The breakaway territory should seek legitimacy through supporting native Georgian rights, not playing dominoes

by Hugh Williamsonm, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
Published in: The Guardian
November 19, 2011

They like playing dominoes in Abkhazia. As dusk falls, young men unpack their pieces on the promenade by the Black Sea in Sukhumi, the picturesque capital of this breakaway territory bidding for independence from Georgia.

The fact that Abkhazia is a largely unrecognised state does not diminish the duty on the authorities, as the territory’s controlling power, to meet their human rights obligations under international law.

Yet like playing ping pong in China, shuffling the dominoes in Abkhazia can also resonate with wider diplomatic meaning. In October, Sukhumi was proud to host the domino world championship (yes, it exists). Abkhazia didn’t win – the Dominican Republic had that honour – but it achieved its goal of gaining some international attention. More than 200 players from two dozen countries attended, including a team from the US.

We spent 90 minutes putting these points to Alexander Ankvab, Abkhazia’s de facto president – a can-do politician who takes visitors’ calls on his mobile.

He disagreed with most of our findings, though, and talked about the “new realities” he was building in Abkhazia – realities that the largely hostile international community would have to get used to, he noted.

We said his “new realities” need to be grounded in the rights of the territory’s long-established population.

Abkhazia is only recognised by Russia, Venezuela and two other tiny states, and its status is part of the bitter tensions between Russia and Georgia that peaked in their short war in August 2008.

The two countries’ breakthrough agreement on 9 November on customs arrangements is a sign that compromises are possible. Yet the annoyance in Washington and Tbilisi, and the pride in Sukhumi and Moscow, over such a seemingly harmless domino match (media reports told of intense, ultimately futile pressure on the US domino players, for instance, to withdraw) underline how politicised any dealings with Abkhazia really are.

This atmosphere does not make independent human rights work in Abkhazia very easy. In our meetings with Abkhaz officials on this visit, that came as no surprise, and Human Rights Watch rarely opts for the easy ride. But it means that, as in other territorial conflicts, a different, more creative approach is needed to protect the rights of ordinary people by the key players involved. In this case, those players include Russia, with its strong military and financial backing for the territory.

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(Egypt Inspired) Quote of the day

“It will be funny if every country in the Middle East became a democracy except Iraq and Afghanistan.” – Bill Maher

US Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint?

US found the cause of its failure in Afghanistan. Believe or not, it is happend to be a… PowerPoint. PowerPoint? well, yes. here is the story:

A PowerPoint diagram meant to portray the complexity of American strategy in Afghanistan certainly succeeded in that aim, says New York Times.

(Click on the picture to see it larger.)

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti. “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.

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The death of the American Century

I just read this extremly amusing and interesting article published at The Washington Post that I would like to share with you.

“The death of the American Century”

By Henry Allen (Who won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 2000, was a Post editor and reporter for 39 years.)
The dream is dying.

It was this: a belief that the world has a special love for Americans, for our earnest innocence and gawky immediacy, for our willingness to share the obvious truth and light of democracy with people still struggling in the darkness of history, for our random energy, syncopated music and lopsided, baseball-playing grins. Throw in a little purple mountains’ majesty and amber waves of grain, and you get the idea.
It’s hard to say just when the dream was born. With Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet circling the globe? With Woodrow Wilson’s war to make the world safe for democracy? In 1940 Henry Luce, who told Americans who they were each week in Time and Life, proclaimed “The American Century.” World War II made it come true.
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Russian veto deals death blow to U.N. force in Georgia

 Russia, at odds with Western powers over Georgia, vetoed on Monday a Western plan to extend the mandate of a U.N. mission in the former Soviet republic, in a death blow to the 130-strong observer force. There were 10 votes in favor and four abstentions, one of which was China’s. No country joined Russia in voting against. Reuter reports:


A New Cold War? Western-hemispheric maneuvers

What does Russia docking in the Panama Canal this weekend mean? What should the Obama administration be thinking about it? National Review Online asked a group of Russian experts.

After 60 years, wrestling to reinvent NATO’s mission


In the aftermath of World War II, the United States and Europe created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to try to ensure the mutual security of its members and bring lasting peace to Europe. Nearly 60 years later, that once well-defined mission has taken some extraordinary turns.
NATO soldiers today are fighting a Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, protecting UN food ships from pirates operating offthe Somali coast and training police in Iraq. Last year, NATO forces helped train and airlift African Union troops into Darfur; the year before they flew relief supplies to Pakistani earthquake victims. A coalition that until 13 years ago had just 16 members and had never conducted a military operation now relies on troops from 26 member nations to operate multiple missions at once—missions not all the members agree on.
As President-elect Barack Obama takes office, one of his key jobs will be helping NATO—an organization that has seen its Cold War focus shift to more amorphous counter-terrorism and peacekeeping—hold together and remake itself for an age of new threats, from a nuclear-armed Iran to a resurgent, saber-rattling Russia.
"It’s the perennial problem: How do you reinvent NATO?" asked Robin Shepherd, a trans-Atlantic expert at Chatham House, one of London’s key foreign-policy think tanks. "Both sides of the Atlantic want to sustain NATO and keep its energy going, but there are difficult questions to answer."