Skip to content

Iran's Nuclear Program: Germany, the U.S. and the Search for a Diplomatic Solution

U.S., German and other politicians have urged the Bush administration to participate in direct negotiations with Iran. Now the Houston Chronicle has some good breaking news to report:
In a major policy shift, the United States said Wednesday it is prepared to join other nations in holding direct talks with Iran on its nuclear program if Iran first agrees to stop disputed nuclear activities that the West fears could lead to a bomb. "To underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at the State Department.
On Sunday Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister from 1998-2005, expressed his concern that time is running out for a diplomatic solution. Writing for the Washington Post, he explains why the European negotiations with Iran failed and why the U.S. has to offer security guarantees in harmonized direct negotiations with Iran. The Iranian Kaveh Afrasiabi is skeptical, but praises Germany's critical role in the Iran negotiations. Following are some quotes from both: Continue reading "Iran's Nuclear Program: Germany, the U.S. and the Search for a Diplomatic Solution"

U.S. in Iraq: More Chaos and Violence rather than Stable Democracy

Germany's ex-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer criticizes the Bush administration's Iraq policy in his new book Die Rueckkehr der Geschichte (The Return of History). Spiegel published an essay taken from the foreword:
The war in Iraq was supposed to create the conditions for a regional realignment. It was supposed to create a new, an American Middle East, proving America's power and global leadership and thereby guaranteeing America and the West lasting security in the face of the new terrorist threat. Today, we're farther removed from that than ever.  (...)
Unfortunately, US policy in Iraq today has stalled entirely. Instead of bringing about regional realignment, the US is using its strength to create a power vacuum, and thus prevent a civil war. Such a civil war is, however, becoming more likely every day. If, in 2003, everything suggested that this US war was a mistake, then today, the arguments against a US retreat in Iraq are at least as strong. But the situation is even worse, since every day that US troops remain in Iraq will only aggravate rather than solve this crisis -- a crisis that is headed for civil war. (...)
The question is whether the majority of US citizens were ever really prepared to pay the very high military, political, economic, and moral cost for such an imperial enterprise, and to pay for it over a long period of time. We know today that the answer is "No." But such a negative answer was already to be expected in 2002 and 2003, and would have been the starting point if the actual reason for the war had been placed at the center of the domestic debate in the US. (....)
The battle against terrorism was one of the main arguments for the war in Iraq, but this argument has transformed into its opposite. If the al-Qaida terror network was on the defensive after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, this situation has been reversed since the war in Iraq. For international jihad terrorism, Iraq has historically taken on the same mobilizing function that the Islamic and national resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan had in the 1980s. Then, it was Pakistan that became the main beneficiary of the Afghan power vacuum; in today's Iraq, that role falls to Iran.

Likewise, Rami G. Khouri, editor-at-large of The Daily Star in Beirut, expresses the anger of many Arabs against "Western armies that regularly march into our lands to deliver modernity through the muzzle of a French musket or the barrel of an M-1 tank", but then foster ethnic, religious and tribal violence rather than build democracy. Writing for Newsweek, he sums up what is currently going wrong in Iraq:

Along with more than 2,300 American dead and more than 4,150 Iraqi police and army personnel, the best independent estimates say that somewhere around 30,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed in the country's many confrontations among U.S. and British troops, Iraqi state military forces, the indigenous resistance and terrorists drawn to Iraq from elsewhere. Every new governing body installed in Baghdad since April 2003 enjoys increasingly less impact outside the fortifications of the Green Zone in Baghdad.
A once unified national state has fragmented into an essentially independent Kurdish statelet in the north and strongly decentralized regions in the rest of the country. Once mixed ethnic neighborhoods are unraveling at a brisk pace. Petty crime and organized kidnappings haunt much of the land. Many of the best professional minds in the country are emigrating to neighboring lands at every available opportunity.
The most important government posts at the Defense, Foreign and Interior ministries remain unfilled due to political discord among the main factions. The key aspects of the much-ballyhooed national Constitution—unity, federalism, provincial powers, control of oil resources, the role of militias, relations with neighbors, the role of Islam—remain vague and unresolved. Even the single most powerful group, the majority Shiites who dominate the Parliament and the government, disagree about crucial issues related to their own powers and alliances, let alone issues of national unity, and they all have well-armed militias to back up their political leaders.

Since the U.S. so far failed to deliver its pomises for Iraq, Rami G. Khouri concludes: "Secular democrats and human-rights activists throughout the region, who should be natural partners with Washington on political reform in such places as Syria, Egypt, Bahrain and Iran, now mostly shun American support as fatally radioactive."

Racism in Germany

Newsweek asks "Why can't Germans talk honestly about the hate in the east?"
Violent right-wing hate crimes were up 25 percent in 2005—from 832 the year before, to 1,034—and continued to be a particular scourge of the east. Rural Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, surrounding Berlin, showed a per capita rate of xenophobic attacks 10 times as high as a western state like Hessia. Adjusting for the far lower number of immigrants in the east, a foreign-looking person is about 25 times as likely to get assaulted in the east as in the west, says University of Hanover criminologist Christian Pfeiffer.
Newsweek opines:
Strangely, Germany's debate over racism seems to be less about racism than about what one is (and isn't) allowed to say about it. (...) Instead of confronting this extremist upsurge head-on, west Germans are largely ducking the issue. An intellectually lazy materialism dominates the debate. If the east weren't so economically depressed, the argument goes, crime and racism would disappear. (...)
To be sure, Germany's crime rate remains one of the lowest in the world, the number of reported hate crimes is small, and major cities where the World Cup will be held are safe.

U.S. Poll: Iraq Is More Unpopular Than Vietnam After Three Years

Bloomberg (via Glittering Eye) writes about the popularity of the Iraq war and President Bush's approval ratings:
Three years into major combat in Vietnam, 28,500 U.S. service members had perished, millions of families were anxious about the military draft and antiwar protests had spread to dozens of college campuses. Today, at the same juncture in the Iraq war, about 2,400 American soldiers have died, the U.S. military consists entirely of volunteers and public dissent is sporadic.
There's one other difference: The war in Iraq is more unpopular than was the Vietnam conflict at this stage, polls show. More Americans -- 57 percent -- say sending troops to Iraq was a mistake than the 48 percent who called Vietnam an error in April 1968, polls by the Princeton, New Jersey-based Gallup Organization show. That's because more people believed that Vietnam was crucial to U.S. security, scholars say. (...)
And disapproval of Bush's decision to invade is 15 percentage points higher than approval, an April 7-9 Gallup poll of 1,004 adults showed. That's twice as wide a gap as on Vietnam at this time four decades ago. Bush's job-approval ratings are lower than were Johnson's during the far bloodier Vietnam conflict. Among the reasons: the highly publicized intelligence failures that preceded the Iraq invasion of 2003, the fact that Bush began the war, and the shadow of Vietnam itself, historians say. (...) Some Republicans say Bush's disapproval ratings on the war may have more to do with the more extensive coverage by the media today than anything else.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News poll from May 15th, 76% of Americans consider the number of U.S. military casualties in Iraq "unacceptable" when asked to think "about the goals versus the costs of the war." When asked "All in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war with Iraq was worth fighting, or not?," 62% say the war was not worth fighting for. All questions have been asked since beginning of the war. Disapproval is highest now. Moreover, 59% consider going to war a mistake, while 40% believe it was the "right thing" to do. When the war started in March 2003, 69% of Americans considered going to war the "right thing" and only 26% called it a "mistake."
54% believe that the number of U.S. military forces in Iraq should be decreased. Among this group, nearly a third says that the troops should be withdrawn immediately. David with Dialog International advocates immediate withdrawal and writes about the alleged Haditha massacre. I think an immediate withdrawal would be a mistake. If Iraq remains unstable and violent in the next ten years, the U.S. will be considered responsible and blamed for giving up on Iraq, I assume. Likewise, the U.S. could credit itself, if Iraq turns out to be a stable and free democracy in ten years and the world should acknowledge such a U.S. achievement. As Colin Powell told President Bush in 2002 accoding to Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack (Amazon.com, Amazon.de):
'You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people,' he told the president. 'You will own all their hopes, aspirations, and problems. You'll own it all.' Privately, Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called this the Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you own it.
Think Progress has more memorable quotes from the architects of the Iraq war and some info where they are now. If the U.S. pulls out of Iraq too early, those architects of war will not be the only ones, who will be blamed for what will happen in Iraq after the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Third Carnival of German-American Relations on July 2nd

"Blog Carnival" is a weird term, but already an established and popular event in the U.S. blogosphere. Carnivals introduce and link to the best posts about a specific subject, in this case German-American relations. Everybody is encouraged to participate. Bloggers can submit their best posts about transatlantic relations by sending a trackback to our Carnival Submissions Blog, which automatically displays the latest submissions. You can submit a post in English oder auf Deutsch.
Extrablog will select the best submissions (both English and German) and introduce them in German on July 2nd. Likewise, Davids Medienkritik will select the best submissions (both English and German) and introduce them in English on the same day.

The Atlantic Review organizes these quarterly carnivals to promote dialogue across the Atlantic and across the political spectrum. Both carnival hosts will consider well argued submissions and will even publish some opinions they do not agree with. Thanks to the hosts and many supporters, the Carnival of German-American Relations will hightlight the best posts and present them to a large audience.

Our Carnival Submissions Blog provides further information and explains how to participate and promote the carnival.
Extrablog has some interesting suggestion what to write about; translation by Google. Every post dealing with German-American relations is appropriate.
Medienkritik explains how to participate, even if you don't have a blog.

Have a look at our last carnival: American Future wrote English introductions from a U.S. perspective. Atlantic Review wrote English introductions from a German perspective. And Statler & Waldorf wrote German introductions from a German perspective.
Please don't hesitate to contact us in the comments section if you have any question whatsoever.

Congressman Accuses Germany of "Complicity in Promoting Sex Trafficking" (UPDATE)

Congressman Christopher Smith, chairman of the human rights subcommittee, held a hearing to investigate Germany's World Cup Brothels, because "40,000 women and children [are] at risk of exploitation through trafficking":
An estimated 3 million fans from around the world will attend the games, and vast numbers of them are expected to buy sex as a form of entertainment. As many as 40,000 additional women are expected to be added to the approximately 400,000 women in Germany’s sex industry. Germans are accommodating the trade in women by facilitating the construction of mega-brothels and "sex huts," and cities hosting the games will issue special permits for street prostitution, creating a virtual partnership with brothel owners, pimps and traffickers.
Continue reading "Congressman Accuses Germany of "Complicity in Promoting Sex Trafficking" (UPDATE)"

Amnesty International Accuses US of "Secret Flights to Torture and 'Disappearance'"

Secret detention and "disappearances" of dissidents and political opponents are something that only happen in evil, undemocratic countries in South-or central America, right? Wrong. It happens on behalf of the United States all over the world, including Europe, says amnesty international USA. In a report dated April 5, 2006, the US is accused of "rendition" and "disappearance". Rendition, as defined by the human rights organization, is "the transfer of individuals from one country to another, by means that bypass all judicial and administrative due process." The number of cases appear to be in the hundreds, and "every one of the victims of rendition interviewed by Amnesty International has described incidents of torture and other ill-treatment."
In addition, the USA has acknowledged the capture of about 30 "high value" detainees whose whereabouts remain unknown. While before September 11, 2001, the rendition program was mainly intended to render terrorist suspects to the United States for trial, since the "War on Terror" it seems to be aiming more and more to deny detainees access to American courts. New Directives implemented under the Bush administration remain classified, but are said to give the CIA and the other 15 members of the American "intelligence community" the power to capture and hold terrorist suspects.
Secret detention is the corollary of a secret rendition programme. (…) Rendition provides the means to transport them to the CIA-run system of covert prisons that has reportedly operated at various times in at least eight countries.
Amnesty describes some cases of rendition, secret detention and "disappearance" in detail, including German national Muhammad Zammar's, about which Amnesty says:
The secret arrest and subsequent "disappearance" of Muhammad Zammar has all the hallmarks of a case in which an individual has been rendered for the purposes of interrogation under torture. Zammar's family in Germany has received one letter from him dated 8 June 2005. His current whereabouts are unknown. According to the Amnesty-report, intelligence information supplied by Germany is thought to have been instrumental in his arrest in Morocco and rendition to Syria.
Deutsche Welle opines that the CIA controversy is becoming a sharper thorn in transatlantic relations:
European leaders were initially slow to react to allegations of secret flights carrying suspected terrorists landing on their soil after reports of them first leaked in November. Experts say that is because European governments were more informed than they wanted to admit.  But since EU Commission officials first downplayed the issue late last year, the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, has continued to investigate. At the same time, countries such as Germany and Italy are probing the issue -- the Bundestag will hold more hearings this week to find out what German officials knew. Most officials say it is unlikely that European governments were kept in the dark. Meanwhile, an EU parliamentary committee issued a report last month saying that the CIA carried out as many as 1,000 secret flights in the past five years, transporting suspected terrorists to third countries.

Blair and Bush - The End of An Era

In its cover story "Axis of the Feeble", Britain's Economist analyzes the hard times that have befallen both George W. Bush and Tony Blair, who "have been improbable soul-mates, the silver-tongued British barrister and the drawling Republican from Texas." Indeed,
this prime minister is as close as any British Labour leader can come to being an American neo-conservative. […] Over the past year, however, the debacle in Iraq and problems at home have turned both leaders from soaring hawks into the lamest of ducks. […] Neither man is going right away. Mr Blair may hang on for another year […] Mr Bush will stay in office until January 2009. […] But an era is plainly drawing to an end. […] The self-confident and often self-righteous political partnership that shaped the West's military response to al-Qaeda and led the march into Afghanistan and Iraq is now faltering. What does this mean for the wider world?
Nothing much, seems the author to suggest. On the one hand, "the president has found a new European friend in Angela Merkel", on the other hand, "many of Mr Bush's other foreign allies, such as Spain's José María Aznar and Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, have lost their jobs." What's most important, though, according to The Economist, Mr. Bush
must ensure that America is not bundled out of Iraq before its elected government has a chance to stand on its own feet. He must hold the line against a nuclear Iran. He needs to push harder for an independent Palestine, continue the fight against al-Qaeda, resist Russia's bullying of its neighbours and help America come to terms with a rising China. If he is wise, he will work harder than before to enlist allies for these aims, even if America must sometimes still act alone. But it will be harder and lonelier without a confident Tony Blair at his side.