Friday, March 20, 2009

March 20

"The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence."

--The poet Saadi, cited by President Obama in his video message to the Iranian people and their leaders on the occasion of Nowruz, the traditional New Year's celebration in Iran; image from


In New Year's message, Obama reaches out to Iran – Laura Rozen, Foreign Policy: “As American audiences tuned into his appearance on the ‘Tonight Show with Jay Leno,’ President Obama tonight issued a notable video message aimed at the Iranian people and their leaders on the occasion of Nowruz, the traditional New Year's celebration in Iran and across much of Central Asia. …

‘This is huge,’ said Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, a group that supports U.S. engagement with Tehran. ‘First of all, he is addressing the people and the government, which has not been done before. At one point he talks about the Islamic Republic. He's signaling he’s not looking for regime change; he’s recognizing Iran’s system.' … Asked if Obama's message to Iran signals a concerted public diplomacy effort related to the Iran policy review underway, the White House official responded: ‘He's making clear to the Iranian people and government the future that he sees for the two countries and that we're prepared to engage in direct diplomacy.’" See also (1)(2)(3). Image from

Obama's new message to Iran - Glenn Greenwald, Salon: “There will be no shortage of people attacking this as a Chamberlain-like capitulation to the Evil Persian Hitlers, and there will be an equally vocal group mocking it as an empty gesture from America's bloodthirsty and war-craving emperor. It's true that, ultimately, this will only be meaningful if followed up by action, but this video -- sent by Obama to Iran, and to Iranians, for Nowruz, a major national holiday, and released this morning -- is, after 30 years of nothing but threats and hateful rhetoric exchanged between the two countries, a palpably different message not only in tone but also in content.“ Image from

Obama Offers New Start With Iran In Video Appeal - RFE/RL: “Obama's Norouz message, broadcast on Voice of America television, received a warm reception from listeners of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which broadcasts in Persian.”

President Obama uses YouTube for Public Diplomacy with IranCitizentube: "You're going to see this video embedded a LOT over the next few days. It's President Obama's message to the Iranian people on their holiday of Nowruz. Learn more in the White House blog."

A Note on Obama and YouTube - John Brown, Notes and Essays: "President Obama's decision to address Iran -- its population and leaders -- via YouTube rather than via a US goverment-supported media network (VOA, RFE/RL, Radio Sawa, Alhurra television) is yet another indication (in the wake of his Al-Arabiya interview) that the new administration intends to 'send its message(s) to the world' not primarily through the public-diplomacy structures that were put in place during the Cold War and 'the war on terror,' but rather through private (or foreign) media that are not tainted by the crude propaganda that all too often has characterized USG fast-media outreach overseas, and particularly during the Bush years."

Three Degrees Of Engagement: The Obama Message To Iran – Scott Lucas, Enduring America: “So President Obama, following weeks of discussion within his Administration, has made a very public move towards Iran with his Nohruz (Iranian New Year) video message. … The Obama message is a public diplomacy masterpiece,

similar to his January interview with Al-Arabiya speaking to the Arab and Islamic worlds. … What is important, however, is that the US does not follow Obama’s message with pressure for further economic sanctions and that it damps the public rhetoric blaming Tehran for stoking every Middle Eastern fire. In short, if there is a period of relative silence, rather than diplomatic fury, then the prospect of engagement- long-term engagement- is very real.” Image from

Video: President Obama wishes Iran a Happy New Year - Carl in Jerusalem, Israel Matzav: “Obama doesn't get it. The language of the Middle East is that you have to 'respect' me and you have to give me 'justice.' But the only justice and respect the Islamic world knows is to get 100% of its desires. Anything less is disrespect and injustice.” Image from

And boom goes the dynamite - Œcumenical Volgi, The Gormogons: “[W]hat I find execrable is that the President of the United States—doubtless out of some well-meant but dangerously naïve notion of magnanimity—is going on the air, effectively as a supplicant, addressing a derelict dictatorship as an equal and offering them ‘the rightful place’ of ‘the Islamic Republic’ in the ‘community of nations’ … . The President of the United States should not deign to speak the leadership of Iran … . ‘To hell with you,” is the right public policy, even if we pursue back-channel talks as we have since, oh, 1979 or so. Meanwhile, we address the Iranian people, and say that we want their freedom.” Image from

Escalation in Pakistan? A story from yesterday’s New York Times (U.S. May Widen Strikes in Pakistan) raises serious questions about the Obama Administration’s policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan. … The public diplomacy consequences of this policy are nothing short of disastrous. We cannot have a productive policy with Pakistan without the support of the Pakistani people, and this approach absolutely poisons the well. For that reason alone, if no other, the presumption against airstrikes in Pakistan ought to be tremendously high.

New Report Urges Changes In U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy - Howard M. Friedman, Religion Clause: “Last week, Georgetown's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs along with the Center on Faith & International Affairs jointly issued a 65-page report titled The Future of U.S. International Religious Freedom Policy: Recommendations for the Obama Administration. The report begins with a critique of past policy [including that] …

U.S. IRF policy has not been integrated into U.S. democracy programs, public diplomacy, counterterrorism, or multilateral diplomacy and international law. … The report then sets out a number of recommendations for the future, under six broad headings: (1) Set a clear policy course; (2) Retool American diplomacy; (3) Reenergize democracy promotion; (4) Make public diplomacy more effective; (5) Employ religious freedom as an element of counterterrorism strategy; and (6) Engage multilateral institutions and international law. Authors of the report are Thomas Farr and Dennis R. Hoover." Image from

The Public Image - Spencer Ackerman, Attackerman: “There's a story that David Petraeus tells about his arrival in Baghdad. A few weeks into his command in Iraq, he started receiving guests from the U.S. concerned about opposition to the surge. ‘Dave, you've got a real public-diplomacy problem,’ they'd say. ‘Respectfully,’ he'd respond, ‘I don't have a public-diplomacy problem. I have a results problem.’ Israel should learn from that example. If Benjamin Netanyahu's government opposes a robust peace process that leads, concretely, to the formation of a Palestinian state -- particularly with a racist as his foreign minister -- there's no amount of Karen Hughes-ery that can get around history's verdict.”

Israeli soldiers report abuses in Gaza – Richard Boudreaux, International Herald Tribune - “Israeli officials had earlier dismissed … Palestinian claims that almost 1,000 civilians died in the assault, as Palestinian propaganda. Most Israelis supported the 22-day operation, which was aimed at halting years of rocket fire by Hamas militants. They blamed Hamas for civilian casualties in Gaza because its fighters operated in urban neighborhoods. But the vivid firsthand reports by soldiers who took part in the fighting set off soul-searching in Israel and prompted the army's judge advocate-general to order a special investigation. The military had already launched its own broad review of its conduct during the war.” Image from

Former Israeli ambassador: “Echo of Soviet Union can still be heard in Belarus” - Charter 97: “Belarus has many bureaucratic obstacles and not the best image in the West, former Israeli ambassador to Belarus Zeev Ben Arie thinks. … [He explains that ] Belarus’s close ties with Iran, the country announced destroying of Israel as its objective, can’t be positive for relations between Belarus and Israel. … ‘But I’d like to note wide cooperation in the so called public diplomacy and culture. The embassy in Minsk does a lot to present Israeli literature to the people of Belarus and establish intercultural ties. There is a big group of Belarus-born Israeli citizens in our country who have contacts with their former motherland, and this helps us in this sector,’ Zeev Ben Arie [said.]”

AIG: Adventures in geopolitics: Yes, bonuses are an outrage. But they're much more than that - Thomas Mucha, GlobalPost: “Listen carefully to Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao: ‘We are very concerned about the economic developments in the U.S. economy,’ the Chinese leader told reporters late last week. ‘We have lent a huge amount of money to the United States and of course we’re concerned about the security of our assets and, to be honest, I am a little bit worried.’ In the rarefied and reserved world of public diplomacy, this is a smackdown. It’s like your banker calling you into his corner office and saying: ‘Cool it on the spending. Now.’” Image from

Using Art to Build Long-Term Relationship – Nina, Perspectives on Public Diplomacy: “China provides a recent example of how a country can take advantage of art in the context of cultural diplomacy. On March 25, METROPOLIS NOW! -- an exhibition by the Meridian International Center, in partnership with the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) in Beijing, and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China -- will open in Washington, DC.”

China military trains first public relations team – Associated Press, International Herald Tribune:

“China's military has graduated its first class of propaganda officers trained to explain its policies to foreign audiences, the official army newspaper reported Friday, a move reflecting the growing international involvement of the traditionally insular and highly secretive force.” Image from

Diplomats need to practise street cred - Bruce Haigh, Canberra Times: “Public diplomacy is a waste of time and money. It is impossible to spin away nasty facts such as children in detention, the Northern Territory intervention, Aboriginal health, the Government's failure to act on climate change and the Hanif affair. For better or worse and it has been for worse foreign ministries are stuck with the stupidities of the government of the day. Save money, put it into language training.”

Sri Lanka’s battle for global hearts and minds and scrutinizing The 'mindset' of the West - Daya Gamage, Asian Tribune: “Along with a refurbished overseas public diplomacy Sri Lanka needs a cogent strategic communication. … Strategic communication is essential to the successful use of all persuasive, cooperative, and coercive instruments of national power.”


Some Truths About Guantanamo Bay - Lawrence Wilkerson, Washington Note:

When -- and if -- the truths about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be revealed in the way they should be, or Congress will step up and shoulder some of the blame, or the new Obama administration will have the courage to follow through substantially on its campaign promises with respect to GITMO, torture and the like, remains indeed to be seen. Image from

Bush Law Continued - David Cole, Nation: Obama ordered that Guantánamo be closed within a year, signaling that his administration would take a stance on terrorism very different from his predecessor's. Since then, however, he has taken several actions suggesting that the differences may be less marked than that first day implied.

Many Iraqis ‘feeling alive’ again - Karim Hilmi, NBC News: Many Iraqis are feeling optimistic about the future of their country as peace and stability seem to be making a comeback.

6 years after invasion, Iraq slow to regain confidence - Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

The Desecration of Iraq's Art Treasures: Iraq's Broken Culture - Kathy Sanborn, CounterPunch: The beloved art of Iraq has, for the most part, been obliterated. Iraqis stand, six years after the onset of the occupation, in the midst of a broken culture that could take a century to mend.

Another Year In Iraq: Looking Back and Ahead - Jon Soltz, Huffington Post: By shifting from a military strategy to a diplomatic one, which also transfers power to the Iraqis, President Obama was able to lessen the strain on our troops. Image from

Opinion: Six years later, Iraq lessons still unheeded - Alexia Gilmore, Mercury News: Today, six years, hundreds of thousands of military and civilian deaths and $600 billion later, President Barack Obama is telling us the United States is beginning its departure. But what is waiting in the wings so clearly -- so painfully -- is the escalation of the Afghanistan/Pakistan crisis

Army Continues Anti-Explosive PR in Afghanistan – PR, Center for Media and Democracy

How we helped create the Afghan crisis - Stephen Kinzer, Boston Globe: American policies, more than any other factor, created the daunting crisis President Barack Obama now faces.

The Taliban Echo Chamber - Leslie H. Gelb, Daily Beast: Congress needs to wade in now to explore options in Afghanistan. Otherwise the blame game will be back very soon. Image from

NATO’s Mission – Editorial, New York Times: NATO must succeed in Afghanistan. Right now, it is frighteningly close to failing.

Darfur awaits real action – Editorial, Washington Times: We fear that the people who voted for Mr. Obama expecting meaningful change in Sudan, as well as a million or more poor souls continuing to suffer in Darfur, are unfortunately in for great disappointment.

Overloaded With the Reset Button - Michele A. Berdy, Moscow Times: “I was travelling last week, but even if I'd been on the moon, I would have heard about the Clinton-Lavrov peregruzka-perezagruzka reset button debacle.

… You can't make this stuff up. So what should have been on that dumb button? To paraphrase Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's husband, it depends on what ‘reset’ and ‘button’ are." Image from

No comments: