserves, for example, using other plant parts such as stems, for oil
Previous research efforts to improve seed oil yield involved
increasing the number of the WRI1 protein – known as overexpression –
but this did not succeed in increasing the oil yield stably and
Asst Prof Ma used the Arabidopsis plant – a small flowering
plant related to cabbage and mustard. It contains all the
characteristics of crops such as sunflower, canola and soybean, which
serves as an ideal model plant for research.
He and the NTU research team developed a patent-pending method that
stabilises the key WRI1 protein which also improves its ability to
interact with other proteins. This enhances its effectiveness in
producing natural oils and the method can be easily done on other crops.
This also encourages a more sustainable way for industries to produce
natural oils instead of simply increasing the amount of land used for
Dr. Bo Shen, a Senior Manager at DuPont Pioneer, a US-based
international producer of hybrid seeds for agriculture who is not
involved in the NTU team’s research said, “Vegetable oil is an important
renewable resource for biodiesel production and for dietary consumption
by humans and livestock. The total production of vegetable oil
worldwide reached about 185 million tons in 2017. Wrinkled1 (WRI1) is a
ubiquitous regulator controlling oil biosynthesis in maize, soybean,
canola, and palm. With increasing demand for vegetable oil, Asst Prof
Wei Ma’s research on WRI1 can have global importance. A better
understanding of how WRI1 regulates oil biosynthesis could inform how we
breed plants that produce more oil.”
Providing another independent view, Dr. Eric Moellering, a Senior
Scientist from Synthetic Genomics, a California company focusing on
synthetic biology, said, “Asst Prof Ma’s research on the plant
transcriptional factor WRI1 has greatly advanced our understanding of
how seed oil biosynthesis is regulated. While the WRI1 gene has been
known for some time, Asst Prof Ma’s research has revealed key insight
into the structural features of the WRI1 protein that are critical for
its function, WRI1 interactions with other regulatory proteins, and the
role of WRI1 in processes outside of seed oil regulation.
“These discoveries will undoubtedly contribute to the optimisation
of seed oil yield in a variety of crops. As such, Asst Prof Ma’s
research is helping to address some of the major 21st century challenges
we face in feeding a growing global population and developing renewable
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, held talks on a host of issues, including the latest efforts to combat terrorism in the Middle East region.
During a telephone conversation on Saturday, Zarif once again
condemned a recent terrorist attack against Pakistani security forces in
a remote area of the southwestern province of Balochistan and expressed
his condolences to the people and government of the country.
two top diplomats also exchanged views about the most important issues
surrounding bilateral relations between Tehran and Islamabad and the two
countries’ cooperation to combat terrorism.
In a post on his
Twitter account on Friday, Zarif had condemned the terrorist attack in
Balochistan which occurred ahead of the first and historic visit by
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to Iran.
“Terrorists, extremists & their sponsors are terrified by close relations between Muslim states,” Zarif said.
assailants on Thursday shot dead at least 14 Pakistani Navy personnel
after pulling them from several passenger buses on the Makran coastal
highway between Karachi and the Gwadar port in Balochistan.