Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made comments today about talks with Hamas hitting “a dead end.” This puts the prospects for peace with Israel in serious jeopardy, as Hamas was instrumental in securing the Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire last week. Without Hamas, Abbas has no true influence in the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinian President is either trying to pressure Hamas on something — and Hamas doesn’t believe him, they think he’s bluffing — or he is making the statement for US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who is meeting with him and Israeli PM Olmert). It is well known that despite its democratic election in January, the US and other countries do not welcome a political role for Hamas in the Palestinian Authority. For this reason financial aid from the West has been blocked since the election.

It is conceivable that Abbas’ statements are intended for Rice; in the hopes of securing aid, the Palestinian President may be signaling that he is not a pushover and will challenge Hamas when needed. But those kinds of comments can potentially jeopardize whatever momentum the peace process has right now, as it is in the interests of Abbas to have Hamas on his side. Otherwise, the threat to security will not come from without, but from within. And Palestine certainly doesn’t need a civil war.

North Korea has been in pre-negotiation talks this week with the US and China in Beijing. The US is urging North Korea to “get out of the nuclear business” while the Korean side says it is not ready to fully abandon its nuclear program. In other words, there’s been no progress thusfar, though the Korean side has promised to study ideas put forth by the US and host China.

It makes no sense for North Korea to simply give up its nuclear program as it is currently the biggest asset the regime has. It is North Korea’s nuclear test which got the country back to the negotiating table with a negotiating advantage. With the regime currently at a weak point, it will not give up its bargaining chip easily: the US must be willing to first lift financial sanctions imposed on North Korea last year. A significant aid package will also have to be involved.

Maliki Snubs Bush?

November 29, 2006

President Bush’s meeting with Iraqi PM al-Maliki has been postponed till Thursday. The reason given is that Maliki had already met King Abdullah prior to Bush’s arrival in Jordan’s capital and it wasn’t necessary for the three parties to meet tonight.

The White House has denied the postponing being a snub by the Iraqi PM. However, it is difficult to see it as anything other than that; if Maliki is to work with the US in bringing stability to Iraq, he needs to spend as much time with Bush as possible. Today’s event dictated otherwise. This is possibly a signal for Iran, indicating that Iraq is ready to cooperate with its neighbor. After all, Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei offered Iranian help yesterday when he met with Iraq’s President Talabani, while criticizing US presence in the country.

Hussein Trial, a failure

November 29, 2006

After the recent severe criticism of Saddam Hussein’s trial by Human Rights Watch, experts at the United Nations have come to similar conclusions. A UN group studying arbitrary detention has deemed the trial flawed and has called Hussein’s detention illegal.

The group released its statement yesterday because it believes Hussein’s death penalty must be readdressed due to procedural inconsistencies throughout the trial.

This is not welcome news to the new Iraqi government, which oversaw the Saddam Hussein’s trial. The first significant judicial case executed under this government has now been criticized by two major organizations, one of which is an NGO, the other an IO; with time, more similar reports may be published. This is part of the reason that Iraqi PM Maliki has already stated that Hussein may be hanged by the end of 2006. The Iraqi government knows the trial was illegitimate and it wants to move on.

This is also not welcome news for the US, as it has ostensibly been supporting an Iraqi government which does not conform to standards of democratic behavior. If the US went into Iraq to bring democracy to the region, then the mission has certainly not been accomplished.

US President George Bush is set to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Amman. And President Bush has some questions.

“My questions to him will be: What do you need to do to succeed? What is your strategy in dealing with the sectarian violence,” said Bush.

Ultimately, the US President is ridding himself of any responsibility of having to deal with the sectarian violence and is making it look like the issue is with the Iraqi government. It is, but the occurrence of the sectarian violence is not the result of the Iraqi government’s policies. The sectarian violence is something that developed with the American occupation of Iraq. If we look back to the initial occupation of the country, sectarian friction in the country was at its lowest. However, as the US occupation of Iraq has elapsed, sectarian violence has been on the rise.

It is up to Iraq’s government to solve the state of civil war it is in right now, but if the US had any good intentions when it invaded the country, then it is also up to the US to be involved. Especially considering the fact that President Bush has spoken out against any troops withdrawals.

Meanwhile, Iranian spiritual leader Ali Khamenei has told Iraqi President Talabani that US forces must leave Iraq for a possible peace in the country. Khamenei offered the Iraqi President assistance in stabilizing the country.

Secure Freedom

November 29, 2006

A screening of Alexandre Trudeau’s documentary film Secure Freedom was held in Montreal yesterday. The film, which aired earlier this fall on CTV, reveals the prejudicial system of Security Certificates in Canada. The certificates allow for the detention of suspects without granting them — or the public — access to the evidence against them.

The following is a brief report about the screening, including Alexandre Trudeau’s take on Security Certificates.

[odeo=http://odeo.com/audio/3386563/view]

Iraq: Not a Civil War?

November 28, 2006

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While NBC along with other media outlets have decided that “civil war” is no longer an inappropriate term to use when describing Iraq, the US has continued to use guarded language.

“We‘re clearly in a new phase characterized by an increase in sectarian violence that requires us to adapt to that new phase,” National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was quoted as saying by AP.

Hadley refused the notion of Iraq being in a civil war and rejected the suggestion that President Bush would address the issue of troops withdrawal when he meets with Iraq’s Prime Minister this week.

Yet Hadley is contradicting himself. Sectarian violence at levels its been at this week is a civil war. The “new phase” that he mentions is the civil war. Needing “to adapt” is adapting to the reality of a civil war. But the White House cannot directly say that and must use guarded language. If the White House declares Iraq in a state of civil war, it will be seen as an American (and British) failure.

With a declaration of a civil war, the United States will not be capable of declaring victory and will be blamed for not upholding the peace. Moreover, the declaration of a civil war will also give credibility to the need of having Iran involved in solving Iraq’s problems. The US, however, wants to deal with Iran on US terms, something that is becoming less and less likely. Civil war also makes the eventual exit from Iraq look bad, since the US will be seen as responsible for having created the conditions for the civil war.

So the White House confines itself to a “new phase.”

The above image is taken from Barney’s official website. It is not being used for profit and is thus claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.