There are big hopes for next week’s 6-party talks with North Korea. Christopher Hill, key negotiator for the US, has said that the US is hoping for progress.

It’s likely that this progress will happen, and that the Koreans will get what they’ve been seeking, which is aid. It is also very likely that the financial sanctions against imposed on the regime in 2005, will be adjusted. The US has engaged in separate talks for those sanctions, but those talks are certainly linked to the nuclear issue. After all, it was after the October test and the December talks, that the US was ready to have serious dialogue about the financial sanctions.

While Hill is being careful in what he’s saying and has made it clear that specific concessions on North Korea’s side are a requirement, there have been reports that North Korea will be more lenient in accepting those concessions. And accepting US aid.

What does this all mean? If the talks next week are successful, then the Koreans would have won a double victory. Not only are they now able in nuclear technology (and could re-ignite any program that gets slowed down), they could potentially be recipients of very needed foreign aid.

The nuclear program, having yielded results, can be stalled for this aid. And rebooted if that aid stops.

Sometimes hard power can still produce results.

Opposition to the war in Iraq is back in the headlines. After a Senate Committee formally opposed President Bush’s plan for Iraq — which the President is still going through with — anti-war protesters have come out onto the streets.

This is nothing new. When the Iraq conflict developed over three years ago, thousands also marched the streets. The Administration ignored to budge then. And the Administration will ignore this wave of protests too.

But this opposition is not insignificant. Large demonstrations against the war in Iraq have with time become scarce, and it now seems that the anti-war movement is starting to grow, at least in its visibility. Capitol Hill officials are ready to criticize the war, and citizens are asking an end to the conflict. Washington, DC apparently saw at least 100 000 protesters demand an end to the war in Iraq.

This is important, because the war movement is not about to end.

It’s true that the US will be out of Iraq sooner rather than later, maybe even by the end of the year. However, the war on “Islamists” is far from over. Somalia is slowly emerging as a new target, with alleged Al-Quada operatives in the country. Since 2007 hit, the US has been very active in bombing targets inside the country. These attacks were preceded by a US supported power takeover in Somalia, with the Union of Islamic Courts government ousted from office.

No matter the denials of war plans, Iran is also likely to see some form of action from the US. Not a day goes by that Iran is not mentioned in the media as a supporter of the Iraq insurgency, and a general nuisance, with its nuclear program steaming ahead. As Doug put it on Doug’s Darkworld, did Bush really need to authorize US troops to kill Iranian nationals on Iraqi soil? No. But he did, and this seems connected to a larger picture. Also, consider the post on Fundamentalist Druid which analyzes last year’s highly publicized Seymour Hersch article and finds that the author cannot be contradicted on many points.

In the end, the anti-war movement does not matter much for Iraq, but it does matter for Iran and Somalia and the future of the US military. This Administration is on a time-leash, with elections set for 2008, and the successor Administration won’t be able to ignore the movement, if it continues to show signs of its existence, as has been the case this week.

Apologies + video

January 27, 2007

Apologies to everyone that expected the regular posts on here this past week. For different reasons I haven’t been able to post; a few other commitments, and then I was in Boston for a couple of days. I should be posting regularly now, however.

And just for fun, here’s what the “other commitments” sometimes involve. I’m the one playing bass:

Update: For those interested, I’ll be posting more of these kinds of video posts over at a new blog, Bitter Music.

This week, things turned for the worse in Lebanon, with violence erupting in Beirut. But both the government and the opposition seem to be showing maturity by calling for unity in Lebanon to prevent an outbreak of civil war.

This situation is very indicative of what is going on in Lebanon: the protests of recent months are not opportunistic, but realistic. There is a significant segment of the Lebanese population that dislikes the way the current government is handling the country. And instead doing things un-democratically, through terror, the disenchanted are taking peaceful means to voice their concerns and demands. No one can doubt that Hezbollah, a key player in the protests, is capable of acts of terror (and ones of magnitude). After all, it was Hezbollah that seriously challenged the reputation of the IDF this summer. However, Hezbollah has not been violent. There is no indication that the assassination of Pierre Gemayel, which occurred before the protests began, has been linked to the politically active group.

Nevertheless, some pro-government officials in Lebanon are saying the violence is the responsibility of protesters. Samir Geagea has accused the opposition of trying to take force by “force” and has said that the continuation of protests would lead to “civil war.”

Gaegea has a point, in that if the government continues to dispute protesters’ demands, violence will eventually break out. But it won’t be the fault of the protesters, but Lebanon’s government. Now is not the time to be stubborn. The opposition — and a large number of the Lebanese population — have shown this movement to be more than the Orange revolution, so widely publicized as a triumph for democracy, so it’s time for Prime Minister Siniora to listen and stop demanding.

The PM has refused to negotiate with the opposition until protests cease.

The US ambassador to Kenya is now urging the transitional government in Somalia to talk to “moderates” in the country’s Islamist movement.

What occurred in the last few weeks was that the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) government was expelled, with tactical aid from the US as well as the involvement of the Ethiopian army; a new government has been installed. The US has also hit suspected terrorist targets in the country, though it’s unclear how successful these were.

What’s curious is that the UIC government, which had been in power for about six months, was that it managed to restore some order to the war-torn country. In fact, the new government may not be as welcome as it may seem, because that order is now threatened with the Islamists fighting back. The Ethiopians’ welcome will also come to an end soon, because the country is seen as very ambitious for influence in Somalia and those ambitions will not be welcomed by Somalis.

What the African Union peacekeepers, on their way to replace the Ethiopians, will be able to provide is unclear as well.

Right now it just seems like a very messy situation. The US ambassador in question, Michael Ranneberger, has said that all elements of Somali society should participate as long as they renounce terrorism, extremism and violence. That’s a fair statement to make, however members of the UIC have just been the victims of violence themselves, so they just may not be ready to renounce it quite yet.

Somalis who have witnessed the civilian casualties imposed on them by US air strikes on suspected terrorist targets can also be mobilized for violence and terrorism, much easier than before.

Lt Gen Dan Halutz, the head of Israel’s armed forces, just resigned over the handling of the Lebanon campaign this summer. The confrontation has largely been seen as an Israeli failure.

There are reports suggesting Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, may be concerned that he will also be called upon to resign, but those close to him say there is no link between the responsibilities of defense minister and army head.

However, Peretz is forgetting that he was the one that gave the go-ahead for the war and that it was probably his recommendation that Israel react with force, to a comparatively minor incident (two soldiers were taken hostage). It is his ministry’s responsibility to assess every possible scenario and to recommend the best option to the country’s executive.

In the end, Halutz was only acting on the defense ministry’s decision and, as its head, Peretz should be ready to accept responsibility.

Nick Primiano faces FACE

January 16, 2007

Montreal, Quebec — Former FACE school principal Nick Primiano met with FACE students, teachers, and parents at Christ Church Cathedral on Monday night. The event, organized by SOS FACE, was the first opportunity for members of the school’s community to speak to Primiano since his suspension in September and his subsequent resignation in November.

Having signed a confidentiality agreement with the Commission Scolaire de Montréal (CSDM), Primiano gave the best explanation he could, by providing anecdotes from his encounters with school board officials over the years. The most notable example was a phone call that the then-principal received from a CSDM functionary concerning media reports of parents camping outside the school to register their children there. Primiano expected a word of congratulations, but instead was chastised for creating a “spectacle” that left “people with questions.”

Alluding to the allegations brought against him by the CSDM, the former principal did not deny bending rules when it came to administering the school.

“Want to find me guilty of putting the students first? No problem…Sure, I didn’t respect some rules,” said Primiano. “Nobody can say that I didn’t serve the students.”

Addressing his November 1 resignation, Primiano provided three reasons for the decision: age, family and the school’s best interest. At age 54, and near the end of his career, Primiano didn’t feel he had the health to fight a court battle which would take several years to complete; it would also put FACE in limbo, if his situation continued to be unresolved. He also felt that his presence at the school was doing more harm than good, with the CSDM often targeting him for what he was doing with “his” school, as officials often put it.

Sylvie Tremblay, who had served on the school’s governing board for several years, supported Primiano’s claims, saying that the school faced daily battles with the school boards.

When asked by reporters about the CSDM’s suspension and the charges of wrongdoing which he accepted as part of his agreement with the CSDM, Primiano dismissed them as ridiculous. According to Primiano, an inventory that is not up-to-date is not uncommon for a school the size of FACE. As far as the budget of the school’s daycare program is concerned, the school’s daycare usually runs a surplus; last year it was around $43 000 CDN.

“Principals use those surpluses differently. Some during a year, some at the end of the year…Apparently there’s a rule that you can’t touch it until the end of the year,” said Primiano.

When the evening concluded, the former principal thanked all present and reminded students that the school belonged to them, the teachers, and the parents who volunteer a reported 3000 hours during the school year. He was also optimistic about the new administration and the potential for FACE to reach new heights.

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