Showing posts with label International Politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International Politics. Show all posts

March 31, 2015

Do You Think the Us is LiberaL? Not by a long shot ! How About UK Politics?


Why the UK ? Because they are the most similar to us and are the closet and longest ally we had through the last 100 years. They are closest to us even when you take our nearest ally the Canadians. They are much too conservative in comparison and have not had the same impact for better or worse to us than the British have had. Now You will be surprised about UK politics because most people think they are the ‘stiff upper lip’ more conservative than us. Read on and learn or review your knowledge of a people that are clearly our parents as nations go. True we grew up and married outside of the family but blood is thicker than water as families go even family of nations.

                                                                        

The U.K. general election campaign, which kicks off in earnest Monday, will focus on many issues, especially the ones that voters say are most important. But beneath how the parties propose to address them are several long-standing political disagreements that fit into three broad categories: left-right politics, U.K. national politics and European Union membership politics.
Some of these will matter to voters more than others, but they all inform how and where the parties will campaign. They’ll also shape which parties might be willing to work together and what kinds of bargains will be struck after an election that appears highly unlikely to give any single party a governing majority.
This election is difficult to forecast, though we’re going to try with our general election predictions on FiveThirtyEight. Understanding these three dimensions of political conflict can help put the numbers in context.
                                                                           

Left-right politics

If you are watching from the U.S., keep in mind that the U.K. political system’s center of gravity is substantially to the left of yours. The political positions espoused by the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats would both fall within those of the Democratic Party in the U.S. And while the Conservatives may seem more aligned with U.S. Republicans, they’re substantially to the left on issues like same-sex marriage, how health care should be provided, and what rates of taxation are appropriate.
Disagreements about the scope of government underlie the classic divide between the Conservatives and the Labour Party on most issues, including taxation, benefits, pensions, education and health care provision. These issues will be very much at the center of the campaign, not least because the Conservatives and Labour will be doing their best to remind voters that they have traditionally voted for one of those two parties because of their stances on them:
  • On taxes, Labour wants to increase the top tax rate to 50 percent, where it was before the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government reduced it to 45 percent in 2012. The Liberal Democrats themselves agree that the rate should return to 50 percent.
  • On education, the Conservatives are proposing to create more “free schools” (charter schools in U.S. terminology), but the kind of voucher program popular among Republicans in the U.S. would be a political nonstarter here.
  • On health care, no one challenges the basic premise that it should be free and universal, but there are differences on exactly how to administer the National Health Service. Indeed, Labour recently attacked Conservative budget cuts just by saying those cuts might at some point in the future require some charges for health services, a claim that Conservatives deny.

U.K. national politics

The U.K. is far more politically centralized than the United States. Parliament in Westminster has the power to legislate on all issues or to devolve (or grant) powers to lower-level governments as it sees fit. Some powers are devolved to local governments (councils) across the U.K., but the House of Commons could rescind these powers at any time if it chose to do so. In the past two decades, the Commons has also devolved powers to national assemblies in the non-English nations of the U.K.: Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland has an entirely separate party system from the rest of the U.K., divided along sectarian lines. None of the parties from the rest of the U.K. will have competitive candidates in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein, an Irish Republican party that advocates that Northern Ireland exit the U.K. and join the Republic of Ireland, abstains from taking up the (currently five) seats it wins in Westminster because its members refuse to take an oath of allegiance to the queen. Two of the other Irish parties, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP, currently eight seats) and the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP, currently three seats) could help form a government if one party is just short of a majority. These parties are likely to primarily push for financial support for Northern Ireland if they are in a position to negotiate with the major parties. The DUP is viewed as a more natural partner for the Conservatives and the SDLP for Labour, although the DUP could work with Labour as well. The DUP is primarily concerned with Unionism (Northern Ireland remaining in the U.K.) and consequently is more flexible in its alliances.
Scotland: Since a referendum in 1998, Scotland has had its own devolved parliament with power over all areas not explicitly reserved for Westminster, including agriculture, education, health and justice. The Scottish National Party (SNP) has led the Scottish government since 2007, winning a narrow electoral victory that year and a much larger victory in 2011. The SNP, which currently holds only six seats in the U.K. Parliament, appears poised to win many of the 59 Scottish seats in Westminster; that would mark the end of Labour Party dominance of Scottish politics going back to the time of Margaret Thatcher. If it finds itself in a position to negotiate with the major parties, the SNP will be pushing for additional devolved powers for the Scottish Parliament. The SNP presents itself as further to the left than Labour, and party leader Nicola Sturgeon has indicated that while the SNP would not join a formal coalition with Labour, it would provide needed votes to support a minority Labour government on an issue-by-issue basis so long as Labour was implementing progressive policies. The SNP has ruled outsupporting a Conservative government in any form.
Wales: Wales also has a devolved parliament, with somewhat more limited powers than Scotland’s. Wales has a national party as well, the Plaid Cymru, but it is unlikely to win many more than the three seats it currently holds. Welsh nationalism has not developed into the political force that Scottish nationalism has, perhaps because of Wales’s longer shared history with England. If the ability to form a government were to come down to a very small margin, the Plaid would support Labour rather than the Conservatives.
England: England has no equivalent national assembly, so the House of Commons determines all policy for England. This creates an asymmetry because the entire Parliament (including members from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) votes on issues related to England. The scope of further devolution and the rights of non-English MPs to vote on legislation that affects only England are both lurking issues in the coming election, especially with further Scottish devolution on the horizon. The Conservatives have sometimes argued for a principle of “English votes for English laws” in Westminster, an argument that has been simmering since devolution for Scotland was proposed in the 1970s. Labour is strongly opposed, in part because Labour wins more seats than the Conservatives in Scotland and Wales. 
EU membership politics                       

As a member of the European Union, the U.K. is bound to abide by some EU policies that have attracted significant opposition among the public. In fact, in some polls support for leaving the EU altogether approaches a majority.
The most salient issue tied up with EU membership is migration. The U.K. has seen high levels of immigration in recent years from elsewhere in the EU but is not allowed to place any restrictions on that immigration. An entire party, the U.K. Independence Party, is nominally organized around the goal of “independence” (exit) from the EU, although UKIP also has elements of specifically English nationalism and more general right-wing populism. UKIP could support a Conservative government. However, the party is generally viewed as unreliable and is unlikely to have enough seats to be a major player even though it will probably finish third or fourth in vote share.
The Conservatives have substantial internal disagreement about continued membership in the EU, and David Cameron — the current Conservative prime minister — has promised a referendum on exit to finesse these intraparty disagreements. Labour and the Liberal Democrats are generally in favor of remaining in the EU. The SNP is in favor of staying in the European Union.
The big challenge for making sense of the election is that these political disagreements — about left-right politics, U.K. national politics, and EU membership politics — are not all equally important everywhere in the U.K. Exactly which parties are competitive, and the issues that are important to voters, varies substantially depending on where you are.
Labour and the Conservatives face challenges from different political directions in different areas. Marginal constituencies that come down to Labour versus Conservative tend to cluster around the edges of English cities, the kinds of suburban seats that have always decided U.K. elections. But in much of southeastern England, the Conservatives will face UKIP challenges. In seats across southwestern England, the current coalition partners, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, will face off in one of the latter’s traditional strongholds. In Scotland, the SNP will face off against Labour in most constituencies. And we have not even mentioned the Green Party, another left party that has recently been polling at nearly the same level as the Liberal Democrats across the U.K., but without sufficient concentration of support to be a threat in more than a handful of constituencies.1
At the level of individual seats, there are relatively few where more than two parties have a chance. The U.K. does not have just one two-party system; it has lots of different two-party competitions in different parts of the country. This is a big part of the challenge of forecasting the election.

January 24, 2015

Some German politics still the same as Hitler’s, Mustache and all


                                                                         
                                                                        
 Lutz Bachman 

How an anti-foreigner, anti-establishment group is changing German politics:

THE march on January 19th in Dresden by Pegida, or “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the Occident”, would have been its 13th. But it was cancelled because the police had “concrete” information of plans to assassinate its organiser, Lutz Bachmann. On January 21st Mr Bachmann was exposed in German tabloids for posing as Hitler on his Facebook page. He called it a joke, but later resigned his position. Pegida plans to resume its marches next week.
Among its followers, despite Mr Bachmann’s antics, neo-Nazis are a small minority. The typical marcher is a middle-aged, middle-class Saxon man who, says Hans Vorländer at the Technical University of Dresden, is alienated from politics and the liberal media, and yearns for a homogenous fatherland. The marches may have “passed the peak”, adds Dieter Rucht at the Berlin Social Science Centre. Yet there will be political fallout. Nine-tenths of Pegida supporters back the Alternative for Germany (AfD), founded only in 2013 and represented in three eastern state parliaments.
The AfD began with an anti-euro message. Some leaders, such as Hans- Olaf Henkel, from Hamburg, want to keep it that way. But, especially in the east, the party has used populist innuendo against asylum-seekers, immigrants and homosexuals. Party elders like Alexander Gauland, in Brandenburg, openly flirt with Pegida. This is straining the AfD, which has three leaders. Bernd Lucke, an economics professor, favours an anti-euro message; Frauke Petry, a businesswoman from Saxony, and Konrad Adam, a former journalist, sympathise with Pegida. Mr Lucke wants to lead alone, but Ms Petry and Mr Adam have resisted him. In a compromise, Mr Lucke will take over as boss only next December.
German democracy is responding without hysteria. Marchers against Pegida have recently far outnumbered those for it. The centre-left Social Democrats and Greens refuse to debate with Pegida, and Chancellor Angela Merkel, leader of the centre-right Christian Democrats, has condemned it. Others are open to dialogue. One Christian Democrat, Jens Spahn, even joined a televised debate with Kathrin Oertel, one of Pegida’s organisers.
That was a big step for a group that had previously refused to talk to the media. Its marchers chant “Lügenpresse” (“lying press”), a term once used by the Nazis. Yet on the very day of the cancelled march, Pegida held its first-ever press conference. In the public glare, its leaders tone down their language. When confronted, their counter-arguments seem weak. Asked why Saxons should worry about Islam when only 1% of Saxony’s population is Muslim, Ms Oertel said some Germans march for the rainforest though Germany has none.
The gradual conflation of the AfD and Pegida is a new and worrying phenomenon. There must never be a legitimate party to the right of the CSU, the Christian Democrats’ Bavarian sister party, said Franz Josef Strauss, a longtime leader of Bavaria, with Germany’s Nazi past in mind. Such a party has now arrived, and could enter the Bundestag in 2017.
 anti islamic Rally in Dresden (National Monitor)

The Guardian reports Lutz Bachmann, a founder and leader of the German anti-Islamisation group known as Pegida, has stepped down after controversial photos surfaced of him at his hairdresser posing as Adolph Hitler. Bachmann says the photo and its caption “He’s Back” is an homage to a 2012 best selling book of the same name.
Bachmann has also gone on record to apologize for comments made on his Facebook profile in which he called immigrants “cattle” and “garbage.” The comments and the photograph were posted by Bachmann in September 2014, weeks before organized Pegida demonstrations began in the east German city of Dresden, where demonstrations have been held every Monday night since October.

Kathrin Oertel, a Pegida spokeswoman, says that Bachmann’s resignation was the “only possibility for the movement,” and that, “As an association, we reject the Facebook postings made by Lutz Bachmann in September which have now come to light in the strongest possible terms. They do nothing to nurture trust in Pegida’s goals or its protagonists.”

 
Oertel went on to simply dismiss Bachmann’s pictures of him posing as Hitler as “a joke” and “satire, which is every citizen’s right.”
Bachmann and Pegida leaders deny being racist, stating that they are simply “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West” (in German: Patriotische Europaer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, which forms the acronym Pegida). In a televised discussion on Monday, Bachmann and other Pegida leaders distanced themselves from Pegida demonstrators uttering racist remarks.
Warning against liberal migration and asylum policies under the term “Islamisation of the West,” pro-Pegida demonstrations in Dresden and other German cities have begun to attracted tens of thousands while allowing Pegida and its issues to jump to the forefront in German politics.
German intelligence agencies allege the former Pegida leader is now a target for Islamist terrorists who have stated on social media that they intend to kill him. Because of the threats to Bachmann, the planned Pegida demonstration in Dresden has been canceled.

Due to the cancellations in Dresden, the Pegida movement has begun to shift focus to the German city of Leipzig, where police in riot gear were forced to form a human barricade to separate the approximately 15,000 Pegida demonstrators from a crowd of counter protesters.
When asked why she had come to the demonstration, one German woman replied, “I’m German. I don’t want my daughter to end up wearing a burka.”

Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, insists she will defend the right of German citizens to demonstrate saying, “I have an interest that demonstrations are possible in every part of Germany, regardless of whether I like the content or not.”
In the meantime, German state prosecutors have been investigating Bachmann on charges of sedition and inciting popular hatred.
Now that Lutz Bachmann has stepped down, the future of Pegida is in question. Despite Bachmann’s resignation Oertel insists, “Pegida will go on.” Members of the Pegida movement have vowed to return to the streets of Dresden, with Oertel insisting that Pegida would “not allow itself to be muzzled.”

July 28, 2014

"Old order isn’t holding, and we’re not quite there in terms of a new order "


                                                                         

President Obama spent three days on the West Coast last week, raising money for the Democratic National Committee, among other groups. These sorts of fundraising jaunts are not typically trips during which this president (or any president) says much of anything interesting.
Yet, Obama did just that in a speech in Seattle at a DNC fundraiser. Here’s part of what he said: “Part of people’s concern is just the sense that around the world, the old order isn’t holding, and we’re not quite yet to where we need to be in terms of a new order that’s based on a different set of principles, that’s based on a sense of common humanity, that’s based on economies that work for all people.”   
Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House. View Archive
The unease — Obama used the word “anxiety” to describe the feeling earlier in the speech — that the president identifies is, to my mind, one of the most critical elements of understanding the American electorate (and the American people) at this point in our history. The Cold War is over. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — began a new era in terms of how the United States interacts (and doesn’t) with the world. The economic collapse in the late 2000s — and the subsequent evidence of Wall Street’s blind greed — changed how people view the financial world. The child-abuse scandal that engulfed the Catholic Church in the late 1990s and through much of the early 2000s caused a rethinking of religion and its role in society. Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath forced an examination of what government can and should do.
Revelations about the breadth and depth of the National Security Agency’s spying program have raised doubts about what our government tells us (and doesn’t). And overarching all of it is our increased technological capacity to be constantly in contact with one another — at both superficial and deeply personal levels. (Want to be scared about what this technological boom might mean for us? Read “A Super Sad True Love Story” by Gary Shteyngart.)
All of these new realities have combined to create a deep uncertainty among the public about whom and what they can trust or rely on. And increasingly, the answer is — no one.
Gallup poll from June makes that point. Of 17 institutions, just three — the military, small business and the police — were trusted either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” by a majority of Americans. Fewer than one in three Americans expressed confidence in the presidency; less than one in 10 (7 percent) felt confident about Congress.
Yes, approval of Congress and the presidency has been in the gutter for quite some time. But confidence in the Supreme Court — that once-beyond-reproach institution — is at or near all-time lows, too. (Just 30 percent of people in the Gallup poll said they had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the nation’s highest court.)
That almost total lack of trust in the longtime institutional pillars of our society leaves people feeling even more at sea — adrift from the way things used to work but unable to see the distant shore where the future lies.
Politics in the past decade has reflected that uncertainty. The early part of the 2000s was dominated by George W. Bush and his “compassionate conservatism.” After the 2004 election, Republicans openly pondered the idea of an enduring majority in the House and the Senate built around their policy prescriptions. Then came the 2006 “wave” election for Democrats, followed by the election of Barack Obama, a moment heralded by many Democrats — and even some independents and Republicans — as a pivotal point in the country’s history. The 2010 election made those predictions seem misguided, with Republicans picking up 63 seats and control of the House. In 2012, the country reelected Obama convincingly. This November, signs point to Republican gains.
What should we make of all the back and forth? Confusion. The public knows it’s not getting what it wants from its politics and politicians. But it has very little idea of what exactly it does want — which puts politicians in something very close to an impossible position. (It is why, in poll after poll, you see analysts struggling to explain where the public is on a broad swath of issues. It’s hard to explain because, well, people lack a consistent — or, at times, coherent — worldview.)
 All of which brings us back to Obama’s point. We are in a transition phase societally. The public is deeply skeptical of long-standing institutions, but that skepticism hasn’t been replaced by any surety in an alternative set of beliefs or institutions. Which makes the dominant feeling one of considerable unrest, unease and anxiety.   
Washington post                                                                

February 2, 2014

South Africa: New Political Party formed to Defend the Gay/Lesbian Community


                                                                                  

A new party that will defend gays and lesbians against violence and persecution will stand in South Africa's elections this year, its spokesman said Saturday.
"We need a voice in parliament to protect women from being raped because people want to cure them from being lesbians," Michael Herbst of the Equal Rights Party told AFP.
"We need someone in parliament when boys are bullied at school because they are thought to be gay," said the retired professor of health studies at the University of South Africa.
"South Africa has one of the most beautiful constitutions that guarantees the rights of the people who are lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, et cetera. But in reality, it doesn't work well," he said.
While homosexuality is widely accepted in mainly white parts of Johannesburg and Cape Town, it remains taboo in many rural areas and in working-class black townships.
While gay marriage has been recognised since 2006, gays and lesbians are regularly killed because of their lifestyle.
Lesbians in the townships are often victims of "corrective rape".
Herbst also said lawmakers for the new party would have a platform for speaking out against violations of gay rights in countries such as Russia, Nigeria and Uganda.
Asked what he thought the party's chances were in the elections slated for the second half of the year, Herbst said: "We can definitively make it."
The National Assembly's 400 seats are awarded proportionally, and the smallest party in the current parliament won fewer than 36,000 votes -- some 0.2 percent -- in 2009 elections.
liu/jmc/gd/jhb

November 30, 2013

Group Cautions on Supporting Candidates on Religious Grounds















A group of Christian and Muslim leaders from the North has called on Nigerians to choose their leaders on the basis of competence and issues, rather than religious or ethnic sentiments.
At a one day conference on Religion and Good Governance, organised by Kaduna based Christian Awareness Initiative of Nigeria (CHAIN), participants including Christian and Muslim leaders, accused some politicians in the North of using religion as a tool to divide the common people of the region and other parts of the country for their selfish ambitions.
Convener of the conference and former Secretary General of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Kaduna State, Reverend Joseph Hayab, advised the citizenry to ensure the unity of the North and the country in general by not championing overzealous politicians based on religious sentiments, which was capable of destroying the corporate existence in the nation.
He urged the citizens to support quality leadership that would ensure peace, security and development, adding that the country would become better if both Muslims and Christians come together and chase away bad leaders who hide under religion or tribe to cover up their lack of performance.
As the crisis rocking the political scene rages over issues bothering on the 2015 elections, Muslim scholar, IbrahimWaziri, averred that the country will only progress if the electorate ensures that only people with sound ideologies and manifestos are elected into leadership positions and not religious bigots.
The conference was attended by Christian and Muslim leaders across the 19 Northern states, who said they will sensitise and mobilise their congregations in preparation for the 2015 elections.
The Christian Awareness Initiative of Nigeria was established six years ago by a group of Christian leaders in the North, to create awareness on issues of national importance among Christians, as well as promoting national unity.

Channels Television 

October 22, 2013

In Russia, Alexei Navalny Out of Jail Promises No Compromise


  • Navalny avoids jail

  President Vladimir Putin's chief political opponent walked free from a Russian court on Wednesday after it suspended his five-year sentence for theft, and said he could never be "hounded" out of political life. By Gabriela Baczynska.
  • The conviction, however, will prevent Alexei Navalny, borne to prominence nearly two years ago by the biggest protests of Putin's 13-year rule, from seeking elected office for several years. He said he would appeal.

    "It's clear to me that the authorities are trying by all means to hound me out of politics, coming up with restrictions and fabricated cases," Navalny said, embracing his wife after a tense three-hour court hearing in Kirov, 1,000 km (620 miles) northeast of Moscow.

    "One thing is for sure, they will not succeed in pushing me and my allies out of political life," said Navalny, 37, who posted a strong second-place showing against a Putin ally in a Moscow mayoral election last month.

    A blogger who has campaigned online against corruption among Russia's elite, Navalny helped lead a wave of protests stirred by allegations of fraud in a December 2011 parliamentary election won by Putin's ruling party.

    He was convicted on July 18 of organising the theft of 16 million roubles ($500,000) from a timber firm in the Kirov region in 2009, after a trial he described as Putin's revenge for challenging the Kremlin.

    But he was unexpectedly freed from custody the following day after thousands protested outside the Kremlin, allowing him to continue his mayoral campaign as he awaited his appeal hearing.

    Analysts say the Kremlin was betting Navalny would suffer a humiliating election defeat that would quash his political ambitions and neutralise any threat to Putin, but he won 27 percent and nearly forced the incumbent into a runoff.

    Putin, however, remains by far Russia's most popular politician and the protests of last year have eased off. Navalny's popularity is more limited beyond the big cities of western Russia, such as Moscow and St Petersburg.

    Jailing Navalny would have increased the risk of a new wave of protests by Putin's opponents and human rights activists over what they see as a clampdown on dissent since the 61-year-old president started a six-year third term in 2012.

    It would have done more damage to Putin's image in the West as he prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in February.

    "POLITICAL ISOLATION"

    Navalny and others suggested that Wednesday's ruling was carefully tailored by the Kremlin to avoid making him into what political analyst Liliya Shevtsova called "a Russian Mandela" while sidelining him from electoral politics.

    "The court decision means political isolation," prominent opposition activist Ilya Yashin, said on Twitter.

    Navalny argued during the hearing that the case against him was fabricated and politically motivated, and afterward suggested that the ruling was the result of careful calculations in the Kremlin.

    "It's clear that the decision on suspending the sentence was taken not here but in Moscow," he said.

    Putin denies exerting influence over the courts. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said the president had nothing to do with the ruling.

    Navalny's lawyers and other legal experts were uncertain how long he will be barred from elections.

    The Constitutional Court ruled last week that lifetime bans for convicts not serving life terms are unconstitutional, but the law has not been amended and, previously, convicts had been barred from elections for at least the length of their sentences.

    In addition to the suspended sentence, the judge said Navalny was sentenced to five years probation. His lawyer Olga Mikhailova said the terms would be served consecutively, indicating Navalny could be barred from elections for 10 years.

    Even a five-year ban would keep Navalny, who has aired presidential ambitions, out of the presidential vote scheduled for 2018. Putin, who has been in power as president or prime minister since 2000, has not ruled out running in that election.

    Navalny shrugged off the ban.

    "Now I cannot run in elections, but that is not important," he said at an art exhibit in Kirov inspired by politically charged Russian trials. "There are 1,001 ways to conduct apolitical battle. Yesterday I had 1,001 - now I have 1,000." DM


    Photo: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny attends an exhibition, part of the art project "Drawing the Court", in Kirov, October 16, 2013. Navalny, President Vladimir Putin's chief political opponent walked free from a Russian court on Wednesday after it suspended his five-year sentence for theft, and said he could never be 'hounded' out of political life. The conviction, however, will prevent Navalny, borne to prominence nearly two years ago by the biggest protests of Putin's 13-year rule, from seeking elected office for several years. He said he would appeal. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov 

September 26, 2013

Iran and US Reconciliation Could be Complicated But Worth It



  •   Arriving with the Iranian supreme leader's blessing to show "heroic flexibility" in global diplomacy, and having built up to his U.N. General Assembly appearance with weeks of conciliatory gestures, tweets and media engagement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani carried the prospect of a sudden breakthrough in the 34-year U.S.-Iran impasse in his right hand. But despite fevered global attention, no dramatic handshake with President Obama ever happened.
  • Reportedly, the Iranian U.N. delegation told its American counterparts that the handshake was "too complicated back home" just now. When it will not be too complicated back home is a good question.
  • If recent history is any guide, things may remain complicated for some time.
  • In 1998, then-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami came to the U.N. General Assembly after a landslide election victory and an even stronger voter mandate than Rouhani. President Bill Clinton addressed the assembly the same day as Khatami, and media outlets speculated on the prospect of a "chance" meeting between presidents.
  • Clinton and Khatami earnestly wished to meet, but the word came from Tehran forbidding the encounter. Even then, it was "too complicated" back in the corridors of power in Tehran.
  • Also in parallel, then-Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi met within the contact group 
  • working on Afghanistan, just as Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are set to meet Thursday within the context of the P5+1 -- countries involved in diplomacy with Iran over its nuclear program -- and possibly one-on-one. 

  • Nonetheless, after the 1998 assembly, positive U.S.-Iran diplomatic engagement on Afghanistan did foster the removal of the Taliban and a successful Bonn Agreement establishing a democratically elected Afghan government.
  • This limited but important diplomatic progress continued, despite some setbacks, until President George W. Bush ranked Iran among the "axis of evil" in his first State of the Union address after September 11. Things had become pretty complicated in Washington.

  •  At the presidential level, either the U.S. side or the Iranian side can always -- and credibly -- point to domestic political factors making any bold conciliatory gesture too complicated. Deeply rooted policy instruments, skepticism, alliance structures and political careers have grown up around three decades of estrangement in both capitals.
  • Given these longstanding issues, it is not surprising that the adversarial framework still guides virtually all interaction and that breakthroughs -- even as simple as those afforded by a handshake -- are fraught with peril. Indeed, even the Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was obliged to qualify his recent call for "heroic flexibility" after hardliners objected.
  • But while the U.S.-Iran relationship might continue within this adversarial framework for the time being, with complex domestic considerations affecting every step, there is still some reason for measured optimism.

  • Coming out of their General Assembly appearances, both presidents seemed to agree on four key points:
  • First, that the nuclear issue is a primary obstacle to progress on other areas of dispute, and resolving this issue must be a top priority.
  • Second, that the diplomatic arena, rather than the superheated spotlight of head of state politics, may hold the key to real progress. 
  • Third, that discussions aimed at resolving the nuclear dispute must take place within an atmosphere of "mutual respect."
  • Fourth, that any reduction of economic sanctions will require concrete, verifiable progress on the nuclear issue.
  • No less important than this consensus on foreign policy, both understand that antagonizing important domestic constituencies in each others' capitals only makes diplomatic progress harder. President Rohani's acknowledging the Holocaust during his interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday, and thereby distancing himself from his bellicose predecessor, was a welcome case in point.
  • To advance these priorities, both the United States and Iran have entrusted progress on the nuclear issue to their diplomats. On the U.S. side, Obama announced during his U.N. speech that Kerry would assume the lead on the nuclear issue. Within Iran's system, Iran's Foreign Ministry took over the nuclear file from the Supreme National Security Council after the appointment of Zarif.

  • Zarif's credentials and track record offer the promise of a credible and professional partner, as does the clear mandate of Iran's recent elections that brought Rouhani to power with the promise of ending Iran's international isolation.
  • So the spotlight shifts to diplomacy, and both sides agree that tangible, timely results are a must. Kerry now must be empowered to employ all the tools in America's diplomatic arsenal to achieve progress in tandem with U.S. allies on the Iran nuclear issue.

  • The best intelligence and analysis support, upgraded Persian-language media outreach and information programming, and expanded academic and cultural exchanges with the Iranian people will bolster State's efforts greatly. Of course, U.S. allies as well as Congress -- justifiably skeptical after so many years -- must be kept informed of progress.
  • It will take hard work and time, but for the first time in decades, empowered bilateral diplomacy has a chance. Perhaps at some point along the long road ahead, ideally after a peaceful resolution to the nuclear dispute opens the way to broader bilateral dialogue, we may even witness the long-awaited presidential handshake.

  • by Ramin Asgard
  • Ramin AsgardRamin Asgard is a former U.S. Foreign Service officer and has held several key senior posts involving Iran. He served as the director of Voice of America Persian and was political adviser at U.S. Central Command in Tampa. Asgard is former director of the Iran Regional Presence Office in Dubai. Watch CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour's interview with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday, airing on CNN International at 2 p.m. ET.
LATEST:  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says he wants to reach a deal with world powers on Tehran's nuclear programme in three to six months.
He told the Washington Post he saw a resolution of the issue as a "beginning point" in easing US-Iran relations.
Mr Rouhani said he was fully empowered by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to negotiate on the issue.
On Thursday, Iran will hold talks with the P5+1 group of world powers on Tehran's uranium enrichment programme.
In a rare encounter between US and Iranian officials, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet US Secretary of State John Kerry as well as diplomats from the UK, France, Russia, China and Germany in New York.
On Tuesday, Mr Rouhani told the UN General Assembly that he was prepared to engage in "time-bound and results-oriented" talks on the nuclear issue.
Iran has been negotiating with the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany, since 2006 about its nuclear programme.
 The West suspects Tehran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a claim strongly denied by Iran.'Everything is possible'
Asked about a timeframe for resolving the nuclear issue, President Rouhani told the Washington Post: "The only way forward is for a timeline to be inserted into the negotiations that is short.
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July 19, 2013

Putin’s Nemesis Released From Jail } Run for Moscow Mayor?



local court in Kirov, 500 miles east of Moscow, ordered Mr Navalny’s release pending an appeal over his conviction, which was condemned worldwide as a political tactic designed to silence his criticism of President Vladimir Putin
The ruling appeared to show indecision or even dispute inside the country’s leadership circles following a wave of public anger.
It came less than 24-hours after the 37-year-old activist and his co-defendant, Petr Ofitserov, a businessman, were handcuffed in a courtroom in the same city and taken into custody.
His conviction was criticsed by across the West, as well as inside the country.
The guilty verdict still stands but a judge — acting on a sudden request from a regional prosecutor - ruled the men should go free until it comes into force, if and when all appeals are exhausted.
 Several thousand demonstrators gathered in central Moscow on Thursday evening to protest against the guilty verdict. At least 50 people were detained as police tried to quell the crowds, who briefly held up traffic on Tverskaya Street, shouting “Freedom to Navalny!” and “Putin is a thief!”
After being released from a glass and steel dock on Friday morning, Mr Navalny thanked his supporters, embraced his wife and said he wanted to “hug everybody who contributed to what happened today”.
He said he would decide on his return to Moscow whether he would take part in the city’s mayoral elections on September 8, for which he registered as a candidate earlier this week.
“I’m not some kind of pet kitten or puppy whom they first throw out of the elections, saying ‘You won’t take part”, and then say, ‘No, let’s release him for a month, he’s going to run in the elections,” he said.
Mr Navalny added that he was unaware until Friday morning that prosecutors had asked the previous evening to challenge the legality of the decision to arrest him and Mr Ofitserov in court and take them into custody.
“I didn’t know a thing,” he wrote in a blog post, saying he was “drawing up a strategic plan for a merciless war against the mosquitoes in my cell” when a guard told him to gather his belongings.
He stressed that it was protesters’ “resolve” that had forced the authorities to release him and Mr Ofitserov.
Popular writer Boris Akunin said the opposition should draw strength from the activist’s release. “Now everything could change,” he commented. “Undoubtedly, Navalny now becomes a very real pretender to victory. He and his team know how to work with people much better than the sour Sobyaninites.”
Sergei Sobyanin, 55, is the current mayor of Moscow, a faithful ally of Mr Putin who is expected to retain his job in the September election, partly due to overwhelming bureaucratic and state-media support.
Mr Navalny came to prominence in 2011 when he was one of the leaders of large street demonstrations in Moscow against the results of parliamentary elections allegedly rigged by the Kremlin. He has not ruled out running for the presidency in 2018.
Some analysts suggested that Mr Navalny was deliberately released in order that he be discredited in a one-sided battle with Mr Sobyanin in the mayoral vote before having his appeal refused and being sent back to jail. 

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