Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, September 21, 2007

World Rainforest Movement celebrates 3rd annual International Day against monoculture tree plantations

Friday marks the third annual International Day against Monoculture Tree Plantations, which people use to spread awareness about the impacts of large scale tree monocultures on local communities and their environments.

Monoculture tree plantations create natural resources for countries in the north. However, they come with a huge social and economic cost for the countries in the south.

The plantations take up land for food production in countries which already suffer from malnutrition and hunger, as well as leading to decreased food sovereignty. Further impacts include the displacement of people in order to make room for plantations, the depletion of water resources, and pollution and degradation of soil.

The issue of climate change has worsened impacts of monoculture tree plantations and the creation of “solutions” to this problem only hurts communities more. Land is now being targeted to create fast wood plantations to absorb the carbon emitted by the use of fossil fuels. Additionally, oil palm plantations are being used to create biodiesel for cars, while frankentrees are grown to absorb carbon and produce ethanol.

For more information on monoculture tree plantations, click here.

Iranian-American released on bail, not allowed to leave Iran

Kian Tajbakhsh has been released from prison on Thursday after his family paid a bail of almost $107,000, The New York Times reported today.

Tajbakhsh is the third of four Iranian-American to be released. He was arrested in May and spent 131 days in solitary confinement in Iran’s Evin prison.

Although Tajbakhsh has been released, he is not allowed to leave the country until he receives permission from a judge.

For the full story, click here.

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Former exiled Pakistani Prime Minister announces her return to Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto, the exiled chairwoman of the Pakistan People’s Party and former prime minister, announced her plans to return to the country in order to promote change through democracy in a Washington Post op-ed piece published on Thursday.

Bhutto proclaimed the most central issue facing her country is extremism, but notes that, historically, religious fundamentalism has never dominated political consciousness. She further emphasized that Pakistan, at heart, is a moderate nation.

She also addressed her conversations with General Pervez Musharraf that have occurred over the past several months by maintaining that the meetings were intended to guarantee free elections in Pakistan. She further added that “[m]y dialogue with Musharraf aims to move the country forward from a dictatorship that has failed to stop the tribal areas from becoming havens for terrorists. The extremists are even spreading their tentacles into Pakistan's cities.”

Bhutto also touched upon the recent amendment to the constitution: “Last week brought a fresh challenge. Just days ago, Pakistan's election commission arbitrarily amended the constitutional provision regarding the eligibility of a person competent to contest for the office of president. As the constitution can be amended only through a two-thirds majority in Parliament, a judicial hornet's nest has been stirred, “she said.

For the full editorial, click here.

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UNICEF applauds Egypt for leading the battle against female circumcision

Egypt has been one of the leading nations in the attempt to eliminate female circumcision, prompting UNICEF to praise the efforts of government and religious leaders in the country, Herald Tribune reported on Thursday.

During the summer two Egyptian girls died from an operation known as female genital mutilation, which is practiced by both Muslims and Christians in the country.

“Female genital mutilation usually involves the removal of the clitoris and other parts of female genitalia. Those who practice it say it tames a girl's sexual desire and maintains her honor” the Herald Tribune reports.

UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said that since 2002 the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) has been working at “both national and sub-national levels, and has succeeded in building partnerships with the different governmental, non-governmental, donor and U.N. stakeholders to advocate against the practice”.

“NCCM's efforts have led several Egyptian villages to denounce female circumcision, part of the positive trend in the country, said UNICEF.

For full story, click here.

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Internal migration continues to alter demography and standard of living in Iraq

The Iraqi Red Crescent Organization expects to release a migration report this week in light of the vast internal migration that is reshaping the ethnic landscape of the country. Information given in advance to the New York Times indicates that “there are now nearly 170,000 families, accounting for almost a million people, that have fled their homes in search of security, shelter, water, electricity, functioning schools or jobs to support their families only in Baghdad.”

According to the article “the figures show that many families move twice, three times or more, first fleeing immediate danger and then making more considered calculations based on the availability of city services or schools for their children. Finding neighbors of their own sect is just one of those considerations”.

“Although Iraqis of every income level, sect, ethnicity and region of the country have been caught up in this migration, perhaps the most tragic consequences turn up where enormous numbers of poor Iraqi villagers have collected in camps, shantytowns and urban slums after leaving behind almost everything they owned”, Dr. Said Hakki, a physician who is the president of the Red Crescent told the New York Times.

Aid workers are both alarmed and concerned about the growing migration problem. The report states that these relief workers “have a mammoth task to alleviate the sufferings of this vast number of Iraqis.”

According to the article: “Although Iraqis of every income level, sect, ethnicity and region of the country have been caught up in this migration, perhaps the most tragic consequences turn up where enormous numbers of poor Iraqi villagers have collected in camps, shantytowns and urban slums after leaving behind almost everything they owned, said Dr. Said Hakki, president of the Iraqi Red Crescent Organization.

However, the statistics contained in the report have been challenged by the Ministry of Displacement and Migration who claims the politically delicate figures are too high.

It should also be noted that violence and insecurity are not the only factors spurring migration in the country. The article states: “In Baghdad, many of the displacements measured by the Red Crescent are secondary or tertiary. Many people have already moved once and the statistics are reflecting their second or, in some cases, their third move. While the fear of sectarian violence or of being caught in ongoing military operations motivates people to make their initial move, it is the desire for better living conditions that drives them to make subsequent ones. Some people first go to relatives in areas outside Baghdad, but then migrate back into the city as they search for jobs, and for more access to electricity, water and schools.”

For the full article, click here

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Human Rights Watch calls for action from international community in Darfur

Human Rights Watch released a report on Thursday calling on the 26,000-strong U.N. and African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur to ensure the safety of the Sudanese people and to work to restore their confidence, Voice of America reported the same day.

The group says the Sudanese population still suffers from atrocities such as beatings, rapes, robberies and murders at the hands of the government supported Janjaweed militia and rebel forces. Since 2003, more than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur and as many as two million people have been displaced.

Peter Takirambudde, the Africa Director of Human Rights Watch, says that the mission requires the “absolute commitment” of the international community in working to ensure the benchmarks are met by all actors. He believes there has not been enough done so far, and states that “The international community has been virtually in a slumber for the past four years when pervasive abuses were all over Darfur. Finally, they appear to be waking up, and they’re talking a good game. The question is whether or not they are going to be able to pass the test.”

“The people of Darfur cannot wait any longer,” says Takirambudde. “We have waited too long. Change must occur sooner rather than later.”

The UN and AU forces will take over the mission by the end of the year. Peace talks between the Sudanese government and rebels are scheduled to begin in Libya on October 27.

For the full story, click here.

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In Egypt, debate over religious affiliation on ID cards continues

Identity cards in Egypt currently feature a section which indicates religious affiliation; citizens can choose either Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. Wataninet.com reported last week that the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) suggested that the religion box should be deleted from the visible portion of the card and that the information should only be seen while accessing the card’s magnetic strip. Only specialized staff should be able to access this information.

Fouad Riyad, NCHR member and professor of international law, said that “people like Bahai’s were deprived of having birth certificates or IDs unless they agreed to be cited as belonging to one of the three heavenly religions since the State did not recognize any other religion”.

According to the article, Hossam Baghat, the director of the NGO Egyptian initiative for personal rights, highlighted another side of the issue. According to the article, Baghat stated that the ID cards must be discussed within the current political context, “taking into consideration the current rise in sectarian tension”. He went on to say that “many see that rights granted to non-Muslims represent a discount of Muslim rights, with the government ‘spoiling’ non-Muslims in response to international pressure”. He suggested the religion box should be optional.

To read the full story, click here

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U.S. supports poppy eradication progress in Afghanistan, but calls for further reform

The U.S. State Department’s annual report on drug-trafficking recently identified 20 major drug-transit and drug-producing countries, including Afghanistan – which provides the majority of the world’s opium supply, according to Radio Free Europe /Radio Liberty.

The report praised Afghanistan for marked improvement against poppy cultivation, particularly in the northern provinces, 13 of which are now poppy-free, according to Christy McCampbell, head of the department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

However, McCampbell concedes that the same progress has not been evident in the southern provinces, where the Taliban has a stronghold.

“Despite the significant gains the country has made since 2001, the country does continue to face tremendous challenges. Not addressing these challenges now could undermine security, compromise democratic legitimacy, and imperil international support for vital assistance to that country,” McCampbell said.

Poppy cultivation continues to be a major source of income for the many of Afghanistan’s farmers and accounts for approximately one-third of the entire country’s economy. Although the U.S. will not immediately withdraw aid from the country, Afghan President Hamid Karzai continues to be pressured to do more to combat the poppy problem.

For the full article, click here.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Increasing number of young Kurdish women dying from burns

The number of women dying from burns is increasing in the Kurdish villages of Iraq. According to a recent Newsweek article on msnbc.com, statistics show that, since August 10, nine deaths have been reported from the cholera epidemic in Kurdistan and during that same period, 25 young Kurdish women have died of burns.

The women who come to the burn units are often reported to have been in an accident, and in many cases their families will tell the doctors that the wounds were from a “cooking accident.”

According to the article, “ninety-five percent of the victims are under 30, and roughly half are between 16 and 21” Half of these girls have suspicious stories to tell about how they got hurt and according to the doctor it’s impossible for an accident to cause the degrees of burns that they often have. In some cases, the burns cover over 90 percent of the victim’s body. According to the article, “Kerosene, the fuel used to cook here, is not particularly volatile; if a woman comes in with burns over the majority of her body, it is likely intentional.”

Death by immolation has a long history among Kurds. “Burning, traditionally, has been the way to die among the Kurdish people,” says Zryan Yones, the Kurdish health minister. According to the article many of teenage girls imitate each other and Heshw Mohammad, a 20-year-old woman, says that self-immolation has become a sort of fashion among teenage Kurdish women.

Many of the burn cases in Kurdistan – whether they are suicides or honor killings – are related to either love or dating.

For the full article, click here.

An LCHR fellow spent several weeks in Iraqi Kurdistan this summer and visited a burn unit in Sulaimaniya, where she spoke with doctors, nurses and patients. Her report will soon be available on LCHR’s webpage: www.leadership-council.org.

Americans face uncertain fate in Iran

Although Iran has recently released scholar Haleh Esfandiari and journalist Parnaz Azima, three Americans are still being held or are missing, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported today.

Kian Tajbakhsh, a consultant with the Open Society Institute, has been detained since May under allegations of acting against Iran’s national security, and was recently told that he would be released soon. Tehran, however, has still not determined bail or a release date for him.

Iranian-American Ali Shakeri – a peace activist and businessman who serves on the Community Advisory Board of the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at the University of California, Irvine – has been imprisoned since May. Little is known about his case, and the deputy prosecutor has said that, “The time has not yet arrived for providing full information about his situation.”

Former FBI-agent Robert Levinson disappeared while visiting Kish Island off of the southern coast of Iran in March. His family reports that he was trying to find information about cigarette smuggling. His wife, Christine Levinson, has been working with officials and is attempting to meet with President Mahmud Ahmadinejad to find out more information.

“I really have no information other than the last place he was seen was on Kish Island and his passport has not been seen in any other country and we have no record of him leaving Kish Island. So I really believe he’s still there,” Christine Levinson told Radio Farda.

The detention of Esfandiari and Azima, along with the remaining prisoners, has had a chilling effect on Iranians. People are afraid that by cooperating with the United States, they will be seen as an opponent of Iran, and face imprisonment.

For the full article, click here.

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House bill would condition aid to Viet Nam on respect for human rights

Legislation that passed the House 414-3 Tuesday ties future increases in U.S. non-humanitarian aid to Viet Nam with improvements to Hanoi’s human rights record, The Associated Press reported.

The legislation, if approved by the Senate, would prohibit any increase in non-humanitarian assistance to the country over current levels unless the Bush administration is able to show that Viet Nam has made significant progress in its human rights record, and that officials are not involved with human trafficking.

“Sadly, in recent months, the human rights situation in Vietnam has deteriorated and become substantially worse and a new ugly wave of brutal oppression has been launched by Hanoi,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the sponsor of the legislation.

He added that the people who signed a declaration outlining humanitarian and human rights aspirations for the country have been tracked down and jailed by the Vietnamese government.

The legislation would also provide $4 million over two years to help individuals and organizations promoting human rights and nonviolent democratic change in Viet Nam, as well as set aside $10.2 million for measures to stop Viet Nam’s jamming of Radio Free Asia.

For more on this story, click here.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Crocker denounces U.S. handling of Iraqi refugee processing

The Iraqi refugee issue was not given high priority during last week’s congressional hearings with General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker. However, according to an article in Monday’s Washington Post, the subject is likely to be more thoroughly discussed when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets with the congressional leaders this week to outline the administration’s refugee admissions goals for 2008 and when the Senate resumes its Iraq war debate.

Crocker was critical of the slow pace of the refugee processing in a recent State Department cable entitled, “Iraqi Refugee Processing: Can We Speed It Up?”

Today about 2 million Iraqis are displaced within their own country, and 2.2 million more have fled to neighboring countries. Every month, 60,000 Iraqis have to flee their homes.

Crocker warned that, according to the article, “it may take the U.S. government as long as two years to process and admit nearly 10,000 Iraqi refugees referred by the United Nations for resettlement to the United States, because of bureaucratic bottlenecks.”

The process so far has been very slow and the article notes that the State Department “has admitted just 829 Iraqis this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, and officials caution that they may admit only about 1,750 by the end of the year.”

1,521 Iraqi refugees have been admitted to the United States since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

Emilio T. Gonzalez, director of U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, wrote Crocker a letter stating that the ambassador’s cable “does not reflect an accurate picture of DHS’s [the Department of Homeland Security] commitment or performance to date.” He also disputed many of the ambassador’s points and blamed the State Department, which, according to the article, “has overall responsibility for the U.S. refugee program, and its partner agents, called Overseas Processing Entities.”

For full article, click here.


4 Egyptian editors convicted for spreading false rumors

An Egyptian court last week sentenced four editors in chief from various independent newspapers to one year prison terms with hard labor, Almasry-alyoum.com reported on September 14.

According to the article, the charges against the editors involved “slandering and publishing false news about the President – who is also an NDP leader – and offending party symbols and members,” including President Hosni Mubarak’s son Gamal, as well as Dr. Ahmed Nazif and Dr. Zakaria Azmi.

The court justified the sentence by asserting that, according to the article, “individual freedom of publishing news of public interest is not absolute, but indeed limited by the society’s right to defend its own interests. One of them is having true news about anything concerning the public, while publishing false news and calumnies could mislead public opinion.”

The court also added that what was published was not intended to serve public interest and therefore those accused must be punished for spreading lies.

For full article, click here.

Australian faces death sentence for drug trafficking in Viet Nam

In a statement today, a Vietnamese court announced that an Australian man will be sentenced to death by firing squad for smuggling heroin, Australia’s Herald Sun reports. Tony Manh was arrested in March while boarding a plane in Ho Chi Minh City to Sydney.

Viet Nam has some of the toughest drug laws in the world and approximately 100 people are sentenced to death each year in the country for drug-related offenses. A person may be punished by death or life in prison for possessing, trading, or trafficking more than 600g of heroin or 20kg of opium.

“Recently, the fact that many Australians of Vietnamese descent are involved in trafficking drugs from Vietnam to Australia has become a phenomenon,” Phan Than, deputy head of the People’s Court in Ho Chi Minh City, said. “City authorities have been trying their best to stop this practice.”

For the full article, click here.


Rights group decries Egypt’s decision to close torture-victim organization

The Egyptian government has decided to close the Association for Human Rights Legal Aid (AHRLA), a leading rights group that works to assist victims of torture, according to AHN.

Abdal Azzem Wazeer on September 4 handed down the decision, citing article 17 of Egyptian law, which, according to the article, “bans nongovernmental organizations from receiving foreign money without prior governmental permission.”

Human Rights Watch condemned the decision on Monday, calling it “outrageous.”

“Although Egypt is a member of the UN Human Rights Council, it is preventing its citizens from maintaining an association that combats human rights violations,” Joe Stork, deputy director of HRW’s Middle East division, said in a press statement.

According to the article, “AHRLA is appealing the decision before a Cairo Court and has a hearing scheduled for October 21.”

For the full article, click here for full story

Convoy of explosives headed to Afghanistan definitely from Iran, NATO commander says

NATO troops seized a convoy of explosives in Afghanistan last week that definitely came from Iran, Agence-France Presse reported today. The shipment, however, did not necessarily come from the government of Iran.

“The geographic origin of that convoy was clearly Iran but take note that I did not say it’s the Iranian government,” said U.S. General Dan McNeill, head of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

“In that convoy there were explosive materials that could be made into more advanced improvised explosive devices,” he added.

The stash also included armor-piercing bombs, which are deadly when used as roadside bombs in Iraq.

Although Iran is a Shia Muslim country, the cooperation with the Taliban, a Sunni fundamentalist group, may be due to the presence of foreign and Western troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. and British officials have alleged for months that weapons from Iran were being sent to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

For the full article, click here.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Cause for beautification of Vietnamese Cardinal opened

On the fifth anniversary of the death of Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan of Viet Nam, Pope Benedict XVI expressed support for his beautification, The Associated Press reported today.

The cardinal spent 13 years in a communist prison camp – nine of which were in solitary confinement – before being exiled in 1988, when he left for the Vatican. He was never given a trial.

Before his death, Van Thuan was considered a possible candidate to succeed the late Pope John Paul II. He had been the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and he launched the compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, which was published in October 2004.

Benedict said that Van Thuan “was a man of hope, he lived on hope, and he spread it to everyone he met.” He added that “it was thanks to this spiritual energy that he resisted all physical and moral difficulties.”

Beautification is the beginning of the process that can lead to sainthood.

For more on this story, click here.

Suicide bombing in Afghanistan’s Helmand province kills eight

Four policemen and four civilians were killed today in a suicide bombing at a police station in Helmand Province, Agence France Presse reported.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack and has since vowed to increase attacks during the holy month of Ramadan, which began on September 13.

The bombing trails a September 11 attack in Helmand that killed 29 people in one of the deadliest Taliban strikes since 2001.

Helmand, where illegal opium is widely cultivated, has seen the some of worst violence since 2001. According to the article, “The unrest has claimed more than 5,000 lives this year, according to an AFP count based on reports, with the violence focused in southern and eastern areas adjoining Pakistan. Nearly 4,000 of the dead are militants themselves.”

For the full article, click here.

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Bangladeshi aid worker kidnapped in Afghanistan, government calls for his release

Nurul Islam, an aid worker with the Bagladesh Rural Advancement Committee, was kidnapped over the weekend by four gunmen in Afghanistan’s Logar Province, prompting the Bangladesh government to call for his immediate release today, Reuters reported.

The Taliban has declared it will only kidnap citizens from nations that have troops stationed in Afghanistan. Bangladesh does not have troops in the country.

Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, advisor to the interim Bangladeshi government, asserted that Islam’s work in Afghanistan was purely humanitarian and called for immediate release.

For the full article, click here.

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Viet Nam commended in U.S. Religion Report, while Iraq is at fault

The State Department’s 2007 report on international religious freedom, which was introduced by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on September 14, cites faults in Iraq, China and other countries, but improvements in Viet Nam and Saudi Arabia, Voice of America reported. The report, required by an act of Congress, this year covers 198 countries and territories.

In her remarks, Rice said that religious liberty is deeply rooted in American history and is integral to U.S. efforts to combat what she calls the ideology of hatred and religious intolerance that fuels global terrorism.

The state of religious freedom has deteriorated in Iraq, but according to U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom John Hanford, this is due to insurgency-related violence rather than any government policy: “The real problem we’re dealing with is that with the sectarian violence, not necessarily focused upon religious practice, that at the same time religious practice winds up being affected,” Hanford said.

China was taken to task for continuing to repress Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighar Muslims, and members of the Falon Gong spiritual group.

Viet Nam, on the other hand, was commended for continuing to make progress in expanding religious freedom. The country was taken off the “Countries of Particular Concern” list last year for actions it has taken, including the official recognition of Protestant congregations.

Saudi Arabia has also bolstered religious freedom by allowing the private observance of non-sanctioned religions and curbing incitement against other faiths, the report says.

Nations deemed “Countries of Particular Concern” for egregious abuses are subject to U.S. sanctions. The revised list will not be issued until November in order to give countries facing the designation and possible sanctions a chance to make reforms.

For the full article, click here.

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Iran issues warning against confrontation over its nuclear policy

Iran has issued a warning to Western countries about starting a confrontation over its nuclear program, Agence-France Presse reported today.

Many in the West believe that Iran is trying to create a nuclear weapon, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said on Sunday that a war with Iran was possible.

Reza Aghazadeh, Iran’s vice president and head of the country’s atomic agency, told an International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna that “some Western countries” had “proved that you cannot tolerate the addition of independent states and developing countries to the ongoing movement of those seeking to achieve ownership of modern technology.”

As a further warning, Aghazadeh went on to add: “The great nation of Iran has recorded your discriminatory behavior and performance in its memory and will not forget.”

For the full story, click here.

Experts discuss Petraeus-Crocker report

Leading experts from the Brookings Institution and Saban Center for Middle East policy met on Thursday at the National Press Club to assess President Bush’s “surge” strategy. They also reviewed General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker’s report on progress in Iraq, which was presented to Congress on Monday.

Kenneth M. Pollack, the director of research at the Saban Center, visited Iraq this summer and said that he can see a change within the country – especially in Anbar province – but cautioned that “there is a great deal left and we are not close to success.” He also expressed great concern with the Iraqi government and said that the different factions within the country are not ready to cooperate. While there has been progress on a local level, Pollack said, he argued that there is no indication that this success will spread to the national level.

“In Talfar this summer there was a large car bomb and we were scared that the situation would worsen, that there would be more sectarian violence and that the U.S. troops had to go back there,” Pollack said. But, he asserted, the situation did not get worse, adding “the Iraqis are tired of fighting; they have been in civil war for 4 years”.

Phillip Gordon of the Brookings Institution began by making the point that “it is difficult to know if this is a good strategy.” He added: “We have heard of progress before; that is why it is hard to take them seriously now.” Gordon also said that he has no doubt that Petraeus and Crocker were honest in their report. On the other hand he said that “it is their job; they have to be positive and I would not like to have it any other way.” Petraeus was talking about progress three years ago, while he was involved in training operations, and he talks about progress today, Gordon said. However, he argued that the American people are now more skeptical and are less inclined to believe the general’s claims. He also questioned whether a united Iraq would be possible, arguing that the Kurds, Shias and Sunnis would be unwilling to share power.

Peter Rodman of the Brookings Institution differed from the other panelists and highlighted the various problems that he claims would be created by a rapid withdraw. “It would be threatening to pull the plug and that would not strengthen the situation,” he said.

Rodman also argued that the notion that the U.S. is close to pulling out is scaring the Iraqi people, saying that “the Iraqis are watching our domestic debate very closely.” He said that when you meet ordinary Iraqis on the streets the first thing they ask is: “How long are you staying?” and the second thing is “How can we help?”

Susan Rice of the Brookings Institution said that “we are fighting more than one war in Iraq today.” She added: “Yes, we are fighting the al Qaeda, but, we are also fighting a sectarian war.” Rice also said that while it is not clear who the ‘bad guys’ are in the civil war, we know that al Qaeda are the ‘bad guys.’

Rice maintained that the “surge” is not a strategy and argued that surge or no surge, political reconciliation is still crucial. She also noted the importance on focusing more on job creation. “Economic factors are what are essential, and that will bring success to the country,” she said.

Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution agreed a good deal with Rice and noted that while it is true that violence is down in Iraq, much more must be done. “We can not talk about progress until the numbers are down more,” O’Hanlon said. “People do not feel secure and a lot of effort has to be put in to get the extremists out.” He added that “we have only put the cork in the bottle and saved some time.” One of the major things he called for during his statement was a greater emphasis on funneling resources into the regions and combating the underlying sectarian tensions at play within local communities.

Bruce Riedel of the Saban Center said that while most experts agree that reconciliation would be the best thing for Iraq and it is indeed necessary, it is also not likely to happen soon. He also said that he agreed with Petraeus and Crocker on the importance of keeping a close eye on Iraq’s neighbors, adding that it would be impossible to guard the boarders to Iran. “Not even Saddam Hussein could do that,” Riedel said.

Riedel also called attention to the fact that 75 percent of Iraqis polled in a recent study said that they believe the U.S. will stay in the country forever.

Riedel concluded by referring to a question raised in Monday’s congressional hearing with Petraeus and Crocker: “Will this policy make the United States safer?” The general’s response was: “I do not know.”