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Talks on U.S. Presence in Afghanistan After Pullout Unnerve Region

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Rod Nordland, The New York Times, April 18, 2011

KABUL, Afghanistan — First, American officials were talking about July 2011 as the date to begin the withdrawal from Afghanistan. Then, the Americans and their NATO allies began to talk about transition, gradually handing over control of the war to the Afghans until finally pulling out in 2014. Now, however, the talk is all about what happens after 2014.

Afghanistan and the United States are in the midst of negotiating what they are calling a Strategic Partnership Declaration for beyond 2014.

Critics, including many of Afghanistan’s neighbors, call it the Permanent Bases Agreement — or, in a more cynical vein, Great Game 3.0, drawing a comparison with the ill-fated British and Russian rivalry in the region during the 19th and 20th centuries.

It is without doubt a delicate process, and one that comes at a critical time. Afghan officials have expressed concern that the negotiations could scuttle peace talks with the Taliban, now in their early stages, because the insurgents have insisted that foreign forces must leave the country before they will deal. That they are already talking is an indication they are willing to compromise on the timing of a withdrawal — but it is hard to imagine Taliban acceptance of a lasting American presence here.

Formal talks on a long-term agreement began last month under Marc Grossman, the official who has replaced Richard C. Holbrooke, the diplomat who died in December, as the Obama administration’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and a delegation visited Kabul under the direction of Frank Ruggiero, a State Department official who ran the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team until last year.

The reaction regionally was immediate. The Iranian interior minister made a rushed visit to Kabul, followed shortly by the national security advisers of India and Russia.

The Russians, though generally supportive of NATO’s role in Afghanistan, were alarmed at the prospect of a long-term Western presence.

“The Russian side supports the development of Afghanistan by its own forces in all areas — security, economic, political — only by its own forces, especially after 2014,” said Stepan Anikeev, a political adviser at the Russian Embassy here. “How is transition possible with these bases?”

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/18/2011 at 10:02 pm

Posted in Afghanistan, India, Iran, Russia

BRICS: A world that doesn’t have to ask for America’s permission…

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it is they who are “on the side of history.” They do not have to ask America’s permission to lead … and how America and our old allies react to that reality will go a long way to determining just how the geopolitics of the next several decades will play out.

David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy, April 14, 2011

While NATO bickers over strategy in Libya, BRIC leaders have gathered in Sanya, China, to demonstrate the growing strength of an alternative grouping that has among its principle selling points the fact that it is neither Western nor U.S.-dominated. To compare the world’s most potent and enduring military alliance with a loose affiliation of emerging powers that are divided by perhaps more issues than unite them is clearly comparing apples and lychee nuts or guarana seeds, but the juxtaposition of the two events does offer yet another whiff of how the institutions and ideas of the 20th century are giving way to those of the 21st.

In Libya, the potent alliance that “won” the Cold War is coming apart at the seams fighting over strategy, tactics, and objectives in an optional, low-grade intervention in a largely irrelevant country. The U.S. secretary of state is forced to make public pleas for the bumptious commanders of the coalition to get their acts together, while on the ground the weakened forces of the isolated Muammar al-Qaddafi seem to be holding the megapower onslaught at bay. It is too poignant a reminder that intangibles like knowing what you’re fighting for and political will are as important to any battle as the hardware being brought to bear by each side on the other.

In Sanya, Brazil, Russia, India, and the hosts welcomed South Africa into their little club, and if they achieved little else they underscored that they are taking coordination among their countries very seriously and seeking to deepen their ties. However, they did go further and offered a broad agenda including more hints that they will push for alternatives to the dollar-dominated global monetary system that we currently have.

Of course, the BRICs summit resonates with the Libya follies because the original four BRICs voted as a bloc to abstain during the Security Council vote on the imposition of the no-fly zone in Libya and within days of its initiation were publicly speaking out against it. That they were joined in the vote by Europe’s most powerful country, Germany, also sent a message that the opposition to the initiative was meaningful and suggested that future votes in international institutions might see the BRICs (or the BRICS … if the final “S” is for South Africa) emerge at the core of a potent new alternative coalition to the traditional Western or developed powers.

NATO is at a watershed. The Libya “moment,” which President Obama and others wanted to offer up as an example of a new robust, American-led multilateralism, is quickly morphing into a demonstration of NATO’s weaknesses. America wants to be accorded the respect of being the leader but is hamstrung by domestic problems and a lack of strategic clarity. France and Britain seem willing to pick up the slack but others won’t follow. Germany seems increasingly uncomfortable with the burdens placed on it as Europe’s de facto leading power. The military alliance is overly dependent on U.S. power. There are too many chefs. There is not enough overall mission clarity.

Meanwhile, even while the BRICS are a long, long way from being politically cohesive, they are rent with divisions over important issues, and they have zero aspirations to anything as formal or as action-oriented as an alliance, they do have a few things going for them that make them powerful. For one thing, if you didn’t want to call them “the BRICS,” you might simply call them “the majority.” Because taken together, these five countries nearly total half the planet’s people, and if you add in the other countries that have much greater affinities with their views than they do with the Western alliance, it becomes by far the bulk of the world’s population. The Atlantic alliance may be where much of the money and power has been. The “BRICS Plus” represents not only the bulk of the world’s people and resources but also where the fastest growth is.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/17/2011 at 12:53 pm

India: Congress hails BRICS joint declaration

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The Hindu, April 16, 2011

The Congress on Friday said the BRICS joint declaration endorsed India’s stand on the need for U.N. Security Council reforms and against unilateralism, and it reflected the country’s enhanced global footprint.

Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told journalists here that the joint declaration in China largely backed the stand of India, which steadfastly cautioned against unilateralism even in the face of the greatest provocations, particularly when it came to stepping on another country’s territory.

Mr. Singhvi said the party was happy that the BRICS Summit also recognised the urgent need for reforms in the UNSC in which “India has its legitimate expectations.”
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Written by peripheralrevision

04/17/2011 at 12:38 pm

BRICS ‘Wary’ of IMF Rules on Capital Controls

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Nasreen Seria, Bloomberg, April 17, 2011

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are “wary” about rules proposed by the International Monetary Fund on when controls can be used to curb short-term foreign-capital inflows, South African Trade Minister Rob Davies said.

While the IMF has agreed that limited use of controls may be appropriate, members of the so-called BRICS group, which met in China last week, are concerned that any restrictions may be to their “disadvantage,” Davies told reporters today in Pretoria.

Interest rates close to zero in the U.S., Europe and Japan have fuelled demand for high-yielding assets in emerging markets, boosting the currencies of Brazil and South Africa, while undermining their exports.

Brazil has imposed taxes on foreign-capital inflows to curb the real, which strengthened 5 percent against the dollar last year. South Africa has stuck to a policy of increasing foreign- currency reserves to curb the rand, which surged 11 percent against the dollar in the same period.


“There was a lot of wariness within the BRIC countries on how these rules will be structured and whether it will be structured to the disadvantage to any of them,” Davies said.

Capital controls were also the subject of the IMF’s semi- annual meeting in Washington this weekend. By keeping interest rates low, countries such as the U.S. are providing the “primary trigger of many of today’s economic woes,” Brazil’s Finance Minister Guido Mantega said yesterday. He defended the use of capital controls as legitimate “measures of self defense.”

While South Africa hasn’t imposed taxes to curb portfolio inflows, the government’s economic plan, called the New Growth Path, makes provision for these kinds of measures should it become necessary, Davies said.

“They have been mooted in the New Growth Path that the package on the table could be added to, as and when circumstances warranted it,” Davies said. “But we haven’t used any of these measures at this point.”

Written by peripheralrevision

04/17/2011 at 12:18 pm

Russia’s President sees dangerous trends in international relations

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BCM News, April 15, 2011

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has noted dangerous trends in international relations while speaking at the summit of BRICS in the Chinese city of Sanya. The participating countries discussed the issues of security and peace in the world. Brazil, Russia, India and China have participated in such meetings for the third time, while South Africa is there for the first time.

The President is concerned about the UN excess of powers in a number of resolutions. In particular, resolution 1973 on Libya does not include the actions that have been applied according to the UN sanctions. Resolution 1975 on Côte d’Ivoire provides for the use of the UN units, but the UN forces should not support one side of the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, the UN in general can not align itself with anyone.

“Here we have very serious issues to the UN leadership. It seems to me that this is a very dangerous trend. The UN forces should help disengage the parties, and in any case should not assist any of the parties if we believe that [the UN] has a more equitable basis”, the President said.

All the five participating countries agree that the UN Security Council resolutions must be carried out in strict accordance with their letter, without arbitrary interpretations. President Hu Jintao was the first to note it. Only South Africa had supported the resolution on Libya, but the South African President Jacob Zuma had changed his position by the summit and opposed the use of force by the Allies. The UN resolution on Libya assumed only the closure of the airspace over Libya, so the UN member states adopted it, “but received a military operation instead”.

The Declaration adopted by the BRICS participating countries calls for a global reform of the UN and the Security Council.

Written by peripheralrevision

04/17/2011 at 12:04 pm

IMF/World Bank Ready to Listen to BRICS? – RT News

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From RT News:

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) met in China, G20 gathered here in Washington D.C., and the IMF and World Bank are expected to have their spring meetings. But are institutions like the IMF and World Bank, and the Western Powers who control them, ready to let the rest of the world chime in? Center for Economic and Policy Research’s Mark Weisbrot.

Written by peripheralrevision

04/16/2011 at 11:24 am

Posted in +Video, Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Africa

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Obama Continues Right-Wing Latin America Policies

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America’s ‘backyard’ has never been so united and independent of U.S. influence.

Steve Ellner, In These Times, April 14, 2011

In his State of the Union address in January, President Obama pressed for quick passage of a free trade agreement with Colombia, and since then has followed up on the proposal. In doing so he has delighted Republicans who had been accusing him of failing to prioritize the issue. In his January speech, Obama made no reference to his unequivocal concern over human rights violations which he had raised in his third presidential debate with McCain.

Since 2008, little has improved to justify Obama’s reversal. Human Rights Watch has reported a 41 percent increase in the number of victims in 2010 over the previous year, including the murder of 44 trade unionists. In the first six weeks of 2011, death squads assassinated three more labor activists.

In an attempt to assure members of U.S. Congress that progress is being made, on April 7 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Obama announced from the White House the approval of an “Action Plan,” whereby the Colombian government pledged to take stringent measures to curb abuses. Many Colombian trade union leaders, however, refused to buy into the arrangement and expressed skepticism about their government’s resolve. Tarsicio Mora, president of the Unitary Workers Confederation (CUT), objected by saying, “It just can’t be that respect for a basic right established in the constitution, such as the right to life, has to be required by a commercial transaction.”

Obama’s new stand has also failed to win over U.S. trade unionists. In January, Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen argued against the agreement by pointing out that 15 million Colombians representing 82 percent of the working population are not recognized as workers and thus under the law “have no rights.”

Obama’s change–from opposition to the free trade agreement with Colombia, to lukewarm endorsement of it, to vigorous support–is just one example of his turnabout on Latin American policy. His modified stand distances Washington from an important bloc of Latin American governments and contributes to the decline of the U.S. leadership position in the hemisphere.

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Written by peripheralrevision

04/15/2011 at 4:08 pm