August 27, 2006

Palestinian PM optimistic about journalists’ release (CNN, 8/27/06)

The Palestinian prime minister said late Saturday that he hopes two Fox journalists kidnapped earlier this month will be released “in the coming hours,” his office said.

The kidnappers have promised Ismail Haniyeh, a member of Hamas who came to power earlier this year, that the journalists will not be hurt, according to Haniyeh’s staff.

“There is progress in the issue of the journalists, and there are promises also that they won’t be harmed,” Haniyeh told the Palestinian news service, Ramattan.

“The interior minister, Said Siyam, is personally following this matter, and we hope it will be resolved in a way befitting us as a resistant and civilized Palestinian people,” he said.

A nice illustration of how Hamas and the PLO have been normalized by the accountability that comes with political power.


August 17, 2006

Home Rule: The struggle between sovereignty and chaos in the Middle East (Gadi Taub, 08.17.06, New Republic)

Both Hezbollah and Hamas had much to gain from dragging Israel back into the territories from which it withdrew. Take Lebanon first. Hezbollah is a guerrilla army inside a sovereign state. When Israel was the occupier, Hezbollah guerrillas could portray themselves as freedom fighters seeking Lebanese independence. With Israel gone, they looked more like agents of foreign powers bent on undermining Lebanese independence. A stable and prosperous Lebanon–not to mention peaceful coexistence with Israel–would spell Hezbollah’s doom. Nasrallah may have been surprised by the ferocity of Israel’s response. But, if he is able to portray himself as a hero in the holy war against Zionism, and if he can make Lebanon seem like Vietnam (which many people believe he did), he will have bought himself years of political prestige and vitality.

Hamas is a different case. Unlike Hezbollah, Hamas now holds sovereign power and will lose it if Israel reoccupies Gaza. On the surface, it doesn’t make sense that a ruling party would voluntarily risk losing power. But, in the case of Hamas, it actually does: Hamas prospered under the occupation, and its uncompromising anti-Israeli ideology thrived on despair. A sovereign Gaza threatens to force it into the pragmatic world of politics, which would compromise the very ideology that brought it into existence.

Hamas, then, has all the old reasons for preventing partition. Partition would neuter the most effective weapons in the war to destroy Israel: demography; the international isolation of Israel caused by the occupation; the unified Arab front against Zionism; and the corrosive effects of the occupation on Israel’s internal unity and democratic institutions. Could it be that Hamas overheard what Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israelis during the last election campaign–that partition is the only way to save Zionism? Did they act to subvert his plans for withdrawal?

Think of it this way: Any lasting peaceful solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict depends on the logic of sovereignty. This means stable governable states, separated by acknowledged borders. Whatever undermines this logic–terrorism, continued occupation, chaos, invasions–subverts the chances for future peace. It is in Israel’s interest to support and strengthen stable sovereign governments on the other side of its borders.

If Israel were serious about subverting Hezbollah as a terrorist organization it would treat Nasrallah as a head of state and foment the sovereignty of South Lebanon.


August 1, 2006

Bush’s Embrace of Israel Shows Gap With Father (SHERYL GAY STOLBERG, 8/02/06, NY Times)

“He told Sharon in that first meeting that I’ll use force to protect Israel, which was kind of a shock to everybody,” said one person present, given anonymity to speak about a private conversation. “It was like, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’ “

That embrace of Israel represents a generational and philosophical divide between the Bushes, one that is exacerbating the friction that has been building between their camps of advisers and loyalists over foreign policy more generally. As the president continues to stand by Israel in its campaign against Hezbollah — even after a weekend attack that left many Lebanese civilians dead and provoked international condemnation — some advisers to the father are expressing deep unease with the Israel policies of the son. […]

Unlike the first President Bush, who viewed himself as a neutral arbiter in the delicate politics of the Middle East, the current president sees his role through the prism of the fight against terrorism. This President Bush, unlike his father, also has deep roots in the evangelical Christian community, a staunchly pro-Israeli component of his conservative Republican base.

The first President Bush came to the Oval Office with long diplomatic experience, strong ties to Arab leaders and a realpolitik view that held the United States should pursue its own strategic interests, not high-minded goals like democracy, even if it meant negotiating with undemocratic governments like Syria and Iran.

The current President Bush has practically cut off Syria and Iran, overlaying his fight against terrorism with the aim of creating what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls “a new Middle East.” In allying himself so closely with Israel, he has departed not just from his father’s approach but also from those of all his recent predecessors, who saw themselves first and foremost as brokers in the region.

In a speech Monday in Miami, Mr. Bush offered what turned out to be an implicit criticism of his father’s approach.

“The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East,” Mr. Bush said. “For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States.”

What could be more damning than that the Realists are neutral as between a democratic ally and enemy dictatorships?


July 21, 2006

Count Ethnic Divisions, Not Bombs, to Tell if a Nation Will Recover From War (AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, 7/20/06, NY Times)

WITH repeated Shiite and Sunni killings in Iraq, the Hezbollah rocket attacks on Israel, Israeli attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the assaults by the Taliban and counterassaults by American forces in Afghanistan, and a train bombing in India, it has been quite a fortnight for at least two of the horsemen of the apocalypse — war and death.

With little prospect of a quick resolution to most of these conflicts, perhaps it is worth looking at the long-run prospects for these nations once the wars actually end (assuming that they do end, of course).

The good news is that history suggests that the destruction of war has no lasting impact on economic prospects. The bad news is that most of these countries, especially Iraq, are filled with ethnic divisions and civil discord. The evidence shows that these problems, unlike bombs, cause lasting damage to the prospects for a nation’s economy, even if they do not boil over into civil war.

There’s nothing real about these states to begin with–they’re just creations of colonial powers. The quicker they devolve into their constituent and coherent parts the better.


June 30, 2006

Reformist gains in Kuwaiti vote (BBC, 6/30/06)

The opposition reformists – many of whom are Islamists – gained four seats, taking their total number of seats in parliament to 33.

State media reported a turnout of up to 78% in some voting centres.

By electing reformist candidates, the voters have sent a clear message to the government that they want change in Kuwaiti society, our correspondent says. […]

Kuwait’s parliament is considered to be the strongest of those in the Gulf monarchies, and the National Assembly often expresses differences of opinion with cabinet in a robust fashion.

However the emir has the final word on most government policies and key cabinet posts are held by members of the ruling family.

Many candidates made fighting alleged corruption in the ruling elite a key issue.


June 4, 2006

Islam and the West: A Conversation with Bernard Lewis (The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, April 27, 2006, Hay-Adams Hotel, Washington, DC)

The relationship between Islam and the West will be a defining feature of the 21st century, particularly in the Middle East. How should U.S. policymakers engage with the Muslim world? Will the spread of democracy throughout the Muslim world blunt the militant forces generating terrorism? How will European governments and populations deal with their burgeoning Muslim populations, and how will this affect U.S. foreign policy priorities and alliances?

The Pew Forum hosted a discussion of these and other issues with Professor Bernard Lewis, who for 60 years has helped interpret the world of Islam to the West. In addition to authoring more than two dozen books, including What Went Wrong and The Crisis of Islam, Professor Lewis has advised government officials and policymakers in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Middle East on the intricacies of the relationships between Islam and the West.

Professor Bernard Lewis, Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

Luis Lugo, Director, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life

Let me begin with the name, which has been given — not by me — to our discussion today: the West and Islam, sometimes also Islam and the West, depending on your perspective. You will surely be struck by a certain asymmetry in this formulation. On the one side, a compass point; on the other, a religion. Now, of course, we use “the West” in a number of different senses, but primarily, they are political, strategic, cultural, even civilizational, but not normally religious. The one religious term I have heard used for the West is the post-Christian world. I needn’t develop the implications of that term. Islam, on the other hand, is the name of a religion. And it is a part of human society identified by itself, and therefore also by others; not the other way around, in terms of religion.

But having said that, I think one needs to be more specific. In talking of the Christian world, in English — and, I suppose, in all the other languages of the Christian world — we use two terms: Christianity and Christendom. Christianity means a religion, in the strict sense of that word, a system of belief and worship and some clerical or ecclesiastical organization to go with it. If we say Christendom, we mean the entire civilization that grew up under the aegis of that religion, but also contains many elements that are not part of that religion, many elements that are even hostile to that religion. Let me give one simple example. No one could seriously assert that Hitler and the Nazis came out of Christianity. No one could seriously dispute that they came out of Christendom. In talking of Islam, we use the same word in both senses, and this gives rise to considerable confusion and misunderstanding. There are many things that are described as part of Islam, which are indeed part of Islam, if we take the word as the equivalent of Christendom, but are very much not part of Islam — are even alien or hostile to Islam — if we take the word Islam as the equivalent of Christianity. I think this is a very important point, which one should bear in mind.

The late Marshall Hodgson, of the University of Chicago, in discussing this issue, suggested that we use the word Islamdom to describe the civilization. A good idea, but it didn’t catch on, probably because it’s so difficult to pronounce.

In that world, religion embraces far more than it does in the Christian or post-Christian world. We are accustomed to talking of church and state, and a whole series of pairs of words that go with them — lay and ecclesiastical, secular and religious, spiritual and temporal, and so on. These pairs of words simply do not exist in classical Islamic terminology, because the dichotomy that these words express is unknown. They are used in the modern languages. In Arabic, they borrow the terminology used by Christian Arabs. They are fortunate in having a substantial Christian population using Arabic, and they therefore have a good part of the modern terminology at their disposal, in their own language. In Turkish, Persian, Urdu and other languages of Islam, they had to invent new words. The word in Turkish and in Persian is laik [from the French word laïque, which describes the prevailing concept of separation of church and state].

In the Islamic world, from the beginning, Islam was the primary basis of both identity and loyalty. We think of a nation subdivided into religions. They think, rather, of a religion subdivided into nations. It is the ultimate definition, the prime definition and the one that determines, as I said, not only identity, but also basic loyalty. And this is quite independent of religious belief. In Islam, there isn’t — or rather, there wasn’t until recently — any such thing as the church, in the Christian sense of that word. The mosque is a place of worship. It’s a building, a place of worship and study. And in that sense, it is the equivalent of the church. But in the sense of an institution with a hierarchy and its own laws and usages, there was no such thing in Islam until very recently. And one of the achievements of the Islamic Revolution in Iran has been to endow an Islamic country for the first time with the equivalents of a pope, a college of cardinals, a bench of bishops and, above all, an inquisition. All these were previously unknown and nonexistent in the Islamic world.

On the question of loyalty, let me give you an example. We all know from the history books of the exchange of Turks and Greeks, which took place after World War I when, after the war ended, there was a further war between Greece and Turkey, at the end of which, the Greek and Turkish governments agreed on an exchange of populations. And as it appears in the history books, the Greek minority in Turkey was sent to Greece; the Turkish minority in Greece was sent to Turkey. That’s what it says in the history books. But if you look at the treaty in which this agreement was incorporated, it says something different. The parties to be exchanged are defined as Turkish subjects of the Greek Orthodox faith and Greek subjects of the Muslim faith. And if you look more closely at who the people actually were, they were, to a very large extent, Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians from Turkey and Greek-speaking Muslims from Greece. This was not an exchange of two ethnic minorities. It was a deportation of two religious minorities.

And this remains very much the perception to the present day. Religion is the primary identity, and that is quite unrelated to belief and worship. An Egyptian scholar even wrote a book with the odd title — odd, that is, to the Western reader — the odd title of Atheism in Islam. It seems a rather absurd title on the face of it. But it isn’t at all. He was talking about Islam as a culture, as a civilization, and there, as elsewhere, there were atheists and atheist movements, a perfectly legitimate title of a perfectly valid study. It is very difficult for us in the West to understand and appreciate this and all its implications. Separation of church and state was derided in the past by Muslims when they said this is a Christian remedy for a Christian disease. It doesn’t apply to us or to our world. Lately, I think some of them are beginning to reconsider that, and to concede that perhaps they may have caught a Christian disease and would therefore be well advised to try a Christian remedy. […]

MASSIMO CALABRESI, TIME: Sir, you have presented Islamdom, as you called it, as rather inhospitable to democracy. You just described them as part of — the populations have no understanding of free debate and understanding.

MR. LEWIS: I said the present rulers of Iran.

MR. CALABRESI: In your description of Sharia law, you also indicated it had some transnational primacy. You described the contrast of a nation divided into religions with a religion divided into nations. Religion is the primary identity, you said, for followers of Islam around the world. The question is simply, how realistic a policy of spreading democracy in the Islamic world is it at this point?

MR. LEWIS: Thank you. I was hoping someone would ask me that question. I am very grateful to you.

A lot of things are being said about Islam now. There is a view, for example, that could be summed up this way: These people are incapable of decent, civilized, open government. Whatever we do, they will be ruled by corrupt tyrants, therefore, the only aim of foreign policy should be to ensure that they are friendly tyrants rather than hostile tyrants. We know versions of this approach produced well known results in Central America, in Southeast Asia and other places.

I would say that this is a totally false approach because to say that they are incapable of anything else is simply a falsification of history. What we have now come to regard as typical of Middle Eastern regimes is not typical of the past. The regime of Saddam Hussein, the regime of Hafiz al Assad, this kind of government, this kind of society, has no roots either in the Arab or in the Islamic past. It is due — and let me be quite specific and explicit — it is due to an importation from Europe, which comes in two phases.

Phase one, the 19th century, when they are becoming aware of their falling behind the modern world and need desperately to catch up, so they adopt all kinds of European devices with the best of intentions, which nevertheless have two harmful effects. One, they enormously strengthen the power of the state by placing in the hands of the ruler, weaponry and communication undreamt of in earlier times, so that even the smallest petty tyrant has greater powers over his people than Harun al-Rashid or Suleyman the Magnificent, or any of the legendary rulers of the past.

Second, even more deadly, in the traditional society there were many, many limits on the autocracy, the ruler. The whole Islamic political tradition is strongly against despotism. Traditional Islamic government is authoritarian, yes, but it is not despotic. On the contrary, there is a quite explicit rejection of despotism. And this wasn’t just in theory; it was in practice too because in Islamic society, there were all sorts of established orders in society that acted as a restraining factor. The bazaar merchants, the craft guilds, the country gentry and the scribes, all of these were well organized groups who produced their own leaders from within the group. They were not appointed or dismissed by the governments. And they did operate effectively as a constraint.

There is a wonderful quote I like to use; it is the letter written in 1786 by the French ambassador in Istanbul — three years before the French revolution — He is trying to explain why he is not making good progress with his assignment. And he says, here things are not as in France where the king is sole master and does as he pleases; here the sultan has to consult with all kinds of people, with all kinds of holders of office, and even with retired, former holders of office. And it’s true; that is how it was. All of that disappeared with the process of modernization, which, as I say, strengthened the government and weakened or eliminated the previous limiting factors.

The second, really deadly phase came — and here I can date it precisely in the year 1940. In 1940, the government of France decided to surrender and, in effect, changed sides in the war. The greater part of the colonial empire was beyond the reach of the Axis, and the governors therefore had a free choice: Vichy or de Gaulle. The overwhelming majority chose Vichy, including — and this is what concerns us specifically — the governor, high commissioner, he was called, of the French-mandated territory of Syria-Lebanon. So, Syria-Lebanon was wide open to the Nazis, and they moved in on a large scale, not with troops, because that would have been too noticeable, but with propaganda of every kind. It was then the roots of Ba’athism were laid and the first organizations were formed, which ultimately developed into the Ba’ath Party.

It was then that the Nazi style of ideology and government became known, eagerly embraced simply because it was anti-Western rather than because of inherent attraction. From Syria, they succeeded in spreading it to Iraq, where they even set up a Nazi-style government for a while, headed by Rashid Ali. It was possible to deal with that, and they were driven out of the Middle East. But after the war, the Western allies also left and the Soviets moved in, taking the place of the Nazis as a champion against the West. To switch from the Nazi to the communist model required only minor adjustments.

This is not the part of the historic Arab or Islamic tradition and, for that reason, I think that the prospect, not of our creating democratic institutions, but allowing them to develop their own democratic institutions is definitely a possibility. I would go a step further. I think we could have done much more than we have done, and I think that it’s still not a lost cause, but it is now becoming very much endangered. And if they go on, if we help them, there have been many signs of a developing democratic movement not only in Iraq, where the news is much better than you would think, but also in Iran, in Syria and in other places — stirrings of popular democratic movements — Egypt, for example, and North Africa and elsewhere.

The movement is there. It is dangerous to say or do such things, so they have to be very careful, but it’s there, it’s growing, and there is a lot we could do that we are not doing to help them. And what are the alternatives? As far as I can see, there are many possibilities; let me give you the worst-case and best-case scenarios and you can work out the intermediate possibilities. My worst-case scenario is that Europe, and possibly also the rest of the West, and the Islamic world destroy each other, and the future belongs, or is contested between, India and China as the superpowers of the second half of the 21st century — my best case scenario is that, somehow, with our help, or at least without our hindrance, the peoples of the Middle East succeed in developing open, democratic societies, in which case the Middle East would be able to resume its rightful place, which it has had twice before, in world civilization.


May 22, 2006

Making Peace with the Colonel: By rewarding Libya with the resumption of diplomatic ties, the United States is hoping to transform Moammar Gadhafi’s regime from rogue state to model Muslim partner. With plenty of oil and a cosmopolitan elite, the country’s chances at rehabilitation aren’t half bad. (Bernhard Zand and Volkhard Windfuhr, 5/22/06, Der Spiegel)

[W]hat does the reconciliation mean for the power struggle in Libya? America’s diplomatic initiative could benefit the reformers in the bizarre jumble of contradictions that is modern Libya. Or it could be their doom in the place formally known as the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. The initial winners are clearly the urban elite of Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk, whose lives are already leaning to the West.

The oil boom has made them rich. Libya earns about $80 million a day and will take in more than $30 billion this year on petroleum. The wealth is now becoming palpable. Mid-size cars wait in traffic jams along the coastline near Tripoli. Gadhafi’s son Hannibal pilots a white Humvee, a military jeep that represents the US invasion of Iraq in other parts of the Arab world. The airport in Tripoli now has a business lounge even though elsewhere in the country Libyans refuse to sit in the back of a taxi, careful not to make the driver look like a servant.

The hip drink of the moment in the seaside towns along the Mediterranean is the macchiato, a remnant of the officially hated Italian colonial period. Today, the milk foam peeks over the edge of a paper cup, just like it does in America. But men’s fashion is all Italian — dark suits, light-blue shirts, thin brown shoes.

The style has been made popular by yet another son of Gadhafi – Seif al-Islam, 33, an eccentric but bright son who has trouble hiding his ambitions. He’s already confessed to having no interest in Libya’s presidency, not to mention becoming a revolutionary leader like his father. But as head of the organization that pays restitution for the Lockerbie and “La Belle” bombings, his intentions have become very clear.

In the spring of 2005, he invited Harvard Business School economist Michael Porter to Libya. Porter is a former economic adviser to Reagan and a leading expert on competition. Gadhafi’s son met him at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. For ten months, Porter and a 25-member team of international experts investigated Libya’s ministries, oil industry and economy. Recently, they published their report. “It is,” said an experienced European diplomat in Tripoli, “the most revealing document that has ever been written about the internal state of an Arab nation.”

The diagnosis is brutal. The bureaucracy, education system and health care sector come off far worse than they were portrayed in an earlier United Nations report. Only three percent of Libyans work in the oil sector, but they account for 60 percent of the gross national product. More than half of the population works in the service sector but make up just nine percent of the gross national product. Unemployment has crested 30 percent. Without oil, the country would be a disaster.

But the solution is heartening. Libyans were “motivated and open” when they spoke to one of the researchers, an experience “without comparison to what we’ve experienced in other countries.” The country’s energy sources are large with guaranteed reserves of 40 billion barrels of the lightest and most sulfur-free crude — all within proximity of oil-thirsty European markets. With smart leadership, Libya could become an exemplary country by 2019 — the 50th anniversary of the revolution — “egalitarian, productive, democratic and green,” according to the report.

The study’s preamble is a masterpiece of Middle East diplomacy that touches on the Achilles Heel of the whole experiment: “Our strategy attempts to improve Libya’s global competitiveness while maintaining its unique character as a government of the masses (jamahiriya).” This refers to Gadhafi’s theory that a government must only implement the decisions taken by an elite inner circle despite the convening of hundreds of people’s congresses — currently 468 — that meet for two weeks four times a year.

This raises yet another question, which the geostrategists in the State Department must also be asking after the debacle in Iraq — Can Arabic autocracies be reformed even if the autocrats and their regimes remain — at least temporarily — in power?

Because they can’t fix their economy without reducing autocracy, the autocrats who want a functional economy more than they do political power are worth working with.


May 16, 2006

Mubarak’s Son Met With Cheney, Others: Secret Visit Came After Cairo Unrest (Peter Baker, May 16, 2006, Washington Post )

The son of Egypt’s president made a secret trip to Washington last week to meet with Vice President Cheney and other senior U.S. officials a day after thousands of Egyptian riot police broke up a pro-democracy demonstration back in Cairo, U.S. and Egyptian officials said yesterday.

Gamal Mubarak, 42, a powerful political player and widely considered a possible heir to his father, Hosni Mubarak, told the U.S. officials that Egypt is committed to further democracy but said it would be a long-term process that will include setbacks. “There was no tension at all,” Egyptian Ambassador Nabil Fahmi said in an interview. “They listened to his explanation of what was happening.”

But U.S. officials have publicly called themselves “deeply concerned” about Egypt’s recent actions and they used the opportunity to press upon Gamal Mubarak their views of what needs to be done to further genuine reform in Egypt, said a Bush administration official who was not authorized to discuss the meeting on the record. The administration has been impressed by Egypt’s moves to restructure its economy but disappointed at the government’s failure to open its political system more.

The great unknown in Egypt is whether Gamal Mubarak understands the future as well as Seif al-Islam does.


May 14, 2006

A Rebel Prince’s Vision for Reform: Saudi’s Long-held Ideals Gaining an Audience with Royal Family (Anthony Shadid, 5/14/06, Washington Post)

[Prince] Talal is many things: for 50 years, the most liberal figure in a family that remains the most conservative and traditional of the Persian Gulf’s monarchies and tribal dynasties; a philanthropist who brings a ruthlessness to business that he once saved for politics; a glimmer of light for the kingdom’s liberals, many of whom acknowledge that change here will probably only come under the auspices of religion and its modernization, not through the secular talk of civil society and individual rights.

Perhaps most compelling, though, is that Talal takes a debate about democratic reform in the Arab world, defined lately by the Bush administration, and illustrates a broader, more enduring context, one that speaks to experience rather than promise. His calls for change are little different than in the 1950s and ’60s, when he was dismissed as a communist sympathizer; he remains a critic of U.S. policy, citing Iraq’s trauma as the latest example. To Talal, the battle itself is not new, only the players. And in his words are a sense of vindication for ideas he believes are no less crucial today.

“The world has changed, not me,” he said. “History has proved the rightness of what I was talking about.”

“Some of the members of the family were against those ideas,” he added. “Now they’re talking about them.”

These days, Talal advocates a constitution that would bind an absolute monarchy by law, “a social contract between the ruler and those who are ruled.” The parliament, now an appointed, relatively toothless body known as the Consultative Council, would be at least partially elected, with the right to oversee the budget, monitor the government and question ministers, he said.

Women? “Right now, we have more than 2 million female students,” he said, shaking his head. “When they graduate, where are they going to go? Either you close the schools and leave them to illiteracy or you grant them an opportunity to work.”

He laughed. “Can you imagine, can anyone imagine, that women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia?” he said.

His list went on: Progress is impeded by “the opposition of religious extremists.” The religious establishment, long the allies of his family, should stand aside as the country forges a division of power — judicial, executive and legislative. Along the way, the kingdom, he said, must determine the mechanism of passing the monarchy from the aging sons of the country’s founder to their grandsons before simmering rivalries between the branches of the House of Saud flare into the open.

“The goal remains the same,” he said, “the participation of people in forming opinions and making decisions.”

The same words, a different era: “Now we’re freed from the notion of the Red Prince, the name the Americans gave me.”

A constitutional monarchy is the ideal form of government.


May 9, 2006

US food aid for crisis-hit Darfur (BBC, 5/09/06)

President George W Bush has announced US emergency food shipments to ease the crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, urging Congress to approve $225m in aid.

He also said he was sending his secretary of state to the UN Security Council to help speed up the deployment of UN peacekeepers to the region. […]

Calling the situation in Darfur a “genocide”, President Bush said five aid ships would be urgently redirected to Sudan to provide extra help for the two million people displaced by the conflict.

He said: “These actions will allow the World Food Programme to restore full food rations to the people of Darfur this summer.”

Money for the world’s largest aid operation has been running out. Rations for May have been cut in half.

Mr Bush said: “Darfur has a chance to begin anew… America will not turn away from this tragedy.”