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Vol. XX, No.3                                                   Spring 2006

 

Nonviolent Change Journal helps to network the peace community: providing dialoguing, exchanges of ideas, articles, reviews, reports and announcements of the activities of peace related groups and meetings, reviews of world developments relating to nonviolent change and resource information concerning the development of human relations on the basis of mutual respect.

 

World Development

 

Compiled by Steve Sachs

 

 

     Spring has arrived finding the world facing increasing difficulties with only a few clear advances, some of which are significant. The January issue of CrisisWatch  (http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3856&l=1) found  that 11 conflict situations around the world deteriorated in December.

 

 A surge of violence in Sri Lanka raised fears of a return to full-scale civil war (though the violence has lessened with the renewal of peace talks). Internal divisions within the ruling Fatah party helped hard line Hamas win major West Bank cities in municipal elections, casting a shadow over the scheduled January general election, which Hamas later won.

 

Nuclear negotiations with North Korea returned to stalemate after five months of apparent progress, and have since made little real headway.

 

In Colombia, despite an optimistic start to government talks with leftist ELN rebels, the Revolutionary Armed Forced of Colombia (FARC) killed 37 in two of the worst attacks in years against security forces.

 

 In Egypt, the final round of parliamentary elections was marred by arrests, obstruction and violence as 12 were killed in the 7 December run-off vote.

 

And in China police killed up to 20 rural protesters demonstrating against land seizures for state projects.

 

The situations also deteriorated in Bangladesh, Chad, Lebanon, Pakistan and Peru. ICG found that four conflict situations improved in December.

 

The Democratic Republic of Congo held its first democratic vote in four decades as an overwhelming majority of the population approved a draft constitution.

 

In Afghanistan, the first elected parliament in 30 years was inaugurated by President Karzai. Bolivia saw the election of its first indigenous head of state in a free and fair poll.

 

 And in Côte d'Ivoire, after months of political deadlock, all parties accepted Charles Konan Banny as interim prime minister.

 

For January, CrisisWatch identified Ethiopia/Eritrea, Nepal and Sri Lanka as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month.

 

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No new Conflict Resolution Opportunities were identified for January.

 

The simmering conflict in eastern Sudan could become a major new war unless the parties agree to a provisional ceasefire and internationally-backed negotiations began that month. The full report is available at: http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=3858.

 

Eastern Sudan is a powder keg that could erupt into a new war unless the government and the insurgent Eastern Front agree to a provisional ceasefire, and internationally-backed negotiations with UN mediation beginning in January, before the SPLM completes its scheduled withdrawal. To defuse the situation, Khartoum needed send a senior delegation, with joint SPLM/ruling NCP party participation to negotiate sustainable peace based on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which the NCP and the SPLM, signed a year ago and which offers a framework to solve Sudan's regional wars. "The East, like Darfur and the South, has a legitimate claim on greater power sharing and wealth sharing in a new federal government. Unless those grievances are addressed and a piecemeal approach to peacemaking is abandoned, Sudan's vicious war cycle will spread again".

 

In Katanga, the Congo’s Forgotten Crisis, tensions in the province could lead to acute violence in the March elections, unless domestic and international actors move now to reform the army, rein in militias and eradicate impunity and corruption. Three conflicts set the stage for a tense campaign in the nation's most mineral-rich province: rivalries between southerners and northerners, between outsiders and natives and between Mai-Mai militias and the national army.

 

To help secure the province, the UN Mission (MONUC) should deploy several thousand more peacekeepers to Katanga to pressure Mai-Mai militias to integrate into the national army or demobilise. Parallel chains of command in army and administration need to be broken and the judicial system strengthened to curb abuses. Katanga cannot continue to be plundered and mismanaged by corrupt officials and substantially ignored by the international community.

 

In its March report, ICG found eight conflict situations around the world deteriorated in February, Iraq moved closer to full-scale civil war after the bombing of the Shiite al-Askariya shrine in Samara set off the worst sectarian violence of the U.S. occupation, with many hundreds killed.

 

Security deteriorated in Nigeria with an upsurge in religious and political violence left over 150 dead. Several regions of Pakistan erupted, with sectarian attacks in the North West Frontier Province killing 35, rocket attacks and a bus bomb in Baluchistan, deadly protests in Lahore and Peshawar, and disturbances in South Waziristan.

 

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In India, Maoist violence escalated in Chhattisgarh state while unrest continued in the northeast. The situation also deteriorated in Kazakhstan, the North Caucasus, the Philippines and across the Taiwan Strait.

 

 Two conflict situations showed improvement in February. In Sri Lanka, tensions cooled considerably as the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, meeting in Geneva, released a joint statement committing to curb violence and hold further talks in April. Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy returned from exile after being given a royal pardon for allegations he made against Prime Minister Hun Sen.

 

Then on March1, ICG reported that 10 conflict situations around the world deteriorated in March (Crises Watch, http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?l=1&id=4057).

 

 In summary, "heavy fighting in Mogadishu killed up to 140 and risked undermining political progress in Somalia.

 

The presidential election in Belarus was marred by electoral violations and a crackdown on opposition protesters.

 

Clashes in Pakistan's North Waziristan killed over 200 and threatened to spread to neighboring tribal regions.

 

In Uzbekistan, the government intensified its campaign on opposition activists and international organizations, expelling the United Nations refugee agency and sentencing dissidents to long prison terms.

 

The situation also deteriorated in the Central African Republic, Chad, Ecuador, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau/Senegal and Turkey.

 

 Four conflict situations showed improvement in March 2006. Prospects for Côte d‚Ivoire's long-delayed peace process improved as Forces Nouvelles leader Guillaume Soro returned to Abidjan for the first full session of the transitional government. In Spain, Basque separatists ETA announced a permanent ceasefire, raising hopes for a lasting solution to the longstanding conflict. Vital constitutional reforms were agreed upon by the main political parties in Bosnia & Herzegovina. And in Haiti, the situation showed some signs of improvement, with a decline in kidnappings and attacks on the UN mission since February's presidential elections".

 

For April 2006, CrisisWatch identified Afghanistan, Guinea, Iraq, Nepal and Somalia as Conflict Risk Alerts or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month. A Conflict Resolution Opportunity wqs identified in the Basque Country.

 

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    The possibility of stopping nuclear weapons proliferation may well have reached the point of impossibility. Negotiations continue with Iran, with on and off promise of limited movement, while Iran continues to insist that it has the right develop nuclear power, including enriching uranium that can be used in nuclear weapons. The issue of Iranian nuclear development has been taken to the U.N. Security Council, which has so far only told the Iranians to cease. With Russia and China opposed to strong sanctions, about which the European Union has some second thoughts, as sanctions might interrupt oil sales from Iran, there seems insufficient diplomatic pressure available to deter Tehran. There are reports that the U.S., Britan and Israel are considering military options. But the U.S. seems to recognize that an invasion would not be practical. Many annalists say that bombing would only slow Iran's developing nuclear weapons, and that any military action would likely increase Tehran's atomic weapons efforts, speeding the program. Current estimates are that it is likely to take Iran 5-10 years to build its first a bomb. Meanwhile, Iran and the U.S. have agreed to first talks about Iraq, which both countries would like to see be reasonably stable. This may provide an opening for reducing tensions between the two nations, which threaten to create further upheaval in the region, with wider ill effects.

 

     Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press stated, in the April-May 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs, that in the absence of Cold War restraints, because of mutually assured destruction (MAD), the Bush administration is engaged in a revitalized nuclear program as part of its strategy to remain, for the foreseeable future, the only superpower and to prevent the emergence of a peer competitor to replace the Soviet Union. That requires substantially changing the rules of arms control and nonproliferation. "Now that MAD and the awkward equilibrium it maintained are about to be upset, the argument has become deadly serious. Hawks will undoubtedly see the advent of U.S. nuclear primacy as a positive development. For them, MAD was regrettable because it left the United States vulnerable to nuclear attack. With the passing of MAD, they argue, Washington will have what strategists refer to as 'escalation dominance' -- the ability to win a war at any level of violence -- and will thus be better positioned to check the ambitions of dangerous states such as China, North Korea, and Iran.

 

Doves, on the other hand, are fearful of a world in which the United States feels free to threaten -- and perhaps even use -- force in pursuit of its foreign policy goals. In their view, nuclear weapons can produce peace and stability only when all nuclear powers are equally vulnerable.

 

Owls worry that nuclear primacy will cause destabilizing reactions on the part of other governments regardless of the United States' intentions. They assume that Russia and China will work furiously to reduce their vulnerability by building more missiles, submarines, and bombers; putting more warheads on each weapon; keeping their nuclear forces on higher peacetime levels of alert; and adopting hair-trigger retaliatory policies. If Russia and China take these steps, owls argue, the risk of accidental, unauthorized, or even intentional nuclear war -- especially during  moments of crisis -- may climb to levels not seen for decades."

 

     The deal announced in New Delhi, in March, under which India will be allowed access to U.S. nuclear technology and fuel in exchange for subjecting the non-military part of its nuclear program -- 14 of its 22 atomic facilities -- to international inspection has been favorably received by some, including International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei, as a visionary breakthrough that will strengthen non-proliferation efforts on the basis of contemporary realities.

 

Others, including a number of members of Congress (which has yet to approve or vote down the agreement) and many nuclear arms experts, condemn it as undermining the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), while encouraging nuclear arms development by Iran, North Korea and other potential nuclear arms developers by sending the message that the best way to win acceptance as a nuclear power is to go ahead and build and test weapons, giving some  indication of an intent to manage them responsibly.

 

 Iran quickly stated that there was hypocrisy in the U.S. agreeing to supply fuel and technology to a country staying out of the NPT, that used its nuclear energy program to build nuclear weapons, while denying the rights of Iran, an NPT signatory, that has refrained from building atomic weapons (though intelligence indicates that Iran is moving to do so).

 

Many critics believe that the India agreement makes it more difficult to make the case that restraining Iran is a matter of enforcing universally accepted rules rather than singling out a regime in conflict with the West. A major factor in the U.S. decision to offer the deal, likely, is to improve relations with India as China becomes a greater power. Parties on the Left in India, including some in the ruling coalition, were critical of the deal. Amit Baruah asserts in the Hindu, March 1, that India’s strategic options are expanding with its rising power, but that these options will be limited if India allies too closely with the United States.

 

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     The International Crisis Group cautioned, at the end of January, that the U.S. does not fully understand China's view of North Korea. In working with China to end North Korea's atomic weapons program, the Bush administration assumes the willingness and ability of Beijing to pressure Pyongyang, using its status as North Korea's major trading partner to cause its southern neighbor to act properly.

 

ICG states, however, that "China's influence on North Korea is more than it is willing to admit but far less than outsiders tend to believe." "Although it shares the international community's denuclearization goal, it has its own concept of how to achieve it. It will not tolerate erratic and dangerous behavior if it poses a risk of conflict but neither will it endorse or implement policies that it believes will create instability or threaten its influence in both Pyongyang and Seoul."

 

ICG sees China's priorities with regard to North Korea as differing from the Bush Administration's. They include maintaining economic and social stability, preventing the U.S. from dominating a united Korea, and using its role in mediating the standoff to enhance its diplomatic prestige, while avoiding triggering a regional arms race. Although Beijing's $2 billion in trade and investment is critical to North Korea's economy, "there is virtually no circumstance under which China would use it to force North Korea's compliance on the nuclear issue."

 

China fears that sanctions would produce more harm than good, and also set a precedent that could prove unfavorable for Beijing in other areas. China's fear of a mass of refugees crossing the border, if North Korea implodes, also gives it a greater concern for maintaining the status quo on the Korean peninsula, or altering it very gradually through market reforms. "Although it cannot deliver a rapid end to Pyongyang's weapons program, China must still be an integral component of any strategy with a chance of reducing the threat of a nuclear North Korea."

 

No other country has the interest and political position in North Korea to facilitate and mediate negotiations. It is also the key to preventing transfers of the North's nuclear materials and other illicit goods, although its ability to do this is limited by logistical and intelligence weaknesses, and unwillingness to curb border trade. Over the long-term, Chinese economic interaction with the North may be the best hope for sparking deeper systemic reform and liberalization there." Currently, multi-power negotiations with North Korea on ending its nuclear weapons program are continuing, with the same ups and downs that have characterized them over the last few years.

 

 

 

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     In a panel discussion at the Middle East Institute, December 5, Imperial Hubris author Michael Scheuer argues that the U.S. is now confronting a global Islamist insurgency, which cannot be destroyed one terrorist at a time. He believes the Bush administration needs to recognize the political sources of that insurgency, and construct a strategy for the defeat of al Qaeda that acknowledges its greatest source of strength, the growing global sense of Muslim grievance at acts and statements of the United States (and to a lesser extent "the west.").

 

Zbigniew Brezinski made similar observations, in December, in criticizing President Bush's 'Islamophobia' in the President's efforts to compare Islamist radicalism with communism. It should be noted that there is a difference of interest and policy between internationally oriented Jihadists, like el Qiada, and nationally oriented islamists, such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood.

 

     The publishing of cartoons, on their face mocking the Prophet Muhammad, by a Danish newspaper and reprinted in various European newspapers, triggered extended and often violent protests across the Middle East this winter. While perceived  disrespect for Islam was the proximate cause, more important concerns would seem to be the war in Iraq, the continuing of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict with its high cost for Palestinians, who still do not have a nation, and aspects of  what may be considered neocolonialism, including western support for unpopular Middle East governments.

 

     In late February civil war clearly exploded in Iraq, as insurgents blew up the Golden Dome, the most sacred Shiite Mosque in the country, leading to Shiia counter attacks immediately against 27 Sunni Mosques, and later against hundreds more as sectarian fighting expanded to involve many thousands of people in the streets, with 150 dead and a great many injured in the first two days.

 

The government attempted to end the violence with a curfew, while leading Shiite clerics, including Ayatollah Sustani called for restraint, with protest channeled into peaceful demonstrations, while numerous Shiite and Suni clerics called upon their congregations not to attack each other's mosques; but the sectarian conflict continues at a slightly lower level, while the Iraqi Parliament has long been unable to form a government, faced with severe differences of views by the leading factions.

 

The New York Times reported, April 2, that thousands of Iraqi civilians have fled mixed neighborhoods to take refuge in areas dominated by their own sect or ethnic group, often protected by its own militia. It is largely at the neighborhood level, rather than on the political stage, that the civil war is taking place.

 

     Juan Cole, in Informed Comment, March 6, explained the centrality of the city of Kirkuk in the dynamics of civil conflict in Iraq, and t the extended debate over who will be Prime Minister. "Jaafari is not being attacked [by Talabani] because he is weak, or indecisive, or because he could not keep order in the country." "He is being attacked for the opposite reasons-- that he has decisively decided to fight the Kurds on their planned annexation of Kirkuk.

 

The Kurds are powerful, so Jaafari reached out to Ankara for an ally. He was pressed by the Turks to make Kirkuk a city with a 'special status' as a way of denying it to the Kurds, and he may have acquiesced. This is the reason that Talabani went ballistic over the prime minister's visit to Turkey."

 

     At this point, the divisive forces in Iraq appear to be sufficient to "Lebonize" the nation, for the indefinite future, despite some unifying energies, because of political processes and the composition of the security being cooped by sectarian groups. Brian Conley and Isham Rashid, in Asia Times, March 10, report that cooperation between the Sunni Muslim Scholars Association and Moqtada Sadr's movement in taking steps to reduce communal tension.

 

These groups are united on the basis of a common Iraqi nationalism, in opposition to the presence of Coalition forces, and to Kurdish attempts to take Kirkuk and create a de facto independent entity. Some supporters of the Sadr-MSA alliance see the talk of civil war as being fostered by Kurdish leaders, precisely to create a climate for secession.

 

Some commentators (TIME.com, February 23) view Sadr, who's Mehdi Army has twice launched insurrections against the U.S., as the most likely unifying figure, leading a strong Shiite coalition while being the politician most respected among nationalist Sunis. He appears the most capable Iraqi power broker at the moment. But in the current divisive situation, no power broker may be able to mend the rifts.

 

     The International Crisis Group states, "The U.S. and its allies seem to know little about the enemies they are fighting in Iraq, despite volumes of information on insurgent web sites, chat rooms, magazines and videos, which are a large part of their communication with each other and their constituents.

 

Analysis of this undervalued communication suggests armed insurgency groups are less divided between nationalists and foreign jihadis than commonly reported, and are increasingly coordinated, confident and information-savvy. The better the U.S. understands their message and why it resonates, the better it will understand how to win hearts and minds.

 

Coalition forces should take what the opposition says seriously, rather than dismiss it as propaganda, and adjust political strategy accordingly. An anti-insurgency approach based squarely on reducing the insurgents‚ perceived legitimacy - rather than, as at present, on military destruction and dislocation - is likelier to succeed". For the full report go to: www.crisisgroup.org.

 

      Meanwhile, corruption in Iraq is fueling the insurgency. this includes insurgents having infiltrated the management of the oil industry, enabling an estimated 40% of the extensive black market petroleum sales to finance the insurgency. A 1,500-member Iraqi police force with close ties to Shiite militia groups has emerged as a focus of investigations into suspected death squads working within the country's Interior Ministry.

 

 

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 In March, a reporter who had written that over 7000 Iraqis had been killed by death squads that month, had to flee the country because the death squads were unhappy about his publishing that fact. A study by the Iraq Body Count (IBC) project suggests that 12,617 Iraqis were killed over the past year, prior to the upsurge in deadly violence triggered by the bombing of the Golden Dome Mosque. This is the highest annual death toll since George Bush declared the Combat stage of the invasion over in May 2003. The report indicated that sectarian violence is responsible for a growing number of deaths.

 

 Only 370 of last year's death toll could be direct attributed to US-led forces, compared with 2,231 from what IBC called anti-occupation activity against coalition and Iraqi government targets (http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=354752006). Meanwhile, the economic and service situation remains terrible, fueling unrest, with very high unemployment, public utilities erratic in their functioning, and the fabric of daily life remaining disrupted in much of the country.

 

     According to Daniel Jordan and Neil Wollman, "Why the war is a waste," in the New York Daily News, Sunday, March 19 http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ideas_opinions/story/400820p-339573c.html

 several reports indicate that, at the invasion's third anniversary, more than 250,000 Iraqis have died from violence or the breakdown of basic health care and other infrastructure. Poverty, childhood malnutrition, inflation and unemployment are skyrocketing.

 

Academics and other professionals have left the country after being targeted for murder or kidnapping, draining Iraq of resources to rebuild the nation.

 

As of mid-February, U.S. forces in Iraq had suffered more than 2,200 dead, and 16,700 wounded, officially "in combat," but actually considerably more than that, including the larger number of "non-combat" casualties. The War in Iraq costs, as of this spring, for the U.S exceeds $2.46 trillion. Tom Fox, the Virginia peace activist who was taken hostage last year in Iraq, was found dead in March.

 

     Stephen Biddle argues, in Foreign Affairs, March-April, 2006, that the U.S. is mistakenly waging a Vietnam type war in Iraq, employing tactics designed to combat a Maoist "people's war," where Iraq is now a low intensity civil war. U.S. tactics, therefore, should be based on balancing the interests of the combatants, creating incentives for desired behaviour and sanctions for acting badly.

 

 Knowledgeable commentators are divided about what the best course now is for the U.S. Some see the occupation as contributing to the violence, while viewing an internal struggle as inevitable and the U.S. presence only prolonging and exacerbating the conflict. Others agree that the U.S. presence contributes to the struggle, but still see an international presence as essential to reforming the country and ending the sectarian strife, though some admit that a moment for the U.S. to withdraw may be approaching.

 

One proposal is for the coalition forces to redeploy just outside of Iraq, or outside the main population areas, essentially withdrawing, but able to return quickly if there were an appropriate need. The Bush plan appears to be to reduce the U.S. presence, out of political and logistic necessity (with U.S. forces exhausted and badly overstretched), but to maintain a long term presence.

 

   

 

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 A major shift has taken place in the with Palestinian Elections Middle east situation. Hamas won the majority of seats in Palestinian Parliamentary elections, and with no other parties willing to join it in a government, has formed its own government headed by a Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, considered pragmatic in his approach, by many.

 

Fatah member Abas remains President. While his not being a member of Hamas may make it easier for Israel and some other governments to negotiate, through him, with the Palestinian Authority, the government is firmly controlled by Hamas.

 

 Well more than a majority of Palestinians do not accept Hamas' view that Israel should be destroyed, but the combination of continuing corruption and narrow old guard leadership in Fatah, the splits in that party, the non-existence of a real peace process, continued Israeli repression and worsening conditions in the very poor economy all contributed to Hamas coming to power.

 

A sign of that much of the vote for Hamas was a protest vote, is that Hamas gained a larger percentage of the balloting in previously Fatah majority areas, than in areas in which it previously claimed a majority of voters. Al-Jazeera.net reported on a poll conducted by the Ramallah-based Near East Consulting Institute in late January. The poll found that almost three-quarters of Palestinians want the newly elected Hamas movement to drop its call for the destruction of Israel. Overall 84% support a peace agreement with Israel, including 77% of Hamas voters. 86% of those polled want Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate Palestinian Authority president, to remain in his post.

 

     Because of Hamas stance on the destruction of Israel, the United States, Israel and some western European governments have considered cutting off funding to the Palestinian Authority, and a few have done so, unless Hamas declares that Israel has the right to exist. This is very unlikely for the foreseeable future. A broad cut off of finances from Israel (including tax money it collects for the Palestinian Authority) and internationally would leave the already poor Palestinian government bankrupt, and unable to pay salaries, while having a devastating impact on most Palestinians.

 

Many commentators believe that such an action would strengthen, rather than weaken Hamas (as indiscated by Fatah's sharp criticism of the proposal), while increasing support from radical Islamists. The International Crises Group recommends, "There are risks, but the West needs to adopt a policy of gradual, conditional engagement to encourage Hamas to choose politics over violence. Incorporation into local and national governance may cause it to move away from the military path by giving it a stake in stability and emphasising the political costs of a breakdown. The EU, with more flexibility than the U.S., should move first and Washington consider following if the approach proves effective". 

 

In February, Jimmy Carter (See, "Don't Punish the Palestinians, http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/022106Z.shtml) urged "It would not violate any political principles to at least give the Palestinians their own money; let humanitarian assistance continue through UN and private agencies; encourage Russia, Egypt and other nations to exert maximum influence on Hamas to moderate its negative policies; and support President Abbas in his efforts to ease tension, avoid violence and explore steps toward a lasting peace."

 

Meanwhile, inter-Palestinian Violence may be on the rise. At the end of March, a member of the Popular Resistance Committees was killed when a bomb destroyed his car. A spokesman for the Committees blamed the Palestinian security forces of collaborating with Israel in the assassination (and Israel continues to assassinate suspected militant Palestinian leaders), leading to a gun battle in which three Palestinians were killed.

 

The most important problem the new Hamas government will have to deal with is security, bringing order to the Palestinian territories, and preventing attacks on Israel that will bring unwanted reprisals. If Hamas wants to maintain a truce, it will now have to enforce it. there has already been one suicide bombing by a Palestinian inside Israel since Hamas formed a government.

 

     The Israeli elections appear to have put the centrist party Kadima in position to lead the government, if it can form a collation, which will likely be with Labor and two religious parties. The main result of the elections is that the hold of the nationalistic-religious bloc, which had dominated Israel for more than a generation, has been broken.

 

All the right-wing parties together won 32 seats, the religious parties 19. With 51 of the 120 seats in the Knesset, the rightist-religious wing can no longer block all moves towards peace. Significantly, the "National Union", the party that is completely identified with the settlers, won only 9 seats - more or less like last time.

 

 

 After the destruction of the Gaza settlements, the settlers remain as unpopular as ever. The election overwhelmingly supported withdrawal from Gaza, and the likely prime minister, Olmert, has said he will seek to withdraw from all of the West Bank except for a dense block of settlements just inside the West Bank (but how much of the West Bank he would annex is unclear, perhaps as much as 50%, has been speculated). He stated he preferred to do this by negotiations, if it can be done quickly (which the Hamas Palestinian Prime Minister says he will not do), and if not, unilaterally, as was done with Gaza. But at the very least, the election was a national referendum supporting the withdrawal from the West Bank.

 

     At first glance, the election victory of Hamas, and the continuation in Israel of a government not likely to seriously negotiate with the Palestinians, seems to end the Oslo Peace Process. But it has been effectively dead for some years, anyway, and with Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshal, in Cairo for a Hamas summit concerning plans for the Palestinian government following the Hamas victory, having stated in a BBC interview that Hamas is prepared to offer Israel a long-term truce if it agrees to withdraw to its 1967 borders, a long term cease fire is possible. That could eventually lead to a new peace process.

 

 

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   The International Crises Group stated, in mid-February, that "with further violent unrest in Uzbekistan a strong possibility for the medium term, the international community must develop new strategies to prepare for potentially massive instability in Central Asia. The government in Tashkent is not at risk of imminent collapse, but Uzbekistan could eventually become the centre of regional volatility, which would have a significant impact on Western interests, including in Afghanistan.

 

Western policies meant to support development of political and economic openness have failed". The new focus should be on a strategy to maintain political activity, civil society and educational opportunities in the expectation of future change to a more reasonable government; and a plan to reduce the impact instability in Uzbekistan would have on its neighbors" (For the full report:http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3952).

 

 

 

     In late March ICG reported that the unresolved conflicts in the South Caucasus could explode into full-fledged wars at Europe's Periphery. To insure its own security, the EU needs to become more engaged in resolving these conflicts. To date, others have taken the lead in promoting conflict settlement in the region, but over a decade of negotiations, led by the UN in Abkhazia and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia, have yet to produce peace.

 

"With its reputation as an 'honest broker', the EU has a greater role to play, and especially since the 2004 enlargement brought the South Caucasus closer, it has strong incentive to get involved". For more, go to http://www.crisisgroup.org. In February, international efforts to solve that Nagorno-Karabakh improved, with a promising new round of negotiations underway.

 

 

 

     In a late March briefing on Papua, ICG warns that, "The Papuan People's Council, the key institution charged with easing tensions between Papuans and Indonesia's central government, may be about to collapse, with grave consequences given the region's current volatility. Created in late October 2005 as the centerpiece of the autonomy deal, the Council was almost immediately confronted with two major crises: stalled talks over the legal status of West Irian Jaya and riots over the giant Freeport mine.

 

If the Council can now maneuver its way through the two crises, it may yet be able to take on other outstanding grievances and become what Papua has always lacked, a genuinely representative dialogue partner with Jakarta. If it fails, local resentment against the central government will almost certainly increase. The central government should realize it is in its own interest to help the Council succeed". The complete report is at: www.crisisgroup.org

 

 

 

     A major element in widening unrest in Pakistan is a civil war for independence in the northern province of Baluchistan, which has been intensifying.

 

     Algeria, having decided to pardon or reduce the sentences of about 2000 people detained during the 1990a insurgency, released a first group of Islamic militants in early March.

 

     In the most serious unrest in Turkey since the forming of the Turkish Workers Party (now illegal) in 1984, a number of Kurds have been killed by police gunfire in protests and riots over high unemployment, poverty and the failure of the government to provide more autonomy to Kurdish areas. A bombing at a bus stop, attributed to Kurdish separatists, also occurred in March. In recent years, the Kurdish language has been made legal to speak and the Turkish government has allowed more Kurdish cultural freedom.

 

   

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 The U.S announced in December that it will establish four military bases in Romania. The former Soviet satellite seeks to insure that the U.S. will guarantee its security. But Romania needs to be careful to maintain its essential economic ties with the European Union, which recently warned that any state found to have hosted secret U.S. detention facilities on its territory could lose their voting rights in the EU (ISN Security Watch, December 7, 2005). Russia, unhappy at the news, announced that it may, no longer follow the 1990 Conventional Forces in Europe agreement limiting deployments (Forbes, December 7, 2005).

 

     The International Crises Group (ICG) stated, in February, that, "To create a stable Kosovo, the international community must dare to impose independence rather than attempt finessing Pristina and Belgrade's differences with an ambiguous and unstable settlement. While agreement between all parties remains desirable in theory, it is extremely unlikely that any Serbian government will voluntarily acquiesce to the kind of independence, conditional though it is likely to be, which is necessary for a secure, long-term solution".

 

However, Kosovo‚s Albanian majority must first agree to guarantee Serbian and other minority rights. The EU and its member states should commit additional resources to the Western Balkans. In addition, the international community will have to remain in Serb-dominated northern Kosovo to avoid a violent breakdown after independence.

(See:  http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=3225&l=1

 

ICG found in January, "Macedonia's EU hopes will be dashed unless the government reforms the police and judicial sectors, and responds effectively to potential political crises and would-be spoilers. While the government has made notable progress on police reform, it has yet to tackle fundamental management issues such as creating a merit-based personnel system, decentralizing authority and increasing transparency and accountability. The crippled judicial system faces a serious backlog of cases and suffers from excessive political influence. The international community should keep pressure on the government to deliver on its reform rhetoric."

 

 

     ICG, stated in a March report on France that, "The riots of October-November 2005 and the jihadist militancy in its Muslim population are the product of not only discrimination and exclusion but also the absence of political representation and a resulting sentiment of abandonment, all of which France must urgently address."

 

 

     A new round of talks among the political parties began in Northern Ireland, in February, aimed at finding a formula for restarting the government. The Northern Ireland Integrated School Fund was started in 1981 to promote peace through breaking down Northern Ireland's sectarian divisions. With the addition of two new schools in March, there are now 58 integrated schools with more than 18,000 pupils on the roll books.

 

 

     In Spain, the Basque separatist group, ETA, has declared a permanent ceasefire in its long war against the government for Basque independence, and will now switch to peaceful political means for working towards its goals.

 

     ICG has found that "The failure of the Annan Plan to reunify Cyprus - accepted by Turkish Cypriots by a large majority but rejected by Greek Cypriots in the 2004 referendum - has left the island's peace process locked in stagnation.

 

Given that no settlement process is in sight, and that attempts to negotiate interim confidence building measures seem likely to be an unproductive diversion, the only way forward is a series of unilateral efforts by the relevant domestic and international actors aimed at sustaining the pro-solution momentum in the north, inducing political change in the south, and advancing inter-communal reconciliation.

 

External players should exert pressure upon the political elites of both communities for immediate recommencement of negotiations. The key to unblocking the situation is for the Greek Cypriot leadership to re-engage with the process in a meaningful way".

 

 

 

     Recent International Crises Group (www.crisisgroup.org). Reports urge the need for rapid strong international action in several places in Africa. Unless there is an immediate increase of international forces in the region, the Darfur crisis and the escalating proxy war between Sudan and Chad will cost tens of thousands additional lives, destabilizing a wide swathe of Africa. A militarily capable UN member state, such as France, should offer to the UN Security Council to lead a blue-helmet stabilization force of 5,000 troops, which is beyond the capability of the African Union.

 

Continuation of Liberia's Momentum toward recovery, with the January inauguration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, requires the government and the international community to maintain their cooperative energy. guaranteeing a proper flow of funds that are used transparently. "However, if that sensitive partnership fails, the door will be open for a future, disastrous insurgency.

 

The government and donors need to concentrate on several crucial points: following-through on the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Plan (GEMAP); training the new army; reforming the judicial sector; and rebuilding basic infrastructure. Donors should realise that money spent on Liberia will have a vital stabilising impact on the entire volatile region". In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the top priority of the government and its international supporters must be reforming the security sector, as rrebuilding the national army is far behind schedule, and recently integrated units are often a security hazard. In much of the country the police are out matched by militias.

 

The security services, quickly, must be made able to maintain order during national elections in the spring, while reducing the staggering death rate from armed conflict. Far more must be done to create an effective unified army with a single chain of command. Police reform must transform a patchwork approach that largely neglects the countryside.

 

 "All other development and progress - from elections to humanitarian assistance to economic activity - depend on establishing and maintaining a secure environment". "Only a comprehensive international strategy will halt the brutal insurgency of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda.

 

Governments committed both to ending the war and achieving accountability in Uganda need to devise and apply a far-reaching plan that complements and reinforces the International Criminal Court (ICG) indictments and the peacemaking efforts of Betty Bigombe, including: apprehending ICC inductees; pressing Uganda and neighboring states to co-operate to fight LRA incursions; getting the Ugandan military to focus on protecting civilians; supporting Bigombe‚s moves to renew dialogue with the LRA including incentives for its non-indicted leaders; pushing for a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) program; establishing a truth and reconciliation commission; and providing for the basic humanitarian needs of displaced persons. All these pieces have to be substantially enhanced and fit together to make peace".

 

 

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     Conflict is increasing in Nigeria over lack of, and unequal, payments to local people from oil extraction, causing disruptions in Nigerian petroleum production and export. The government of Chad is diverting money from a World Bank supported program aimed at assisting the large numbers of the nation's poor, particularly with economic and service development.

 

     In January, the Zapatista National Liberation Army of Chiapas and began a 31-state "Other Campaign" across Mexico, parallel to the country’s presidential campaigning. The Zapatistas “Other Campaign” has as the purpose of listening to indigenous, working class and otherwise marginalized Mexicans, some of whom have never spoken out in public.

Details of the campaign are available from Global Exchange: http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/americas/mexico/dispatches

The investigative reports of Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho and the attempts to silence her (she was in Jail in Arizona, as of March 1, in the midst of extradition proceedings to send her to Mexico) are illuminating the Mexican "international pedophile rings, drug trafficking and its related violence, the brutal exploitation and abuse found in the off-shore assembly plants that make our clothes and our televisions. All form part of the underbelly of globalization where illegal activities have increased on a par with trade in legal goods and services". the full report is in the Interrnational Relations Center (IRC) Americas Program report at: http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3132.

 

     On February 7 after considerable violence, and indications that some of the vote that should have gone to the winner were stolen, Haitian voters elected Rene Preval president by a large margin. However, Haitian elites, with support from the international community, undercut the victory, in negotiating a deal that boosted Preval, over the 50% of the vote, to avoid a runoff election.

 

 "By choosing to negotiate the process instead of confirming the clear winner through a fair count, it provides leverage for those seeking to delegitimize Mr. Preval's presidency and block the progressive social and economic policies that he was elected to implement," says Brian Concannon, Jr. (CrossBorder UPDATER, March 1, 2006, http://americas.irc-online.org/updater/3133).

 

 

     The International Crises group reported a finding on Columbia, March 15, "If the Colombian government does not change its policy on the demobilization of paramilitaries, it risks prolonging the 40-year armed conflict and damaging democracy. Paramilitary demobilization is now drawing to a close, but President Alvaro Uribe may be prioritizing a quick fix removal of the extreme right-wing group from the conflict at the cost of justice for their victims and at the risk of leaving their criminal power structures largely untouched.

 

While the July 2005 Justice and Peace Law has serious shortcomings that make it difficult to end impunity and establish the truth for grave crimes committed by demobilized individuals and to achieve fully satisfactory reparations for victims, it can be an important vehicle for protecting Colombia's democracy against dangerous paramilitary and criminal interference.

 

 It needs, however, to be revised and implemented effectively." In March, Columbian voters gave a substantial parliamentary victory to a center-right wing coalition supporting President Uribe, and increasing the strong likelihood of his being reelected to the Presidency in May. Columbia's annual National Peace Prize was awarded in 2005 to the Diocese of Quibido in Chaco Province for nonviolent defense work to safeguard indigenous and Afro-Columbian people.

 

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     In late March, thousands of Indigenous Ecuadorians were blockading roads and highways, threatening to overthrow President Alfredo Palacio’s government if he signs a free-trade pact with the United States. They are also demanding that Palacio expel the U.S. oil company Occidental from the country. For more information go to http://www.globalexchange.org

 

 

 

     Faced with protests, visits to executives homes, barrages of e-mails and years of unfavorable press, Bechtel corporation gave up its $50 million law suite against Bolivia at a secrete international trade court run by the World Bank, to recover claimed damages from cancellation of its water privatization contract at Cochabamba, Bolivia in 2000.

 

     Ecologist Gretchen Daily has been a spokesperson for an approach to ecological preservation that is gaining support: considering farms and forests as ecological assets that must not be squandered (See, "Investing in Green," Newsweek, June 6, 2005). Examples of this approach include Costa Rica establishing a system of payments for watershed services, such as drinking water quality, maintaining sediment-free water to hydro-electric dams; Pierre Vitel in France paying farmers to maintain water quality and for supplying the farmers. Another example is a proposal to reclaim the Gulf of Mexico dead zone by subsidizing the planting of strips of trees along open waterways which would remove excess nitrogen form the water.

 

 

     British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued a report, in January, based on government funded research, finding that the threat from global warming is "greater than we thought," and green house gasse are being produced at a "rate that is unsustainable."

 

A Federal District Court in Northern California, in September, decided that a suite, brought by two environmental groups, can proceed against federal government agencies for damage caused by global warming, resulting from their financial investments.

 

   

     Julian Delasantellis wrote in "US living on borrowed time - and money," Asia Times, March 28 http://informationclearinghouse.info/article12537.htm , that the Treasury International Capital (TIC) report shows that the world is beginning to resist loaning additional money to the United States as a result of its huge deficit and continually growing imbalance of payments. So far, the refusal is small, but it indicates the beginning of a likely quickly expanding trend that, if not reversed by the U.S. reducing its debt, will soon create huge negative effects for the U.S. economy.

 

The current-account data report how much the US needs to finance its imbalance of spending. The monthly TIC shows that in 2003 the U.S. needed $531 billion from the rest of the world, but that it obtained $747 billion. For 2004, the need was $666 billion, with $915 billion received. For 2005, the need was $801 billion, with $1.025 trillion actually brought in. However, there has been a steady decline in foreign inflows since August 2005, when $117.2 billion came from abroad, to $74 billion in December and $78 billion in January.

 

With a projected $975 billion government budget deficit for 2006, the income of foreign capital is no longer enough to cover the rising deficit. Many commentators believe that only the large surplus of foreign investment has kept interest rates low, propelling real-estate sales and increases in stock equity prices. The projected shortfall is only $5 billion for this year, which after the large surpluses may only have a moderate effect, but if the shortfall increases, the impact is likely to be extremely damaging.

 

     While violent and other crime is generally occurring at reduced rates in the United States, murders relating to petty disputes in poor areas in some urban and other places in the nation have been rising sharply, against a background of increased anger, according to a report published in The New York Times, February 12.

 

 

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©2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006. All rights reserve. The Nonviolent Change Journal is published by the Research/Action Team on Nonviolent Large Systems Change - an interorganizational and international project of The Organization Development Institute.  Opinions expressed are solely that of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editing staff, Nonviolent Change Journal, Organization Development Institute.