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Posts tagged ‘France’

The Cold War Was Only on Vacation.


The Crimea is lost. The challenge now is to avoid a wider conflict with a Russia bent on absorbing more territory and further extending its influence into Eastern Europe.

To avoid an eventual choice between feeding Russia’s appetite for its lost empire and a hot war, European and U.S. leaders must embrace expensive and politically tough economic and defense choices.

Save petroleum, aluminum and a few less significant products, the Russian economy is broadly uncompetitive in global markets. Oil and gas account for 75 percent of exports and 50 percent of Moscow’s revenues, and Russia depends on imports from the European Union for technology and many consumer goods. It even buys ships to modernize its navy from France.

U.S. and European economic sanctions on Russian political and military leaders responsible for the Crimean invasion would make a statement, but are unlikely to have any tangible impact on Vladimir Putin’s behavior. However, if the Europeans phase out purchases of Russia’s gas, it has few options to sell it elsewhere. Putin would be starved for cash to finance his military and spread benefits to political cronies.

Replacing Russian gas — which accounts for 30 percent of European supplies — won’t be cheap or pleasant. They must frack to develop shale gas, re-embrace nuclear power and accelerate solar and other alternatives.

For French shipbuilders, German equipment manufacturers and technology and consumer goods producers throughout Europe, cutting off Russia’s most important source of hard currency to buy what they make would be wrenching. Still, it would impose far more systemically destabilizing penalties on Russia.

More than Russian guns won the referendum in the Crimea for Putin. The sad state of the economy and political corruption in the Ukraine made the former Russian possession vulnerable to reacquisition.

To halt Russian expansion, the European Union must do much more to assimilate the Ukraine and other former Soviet states into the Western economy by building infrastructure and moving significantly more industry into these regions, buying a lot more of their exports and imposing aggressive conditions for economic and political reforms in exchange for those benefits.

All of this would be provocative to Moscow and require rebuilding NATO forces, and moving those further east into Romania, the Baltic and aggressively courting cooperation with Belarus.

The Germans and the Americans have the economic resources, but have demonstrated inadequate commitments to giving real meaning to the economic and security commitments the West made to Eastern Europe, for example, through the 1994 Ukrainian security agreement, at the end of the Cold War.

Now, Putin and his political allies, chastened by the loss of an empire and emboldened by Russia’s petroleum wealth, are exploiting western neglect of former Soviet states.

In America, President Obama’s economic policies have boiled down to raising taxes, cutting defense spending and building out a European-style welfare state — universal healthcare and broadening the earned income tax credit. And he has ducked pension and benefits reform that greatly limit the punch of the U.S. military.

Stiffening NATO commitments to Eastern Europe would require German and U.S. governments to step up and pay for stronger militaries, and for the Americans to reform a bloated Pentagon.

In Germany and the United States, taxes are already quite high, even by Cold War standards, and the obvious tradeoff between guns and butter would hit the Obama and Merkel governments where it hurts most — their standing with voters who have come to expect wider and wider welfare benefits.

The greatest courage will be required from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Barack Obama, or each will bequeath to their successors a much more dangerous world.

Russia will enjoy a stranglehold over European energy supplies and boast a modernized military to gradually coop and reclaim former Soviet states and expand its influence throughout Europe.

The Cold War never really ended, it just took a Black Sea vacation.

© 2014 Moneynews. All rights reserved.

 

The Unending Military Siege to Delta State By Ogaga Ifowodo.


 

Columnist:

Ogaga Ifowodo

Delta is a densely populated state that also happens to house a vast amount of oil and gas. The Sapele-Warri-Ughelli corridor, extending to Port Harcourt, is the industrial and commercial heartbeat of the state and has a high volume of vehicular traffic. A testimony to the socio-economic importance of this corridor is the never-to-be-completed East-West Road that spans four states: Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom. Yet, it is precisely the short stretch of it between Warri and Ughelli that the Federal Government has managed to make motorable, seven years and N349 billion after, that exhibits the unbearable hardship of military checkpoints (MCPs) through which a permanent siege has been laid to the state. If you have ever travelled on that road at peak hours, or worse, are a frequent commuter between Warri and any of the towns further south—Ughelli, Patani, and all of Isokoland—then a nightmare for you must be a dream of sandbags and oil barrels that create bottlenecks in the middle of your road.

On Saturday, the 15th, I set out from Warri with an older cousin—I call him Brother Reuben—and his wife on a trip to visit my mother in Otor-Owhe, but with stops in Iyede to attend a funeral and Oleh for a wedding.  We crawled through the first MCP at Okuokokor in about twenty minutes, though from the DSC roundabout where the East-West Road begins to the checkpoint is less than half a kilometre.  At about 11:05 AM, our progress was halted with sterner resolve as we fell into one of now-three-and-now-four lanes caused by the MCP just before Beta Glass Company. For forty–three minutes, we stewed in the sun and expressed our frustrations in hisses and impotent rage. As we passed through the checkpoint, we noticed that the sentry hut was empty and the two soldiers in the vicinity were chatting with someone in the nearby petrol station. Thankfully, they had ensured to deploy helmets atop the sandbags to stand in for them! On our return, at 6:20 PM, we saw the gridlock ahead and turned just in time at Delta Power Station into the Otor-Udu Road, an alternative route to our destination in the Udu-Ovwian area of Warri.  We might as well have gnashed our teeth through the Delta Glass MCP for we ran smack into another in Ujevwu! Suffice it to say that a journey of twenty minutes, give or take, from the Delta Glass MCP took a full hour longer. But we were lucky: I heard stories of two to three hours lost to the East-West Road checkpoints.

But why build roads, supposedly for the freer flow of traffic, and then erect obstacles in them to defeat the purpose?  To combat kidnappers, I am told. Very funny! And not only because the soldiers do not check vehicles, do not do any actual policing—are indeed often not to be seen at the checkpoints—but also because I am yet to hear of any kidnapper arrested at a military checkpoint. Despite being hemmed in by MCPs, Kelvin Oniarah, the alleged kidnap kingpin of Kokori was arrested in a hotel in Port Harcourt, while one Enueme Ogaga, his alleged sidekick, was nabbed in Ashaka far from a checkpoint. And outside Delta State, the report “Another kidnap kingpin, 6 robbers nabbed in Rivers” (Vanguard, 20 February 2014) informs us that the said kidnapper “was traced to a . . .  bank . . .  where he went to withdraw [the] ransom” paid for his victim.

Checkpoints are an extreme policing device suitable only for a town under military occupation. They are to be used sparingly and only for a specific and immediate goal, then promptly dismantled. As I ranted against military checkpoints—they are a gratuitous infliction of pain; they hinder movement and economic activity and we mount them with glee only because we are not a productive economy, are not in competition with any other nation (crude oil and gas do not travel on the roads); they show us as a conquered people, a land rendered comatose by military dictatorship and civilian brigandage, etc.—my auditors recounted their experiences. On hearing me swear to write a column about the MCPs, Mr George Okoro, a retired Shell Community Relations Coordinator, said, “Well, you may write all you want but our governments delight in seeing us suffer, that’s all.” The next day, on a visit to Professor G.G.  Darah in his Udu-Warri home, I was still in a huff and so, it turns out, was he about the ubiquity of checkpoints in Delta State. He had once counted, he said, “29 checkpoints between Auchi and Asaba.” Delta State, he declared, “is a war zone. You won’t see checkpoints coming from Abuja, until you leave Auchi.”

Elsewhere, countries that take themselves seriously strain to outdo their nearest competitors in lowering the cost of doing business, partly by shortening the time for travelling between two points. And so China develops its new high-speed trains with France, Japan and Germany as its competitors. We do not have a rail transport system that would pass the laugh test; all we have are inadequate and decrepit roads. And yet we find every reason to bring traffic to a halt on them. Perhaps the powers that be who authorised the permanent military siege to Delta State might care to prove Mr Okoro wrong?

omoliho@gmail.com

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Truce Collapses in Ukraine, Violence Intensifies.


Image: Truce Collapses in Ukraine, Violence IntensifiesAnti-government protesters man a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square in Kiev on Feb. 20.

Fearing that a call for a truce was a ruse, protesters tossed firebombs and advanced upon police lines Thursday in Ukraine’s embattled capital. Government snipers shot back and the almost-medieval melee that ensued left at least 70 people dead and hundreds injured.

Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes Thursday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or on planks of wood.

Protesters were also seen leading policemen with their hands held high around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev. Ukraine’s Interior ministry says 67 police were captured in all. It was not clear how they were taken. An opposition lawmaker said they were being held in Kiev’s occupied city hall.

President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition protesters who demand his resignation are locked in an epic battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country — mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government, while many in eastern Ukraine favor strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.

At least 99 people have died this week in the clashes in Kiev, a sharp reversal in three months of mostly peaceful protests. Now neither side appears willing to compromise, with the opposition insisting on Yanukovych’s resignation and an early election and the president apparently prepared to fight until the end.

Thursday was the deadliest day yet. An AP cameraman saw snipers shooting at protesters in Kiev and video footage showed at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.

The carnage appears to show that neither Yanukovych nor the opposition leaders appear to be in control of the chaos engulfing Ukraine.

Dr. Oleh Musiy, the top medical coordinator for the protesters told the AP that at least 70 protesters were killed Thursday and over 500 injured, and the death toll could well rise further.

There was no way to immediately verify his statement. Earlier in the day, an Associated Press reporter saw 21 bodies of protesters laid out Thursday on the edge of the capital’s sprawling protest camp.

In addition, one policeman was killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds Thursday, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP.

A truce announced late Wednesday appeared to have little credibility among hardcore protesters at Kiev’s Independence Square campsite. One camp commander, Oleh Mykhnyuk, told the AP even after the truce, protesters still threw firebombs at riot police on the square. As the sun rose, police pulled back, the protesters followed them and police then began shooting at them, he said.

The Interior Ministry warned Kiev residents to stay indoors Thursday because of the “armed and aggressive mood of the people.”

Yanukovych claimed Thursday that police were not armed and “all measures to stop bloodshed and confrontation are being taken.” But the Interior Ministry later contradicted that, saying law enforcers would get weapons as part of an “anti-terrorist” operation.

Some signs emerged that Yanukovych is losing loyalists. The chief of Kiev’s city administration, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced Thursday he was leaving Yanukovych’s Party of Regions.

“We must be guided only by the interests of the people, this is our only chance to save people’s lives,” he said, adding he would continue to fulfill his duties as long as he had the people’s trust.

Another influential member of the ruling party, Serhiy Tyhipko, said both Yanukovych and opposition leaders had “completely lost control of the situation.”

“Their inaction is leading to the strengthening of opposition and human victims,” the Interfax news agency reported.

The parliament building was evacuated Thursday because of fears that protesters would storm it, and the government office and the Foreign Ministry buildings in Kiev were also evacuated. But a parliament session convened in the afternoon, with some pro-government lawmakers heeding the opposition’s call to work out a solution to the crisis.

As the violence exploded and heavy smoke from burning barricades at the encampment belched into the sky, the foreign ministers of three European countries — France, Germany and Poland — met with Yanukovych for five hours after speaking with the opposition leaders. The EU ministers then returned to speak again with opposition leaders.

The 28-nation European Union began an emergency meeting on Ukraine in Brussels to consider sanctions against those behind the violence.

The latest bout of street violence began Tuesday when protesters attacked police lines and set fires outside parliament, accusing Yanukovych of ignoring their demands to enact constitutional reforms that would once again limit the president’s power.

Prior to the deaths Thursday, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said 28 people have died and 287 have been hospitalized this week. Protesters who have set up a medical facility in a downtown cathedral so that wounded colleagues would not be snatched away by police say the number of injured are significantly higher — possibly double or triple that.

The Caritas Ukraine aid group praised the protest medics but said many of the wounded will need long-term care, including prosthetics.

The clashes this week have been the most deadly since protests kicked off in November after Yanukovych shelved an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. Russia then announced a $15 billion bailout for Ukraine, whose economy is in tatters.

The political jockeying for influence in Ukraine has continued. In Moscow, the Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin was sending former ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to Ukraine as a mediator.

President Barack Obama stepped in to condemn the violence, warning Wednesday “there will be consequences” for Ukraine if it keeps up. The U.S. has raised the prospect of joining with the EU to impose sanctions against Ukraine.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will “try to do our best” to fulfill its financial obligations to Ukraine, but indicated Moscow would hold back on further installments of its bailout money until the crisis is resolved.

“We need partners that are in good shape and a Ukrainian government that is legitimate and effective,” he said.

At the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Ukrainian alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska, 24, said she will not take part in Friday’s women’s slalom due to the developments in Kiev.

“As a protest against lawless actions made toward protesters, the lack of responsibility from the side of the president and his lackey government, we refuse further performance at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games,” her father and coach, Oleg Matsotskyy, wrote in a Facebook post.

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© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

Obama, Hollande Resurrect US-French Relations.


President Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to dismiss the notion that France has replaced Britain as the main U.S. partner in Europe, but it was clear during the state visit of President Francois Hollande that the two have the closest relationship between the nations’ leaders since Presidents Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand two decades ago.

Laure Mandeville, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the venerable French publication Le Figaro, best captured this situation when she pointed out to Obama at his joint news conference with Hollande, “You have actually praised France very warmly today and granted our president the first state visit of your second term …

“Does that mean that France has become the best European ally of the U.S. and has replaced Great Britain in that role?”

Obama replied that he has two daughters who are “both gorgeous and wonderful. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

However, as Obama and Hollande went through a welcoming ceremony at the White House, their news conference, and a state dinner, reporters from France and the United States recalled the sharp tensions between their countries after the U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003.

The strong opposition by then-President Jacques Chirac to the Iraq offensive resulted in a modern-day low point of relations between Paris and Washington. In the United States, this was symbolized by the congressional cafeterias offering “Freedom Fries” in lieu of French fries.

All that was in the dim past Tuesday during the first state visit of a French president to the United States since 1996.

Hollande said Obama’s election as president in 2008 “had been welcomed in France” because “America was able to make something possible, to make progress possible.”

He went on to recall his decision last summer to stand with Obama on a strike on Syria, saying, “We were prepared to resort to force, but we found another option — negotiation.”

From France and the United States being “extremely attentive” in helping Lebanon deal with its massive influx of refugees, to his commitment to the cause of climate change, Hollande repeatedly underscored his solidarity with the American president.

The French Socialist president was warm and positive, even regarding the spy controversy by National Security Agency renegade Edward Snowden.

“Following the revelations [of European eavesdropping by the NSA] that appeared due to Mr. Snowden,” Hollande told reporters, “President Obama and myself clarified things. This was in the past.”

Hollande said, “Mutual trust has been restored, and that mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data — the fact that any individual, in spite of technological progress, can be sure that he is not being spied on.”

Obama’s response to Le Figaro’s Mandeville notwithstanding, there is a strong case to be made that Obama works more closely with France’s Hollande than with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Where Hollande stood firm with Obama on Syria, Cameron was unable to join any military alliance against the Assad regime when the British House of Commons voted down his proposal.

In addition, it is obvious that France is now the key conduit in trying to help Obama craft a new U.S. relationship with Iran.

Hollande said as much when he told reporters: “Nothing prevented us from having bilateral contacts, and I had some bilateral contacts. In New York I received [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani during the General Assembly. So it is perfectly legitimate for discussions to take place.”

Ken Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, summarized the Obama-Hollande friendship to Newsmax.

“Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama has a tough time turning foreign leaders into confidants — and his judgment, as when he chose [Turkish Premier] Erdogan as a preferred interlocutor, has been wrong,” Weinstein said.

“It’s clear that Obama and Hollande have a real and deep rapport. Both need each other — Obama for guidance on Syria, where his policies have failed, and to show that he does have European allies after Snowden, and Hollande, these days, to prove that he isn’t a laughingstock but a world leader.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Say What? Obama Compares Britain and France to His Daughters.


President Barack Obama Tuesday said France and Britain — jealous rivals for US affection — were like his beloved daughters, Malia and Sasha, who he could not choose between.

Obama skillfully skipped through an Anglo-Gallic minefield when asked by a French reporter if America’s oldest ally, and not Britain, was not now its best friend.

“I have two daughters,” Obama said, as he stood with French President Francois Hollande at a White House news conference.

“They are both gorgeous and wonderful, and I would never choose between them.

“And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

Obama spent Monday and Tuesday praising the restored US-France alliance — which dates from the revolutionary era over 200 years ago — but was almost ruptured over the Iraq war a decade ago.

But he has also learned the political perils of failing to pay sufficient homage to the US “special relationship” with Britain.

Early in his first term, he was lambasted by political foes for removing a bust of revered wartime prime minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office.

Obama will get the chance to stand tall with both Britain and France — when he travels to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in June.

There he will join Hollande and Queen Elizabeth II.

Though what Her Majesty will think about her once-great empire being compared to a US president’s offspring is unclear.

 

© AFP 2014

Source: Newsmax.com

Iran Warns It Can Attack US ‘from Within’.


Image: Iran Warns It Can Attack US 'from Within'Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami

By Drew MacKenzie

A top Iranian military leader says the Islamic Republic has terrorist sleeper cells in the United States that are ready to launch attacks on key population “centers” once given the command from Tehran.

Though he stressed that the attacks would only come if the Islamic Republic is attacked first, the speech seems at odds with Iran’s recent diplomatic outreach with the Obama administration, which has resulted in an interim deal designed to at least temporarily halt their development of nuclear weapons.

“America, with its strategic ignorance, does not have a full understanding of the power of the Islamic Republic,” the Islamic Revolutionary Guards commander, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, warned in a televised interview reported by The Daily Caller. 

“We have recognized America’s military strategy, and have arranged our abilities, and have identified centers in America (for attack) that will create a shock,” Salami said. “We will conduct such a blow in which they (America) will be destroyed from within.”

Recent reports have suggested that terrorist forces tied to Hezbollah, a strong ally of Iran, have infiltrated the U.S. and have designed specific American targets, according to the Daily Caller.

Salami boasted that if the U.S. takes up its military threats against Iran, the Islamic Republic would then “recognize no boundary for its response.

“The American military option does not make a difference for us, and they can use this option, but they will have to accept the responsibility of devastating consequences,” Salami said.

According to the semi-official Iranian news agency FNA, he went on, “The U.S. can have different scenarios against Iran, including air, missile and limited ground incursion. All these scenarios have been identified, all possibilities have been studied and we have complete intelligence superiority in all these cases and operational strategies.”

He issued the dire threats after Secretary of State John Kerry warned last month that if Iran ignores the short-term treaty with western powers and continues to create a nuclear bomb, “then the military option that is available to the United States is ready and prepared to do what it would have to do,” reports The Times of Israel.

Salami’s threats came two weeks after the chief commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Maj. Gen. Mohammad Jafari, had replied to Kerry’s comments, warning that a direct confrontation with America is the “strongest dream of the faithful and revolutionary men around the world.”

Jafari said that American threats “to revolutionary Islam are the best opportunity. Muslim leaders for years have been preparing us for a decisive battle. Do you know how many thousands of revolutionary Muslims at the heart of the Islamic revolutionary groups around the world are awaiting for you to take this (military) option from the table into action?”

Under the recent agreement, the U.S., Britain, Germany, China, France, and Russia promise to ease crippling financial sanctions while Iran vows to reduce uranium enrichment to five percent and end previous production of 20-percent enriched uranium. The western powers are due to meet Iranian officials for more talks on a long-term solution in Vienna on in mid-February.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Hillary Clinton Warns New Iran Sanctions Could Upend Talks.


Image: Hillary Clinton Warns New Iran Sanctions Could Upend Talks

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is warning Congress that new unilateral sanctions against Iran could upend sensitive international negotiations over its nuclear development, imploring lawmakers to work with the Obama administration in presenting a unified front to Tehran.

Echoing President Barack Obama’s deep concerns about another round of tough economic penalties, Clinton said any congressional action could undercut U.S. work with its allies as well as American influence with Russia and China in forcing Tehran to negotiate after years of inconclusive talks.

“Now that serious negotiations are finally under way, we should do everything we can to test whether they can advance a permanent solution,” Clinton said. “As President Obama has said, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed, while keeping all options on the table.”

Clinton offered her assessment in a three-page letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Levin’s office released the letter, dated Jan. 26, on Sunday.

Levin and several other committee chairmen have expressed a willingness to hold off on sanctions to give diplomatic efforts a chance. However, 59 Republicans and Democrats back legislation to impose a new round of penalties on Iran, maintaining that crippling economic sanctions forced Tehran to make concessions.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., would blacklist several Iranian industrial sectors and threaten banks and companies around the world with being banned from the U.S. market if they help Iran export any more oil. The provisions would only take effect if Tehran violates the six-month interim deal or lets it expire without a comprehensive nuclear agreement.

Iran agreed in November to slow its uranium enrichment program to a level that is far below what would be necessary to make a nuclear bomb. It also agreed to increased international inspections to give world leaders confidence that it is not trying to build weapons in secret.

In exchange, the U.S. and five other nations — Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China — agreed to ease an estimated $7 billion worth of international sanctions against Iran’s crippled economy for a six-month period while negotiators try to broker a final settlement.

Iran has long maintained that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Clinton said the intelligence community has said new sanctions could undercut the chances for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.

“I share that view. It could rob us of the diplomatic high ground we worked so hard to reach, break the united international front we constructed and in the long run, weaken the pressure on Iran by opening the door for other countries to chart a different course,” said the former New York senator and possible 2016 presidential candidate.

In his State of the Union address this past week, Obama repeated his threat to veto any new Iran sanctions if Congress passes legislation.

Clinton, who said she repeatedly backed Iran sanctions during her eight years as senator, cautioned lawmakers.

“If the world judges — rightly or wrongly — that negotiations have collapsed because of actions in the United States Congress, even some of our closest partners abroad — to say nothing of countries like Russia and China — may well falter in their commitment. And without help from our partners in enforcing them, any new measures we put in place will not achieve maximum impact,” Clinton said.

Levin, who had written to Clinton Jan. 16 seeking her views, said her letter “is another strong signal to Congress that we should not take any legislative action at this time that would damage international unity or play into the hands of hard-liners in Iran who oppose negotiations.”

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

 

A Diet Of Denials By Sonala Olumhense.


 

Columnist: 

 Sonala Olumhense

President Goodluck Jonathan was in Yola last Tuesday to commission the Air Force Comprehensive Secondary School.  

Before the visit was over, new presidential controversies were ignited.  The first concerned accredited journalists who were threatened with bodily harm, and molested and thrown out of the venue.

Stunned that the reporters were questioning an instruction to leave, presidential aide, Emmanuel C. Anita, unimpressed by the clutch of reporters, explained it to them: “You people are simply not invited for this occasion; do you want me to call my men to beat you up?”

That was inside.

Outside, the streets of the Adamawa State capital went dead: businesses and streets closed by a government terrified for itself by the Boko Haram menace.  Businesses and neighborhoods, uncertain as to whether the militants or the government was the bigger menace, went on an imposed closure.  

Earlier, a spokesman for the 23rd Brigade based in Yola, had announced that all of the city’s major roads would be closed as long as Jonathan’s very important feet were on the ground.  By one published account, things got so bad that market women protested half-naked on Mohammed Mustafa Way, condemning the President for squandering public funds to inflict further economic hardship on Yola.

“I’m shocked by this kind of attitude by the soldiers,” one woman told reporters as they challenged Jonathan to resign if he did not trust those who voted him into power.  “They cannot fight Boko Haram; it is us harmless civilians that have become their target. They should face Boko Haram and leave us alone to continue with our suffering that the PDP government is inflicting on Nigerians.”

Said another, “Even during the late Gen. Sani Abacha’s dark days there was nothing like this, but in a democratic government our President we laboured for to win an election is today denying us our daily bread.”

But Mr. Jonathan had very important things to say as he commissioned an institution for 50 students, and the soldiers simply wanted to make sure he was interrupted neither by pesky journalists nor by hungry citizens. 

Worse was to follow as Mr. Jonathan suggested he had relieved top military service chiefs of their responsibilities recently because of unnecessary rivalry between them. 

“I urge you to cooperate, but sometimes you hear of unhealthy rivalry amongst service chiefs and personnel,” AllAfrica.com quoted him as telling members of the armed forces at the occasion.  “This will no longer be tolerated, as any unnecessary competition that will not bring progression to this country, so I charge you to work together.”

Daily Trust quoted him as saying.  “I urge you to cooperate, sometimes in the recent past you hear of some kind rival competition among service chiefs, or security personnel, but this time around we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition, that will lead to friction in this country.”

According to Vanguard, President Jonathan said he sacked the immediate past service chiefs because of unhealthy competition which made it possible for Boko Haram insurgents to attack the Air Force operational base in Maiduguri…[that] the terrorists destroyed fighter aircraft during the attack and went scot free because of the rivalry between the former service chiefs.

“I urge you all to cooperate because in recent times some mutual cooperation among the service chiefs and personnel have been lacking. This time around, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition that would be retrogressive to this country.  We charge you to work together and I believe that we would no longer experience any unpleasant situation we had in the past because of some obvious lapses.”

According to The Guardian, Jonathan warned that the rivalry among the services would no longer be tolerated, and that the insurgency would be better tackled with synergy among the service chiefs.  “I urge you all to cooperate…there has been some mutual competition among the service chiefs and personnel, this time around, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition…We charge you to work together… and believe that we would no longer experience any unpleasant situation we had in the past because of some obvious lapses.”

According to the Nigerian Tribune, President Jonathan said, “…This time round, we will not tolerate any unnecessary competition that will bring retrogression to the country…We charge you to work together because our country is exposed to cancer and I told the former chief of defence staff when I came back from a meeting in France, that was the time they attacked our five helicopters and a journalist asked me, ‘Mr President is it not shameful?’ And I asked him, If you were me, how would you have felt? And I believed we will no longer experience that kind of situation. That happened because of some obvious lapses.”

According to the Daily Sun, the President disclosed that …unnecessary rivalry among security agencies in the country and security lapses contributed to the successful attacks carried out on five helicopters by the terrorists…He warned the newly appointed service chiefs against embarking on unnecessary competition among themselves, urging them to work together and complement each other in the interest of the nation.

Those accounts of Mr. Jonathan’s visit were followed on Thursday by a robust rebuttal by his spokesman, Reuben Abati, who dismissed them as “untrue and misleading.”

He carpeted “sections of the media” for mischief and reckless sensationalism, saying they had deliberately chosen to misrepresent the President’s innocuous and clear call for greater synergy and inter-service cooperation in the war against terrorism.

According to him, President Jonathan did not in Yola say the former chiefs were guilty of undue rivalry or that such unhealthy rivalry was responsible for recent security breaches in Adamawa and other parts of the country.

“As Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces and Chief Security Officer of the Federation, President Jonathan is fully aware of the importance and sensitivity of all defence and security-related matters,” Abati defended.  “If he had any reprimand or admonition for the former service chiefs, which he does not, he would not have cavalierly given it at a public function as the media falsely reported.”

The man fights the wrong war.  It is a shame that in a democracy, his professional constituency is sadly disrespected by ordinary soldiers in a public event despite his presence at the scene of the crime but his only comment is to continue the normal regime of denials following another Jonathan gaffe.  Evidently, the presidency’s communication strategy, if there were ever one, has collapsed. 

What is worse is the incoherence in the government.  In Yola, it seems Mr. Jonathan again struggled through some impromptu remarks.  In the absence of a written speech, an experienced information manager ought to provide a quick and official readout of his principal’s remarks.  The reporter is not bound to use it, especially where he has his own professional record, but then there are always journalists who were not there, or who may closer friends with the government.

Finally, there is also something that some public speakers overlook: You do not have to be an orator to be an effective speaker. 

But you have to know your subject, and to stick to your comfort zone or prepared material.  Jonathan’s nightmare is that he often lacks command of his subject, leaving the listener with dangerous errors and ambiguity.  Then the doctor blames the patient for the wrong prescription he provided.

 

  • Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

AP Poll: Voters Give Obama Low Marks for Iran Deal.


A majority of Americans support an agreement by the U.S. and five other world powers to limit Iran’s disputed nuclear program, but fewer believe it will keep the Islamic republic from building a nuclear bomb.

A new Associated Press-GfK poll gave President Barack Obama lower marks for his dealings with Iran.

The five-day survey, conducted Jan. 17-21, was ongoing as the interim agreement went into effect. It calls for Iran to cap uranium enrichment at a level far below what’s necessary to build a nuclear weapon. In exchange, world powers agreed to ease international sanctions by an estimated $7 billion to give some short-term relief to Iran’s crippled economy.

The temporary compromise is set to expire in July, giving negotiators six months to work on a plan to permanently prevent Iran’s nuclear program from becoming a threat.

The poll indicated that 60 percent of American adults approve of the six-month agreement.

But fewer than half — 47 percent — believe it might work.

“From a diplomatic standpoint, it would be great to be able to negotiate and come up with a solution that would eliminate the chance for nuclear weapons for Iran,” respondent Lance Hughey, 40, a lawyer from LaCrosse, Wis., said Monday.

However, “Iran is a difficult country to trust,” said Hughey, who identified himself as an independent voter with slightly Republican leanings. “And the leadership that we see out of D.C., the way things have been conducted with Syria … I don’t believe (the president) has the leadership skills to deal with Iran.”

The poll concluded that overall, 42 percent approve of how Obama handles Iran — about the same as 44 percent in December. Fewer strongly approve of his performance, 25 percent now compared with 30 percent in December.

Obama is the first U.S. president to talk directly with an Iranian leader since 1979, when the Iranian Revolution toppled the pro-U.S. shah and brought Islamic militants to power. Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke briefly by phone in late September, and opened the way for meetings and negotiations between U.S. and Iranian diplomats.

But the Obama administration has come under fire from lawmakers who say the tough trade and financial sanctions should not be eased until Iran agrees to all international demands, including settling once and for all any concerns that it may be trying to produce nuclear weapons.

Iran has denied it is seeking a bomb and says it is pursuing nuclear capabilities for peaceful purposes.

The next round of negotiations with Iran is expected to be held in New York next month. The U.S. and its negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — will be seeking a long-term agreement to halt Iran’s nuclear program.

The AP-GfK Poll was conducted using KnowledgePanel, GfK’s probability-based online panel. It involved online interviews with 1,060 adults. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points for all respondents. Those respondents who did not have Internet access before joining the panel were provided it for free.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Aid Agency Chief: Syrian Refugees Creating ‘Regional Crisis’.


Image: Aid Agency Chief: Syrian Refugees Creating 'Regional Crisis'Syrian refugees walk among tents at the Karkamis refugee camp near Gaziantep, Turkey.

By Wanda Carruthers

In light of upcoming international peace talks between the opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the numbers of refugees resulting from the war has created a “regional crisis” that demands attention.

“This is a regional crisis that demands a big international engagement,” Miliband, who is also president and CEO of aid agency International Rescue Committee, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Tuesday.

The conflict in Syria has resulted in a “scale of brutality … that hasn’t been seen for a very long time,” Miliband said.

As a result, millions of people are taking refuge in neighboring countries. He called for the international response to be “massively scaled up.”

Invitations were sent to 40 countries for a one-day meeting this week of foreign ministers for peace talks in Switzerland. Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations-Arab League special envoy to Syria, will moderate the meeting.

More than 100,000 people have been killed in the three-year conflict between Syrian rebels and the government of President Bashar Assad. Miliband maintained the upcoming peace talks would not end the war, but could bring attention to how the war is waged.

“I think it’s important to say that this peace conference, so called, no one believes it’s going to bring peace tomorrow. But it can address the conduct of the war, in terms of the targeting of civilians, in terms of the starving of the people in Aleppo [Syria],” he said.

Half of the Syrian population has been displaced from their homes into neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turley and Jordan, Miliband explained. He said the majority of those affected are “relatively middle-class people whose lives have been completely shattered.”

“The people caught in the middle are civilians,” he said. “The figures are what make this a potentially toxic crisis.”

“What you’ve got is kids without education. You’ve got parents who’ve lost loved ones. Sons, husbands, who’ve been killed. Who’ve lost everything at home. Who’ve been totally traumatized,” he added.

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