Troops find Afghan plane crash site, no survivors
Reuters 02/05/2005 By Jon Hemming
KABUL - A Dutch military helicopter on Saturday found the wreckage of an Afghan passenger plane that went missing two days ago with 104 people on board after turning away from the capital Kabul in a snow storm.
An Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman said there were no survivors.
"There are no survivors from the crash," he said "We will begin to evacuate and retrieve the bodies," he said.
The Boeing 737 aircraft operated by private Afghan airline Kam Air went missing on a flight from the western city of Herat after it turned away from Kabul airport on Thursday in a snow storm. It disappeared off radar screens shortly after.
"Dutch AH-64 Apache helicopters that were searching for the missing Kam Air Boeing 737 have found the wreckage at 1:37 p.m. The wreckage was spotted in the Shaperi Ghar area approximately 30 km (19 miles) south, southeast of Kabul city," said a statement from NATO peacekeepers in Kabul.
"The tail of the aircraft was spotted with other debris," it said.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force has sent specialist mountain rescue teams to the area.
An Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman identified the crash site as being near Band-e Ghazi, a village overlooked by the mountain of Shapiri Ghar.
More than 1,000 Afghan soldiers were joined by around 100 NATO ground troops scouring the mountainous, snow-bound area on Saturday while helicopters clattered overhead.
FOREIGNERS ON BOARD
There were a number of foreigners among the 96 passengers, including nine Turks, three American aid workers, an Italian naval captain, two other Italians and an Iranian working for an international non-governmental organisation.
Six of the eight crew were also foreigners, four of them Russian, the Russian Interfax news agency said. The plane was leased from a company in Kyrgyzstan.
Kam Air opened as Afghanistan's only private airline in November 2003. It flies leased aircraft between Kabul, Dubai and Istanbul and operates several domestic routes.
In September, an Antonov-24 operated by the airline slewed off the runway while landing in Kabul, slightly injuring some of the 27 passengers aboard, apparently after engine trouble.
In early 1998, 51 people died when an Antonov transport plane operated by state-run Ariana Afghan Airlines crashed in mountains near the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta after failing to land in Afghanistan because of bad weather.
In March that year, 45 people were killed when another Ariana plane, a Boeing 727, slammed into a mountain near Kabul.
In the most recent air crash in Afghanistan, three U.S. military personnel and three civilian crew were killed when a U.S. transport aircraft crashed in central mountains in November.
Taliban denies shooting down Afghan plane
The commander of Afghanistan's former ruling Taliban group says his guerrillas did not shoot down a passenger plane which crashed two days ago.
NATO helicopters have found the wreckage of the Afghan airliner on a mountain top near the Afghanistan capital Kabul.
One hundred and four people were on board, including nine Turks, four Americans and three Italians.
Authorities say they are still searching for any survivors.
Earlier authorities had said all 96 passengers and eight crew had been killed.
Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah says his guerrillas were not responsible for the plane coming down.
He says the group has been made very sad by the tragedy.
Rights Official Tells of Abuses in Afghanistan
By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE February 6, 2005
ABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 5 (Agence France-Presse) - A United Nations rights investigator examining the situation in Afghanistan said Saturday that foreign troops had mistreated and possibly tortured people.
"There is a very unusual practice in Afghanistan, mainly foreign forces, who have taken upon themselves the right, without any legal process of arresting people, detaining them, mistreating them and possibly even torturing them," said Cherif Bassiouni, an independent expert on human rights appointed by the United Nations.
An American-led offensive in late 2001 drove the militant Taliban from power after the group refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Bassiouni, who is scheduled to leave on Monday after a week in Afghanistan, said the information would be in his report to the next session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in March.
There is not a "legal basis for coalition forces to hold people as prisoners," Mr. Bassiouni said.
"If they're held as prisoners of war, then they have to observe the Geneva Convention," he said. "If they're held as common prisoners, then they have to conform with Afghani law and constitution. They're not doing it."
On a previous visit to Afghanistan in August 2004, he had expressed concerns about the legality of detention centers run by the American military and called for them to be opened to independent inspectors.
The United States Army acknowledged in December that eight prisoners had died in American military custody in Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban, two more than previously disclosed.
Three of the eight cases were the subject of inquiries, three were waiting for judicial procedures to start, one trial had ended, and the status of the eighth case was unknown at the time, the Army said.
The American military has come under fire from rights groups for its methods at detention centers in Afghanistan.
Mr. Bassiouni said it was a "matter of great concern" that an independent expert had been denied access to the Bagram detention camp, north of Kabul.
Top United Nations and Afghan rights officials said last month that war crimes suspects in Afghanistan, including important figures in former administrations, must be prosecuted if stability was to be achieved.
Afghans tortured, says UN
KABUL - AFP, Feb 5: A United Nations rights investigator examining the situation in Afghanistan said on Saturday that foreign troops had mistreated and possibly tortured people in the war-torn country.
"There is a very unusual practice in Afghanistan, mainly foreign forces, who have taken upon themselves the right, without any legal process of arresting people, detaining them, mistreating them and possibly even torturing them," said Cherif Bassiouni, the UN-appointed Independent Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan.
Bassiouni, who leaves on Sunday after a week exploring the human rights' situation in Afghanistan, said he would report the information to the next session of the UN's Human Rights Commission in March.
"There is not (a) legal basis for coalition forces to hold people as prisoners," Bassiouni said.
"If they're held as prisoners of war, then they have to observe the Geneva convention. If they're held as common prisoners, then they have to conform with Afghani law and constitution. They're (foreign forces) not doing it," he said.
On a previous visit to Afghanistan in August 2004 the expert expressed concerns about the legality of detention centres run by the US military and called for them to be opened to independent inspectors.
The 18,000-strong US-led coalition, including 16,000 American soldiers, has been deployed in Afghanistan since 2001.
Top UN and Afghan rights officials said last month that war crimes suspects in Afghanistan, including key figures in the country's former administrations, must be prosecuted if stability is to be achieved.
Foreign Forces Possibly Tortured Afghan Detainees
Agence France Presse
KABUL, 6 February 2005 — A United Nations rights investigator examining the situation in Afghanistan said yesterday that foreign troops had mistreated and possibly tortured people in the war-torn country.
“There is a very unusual practice in Afghanistan, mainly foreign forces, who have taken upon themselves the right, without any legal process of arresting people, detaining them, mistreating them and possibly even torturing them,” said Cherif Bassiouni, the UN-appointed Independent Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan.
A US-led offensive in late 2001 drove the Taleban from power after they refused to hand over Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden.
Bassiouni, who leaves Monday after a week exploring the human rights’ situation in Afghanistan, said the information would be in his scheduled report to the next session of the UN’s Human Rights Commission in March. “There is not (a) legal basis for coalition forces to hold people as prisoners,” Bassiouni said.
“If they’re held as prisoners of war, then they have to observe the Geneva Convention. If they’re held as common prisoners, then they have to conform with Afghani law and constitution. They’re (foreign forces are) not doing it,” he said.
On a previous visit to Afghanistan in August 2004, the expert expressed concerns about the legality of detention centers run by the US military and called for them to be opened to independent inspectors.
The US Army acknowledged in December that eight prisoners have died in US military custody in Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taleban regime, two more than were previously disclosed.
Three of the eight cases were the subject of inquiries, three were waiting for judicial procedures to start, one trial had ended, and the status of the eighth case was unknown at the time, the army said.
The US military has come under fire from rights groups for its methods at detention centers in Afghanistan.
Afghan president seeks WB aid for anti-drugs drive
KABUL, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai called on the World Bank to do more to fund alternative livelihoods for farmers hit by the anti-drugs drive in Afghanistan, the world's biggest producer of opium and heroin, his office said on Sunday.
The U.N. says drug exports account for more than 60 percent of Afghanistan's economy and despite the government's efforts at a crackdown, Afghan opium output has surged to near-record levels since U.S.-led troops toppled the Taliban government in 2001.
Karzai made the aid request in a telephone call to World Bank President James Wolfensohn, a Presidential Palace statement said.
Karzai said his government was determined to eradicate the cultivation of poppies which are used to make opium and heroin, but said international assistance was needed. "The president specifically requested the World Bank to prioritise the provision of alternative livelihoods to the affected communities in its reconstruction and development assistance programmes for Afghanistan," it said.
Karzai has made the fight against the "dishonour" of drug production a priority of his new government, urging provincial governors and regional commanders to destroy poppies by all means necessary.
Diplomats and aid workers in Afghanistan report a marked drop in poppy planting this year. But that may be due to producers hording stocks until prices recover following a market glut.
Some 30 non-governmental organisations active in Afghanistan last week urged the United States, which strongly backs the Afghan poppy eradication programme, to do more to promote alternative livelihoods for farmers and arrest traffickers.
They said in an open letter to the U.S. government that a fierce programme of eradication would create instability in the fledgling democracy and line the pockets of drug lords who would benefit from higher prices as they sold off their stockpiles.
Pakistan to set up eye camps in Afghanistan
ISLAMABAD - QA, Feb 5: The government of Pakistan has decided to run free eye camps in Afghanistan's four major cities starting later this month.
An advance team has already left for Afghanistan to work out the logistics and make the necessary arrangements, it is learnt.
The eye camps would be set up in Jalalabad, Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif on rotation basis, sources told Dawn on Thursday. The duration of each camp would be 10 days, they added.
"The first camp will be launched in Jalalabad from Feb 19 to 28," well placed diplomatic sources said.
At these camps free treatment and medicines will be offered to eye patients.
The proposal for eye camps was floated by the government about a couple months back and it subsequently got the green light from the Afghan government.
Health is given high priority in Pakistan's reconstruction and development programme for Afghanistan, where people suffer from various ailments and eye problems are very common, a senior diplomat told Dawn.
Meanwhile, plans are also under way for building a hospital in Kabul. A budget of Rs40 million has already been approved by the government for the hospital.
The land for the hospital has been provided by the Afghan government. Reportedly, it is next to the Indira Gandhi Hospital in the Afghan capital.
About a month back Pakistan gifted 45 ambulances to the Afghan government.
Afghanistan remains a high priority country for Islamabad and it is keen to maintain friendly relations with Kabul. Pakistan has actively participated in the process of peace, security, reconstruction and elections in Afghanistan. As a neighbouring country it is mindful that a stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan's own interest.
Straw arrives on 14th
ISLAMABAD – The News International: British Foreign Affair Secretary Jack Straw will be visiting Pakistan on a three-day official trip from Feb 14 to 16 on the invitation of his Pakistani counterpart Mian Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri.
Sri Lankan President Mrs Kumaratunga and Indian Minister for Foreign Affairs Kunwar Natwar Singh will also be in Pakistan during these days. Straw will also visit Kabul. Diplomatic sources told The News that the visit is important as it is taking place in the wake of President Musharraf’s December last visit to the United Kingdom and his meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair. British Secretary is believed to have detailed discussions with the host leaders about the follow up actions of the summit meeting of the two countries. The visit will have added importance in the backdrop of Straw’s this week meeting with his US counterpart Condollissa Rice in London.
According to sources British investors are taking keen interest in investing in Pakistan, and British government is interested in enhancing its political ties further with Pakistan. The British secretary of foreign affairs will discuss all important regional and global issues of mutual and international interest including Kashmir dispute and developments in the Middle East with reference to Palestinian’s affairs, situation prevailing in Iraq and Afghanistan. The British PM had endorsed President Bush’s proposal about an important role for President Musharraf to play for resolution of Palestinian problem, the sources said.
Kabul seeks withdrawal of cess on ATT goods
ISLAMABAD – The Dawn, Feb 5: The Afghan government has asked Islamabad to direct the Sindh government to withdraw the suspended levy of infrastructure cess on goods imported under Afghan Transit Trade (ATT).
An official source told Dawn that a formal request of the Afghan government in this regard was conveyed to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz by Afghan finance minister in a meeting held here recently.
According to the official, the Afghan government has asked for complete withdrawal of the cess and abolishing of negative list under the ATT, which they believed halted the smooth flow of goods under the scheme.
The Sindh government has extended the infrastructure cess waiver to the Afghan importers up to March 31, 2005 on goods imported under ATT. Earlier the government waived the levy up to December 31, 2004.
According to the official, a high-level official delegation would leave for Kabul later next month to negotiate the withdrawal of remaining six items from the negative list of ATT.
The CBR has recommended to the government to ask the Afghan government to raise import duty on these items equivalent to that charged on import of these goods in Pakistan so that it could become less attractive for smuggling.
The items to be considered for withdrawal included: cigarillos and cigarettes of tobacco or of tobacco substitutes; dyes and chemicals; cooking oil; tyres and tubes; soap; auto-parts (all sorts) and telephone sets.
UN Agencies And Aid Groups Help Afghanistan Try To Boost Its Low Literacy Rates
Europaworld - Aiming to lift Afghanistan’s perilously low literacy rates, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have begun a series of programmes with the country’s government ministries to build or renovate hundreds of schools, train teachers and instruct thousands of illiterate adults.
About 43 per cent of adult Afghan men and just 14 per cent of adult women are literate, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) spokesperson Ariane Quentier told reporters this week in the capital Kabul.
She said the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) have helped the Afghan Ministry of Education construct or rebuild 193 primary schools since last year.
In Saripul province in the northwest, NGOs and the Education Ministry last month started a four-year literacy course where 300 teachers will give lessons to 9,000 adults across many of the province’s villages. A separate literacy course that ultimately aims to teach 1,500 women is underway in neighbouring Bamiyan province.
Teacher-training courses are also taking place in Panjao district, with the programme to be expanded into at least four other districts, Ms. Quentier said.
Meanwhile, Cherif Bassiouni, the Independent Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan, is currently in the country on a week-long mission to assess the situation - his first since August last year.
Mr. Bassiouni is scheduled to take a field mission to Mazar-i-Sharif, as well as meet UN officials, government officials and representatives of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) during his visit.
'Most wanted' ad for Laden in Pak paper!
AFP - Peshawar, Pakistan, February 5, 2005
The United States placed a newspaper advertisement on Friday offering rewards of millions of dollars for information leading to the arrest of Osama bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda kingpins.
The half-page ad in the Urdu daily Mashriq, published in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border, puts a 5-million-dollar price on the head of the 9/11 mastermind and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Featuring black and white mugshots of the wanted men, it also offers 10 million dollars for Mullah Omar, the reclusive one-eyed chef of Afghanistan's ousted Taliban militia.
The ad is the second in a campaign by the US embassy in Pakistan, a key US ally, to promote Washington's "Rewards for Justice" programme.
The ad appeared in the national, mass circulation daily Jang last month but this one is targeted at the Pakistan's conservative northwest, where many people are thought to sympathise with bin Laden and the Taliban.
At the bottom of the advert there is a toll-free number and email and website addresses. It also offers to relocate anyone who provides crucial information in any third country, along with their family.
US officials believe bin Laden and other key militants have been hiding somewhere along the mountainous border between Pakistan and Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban in late 2001.
Polio down by 45% in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan
GENEVA - AFP: The number of polio cases have dropped by 45 percent in Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, the three Asian countries that still have this disease, said the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday.
The three aim to end polio transmission this year, read a statement following a meeting at the WHO headquarters in Geneva with senior officials from the three nations.
“Polio incidence has decreased by 45 percent in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan and a similar momentum this year should put an end to the transmission of polio in this particularly crowded corner of the world, which has so far challenged global eradication efforts,” the statement said.
The Geneva session streamlined plans for 2005 for mass repeated vaccination campaigns in areas where the disease still occurred. The focus will be on treating children in communities otherwise disadvantaged in terms of health care. “Similar action last year paid off in the shrinking geographic footprint of the polio virus and in the falling numbers of affected children,” the statement said.
The overall number of cases in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India had declined from 336 in 2003 to 186 in 2004. “The polio virus is currently cornered in only six of the 51 states and provinces within the three countries,” said Bill Sergeant, chair of the International PolioPlus Committee of Rotary International, the humanitarian service organisation that championed the charge to eradicate polio. During the 2004 vaccination campaigns in the three countries, 1.5 billion doses were administered to 210 million children. As many as 21 additional vaccination drives will be organised in the whole region this year.
Millions of volunteers will take part in door-to-door visits to vaccinate children. The meeting occurred on the first anniversary of the Geneva Declaration on the Eradication of Poliomyelitis. The worldwide initiative to eradicate polio was launched more than 16 years ago and was a public-private partnership run by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UNICEF.
Republicans, Democrats, and the Afghan on the couch
CS Monitor By Ruth Walker
A reader writes, "One of my pet peeves is that the media call the Democrat party 'democratic.' But they don't call the Republican party 'republicanistic.' Nor do I want them to do so! "This seemed especially noticeable during the recent election. Calling the Democrat party 'democratic' makes it sound as if the other parties are not democratic. What I want is for the media to call the Democrat party 'Democrat' and the Republican party to continue being called 'Republican.' "
Hmm. In fact, I did notice this phenomenon during the past election. But my peeve is not that so many in the media speak of the "Democratic Party" but rather that not enough do. I hate to disappoint a reader, but with a few exceptions "Democratic Party" is the right phrase.
Here's what "The Columbia Guide to Standard American English" (1993) has to say:
"Democrat as an adjective is still sometimes used by some 20th-century Republicans as a campaign tool but was used with particular virulence by the late Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy of Wisconsin, a Republican who sought by repeatedly calling it the Democrat party to deny it any possible benefit of the suggestion that it might also be democratic."
That Senator McCarthy used this locution is a good reason to avoid it. But after researching this question, I have to acknowledge that not everyone speaking of "the Democrat party" could be assumed to be a Republican. Several local organizations style themselves the "Democrat Party" of wherever: the Nassau County Democrat Party on New York's Long Island, for example.
What's going on here? I think we're losing our inflections - the special endings we use to distinguish between adjectives and nouns, for instance. There's a tendency to modify a noun with another noun rather than an adjective. Some speak of "the Ukraine election" rather than "the Ukrainian election" or "the election in Ukraine." It's "the Iraq war" rather than the Iraqi war. (Compare the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. If it were being fought today, we might be calling it the France-Prussia War.) Against this backdrop, "the Democrat Party" arguably sounds less like a McCarthyesque slur, although it still doesn't pass muster at professionally edited publications.
As inflections disappear, people seem not to be recognizing adjectival forms as connected to the nouns whence they are derived. Thus I've seen references to "the Afghanistan election" instead of the simpler "Afghan election," perhaps because someone knew Afghanistan is a country but thought an Afghan was a dog, or something to wrap up in on the couch. I suspect that some people may make a similar split between "Democrats" (the name-brand political group) and "democratic." They simply have the two concepts filed in separate shoe boxes.
Another part of this story is a certain asymmetry in terminology. To describe the party on one side of the aisle, we have a proper noun for the people (Democrats) and a proper adjective (Democratic) to describe their party, their primary, their convention, etc. On the other side, we have the Republican Party, whose members are known as Republicans - a noun adapted from the adjective. One party's name takes two forms; the other's, only one. "Republicanistic," my reader will note, isn't in the picture. The Republicans do, however, have "GOP," an abbreviation for "grand old party." It's a bit of headlinese that's waved into respectable clubs from which the maitre d' would shoo away "Dems," until it came back in a jacket and tie.
Uncle Sam, Afghanistan and Iraq
The News International
Let's see how the Americans fulfill their desire to democratise Afghanistan, a country that history seems to have jinxed
Afghanistan has long had a history of enormous poverty, assassinations, executions, and slaughters, replete with dictators, despots, tyrants and Muslims massacring Muslims. Over the past hundred years, dozens of Afghan leaders have been removed through undemocratic means. King Habibullah Khan, Afghanistan's ruler from 1901 to 1919, was assassinated. King Amanullah Khan was executed in 1929. In 1933, King Nadir Shah was assassinated. Mohammad Daoud overthrew his cousin King Zahir Shah. . In 1978, Daoud was executed and Mohammad Taraki became president. Taraki was killed in 1979 and Haffizullah Amin became president. Amin, before being killed, killed thousands of his countrymen. Babarak Kamal then took over. According to the BBC, "about a million Afghans were killed" between 1979 and 1989.In August 1998, the Taliban, ethnic Sunni Pashtuns, massacred thousands of ethnic Shiite Hazaras. According to aid workers, "young men over 16 had their throats slit, while younger boys and women had both hands chopped off at the wrist." In November 2001, Taliban fleeing Mazar-e-Sharif left behind some 1,200 Pakistani jihadis. At least 200 of them were slaughtered by Hizb-i-Wahdat. According to UN officials, "there have been 15 massacres of civilians between 1997 and 2001 (the Taliban captured Kabul in September 1996)."
Bush toppled the Taliban and created the Afghan Interim Authority (AIA). The AIA was then made to hold a nationwide Loya Jirga. The Loya Jirga went on to elect a 'president' of the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA), which formulated a new constitution that has a "strong executive branch, a moderate role for Islam and basic protections for human rights." As per the new constitution no "law is contrary to Islam" and the "state is obliged to protect human rights.... and abide by the UN charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan signed and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
The new constitution has a bicameral national assembly comprising a directly elected Wolesi Jirga (House of People) and Meshrano Jirga (House of Elders). The constitution also establishes Stera Mahkama, a nine-member supreme court (appointed by the president with the approval of the Wolesi Jirga). In 2004, more than 10 million Afghans registered to vote, and multi-candidate, multi-party national elections were held on 9 October 2004. Hamid Karzai won 55.4 per cent of the vote. Dowlat-e Eslami-ye-Afghanestan may not have a stable government but it's an elected one nevertheless.
Iraq also has a history of coups, counter-coups, executions and assassinations. In 1932, it gained independence as a kingdom. In 1958, Brigadier Abdul Karim Kasim overthrew Iraq's monarchy; he was executed in 1963. Colonel Abdul Salaam Arif took over and was killed in a helicopter crash. Major-General Abdul Rahman took over as president. In a coup in 1968, General Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr ousted Rahman. In 1979, Saddam Hussein al Takriti ousted al-Bakr, his second cousin, and became president.
Under Saddam, Al Jumhuriyah al Iraqiyah launched an invasion of Jomhuri-ye Eslami-ye Iran. Saddam's chemical and biological weapons killed 100,000 Iranian soldiers. Nerve gas agents killed around 20,000. Additional thousands were hit by Mustard gas. The eight-year war killed 600,000 Iranians and 400,000 Iraqis.
On 15 March 1988, Saddam Hussein unleashed sarin, tabun, VX and mustard gas on his own people. The 'Halabja poison gas attack' killed more than 7,000 Iraqis in the town of Halabja (150 miles northeast of Baghdad).
On the night of 13 December 2003, Paul Bremer, Iraq's US civil administrator addressed a press conference and announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him! Saddam was hiding in an underground spider hole." Isn't the world better off with Saddam out of power?
On 30 January 2005, Iraqis voted for a 275-member Transitional National Assembly (TNA), the election to which was supervised by around 120 international monitors. A total of 280,303 Iraqis living in exile also registered to vote. Iraq's International Office of Migration had set up voting booths in 14 countries. On January 30, Iraq entered a new phase in history. The TNA will elect a state presidency council, comprising a president and two deputy presidents. The Presidency Council will decide on a prime minister who in turn will select ministers. The civilian prime minister will have complete control over the armed forces. TNA's deadline to write a draft constitution is August 15, that will be submitted to a referendum.
Afghanis and Iraqis must have been dreaming of actually being able to vote and bring in representative governments of their own (Saddam Hussein held an election in which he got 100 percent of the vote). Those who support dictatorships don't want that dream to come true. Supporters of violence have been defeated both in Afghanistan and in Iraq. The Afghani and the Iraqi dreams are coming true.
According to UN Security Council Resolution 1546, adopted unanimously, the "mandate of the foreign troops in Iraq will cease when the new fully constitutional government takes office". Under paragraph 12 the "mandate for the multination force shall be reviewed at the request of the Government of Iraq .... and that this mandate shall expire upon the completion of the political process..." (adopted by the SC at its 4987th meeting). For the record, a large majority of 57 members of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) is either 'Authoritarian Regimes' or 'Traditional Monarchies'. Ronald Reagan had splintered the USSR. During George Bush Sr., Bulgaria held its first multi-party election since World War II. The Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Estonia and Lithuania have all become parliamentary democratic republics.
President George Bush, in his inaugural address, said, "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture". He added: "The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world." As Ghazi Salahuddin in his column last Sunday wrote: "Any campaign to spread democracy and freedom deserves the support and applause of all of us, in every civilised society. If a country that is unchallenged in its power and influence makes this campaign the fundamental goal of its foreign policy, we should logically expect a better tomorrow for the entire human race."
Demonizing Iran: Another US salvo
COMMENT By Kaveh L Afrasiabi / Asia Times Online / February 5, 2005
TEHRAN - In his State of the Union address, US President George W Bush once again demonized Iran as "the world's primary state sponsor of terror", accusing it of pursuing nuclear weapons, abusing human rights and being led by a few unelected leaders. He also had a message for the Iranian people, "As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."
Two cheers for the "great crusader" for America's new manifest destiny - to spread the fruits of liberty and freedom in all four corners of the world, to topple the world's tyrants and deliver their subjects from modern political serfdom. Among others heartened by his stern anti-Iran message there must have been many members of US Congress, presently working overtime to pass a new bill titled the "Iran Freedom Support Act", which puts the US government squarely on the side of the opposition groups contesting the Islamic regime.
The pending bill not only recycles the pre-existing sanctions against Iran, by lumping conventional weapons with weapons of mass destruction, it actually tightens the sanction regime by calling for punishment of any foreign government or company that trades such goods and material with Iran. Also, the bill calls for a substantial increase in US financial support of the TV and radio programs opposed to Iran beamed inside the country.
For a country boasting of democracy, there is ironically not a minimum required debate on this important bill, which, if passed, would pretty much box the Bush administration in a head-on collision course with Tehran. The combined forces of Iran's dissidents abroad, composed mostly of monarchists and supporters of the armed opposition group, the People's Mujahideen, and the neo-conservatives and friends and allies of the state of Israel have for all practical purposes shut down the deliberative process on Iran policy in Washington, making it impossible for anyone to dare voice even slight criticism of the unbounded, unreconstructed and ultimately unproductive and even dangerous course of action cooked up in various committees and sub-committees in both chambers of US Congress.
But, hypothetically speaking, we can imagine an opponent of this bill, counseling a vastly different course of action vis-a-vis Iran, presenting the following arguments:
--Iran has proven a valuable ally against the Taliban, and its constructive role in Afghanistan since its liberation deserves recognition in Washington.
--While Iran for all the known national security reasons has meddled in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq to some extent, it is wrong to perceive this as purely a negative influence, given the powerful presence of pro-Iran Shi'ite groups in the interim Iraqi government and Iran's leaders steering the Shi'ites along the electoral road to power.
--Iran has signed security agreements with its Persian Gulf Arab neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar, and has invited Iraq to sign a similar agreement which calls for regional cooperation.
--Iran, through the regional organization, the Economic Cooperation Organization, has been a key promoter of regional cooperation and, as a result, has established cordial relations with, among others, Turkey and Azerbaijan (whose leader visited Iran recently).
--Iran has fully cooperated with the United Nations' atomic agency, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), whose inspectors have spent more than 1,000 days in Iran over the past few years, notwithstanding the last IAEA meeting in November, when Iran's nuclear dossier was largely "normalized" after Tehran's suspension of its nuclear fuel cycle, an initiative which Bush himself "welcomed" as a positive step forward.
--Iran has been receptive toward the post-Yasser Arafat leadership and many official and semi-official voices in Iran, including newspaper editorials, evince a rethinking of Iran's policy toward the Palestinian issue, making it feasible to think that if the current trend continues, Iran can be counted on to pressure Hamas and other Islamist groups to give non-violence a chance.
Now, of course, all of the above is foreign music to the ears of Washington policymakers, who would rather cling to their caricature of Iran as an integral aspect of the "axis of evil" warranting even military action following the "pre-emptive" warfare doctrine of the Bush administration, as if that doctrine has not already caused enough havoc on the international system. In fact, the anti-Iran climate in the US is presently so polluted, so poisoned, by the Manichean imagery of the Islamic republic, as evil pure and simple, that it precludes a rational discourse pertaining to an important Middle East country that has proven unwilling to bow before the mighty "New Rome" and, instead, clinging ever so stubbornly to its notion of independence and political integrity uncontaminated by the American power.
This is not to absolve the Iranian regime of many of its shortcomings, above all the human-rights situation, calling for drastic improvements, but comparatively speaking, Iran's rights situation is much better than is the case in Saudi Arabia and other pro-US countries in the region. After all, Iranian women constitute more than half the student population and many important positions in society are occupied by women, a fact acknowledged even by Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace recipient.
But, alas, a lone superpower left with a US$4 trillion military-industrial complex and hardly anyone to fight needs functional enemies, and who better than Iran to fulfill the role of evil (sub) empire, notwithstanding the recent remark of a US State Department official that Iranians as a "nation" still think about empire-building. Doubtless, the same official would react negatively if, God forbid, anyone accused the US of illusions of world empire.
This aside, the sad, and one might say even tragic, aspect of this whole situation is that the Bush administration and US Congress are gearing up for a new and more energetic anti-Iran offensive precisely at a time when the pool of shared or parallel interests between Iran and the US has expanded considerably, perhaps more than ever before, calling for a serious reconsideration of the present belligerent approach by Washington in the direction of conciliation and negotiation.
There is still time and opportunity left for a serious breakthrough in the diplomatic deadlock and perhaps even achieve a rapprochement, should both sides reflect deeply on their overall relations and the misperceptions handicapping a sound reciprocal policy. Yet, misperceptions bred and cultivated by deliberate propaganda, culminating in outright demonization, have now become Washington's new orthodoxy with regard to Iran, and one can only hope that the unhappy lessons of war in Iraq can act as a timely catalyst in casting question marks on this foreign policy orthodoxy.
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and "Iran's Foreign Policy Since 9/11", Brown's Journal of World Affairs, co-authored with former deputy foreign minister Abbas Maleki, No 2, 2003. He teaches political science at Tehran University.
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