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Iraq: What does one do with the broken pieces?

In Anticolonialism, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, Current Events, Democracy, Human Rights, Middle East & North Africa, The Search for Peace, United Nations, War Crimes, World Law on June 23, 2014 at 9:31 PM

IRAQ: WHAT DOES ONE DO WITH THE BROKEN PIECES?

By René Wadlow

 

There is the legendary sign in shops selling china and porcelain “Do not touch; If you break it, you buy it”. The same sign should have been hung at the entry to Baghdad rather than portraits of Saddam Hussein. With Iraq in armed confusion as sectors of the country change side, and the Iraqi government seems incapable of an adequate response other than to call for military help, as concerned world citizens we must ask ourselves “What can we do?”

The forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have broken down a wall on the frontier between Iraq and Syria as a symbol of abolishing national frontiers to be replaced by a community of the Islamic faithful − the umma. In some ways, we are back to the early days of the post-World War One period when France and England tried to re-structure that part of the Ottoman Empire that is now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Turkey and an ill-defined Kurdistan.

 

In March 2003 an international "coalition" led by the United States attacked Iraq in violation of international law and overthrew the country's dictator, Saddam Hussein. The problem is that, having acted without prior permission from the Security Council, the "coalition" was never able to garner support from the international community and build a real, stable democracy in Iraq. As a result, a significant part of the country is now in the hands of radical Islamist fighters.

In March 2003 an international “coalition” led by the United States attacked Iraq in violation of international law and overthrew the country’s dictator, Saddam Hussein. The problem is that, having acted without prior permission from the Security Council, the “coalition” was never able to garner support from the international community and build a real, stable democracy in Iraq. As a result, a significant part of the country is now in the hands of radical Islamist fighters.

 

During 1915, Sir Mark Sykes, a Tory Member of Parliament and a specialist on  Turkish affairs and Francois Georges-Picot, a French political figure with strong links to colonial factions in the French Senate negotiated how to re-structure the Ottoman Empire to the benefit of England and France. Although these were considered “secret negotiations” Sykes reported to Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, and Picot had joined the French Foreign Ministry as war service. However, both operated largely as “free agents”. Today Sykes and Picot are recalled for no other achievement than their talent in dividing. The agreement between them was signed in January 1916 but kept in a draw until the war was over. In April 1920 at San Remo, France and England made the divisions official.

History has moved on, but dividing and re-structuring remains the order of the day. The political structures of Israel-Palestine as one state, two states, or one state and occupied territories have confronted the best of mediators − and less talented mediators as well. With the war in Syria continuing, there have been suggestions to divide − or federate − the state into three parts: an Alawite-Shi’ite area, a Sunni area, and a Kurdish area. The same divisions had been suggested for Iraq earlier and are again being discussed in the light of the ISIS advances: a Shi’ite area in the south, Kurds in the north − already largely independent − and Sunnis in the Middle. Lebanon, although not a federal state, is largely structured on sectarian-geographic divisions.

 

In 1916 the Sykes-Picot agreement carved the Middle East into two "spheres of influence", one British, the other French, plus two zones of direct control by either of the colonial powers.

In 1916 the Sykes-Picot agreement carved the Middle East into two “spheres of influence”, one British, the other French, plus two zones of direct control by either of the colonial powers.

 

Constitution-making under duress is not the best way of doing things. Forced federalism presents even more difficulties than creating a federal state when people are not fighting each other. We have seen the difficulties of proposing federal structures for Ukraine, federalism seen by some as a prelude to the disintegration of the state. The difficulties in the wider Middle East are even greater, as we have three states directly involved: Iraq, Syria, Turkey with a well-organized and armed Kurdish community in Iraq and parts of Syria.

The Kurds had expected that a Kurdistan would be recognized after World War One. The issue was raised at a conference to set Middle East frontiers held in June 1923 in Lausanne. The failure of the Kurds to achieve their goal for independence and the forced inclusion of their mountainous homeland within the then newly created states of Iraq, Syria and Turkey caused resentment and unrest. All the Kurds received in 1923 was a pledge to respect minority rights. By 1924, the Turkish government had banned all Kurdish schools, organizations, publications, and religious Sufi brotherhoods. In 1925, there was the first of the Kurdish revolts in Turkey, which, on-and-off, continue to today.

 

The flag of the Kurdish people, a people without a nation, a people without a land, to whom the promises of history ring hollow today more than they ever have. (C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

The flag of the Kurdish people, a people without a nation, a people without a land, to whom the promises of history ring hollow today more than they ever have. (C) Bernard J. Henry/AWC

 

As outsiders but as specialists in federal forms of government, is there anything which we can do to be helpful? Maps are deceptive, and what is drawn as Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish area in Iraq and Syria have, in fact, mixed populations. Nor are religious-sectarian divisions the only lines of fracture.

Nevertheless, discussions among Syrians, Iraqis, Turks, Iranians and outside specialists on forms of government may be of greater use than sending Special Forces as ‘intelligence’ specialists. Such discussions will not be easy to organize or to facilitate but in a period of constitutional disorder and flux, such efforts are necessary.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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The Law of the Seize

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Environmental protection, International Justice, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on June 15, 2014 at 10:03 PM

THE LAW OF THE SEIZE

By René Wadlow

 

June 8 of each year has been proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as the Day of the Law of the Sea. However, according to my friend John Logue, who had participated with me as non-governmental organization representative in the long negotiations in New York and Geneva, it should be called “the Law of the Seize.”

What started out in November 1967 with a General Assembly presentation by Ambassador Arivid Pardo of Malta as a call to establish a new political and legal regime for the ocean space ended in August 1980 with a draft convention. It was a mixed bag of successes and disappointments, but that convention has now been ratified by 162 States.

For world citizens, the quality of the Law of the Sea Convention was of particular significance. The greater part of the oceans has been considered res communis, a global common beyond national ownership. Furthermore, the physical nature of the oceans suggests world rather than national solutions to the increasing need for management of marine resources and the marine environment.

World Citizen Thor Heyerdahl was one of those who called attention to the dangers of ocean pollution coming to Geneva to speak for world citizens during the Law of the Sea negotiations. The oceans and the seas remind us that the planet and not the State should be our focus. A holistic view of life arises from our interdependence as a species and our dependence on the life system of nature. World citizens have stressed that a balanced, sustainable eco-system will only emerge if our political, economic and ethical policies coincide in building a more stable and more peaceful—in short, a more human—planet.

(C) The Economist

(C) The Economist

Establishing rules for the management of the oceans was a real possibility in bringing about an increase in the awareness of the earth as our common home. However, the UN Law of the Sea Conference was first and foremost a political conference with over 160 States participating. From the outset of the conference, it was agreed that the convention had to be drafted by consensus in order to create a political and legal system for the oceans accepted to all — to manage what Arivid Pardo had called “the common heritage of mankind.”

During the negotiations, there were groupings that cut across the Cold War divisions of the times, especially within a group called “the landlocked and geographically disadvantaged countries.” There were also informal groups of persons who acted in a private capacity, a mixture of nongovernmental organization (NGO) representatives, legal scholars, and diplomats who prepared suggestions on many of the issues of the conference. These issues included the economic zones, the continental shelf, scientific research, marine pollution, and dispute settlement. Such propositions were taken seriously by the government negotiators, in part because few diplomats had the technical knowledge needed for making decisions as well as the creation of a new international organization, the Seabed Authority.

However, in practice, government negotiators are more used to working for the “national interest” and in defending the idea of “territory,” both on land and on the sea. Boundary-making is a primordial activity. Various theories have been advanced to explain why, many of them derived from our animal ancestors. However, ocean boundary problems are more difficult than building a wall on land. As Douglas Johnston and Mark Valencia write,

The forces of nationalism were too strong to be swayed by Pardo’s appeals to international cooperation and technocratic rationality. Instead the coastal states, developed and developing alike, saw in the newly available ocean areas an unexpected windfall, offering the prospect of a previously unimagined extension of their natural resource base. The economic goal of national autonomy had prevailed over the interest in global cooperation, setting in motion the processes of establishing vast national enclosures of offshore areas, especially those enclosures consonant with the new exclusive economic zone (EEZ) regime. International cooperation had yielded to national autonomy.1

An outstanding first attempt at codification of the law of the sea was the work of Hugo Grotius, the Dutch jurist widely regarded as the forefather of international law as we know it today. In 1609 Grotius published Mare Liberum (A Free Sea), a book in which claimed that the sea was international territory and thus free for all nations to use in their usual conduct of trade with one another.

An outstanding first attempt at codification of the law of the sea was the work of Hugo Grotius, the Dutch jurist widely regarded as the forefather of international law as we know it today. In 1609 Grotius published Mare Liberum (A Free Sea), a book in which claimed that the sea was international territory and thus free for all nations to use in their usual conduct of trade with one another.

Conflicts over national sea boundaries are particularly strong in the Pacific Ocean among China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan, and Cambodia, with India and Indonesia watching closely. The disputes arise largely because of the claims of waters around small islands as national territory. Most of these islands are not inhabited, but are claimed as the starting point of “territorial waters.”

Originally, the disputes concerned exclusive fishing rights within national territorial zones. Now the issues have become stronger, as it is believed that there are oil and natural gas reserves in these areas.

Concerning China’s dispute with Japan (which is also largely true of China’s policy with other Asian countries), Krista Wiegand writes,

China’s current strategy to negotiate with Japan over joint development of natural gas and oil resources outside the disputed zone seems to be the most rational strategy it can take in the disputes. Rather than dropping its territorial claim, China continues to maintain its claim for sovereignty, while at the same time benefiting from joint development of natural gas resources. By maintaining the territorial claim, China also sustains its ability to confront Japan through diplomatic and militarized conflict when other disputed issues arise.2

Territorial sea disputes can be heated up or cooled off at will or when other political issues require attention. We are currently in a “heating up” stage. Thus for June 8, in honor of the Law of the Sea, we can consider how best to resolve territorial disputes by having a broader view of the common heritage of humanity.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

 

Notes

1)   Douglas M. Johnston and Mark J. Valencia. Pacific Ocean Boundary Problems (Dordrecht: Martinus Nighoff Publishers, 1991, 214pp.)

2)   Krista E. Wiegand. Enduring Territorial Disputes (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2011, 340pp.)

Ukraine: The Dogs of the Cold War are Awakened

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Current Events, Democracy, Europe, Human Rights, International Justice, The former Soviet Union, The Search for Peace, United Nations, World Law on June 12, 2014 at 9:11 PM

UKRAINE: THE DOGS OF THE COLD WAR ARE AWAKENED

By René Wadlow

 

“Cry Havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!”

William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

 

The dogs of the Cold War (1945-1990) had largely fallen asleep after the 1990 Summit Conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Paris had put a formal end to the European aspects of the Cold War. A New Europe was the slogan of both governments and non-governmental currents that had been working for a Europe without its East-West divisions symbolized by the Berlin Wall.

Many of us had been involved in the April 1980 European Nuclear Disarmament Appeal, often shortened to END, of which the English historian E.P. Thompson was a leading spokesman. Mient Jan Faber of the Dutch Inter-Church Peace Council was the link to those working within church/religious groups on the same lines. Obviously, the level of arms − and thus disarmament − was not the only aspect of the moves necessary to move beyond the Cold War embodied in bureaucratic, and military-industrial forms.

There was a necessary ‘healing process’ − a need to remove the barbed wire in people’s minds and hearts.

The hope was that moving beyond the Cold War would become a citizens’ search for common projects, bringing together widening constituencies in a direct discourse beyond Cold War agendas and the media’s framing of the debates.

Many of us met in Prague in what was still Czechoslovakia in October 1990 for the creation of the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly with an aim of a democratic integration of Europe. Vaclav Havel who had become Head of State spoke to the opening session on the power of acting from principle guided by our consciences to build a thoroughly new Europe undivided into blocs.

Vaclav Havel (1936-2011), the Czechoslovakian dissident playwright who in 1989 led the country's 'Velvet Revolution', eventually becoming President of Czechoslovakia. From 1992 to 2003 Havel was President of the Czech Republic after Czechoslovakia was eventually dissolved.

Vaclav Havel (1936-2011), the Czechoslovakian dissident playwright who in 1989 led the country’s ‘Velvet Revolution’, eventually becoming President of Czechoslovakia. From 1992 to 2003 Havel was President of the Czech Republic after Czechoslovakia was dissolved. (C) John Macdougall/AFP/Getty Images

“Helsinki Citizens” had been chosen by the organizers as the name because Helsinki had been the city which saw the formal start of the governmental process in 1975 leading first to a certain stabilization of the European Cold War structure and progressively to tension-reduction under the title of “détente”. Since much of the governmental detente seemed to be aimed only at making a more stable status quo, citizen activists spoke of “detente from below”, as going beyond the current structures.

The visions of a better world differed among peace, green, and human rights groups. However all agreed that the future forms of Europe was beyond the current status quo.

I had gone to Prague already concerned with ethnic-nationalities tensions. These tensions were colored by the Cold War but also had non-Cold War roots as seen in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict within the then USSR. Through contacts in Geneva, I had become concerned by Nagorno-Karabakh and thought that good faith negotiations could lead to a resolution of the conflict. I was also concerned with the growing tensions in Yugoslavia. My paper read at the Prague conference “Future of Europe” was published in the Belgrade Review of International Affairs in December 1990.

Since 1990, the conflicts linked to the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the conflicts of Abkhazia-South Ossetia-Georgia, and Transnistra-Moldova all confirm my analysis that the key problem of our time is the manifestation of narrow nationalism. This narrow nationalist ideology must be countered by a strong cosmopolitan-world citizen ideology and practice.

The hope at Prague in 1990 was to build a pan-European movement participating in public debates, offering opinions and discussing alternatives in each country but also able to come together and act in a conflict resolution way in times of strong tensions and armed conflicts. There were a few efforts of the Helsinki groups during the Yugoslav conflicts, but they were not coordinated nor of massive size. I had participated in some of these undertakings at the UN in Geneva when the conference on Yugoslavia was in session there.

The Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, which houses the Headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (C) Bernard Henry

The Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria, which houses the Headquarters of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (C) Bernard Henry/AWC

Since 1990, we have seen the rise in some European countries of hard line nationalist groups − often Right wing and some with Neo-Fascist aspects. This rise was illustrated by the May 25, 2014 elections to the European Parliament. The entry of an additional number of narrow nationalists will not have much impact on the way the European Parliament operates, but it will give the nationalists a media platform and a degree of legitimacy in their home country. There has not been a significant rise in cosmopolitan-world citizen movements, although cosmopolitanism as an intellectual framework has become increasingly common.

Without a well-organized movement of pan-European peace-green-human rights movements, “Europe from Below” has been unable to act in the Ukraine crisis. Individual governments, in particular Russia and the USA, have taken a highly visible role. The media in both countries dusted off the Cold War vocabulary and political analysis.

Talk of a “New Cold War” has been common. The OSCE − with Switzerland as President for 2014 − has called for restraint and negotiations. There has been no equivalent “high profile” efforts on the part of non-governmental groups. Today, there is no Vaclav Havel to serve as a bridge of respect among both governments and non-governmental movements. Certainly, the dogs of the Cold War have awakened to remind us that they are still there. In addition, new nationalist, and authoritarian tendencies are emerging. Although these nationalist movements are sometimes led by comic figures, they need to be taken seriously.

Counter voices also need to awaken, and the ability for nongovernmental conflict resolution groups to act must be strengthened.

 

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

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