9 Questions for the U.S. Government on the Middle East:

Saudi Arabia:  U.S. intelligence cooperation

Is the U.S. providing intelligence to the Government of Saudi Arabia that can be used by Saudi Arabian authorities to violate the human rights of peaceful reformers and critics?

Saudi Arabia:  Prisoners of Conscience

What steps is the U.S. government taking to secure the release of prisoners of conscience like Raif Badawi from Saudi Arabia’s prisons?

Israel:  

What steps is the U.S. taking to prevent the Government of Israel from using U.S. arms to commit human rights violations against Palestinian civilians living under Israeli occupation?

Syria: Refugee resettlement

There are now 4 million Syrian refugees.  Over the last four years, the U.S. has only resettled a few hundred Syrian refugees.  How many Syrian refugees does the U.S. expect to permanently resettle in the U.S. in 2015?

Syria/Iraq:  U.S. military assistance

How will the U.S. prevent U.S. military assistance in Iraq and Syria from facilitating more war crimes and human rights abuses?
What steps is the U.S. taking to protect Sunni communities from abuses by Shi’a militias affiliated with the Iraqi government?

Syria/Iraq:  U.S. air strikes

Is the U.S. investigate reports of civilian casualties from U.S. air strikes in Syria and Iraq?

Will the U.S. publish the results of these investigations, hold accountable those responsible for civilian casualties, and provide reparations to families and survivors?

Bahrain:  U.S. arms sales

In 2012, the U.S. State Department announced that it would not allow the sale of arms to Bahrain “typically used by police and other security forces for internal security” or “crowd control.”  Has the U.S. resumed the sale of arms to Bahrain in this category?

Is the U.S. currently providing arms to Bahraini security forces that can be used against peaceful protestors and critics of the government?

Sexual Violence: Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia.

What can be done to stop sexual violence against women in ‪Iraq‬ and ‪‎Syria‬?

This morning, I had the privilege of joining experts on a panel hosted by the American Red Cross, Physicians for Human Rights, and other key groups.

We focused on Iraq and Syria, and I also got into issues affecting women in ‪Saudi Arabia‬, ‪Qatar‬, and ‪North Africa‬.

Panel - 2014-11-06 - Sexual violence - Iraq and Syria - American Red Cross

Iraq’s Crisis: 3 Quick Points for U.S. Policymakers

As the latest crisis in Iraq unfolds, here are three basic points for U.S. policymakers to keep in mind:

  1. The protection of civilians must be a top priority in Mosul and in every Iraqi community facing armed conflict.
  2. The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.
  3. The U.S. government must push the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms in order to address long-term public discontent and instability.

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500,000 civilians are reported to have fled Mosul following its takeover by one or more armed groups that include those belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). This follows the reported displacement of close to half a million Iraqis in Fallujah since January, following ISIS’ expulsion of Iraqi security forces there.

ISIS armed groups, Iraqi security forces, and other potential armed groups must avoid repeating the violence against civilians that took place in Fallujah. Iraqi government forces have used indiscriminate shelling in Fallujah in the past six months, including on hospitals and in residential areas. There have been over 5,000 civilian deaths.

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  • The Iraqi central government has an abysmal human rights record that has left communities scarred. Government human rights violations have widely been seen as a significant factor in widespread popular discontent.

Thousands of detainees languish in prison without charge. Many of those who are brought to trial are sentenced to long prison terms or to death after unfair proceedings. In many cases, convictions are based on “confessions” extracted under torture.

Iraq remains one of the world’s most prolific executioners with at least 169 executed in 2013. As with prison terms, death sentences can also follow “confessions” extracted under torture. In many cases, such “confessions” are televised nationally.

Torture and other ill-treatment inside prisons and detention centers is rife and routinely goes unpunished.

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  • To ensure stability in Iraq, the U.S. government must address popular discontent by pushing the Iraqi central government to make significant human rights reforms.

Iraq’s long-term human rights crisis can no longer be viewed by the U.S. and other external governments as “Iraq’s problem” or an internal matter. To ensure security and safety in Iraq, widespread popular discontent must be addressed by pushing the Iraqi central government to end its terrible human rights record.

The Al Qaeda two-step shuffle

Al Qaeda and the “war on terror” seem to be the ultimate linguistic props.  Now you see them, now you don’t.

First, the disappearance — the Washington Post reports in late March on the new name for the “war on terror”:

In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department’s office of security review noted that “this administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ [GWOT.] Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ “

Then, the reappearance — President Obama speaking on Afghanistan at a NATO summit a week later:

“France recognises that having al-Qaeda operate safe havens that can be used to launch attacks is a threat not just to the United States but to Europe…  In fact it is probably more likely that al-Qaeda would be able to launch a serious terrorist attack in Europe than in the United States because of proximity.”

At least we are getting some variety.  Under the Bush Administration, it was all Al Qaeda, all the time.

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