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May 10 2011

Osama raid breach of Pakistani Sovereignty?

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Last Sunday a team of US navy Seals, one of America’s premier fighting forces. stormed a secured house in Abottobad, Pakistan, an hour north of the capital. The team killed Osama bin Laden in the raid along with two other Pakistani males protecting him, and in doing so the major question has to be inquired, did they violate the national sovereignty of Pakistan? Obviously they did, having knowingly crossed into another country’s borders without prior consent with a fighting force intended on a kill mission. The relations with US-Pakistani diplomats has been strained recently, especially amidst the increased drone attacks along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. President Obama specifically ordered that the assault force choppering in be large enough to combat any Pakistani forces that may have attempted to intervene.

Mr. Obama’s decision to increase the size of the force sent into Pakistan shows that he was willing to risk a military confrontation with a close ally in order to capture or kill the leader of Al-Qaeda.

The assault force was a blatant and aggressive action in a country that is supposed to be our ally. Are they not wrong to be angered? Because the US has the military and technological capabilities to avoid detection is it acceptable to invade another country? In this instance I would argue yes because of the kill order on the high valued target, Osama bin Laden. If the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, knew of the mission it would have been highly probable that Osama might have evaded the kill mission. But in the future, we will need Pakistan on our side as much as possible with the war in Afghanistan still raging on with a continued unstable government and military.

May 10 2011

Japan to Shut Down Nuclear Power Plant Due to Safety Concerns

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Japan intends to go a different course then the one it is currently on regarding its nuclear program. It had the future goal of obtaining half of its electricity from nuclear power, but the Japanese now think that it wouldn’t be prudent in the light of the recent problems concerning the reactor damaged in the wake of the tsunami. The overarching goal was to increase the nuclear dependency for electricity from 30 percent to 50. Now, renewable energy like solar power and conservation are being more seriously looked into. Naoto Kan, the Japanese Prime Minister, said that “Japan needs to ‘start from scratch’ on its long-term energy policy after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant was heavily damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami and began leaking radiation”. One of Japans major energy companies Chubu also made the decision to shut down one of its major plants until the decision could be made whether or not it was safe enough to continue operations. This was especially sensitive because of the plants proximity to Tokyo, 120 miles. With fears still about, the Japanese government didn’t want anything close to the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl to be perpetuated.

Experts questioned whether the Hamaoka closure marked a turning point in Japan’s nuclear power policy following the March 11 disasters, which left nearly 26,000 people dead or unaccounted for and triggered the world’s biggest nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. The plant is still leaking radiation.

Now the only question that remains is will the Japanese close more plants after the first closure of the Hamaoka plant. With the realization that a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in the next 30 years hitting again is 87 percent, it is certainly a good idea to be cautious.

May 02 2011

Fatah and Hamas Broker Unifying Deal

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In a shocking press release out of Cairo, Egypt, Fatah and Hamas, bitter rivals, brokered an interim deal with each other for a unified Palestinian government. Fatah, controlling the West Bank, and Hamas, controlling Gaza, have previously been seen as rival factions. Hamas even limited Fatah’s control by essentially invading and ousting the Fatah troops from the West Bank. Hamas has been characterized as a terrorist organization by Western powers, seeking the eventual downfall of Israel. This has been seen as a setback for the new Palestinian coalition, with the more moderate Fatah being supported by the US in its peace talks with Israel. The US also provides millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority. That commitment is now wavering due to Hamas’ international image. It is a new ball game now though, with Palestine looking to other Arab states, such as Egypt, for guidance and assistance, instead of the US. This is due to the US’s slowly negotiated peace process and inability to stop Israel from expanding its settlements. Israel now feels threatened and surrounded by the unity of these once fractious factions.

Israel, feeling increasingly surrounded by unfriendly forces, denounced the unity deal as dooming future peace talks since Hamas seeks its destruction. “The Palestinian Authority has to choose between peace with Israel and peace with Hamas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared in a televised statement. The Obama administration warned that Hamas was a terrorist organization unfit for peacemaking.

Palestinians have wanted a unified government for quite some time, hoping that it will bolster their chances of gaining international recognition as a state. This would come about with the guidance of the United Nations, with the Palestinians hoping for a ruling by September of this year, 2011.

Mar 15 2011

One Month Later: Protests in Bahrain Resume and Intensify

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Approximately 2000 foreign troops from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. arrived into Manama, Bahrain via the causeway linking Saudi to Bahrain. The majority of these troops were Saudi, the actual initiative being a Saudi venture. The Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, sent the troops after a plea from Bahrain. Saudi Arabia does not want a Shiite rebellion to leak out into its Eastern Province, where most of its oil production and refining takes place, so a show of force is exactly what they want. The troops were called to do two things. They are to firstly stop the blockade of the financial district and get people back to work so as to prevent further slumping in an economy. Bahrain relies on petroleum production and refining, which means that any blockage of that industry will cause a countrywide dilemma. Bringing the second obligation of the foreign troops to protect these industries and also government buildings and operations.

Some worry that the US’s relationship with Saudi may be at a crossroads. The US did not condone the arrival of foreign troops into Bahrain, but they also did not depose it. The US has simply, and emphatically, called upon open political discussion between the Shiites and the ruling Sunni monarchy. Hard liners want a reformation for elected government, whereas the median of the protesters simply want a constitutional monarchy.  The US is worried about Shiite Iran meddling with affairs in the region, as is Saudi Arabia. If Saudi was to fall due to an exponential spread in the sectarian conflict Iran would make the most of the situation to the detriment of US foreign policy in the region. Saudi Arabia is the US’s biggest ally in the region, and a regime change would be deemed unacceptable to US interests in the region.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-bahrain-protests-forces-idUSLDE72D0KH20110315?pageNumber=2

http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/middleeast/15saudi.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&src=ig

Mar 08 2011

What Should the US do to aid the Libya Rebels?

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Libyan rebel forces are amassing a surprising amount of victories in repelling government loyal troops. Just recently, this Sunday, rebels held onto the key city of Misrata, showing undying support for the cause. Unfortunately, this will not hold. Government troops carry better weapons and special weaponry such as fighter aircraft and artillery that make it very unlikely for the rebel troops to succeed with no assistance. The US has talked about instituting a no fly zone over Libya such as the one over Iraq in the 1990’s. This poses the challenge of a long-term commitment for the US, a commitment that cannot be afforded by the American people. What strategy should the US go with? A military invasion is absolutely out of the question, and the no fly zone is looking like a better option everyday.

Libyan ambassador to the US Ali Aujali believes that action is necessary now. “Time means losing lives, time means that Qaddafi will regain control,” he said. “He has weapons, he has rockets with about 450 kilometers’ distance, and we have to protect the people. These mercenaries now are everywhere.”[1] Options for some kind of intervention are absolutely necessary. The US has not done that much apart from the monetary assets seized internationally from the Qaddafi regime. This, however, is seen to make him and his bloodthirsty regime even more likely to not give up because they will have nothing to lose. Another option that should be considered is one similar to that of Operation Jawbreaker. Jawbreaker was the codename for the counterinsurgency techniques that US Special Forces employed to topple the Taliban in Afghanistan. They supplied the Northern Alliance with technology, information, and techniques to wage battle. America definitely cannot afford, monetarily and publicly, to put American infantry and airborne boots on the ground in Libya. Alternatives are necessary to at least train and inform due to the lack of resistance capabilities. “Libya’s opposition is essentially leaderless, disorganized, and untrained for military operations.”[2]

It is also important to look at what happens if Qaddafi is eventually ousted. “Even if Gadhafi is somehow ousted, the violence could continue as tribes duke it out for supremacy in a nation that has few significant public institutions that could fill a potentially chaotic void.”[3] The US and generally the UN will have to step in at some point, and it would greatly help Libya’ people if it were sooner, rather than later.


[1] http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/03/04/libyan_ambassador_the_us_must_do_more_to_stop_qaddafi_s_massacre

[2] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/03/04/this_week_at_war_the_jawbreaker_option

[3] http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/africa/03/06/libya.conflict/index.html?iref=obnetwork

Feb 28 2011

Revolution in Middle East

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The Arab world is changing right in front of our eyes whether we like it or not. Protests have been held in Libya, Bahrain, Jordan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia (minor), and even just recently in Beirut. With the recent clashes in the streets of the Middle East, many would argue that it is a middle class revolution. However, I believe it is more of a revolution of the youth. Behind the Sub-Sahara, the Middle East has the second highest population of youths in the world. “Sixty percent of the regions’ people are under 30, twice the rate of North America, found a study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.”[1] This usually leads to increased unemployment rates. With the destabilization of governments in the Middle East and such high populations of youths, there is a rising concern for increased radicalism. Excellent examples would be Somalia and Afghanistan. It is becoming increasingly evident that a growing amount of citizens in Afghanistan would rather have Sharia or Islamic Law because of its stability, even with its obvious cruelty. It has been long favored in the region and will continue to be even though western states refuse to allow them into any power position.  However, “Just as Washington has acknowledged that it cannot simply disregard popular support in Egypt for the Muslim Brotherhood, the West must also come to terms with the Taliban’s base of support”. [2]

What is also interesting is that the majority of the Arab governments, monarchs, are Sunni while vast amounts of Shiites are not heard or placed in any governmental position. In Bahrain, Shiite protesters were shot by Sunni government troops, sparking even more outrage and upheaval from underprivileged Shiites. “In Bahrain the Shia have been relegated to the political and economic periphery, thus creating an underclass that has no stake in the longevity of the current system and is not afraid of engaging in confrontational politics.”[3] As evidenced by previous protests in the Arab world, Bahraini protesters were, for the most part, youths (20’s). It is important to look for stability in the Arab world, seeing as the majority of the world’s oil supplies reside there. In tandem, there are a multitude of strategic US bases placed around the Arab countries. For example, the US Fifth Fleet is stationed in Bahrain. This can be taken as a sign of weakness, because the umbrella power of the US expands to, possibly, protect the governments from falling. However, no action by US forces have deterred or intervened in any of the protests across the Arab states.


[1] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/01/27/the_arab_world_s_youth_army

[2] http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/25/the_islamic_republic_of_talibanistan

[3] http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/02/25/libya_is_important_but_don_t_forget_bahrain