Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pakistan: A Slow-Motion Tsunami

2010 could go down in history as the year of natural and environmental disasters. We’ve witnessed earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, wildfires and a drought in Russia, a devastating oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and now one fifth of Pakistan is submerged under water due to floods leaving more than 20 million people without potable water, food, shelter and medicine.

The United Nations general secretary, Ban Ki-moon, called this latest disaster a "slow-motion tsunami," and appealed for swift aid.

"Make no mistake, this is a global disaster," Ban said at the UN general assembly. "Pakistan is facing a slow-motion tsunami. Its destructive powers will accumulate and grow with time," he warned.

Relief agencies say the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Pakistan is greater than this year's earthquake in Haiti; however, relief for Pakistan may be a long time coming.

According to a CBS news report, sixteen days after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, aid commitments totaled $1.4 billion. Sixteen days after Pakistan's floods began, promises added up to just $200 million.

Yet despite the heart-wrenching television images

broadcast across the globe showing massive destruction and enormous human suffering, the world has been slow to react to calls for aid. Why has Pakistan been forsaken?

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Iraq: Invading Is Easier Than Leaving

There are remarkably few positive things to say about Iraq today. The country seems to be in perpetual upheaval since the U.S. invasion in 2003. Dozens of people were killed across Iraq just days ahead of the start of the holy month of Ramadan, and more will probably lose their lives in the coming few days when insurgents typically step up their attacks. Yet the Obama administration has recently announced that the U.S. is "on target to end the combat mission." The U.S. government plans to withdraw its combat troops by the end of August and to remove all troops by the end of 2011.

But Iraq's most senior military officer, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, said that his forces, particularly the air force, were not ready to take over, cautioning that his security forces will not be able to secure the country until 2020.

The country has been facing many domestic challenges, such as a period of Sunni Arab insurgency, bloody attacks by al-Qaeda, confrontations with al-Sadr militias, and the ongoing tensions between various political factions; however, it's Iraq's vulnerability to neighboring countries that Zebari was alluding to.

"If America withdraws its forces and one of the neighboring countries causes problems, then we're going to have a problem," Zebari said.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Obama Must Bring Back That Magic to the Middle East

Will it be a strike against Iran by the U.S. and or Israel? Will there be political upheaval in Egypt after Mubarak's reign? And will Israel invade Lebanon or Gaza? These are some of the questions that can be heard on the streets of Cairo, Amman, and Beirut.

2010 is far from over, yet we have witnessed a series of close encounters in the Middle East that created major tensions and pushed everyone to the edge: a war on the Yemeni Saudi border, rapid deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey over the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, skirmishes between Israel and Lebanon over the cutting of a tree, and the looming prospect of an attack on Iran to mention a few. But what's really troubling is how fast attitudes have changed towards President Obama from a year ago; specifically in the period after newly-elected Barack Obama delivered his "New Beginning" speech to the Arab and Muslim worlds from a podium at the University of Cairo in Egypt.