Monday, August 07, 2006

Connections and Interconnections

Pity the Bush Administration. It is currently beset with almost more than it can handle. Perhaps if it could step back and envision relations among its foreign policy predicaments, the task of running the world wouldn’t seem so daunting.

First thing is to consolidate the various challenges arising from the so-called “global war on terror.” NATO sans the U.S. has now slid into the most dangerous part of Afghanistan and placed NATO’s prestige on the line – and the lives of more soldiers from the Netherlands and Canada as well as Britain.

In Iraq, after all but announcing troop draw downs through rotations in which fewer soldiers came in than left, the upsurge in sectarian strife bordering (ALWAYS bordering) on civil war has forced the U.S. to add about 3,700 troops. Now the Iraqi government is recruiting 10,000 former “nominal” Ba’athist party members to help run the ministries and discharged military officers and enlisted troops to rejoin the army. And these were Vice-President Chaney’s “dead-enders?”

In Russia, the “Federation Council,” the upper chamber of the bicameral legislature, gave Vladimir Putin a “blank check” to employ Russia’s armed forces and other security personnel, anywhere in the world. Moreover, the Bush administration has been forced to reverse its stand against letting Russia store spent nuclear fuel rods – a lucrative business that is dominated now by the U.S. As the main supplier worldwide, Washington has a say in where the spent rods are kept. And of course, speaking of matters nuclear, right now the U.S. needs Russia’s cooperation on North Korea and Iran. Finally, on this issue, Pakistan appears intent on increasing its production of plutonium by building a new reactor.

Speaking of North Korea, its firing of seven missiles last month, sent Tokyo into orbit – figuratively speaking. In South Korea, however, nothing seemed able to break the country’s concentration on the World Cup – which could be because the North’s test firings had no impact on the South – literally. Moreover, South Korea is moving to build a long range (in excess of 300 kilometers) cruise missile to counter the North’s ballistic missile developments. The Missile Technology Control Regime does not restrict cruise missile development as it does ballistic missiles.

Meanwhile, Turkey is running out of patience with the inability the U.S. (or lack of interest to commit resources) to bring to heel the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) whose main bases are in Iraq Kurdistan from where they launch armed forays into Turkey. Ankara accuses the U.S. of a double standard in that it supports Tel Aviv’s war against Hezbollah in Lebanon – a government Washington wants to survive – but refuses to give Turkey the green light to cross into Iraq to attack PKK bases because – right on – it might destabilize the regime in Baghdad. Both Hezbollah and the PKK are on Washington’s list of terror organizations.

The Hezbollah-Israel-Lebanon fighting hit 27 days today. Diplomats finally started to get agreement among themselves at the UN, but they forgot to include the Beirut government, which rejected the initial draft. (Israeli diplomats were in frequent huddles with U.S. ambassador to the UN, John Bolton, as the resolution was being crafted. Syria is also under heavy international pressure to end weapons deliveries to Hezbollah – something it will be called to implement in the UN resolution expected to be voted out on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Syria, of course, also borders Iraq, which gets me back to the neighborhood where this all started in October 2001 when Washington was actually talking with Tehran.

Maybe the White House ought to try that approach again now. It worked once.


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