Sadr calls for resistance to U.S. presence in Iraq

As the Iraqi cabinet prepares to vote on a security agreement for American troops, the anti-American Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr called Friday for armed resistance against any agreement that allowed a continued United States presence in Iraq.

“I repeat my demand to the occupier to leave our land without keeping bases or signing agreements,” Mr. Sadr said in a statement read to thousands of supporters at Friday Prayer. “If they keep bases, then I would support honorable resistance.”

Tension is rising here over the agreement as the vote nears, even if few oppose it to the extremes of Mr. Sadr and his followers. An aide to Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered Shiite cleric in Iraq, also indicated that he would intervene in some way if the draft did not enjoy the full support of the Iraqi people. But Ayatollah Sistani, who far outranks Mr. Sadr, has consistently advocated nonviolence. [continued…]

Maliki tells Bush he now backs new U.S. troop deal

After months of tough negotiations and multiple revisions, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki has decided to back the controversial U.S.-Iraq security agreement that calls for the complete withdrawal of American troops by the end of 2011, Iraqi and U.S. officials said Friday.

Maliki informed President George W. Bush in the last 24 hours that he’s “satisfied” with what Iraqi officials now are calling the “withdrawal agreement,” a Bush administration official said in Washington. Earlier, Maliki informed the Iraqi Presidency Council that he’d back it, Sami al Askari, a Shiite Muslim legislator who’s close to the premier, said Friday.

At Maliki’s meeting with the Presidency Council last week, President Jalal Talabani and Shiite Vice President Adil Abdul Mehdi responded that they and their political blocs also supported the draft, but the Sunni Muslim vice president, Tariq al Hashimi, declined to give his endorsement, Askari said. [continued…]

Obama’s biggest Guantanamo dilemma may lie in Yemen

President-elect Barack Obama’s pledge to close the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, faces a major obstacle: Yemen.

The Bush administration has transferred hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners to the custody of their home countries, but it’s been unable to win assurances from Yemen — whose approximately 100 prisoners are the largest group still jailed at Guantanamo — that the men, if they’re returned, won’t pose a threat to the United States.

By striking similar deals with nations such as Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia, Bush administration officials have dramatically reduced Guantanamo’s population over the past three years. Yemen, however, which has failed to stop homegrown militants from staging major attacks on American targets in the past decade, says it can’t continue to hold prisoners without charges. [continued…]

Post-Guantánamo: a new detention law?

As a presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama sketched the broad outlines of a plan to close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba: try detainees in American courts and reject the Bush administration’s military commission system.

Now, as Mr. Obama moves closer to assuming responsibility for Guantánamo, his pledge to close the detention center is bringing to the fore thorny questions under consideration by his advisers. They include where Guantánamo’s detainees could be held in this country, how many might be sent home and a matter that people with ties to the Obama transition team say is worrying them most: What if some detainees are acquitted or cannot be prosecuted at all?

That concern is at the center of a debate among national security, human rights and legal experts that has intensified since the election. Even some liberals are arguing that to deal realistically with terrorism, the new administration should seek Congressional authority for preventive detention of terrorism suspects deemed too dangerous to release even if they cannot be successfully prosecuted. [continued…]

This endless savagery is the Congo’s colonial legacy

Western media like to describe the conflict in the Congo as Africa’s First World War. Certainly, five million people have died in the Congo since 1997 and as many as six African countries have been involved in its war, but there the similarities end.

The 1914-1918 war in Europe was fought between sovereign nation states; although the warring factions in the Congo bear the trappings of sovereignty, they are little more than self-serving warlord formations organised on ethnic or tribal lines, seeking to control territory to sustain themselves, and for profit. Civilians are as terrified of the “national” army supposedly fighting on their behalf as they are of the rebel “invaders,” having learnt that either side is capable of unleashing murder, rape and pillage.

There is no nation-state in eastern Congo beyond the rag-tag formations who fight in the name of the government in Kinshasa, when they’re not extorting money from civilians or collaborating on lucrative secret mining deals with some of the very “enemies” they’re meant to be fighting. The state provides no healthcare or education: the brave souls of the NGOs do their best to feed the hungry and extend lives that are usually nasty, brutish and short.

War is not just good for business in eastern Congo: war is business. For the warlord commanders, control of land means ownership of its resources – the gold, diamonds, coltan and other minerals for which mining companies are willing to pay anyone capable of delivering security. [continued…]

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2 thoughts on “NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP: November 16

  1. Alex Bell

    I live in Tasmania, a small island far away from the US. I am appalled that even on a progressive website like yours Yemen is seen to be the main obstacle to closing Guantanamo Bay.

    May I suggest, as an foreigner, that by far the main problem is American insistence that innocent people be detained without trial in Yemen and other countries? If it wrong to do in in Guantanamo Bay, and it is, how can it not be wrong to want to do it in Yemen?

    Regards, Alex Bell

  2. Paul Woodward

    Thanks for your comment Alex. If you read the article — not just the snippet I posted — you’ll find that the Yemenis are making an eminently reasonable case. The article said:

    Yemeni officials say they’re ready to try many of the men and imprison those who are convicted, but they complain that U.S. officials refuse to share evidence with them.

    “Based on the information we have, some of the Guantanamo prisoners have nothing to do with terrorism,” said the Yemeni foreign minister, Abu Bakr al Kirbi. “We cannot imprison them without a court sentence. We cannot do something that is against our laws. We are accountable to our own public.”

    Attorneys for the prisoners said that the stalemate underscored how the Bush administration had painted itself into a corner with its efforts to transfer detainees from Guantanamo, which has become such a stain on the U.S. human-rights record that both Obama and his presidential rival, John McCain, campaigned vigorously to close it.

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