Current Events

The Lost Iraq War

The Associated Press reported on March 19:

“The Iraq war lumbered into its fifth year Monday with President Bush pleading for patience to let his revised battle plan work and Congress’ new Democratic leaders retorting that no patience remains… Four years in, the war has claimed the lives of more than 3,200 members of the U.S. military. Predictions about the cost and length of the war have been far surpassed. The public overwhelmingly opposes the war, and Bush’s approval rating stands near his all-time low. Trying to halt spiraling sectarian bloodshed, Bush has ordered nearly 30,000 more combat and support troops to Iraq, mostly to stabilize Baghdad…

“A new poll reflected the stress and hopelessness that are the result of the unrelenting violence and uncertain political situation. The poll, by ABC News, USA Today, the BBC and ARD German TV, found only 18 percent of Iraqis have confidence in U.S. and coalition troops, 86 percent are concerned that someone in their household will be a victim of violence and 51 percent say violence against American forces is acceptable… Iraq missed the Dec. 31 target dates to enact the oil law, as well as laws establishing provincial elections and reversing measures that have excluded many Sunnis from jobs and government positions because they belonged to Saddam’s Baath party…”

America Has a Lot to Answer For

Deutsche Welle reported on March 19:

“On the fourth anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq, European newspapers were gloomy as they took stock of the ongoing conflict. The broad consensus: The US has a lot to answer for.

“‘For Iraqis, every year has been worse than the last since 2003,’ writes Britain’s The Independent on its front page. ‘In November and December last year alone 5,000 civilians were murdered, often tortured to death, according to the UN. This toll compares to 3,000 killed in 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. Many Iraqis have voted with their feet, some two million fleeing — mostly to Syria and Jordan — since President George Bush and Tony Blair ordered US and British troops across the Iraqi border four years ago today.’

“In Barcelona, El Periodico de Catalunya said… ‘Four years on, the invasion has turned into the worst fiasco the US has faced since Vietnam. President George W. Bush can keep predicting that the Americans will win this fight, but that has little bearing on reality…’

“The liberal Romanian newspaper Gandul was damning in its appraisal of US foreign policy. ‘The result is obvious: this has been an overwhelming disaster for the Bush administration. After Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, the US was estimated to be some 22 years ahead of the EU in terms of technology, most probably because of the billions invested in high-tech US defense. These vast sums have led to a skyrocketing domestic deficit…the lesson Iraq teaches us is that everyone pays for America’s mistakes, regardless of who follows its policies or not.’…

“Conservative French daily Le Figaro was fatalistic. ‘100,000 Iraqis are dead. Over 3,000 Americans have lost their lives and of some 32,000 soldiers sent home injured, most will suffer lasting damage. What next? Washington is beginning to think about the aftermath. The Pentagon is preparing a gradual withdrawal and the secretary of state has approved talks with Syria and Iran. What can Europe and the rest of the world do? It is tempting to just sit back and watch, washing one’s hands of the situation. But that is not an option. Stability in the Middle East is even more important to Europe than it is to the US. We can criticize the US for stumbling into this mess, but we will still have to help it out of it.'”

American Army Becoming Desperate

The Washington Post wrote on March 19:

“Four years after the invasion of Iraq, the high and growing demand for U.S. troops there and in Afghanistan has left ground forces in the United States short of the training, personnel and equipment that would be vital to fight a major ground conflict elsewhere, senior U.S. military and government officials acknowledge. More troubling, the officials say, is that it will take years for the Army and Marine Corps to recover from what some officials privately have called a ‘death spiral,’ in which the ever more rapid pace of war-zone rotations has consumed 40 percent of their total gear, wearied troops and left no time to train to fight anything other than the insurgencies now at hand.

“The risk to the nation is serious and deepening, senior officers warn, because the U.S. military now lacks a large strategic reserve of ground troops ready to respond quickly and decisively to potential foreign crises, whether the internal collapse of Pakistan, a conflict with Iran or an outbreak of war on the Korean Peninsula. Air and naval power can only go so far in compensating for infantry, artillery and other land forces, they said. An immediate concern is that critical Army overseas equipment stocks for use in another conflict have been depleted by the recent troop increases in Iraq, they said…

“Under current Army and Marine Corps plans, it will take two to three years after the Iraq war ends and about $17 billion a year to restore their equipment levels. It will take five years and at least $75 billion for the Army to increase its active-duty ranks to 547,000 soldiers, up from the current 509,000, and for the Marine Corps to increase its numbers to 202,000, up from 180,000.”

U.S. Odd Man Out?

Reuters wrote on March 17:

“A consensus on the need to protect the world’s environment is emerging among rich and developing nations, but the United States remains at odds with other countries on key points, Germany said on Saturday. Environment ministers of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, and officials from leading developing countries, were meeting to prepare for a June G8 summit at which climate change will be a major topic. ‘On two issues, the United States were the only ones who spoke against consensus,’ German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting, which he chaired on behalf of Germany’s G8 presidency.

“Gabriel said the U.S. remained opposed to a global carbon emissions trading scheme like the one used in the European Union and rejected the idea that industrialized nations should help achieve a ‘balance of interests’ between developing countries’ need for economic growth and environmental protection. ‘We find this regrettable,’ Gabriel said, adding ‘I would have been disappointed if I’d expected something different.’… Developing countries cite the U.S. position as a reason for their refusal to commit to reduction targets.”

Russia Supports US and Europe? — Don’t Be Fooled

On March 18, The New York Times reported enthusiastically about an estranged relationship between Russia and Iran, implying that Russia was beginning to support the American and European efforts to impose sanctions on Iran for its refusal to halt nuclear enrichment. The paper wrote:

“Russia has informed Iran that it will withhold nuclear fuel for Iran’s nearly completed Bushehr power plant unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment as demanded by the United Nations Security Council, European, American and Iranian officials said… Moscow and Tehran have been engaged in a public argument about whether Iran has paid its bills, in a dispute that may explain Russia’s apparent shift… ‘We’re not sure what mix of commercial and political motives are at play here,’ one senior Bush administration official said in Washington. ‘But clearly the Russians and the Iranians are getting on each other’s nerves — and that’s not all bad.’”

The Associated Press agreed with the assessment of The New York Times, stating on March 20:

“Russia is pulling out its experts from the Iranian nuclear reactor site they were helping build, U.S. and European government representatives said Tuesday. The move reflected a growing rift between Iran and Russia that could lead to harsher U.N. sanctions on the Islamic republic for its refusal to stop uranium enrichment.” However, Bloomberg clarified on March 20 that Russia’s recent conduct is not motivated by concern over Iranian nuclear enrichment, but it’s strictly all about money.

In addition, according to the report, “Russia denied threatening to halt nuclear fuel deliveries to Iran unless the Islamic state freezes uranium enrichment, saying a financial dispute was to blame for any delays… Russia has repeatedly delayed construction of the Bushehr project… The UN Security Council’s permanent members — the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China — along with Germany are deliberating the imposition of more sanctions on Iran after the Islamic Republic ignored a Feb. 22 UN deadline to halt uranium enrichment. Iran instead is expanding its capacity to make the nuclear fuel, which can be used to power atomic energy or to make nuclear weapons.

“Peskov [a Kremlin spokesman] suggested the sanctions were also complicating the timetable for Bushehr’s completion. ‘Certain sanctions are already effective and some third countries are failing to complete shipments of equipment to Bushehr,’ the Kremlin spokesman said, without specifying the countries involved. ‘This is adding problems.’ Russia started work on the Bushehr reactor in 1995, taking over from Germany’s Siemens AG, which stopped work because of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.”

Russia–Don’t Close Your Eyes!

On March 15, Der Spiegel Online published an interview with Russian opposition politician and former chess world champion, Garry Kasparov, who believes that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is not a democracy. We are bringing you the following excerpts from his interview:

“The people in power have put together a list of 10,000 alleged extremists, which is maintained by the intelligence service’s anti-terrorism committee. Putin’s talk about fighting terrorism and extremism has a purpose: He wants to create the option of using the tools of oppression against the opposition… I think that Putin’s popularity is virtual in many respects. He certainly has legitimacy. He was elected, even though the elections were manipulated. But this legitimacy will end with the presidential election in March 2008.

“The current regime is beneficial to barely 15 percent of the population. Many among the remaining 85 percent — 120 million people — are dissatisfied… Pressure [from the West] is counterproductive. The regime uses it to its advantage. The West should simply be objective. Russia is not a democracy. If you realize this, you should say so. No one refers to the Chinese leaders or the Belarusian dictator Aleksander Lukashenko as democrats. Don’t close your eyes when Russia supports terrorists like Hezbollah and Hamas, or Iran.”

Europe’s Fight Over American Anti-Missile System

Reuters reported on March 17:

“Germany sent a thinly veiled warning to the United States on Saturday not to try to split Europe into ‘old’ and ‘new’ with its plans to deploy parts of an anti-missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

“In some of the strongest German rhetoric to date on the issue, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it was important not to let the U.S. project spark a new arms race in Europe nearly two decades after the end of the Cold War… ‘Our top priority remains disarmament and not an arms buildup. We don’t want a new arms race in Europe,’ he said…

“Germany is concerned the issue will cloud its presidency of the EU by highlighting divisions in Europe reminiscent of those that emerged in the run-up to the U.S.-led Iraq war in 2003. At that time, Poland, Britain and others backed the U.S.-led invasion while Germany, France and others opposed it. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld famously dismissed European countries opposed to the war as ‘old Europe’ ‘There is no “old” and “new” Europe and nobody should try, based on calculated short-term interests, to create such a split,’ Steinmeier said in remarks that appeared aimed at Washington. ‘NATO is the right forum for this discussion. The goal of the debate must be a common solution that does not provoke anyone.'”

Der Spiegel Online reported on March 20:

“Plans by the United States to build a missile defense shield in Eastern Europe has led to sharp criticism from some quarters in Germany… Kurt Beck, the chairman of the SPD, which is in coalition with Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said he opposed the planned defence system. He told the mass circulation Bild newspaper: ‘We don’t need any new missiles in Europe.’ He added that the SPD didn’t want to see a new arms race between the US and Russia on European soil…

“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘It would be a mistake for the West to allow itself to be split and put under pressure by Russia’s aggressive posturing. Or to let the defense system be demonized as a threat to world peace. Russia’s criticism is not convincing…’

“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘If Kurt Beck, the leader of the SPD, has concerns about re-armament, maybe he should express them in Tehran. That is where a missile system is being worked on, one that could reach the heart of Europe in a few years.’

“The left-leaning Berliner Zeitung writes: ‘The SPD leader (Kurt Beck) is not a cabinet member and so can say quite simply: We don’t need or want new missiles in Europe. Most Germans think the same way, especially when the missiles are American. Now the Chancellor will have to constantly answer the same simple question: Do we need, and does she want, new missiles in Europe? But she can not give a simple answer, because she has to consider treaties and commitments to the alliance.”

Germany Warns Poland…

AFP reported on March 16:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday warned Poland against blocking the European Union’s stalled constitution, while she also sought to woo Warsaw to Germany’s side in building a stronger Europe. Failure to endorse the EU constitution would be ‘a historic missed opportunity,’ Merkel said in a speech at Warsaw University shortly after arriving here on a visit both ‘as German chancellor and president of the EU.’ ‘The time for reflection is past. It’s time for decisions. I pledge that there will be a roadmap to move forward (with the constitution) by the end of the German presidency,’ in June, Merkel said.

“‘It is not only in Europe’s interest but also in the interest of member states and citizens of Europe that this process is taken to a positive end by the next European elections in 2009… Europe is not a “Christian club,” as some would like to say. But Europe is founded on values that are clearly grounded in the Christian vision of humanity,’ said Merkel… ‘There is only one way forward: don’t act alone but as part of a united Europe, which is also a strong Europe.'”

… And Poland Gives In…

AFP reported on March 17:

“Polish President Lech Kaczynski held out an olive branch to German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday saying Warsaw will not block efforts to revive the European Union’s constitution… Kaczynski also told Merkel that Warsaw would sign up to a declaration at an EU summit next week to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which founded the then European Community. ‘Poland has certain reservations about the wording of the declaration of Berlin but in refusing to sign it we would have been the only country not to do so,’ Kaczynski said…

“Relations between Germany and Poland have been tested recently. One touchy issue involves Germans who were expelled from Polish territory as World War II drew to a close. They were among some 14 million German civilians who were displaced, deported or expelled from their homes in eastern Europe from 1944 onwards as the Soviet Red Army advanced and Germany’s Third Reich crumbled.”

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