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Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Iran is ready to resume talks with the West regarding its nuclear program. He stated however, that any negotiations will fail if the West does not clearly come out against Israel’s suspected nuclear arsenal. He made it clear that there will be no achievements whatsoever if the West does not change its policy towards Israel, Iran’s archrival. The West, especially the U.S., will have to make great sacrifices in its foreign relations with Israel in order to meet Iran’s demands, which is something that is highly unlikely to happen. It may appear that Iran is using Israel’s suspected nuclear program in a way to move tensions away from its own.

EU foreign affairs and security Chief Catherine Ashton has suggested the talks to be held in Vienna in November with the P5+1 Countries (the U.S., the U.K., China, France and Russia plus Germany) while U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said it was up to Iran to set a date. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki has signaled that October or November seems like a suitable time for talks with P5 + 1.

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By Gary Lubrat
Gary is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Gary below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Students of the 21st century possess a great deal of technological power to influence future events of geopolitical relationships around the world. The explosion of Twitter, Facebook, and various blogging sites have allowed communication to reach a whole new level. Aggressive authoritarian institutions may seek to silence those using these media innovations, as evidenced by the blackout of Twitter during the controversial Iranian election in 2009.

Young people are at a pivotal crossroads that has the ability to shape the course of human events for years to come. As the world flattens and shrinks due to the use of new internet technologies, it has become even more necessary for those who are on the cutting edge of technology to use it for worldly concerns. Those who use these social networking sites may use it purely for the conventional usage of time-wasting, but it is a great tool to advance progressive idealism infused with youthful optimism that can unite rather than divide people and inform rather than obscure the truth.

There is no mystery as to why every four years the pundits on news programs continuously reference the “Youth Vote.” MTV attempts to excite this demographic through its “Rock The Vote!” campaign. To positively impact the future, those who are most involved in its direction must choose to understand how the geopolitical Islamic situation affects American influence on the world stage. Religion has been a divisive issue at times, and a unifying point of moral resolve during other times.

However, the question is not “How should religion impact political events?” The question should be “Why is Islam, above all other world religions, such an extenuating factor on the world stage?”

My name is Gary. I am the Director of Operations and Development for a non-profit high school student exchange company in the United States. I currently attend Hofstra University pursuing an MBA with a concentration on IT. As an undergraduate I studied at Stony Brook University where I received a degree in English and History. A greater understanding of the duality between the United States and Islam is necessary to move forward in the 21st century to achieve a peaceful and meaningful coexistence.

By Kevin Hudnell
Kevin is one of AIDemocracy’s 2010-2011 Issue Analysts. Find out more about Kevin below or take a look at the  Student Issue Analysts.

Faced with the challenge of improving “U.S.-Muslim relations,” three people could come up with three different interpretations of exactly what that term encompasses. One would be concerned with how American society continues to view the American Muslim population with prejudice and suspicion. The second might be concerned about how the U.S. treats the worldwide Muslim population and how that population thinks of the U.S. in turn. A third might be concerned with the faltering relations between the U.S. and various Muslim governments.

Yet these three problems are all connected. The treatment of Muslims in America has to square with our message of tolerance to Muslims abroad, and the success of U.S. interaction with Muslim governments is limited by how those governments see the U.S. treating Muslims at home and abroad. So, while the average American has little power to directly better the chances of amicable relations with Iran or bring about a peaceable resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, efforts to advance U.S.-Muslim relations here at home can advance U.S.-Muslim relations abroad as well.

There’s no unique role for college students to play in determining how the U.S. treats its Muslim population. But people, in general, have a responsibility here and young people are best poised to shoulder it. We have the option of inheriting stereotypes and prejudices passed down to us by the elder generation or passed on to us by the media, or not. We have the option of going out in the streets protesting the “Ground Zero Mosque,” or not. We have the option of looking no better to foreign audiences than Hezbollah supporters burning American flags look to us, or not.

Young people cannot directly affect U.S. foreign policy. We can, however, start working to engender an atmosphere in which well-reasoned and intelligent policy can take root.

Kevin Hudnell graduated from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill with a double major in Peace, War and Defense and Public Policy Analysis. His research interests focus on relations both among Middle Eastern states and between the Middle East and the U.S. He has traveled and studied in Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. His peers have described him variously as a strategic genius, a political pragmatist, and a jerk.

Most people know that Iran developing and possessing a nuclear weapon is a major problem that we have to solve, and we need to do it soon. And the latest poll from the Pew Research Center confirms that conclusion.

Public Supports Military Action Against Iran to Prevent Nuclear Weapons – Pew Research Center.

However, what the poll also shows is that although most Americans believe that we should pursue a diplomatic solution to the problem, they also, almost paradoxically believe that such efforts will ultimately fail. Therefore, a majority also said they would support military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. And keep in mind as well that there is not much partisan division over this approach. A majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents support this.

I completely agree with and understand the sentiment of the people polled, Iran developing a nuclear weapon is incredibly dangerous and the problem needs to be resolved sooner rather than later. But where we differ is in the last part, the use of military force part.

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Now I don’t usually look to Foreign Policy magazine for my advice on revolution, but this article just seemed too relevant not to share.  Not only have I long struggled against this country’s over-enthusiasm for online organizing (seemingly at the sacrifice of actually rolling up sleeves and getting out in the streets talking to people), but as some of you know, my college classmate Adnan Hajizada was jailed last July for his politicized video blogging as a part of his effort to organize Azeri youth for democracy in Azerbaiajan.

Food for thought to share.

“Twitter Will Undermine Dictators.”
Excerpt from “Think Again: The Internet”, Foreign Policy May/June 2010

#Wrong. Tweets don’t overthrow governments; people do. And what we’ve learned so far is that social networking sites can be both helpful and harmful to activists operating from inside authoritarian regimes. Cheerleaders of today’s rapidly proliferating virtual protests point out that online services such as Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube have made it much easier to circulate information that in the past had been strictly controlled by the state — especially gruesome photos and videos and evidence of abuses by police and the courts. Think of the Burmese dissidents who distributed cell-phone photos documenting how police suppressed protests, or opposition bloggers in Russia who launched Shpik.info as a Wikipedia-like site that allows anyone to upload photos, names, and contact details of purported “enemies of democracy” — judges, police officers, even some politicians — who are complicit in muzzling free speech. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown famously declared last year that the Rwandan genocide would have been impossible in the age of Twitter.

But does more information really translate into more power to right wrongs?

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When Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced this week the date for the UK general election, the US press hardly batted an eyelid. While the US election was followed closely by many people in Britain and indeed the rest of the world, the UK election—scheduled for May 6—is unlikely to invoke the same reaction globally. Nevertheless, this election is one that may matter for Americans more than they care to imagine.

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Hi all, I’m Erick Ford, the AIDemocracy Southeast Regional Coordinator at George Mason University.  Last Friday – March 26th 2010 – over 100 members of the George Mason University community welcomed Former UN Ambassador Ahmad Kamal of Pakistan to the Fairfax campus for a discussion about building sustainable peace and security for future generations.

This was the second year in a row that Ambassador Kamal made the trip to George Mason. The forum was hosted by GMU’s Global Relations Organization, Americans for an Informed Democracy, the Public and International Affairs Department, Global Affairs Department, and the Office of the Provost, with support from the Student Government President Devraj Dasgupta.  The purpose of the forum was to bring the leaders of tomorrow an opportunity to ask and learn directly from today’s global leaders.

Ambassador Kamal spoke on various subjects including the Middle East peace process, Iran, nuclear proliferation, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Russia, US debt, the WTO, global concentration of wealth, welfare states, access to water, and the role of the US and the UN in maintaining global peace and security.

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Hilary Clinton’s trip to Latin America this week has ended in disappointment after Brazil’s president, Lula da Silva, rejected U.S. pleas to support tougher sanctions on Iran. This firm stance in the face of Western pressure is not simply meant to be a slap in the face to U.S. diplomacy. Rather, it symbolizes a geopolitical power shift where an increasingly important Brazil seeks a central space for itself on the world stage – as a superpower with an equal status to other global giants.

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With the December 6 news that it plans to build twenty new uranium enrichment facilities, Iran has dealt a serious blow to hopes of peacefully resolving its nuclear standoff with the West. After months of courtship by the international community, Iran’s announcement appears to be both a rejection of the West’s advances and a signal of its intent to step up its pursuit of a nuclear program. With the US running out of cards to play, many fear that the two countries are on a collision course to military confrontation.

Much like North Korea, the consequences of an Iranian possession of nuclear bomb are dire. The Obama administration has sought to right the wrong of American Cold War policy, when the US provided its then-ally Iran with nuclear reactors in an attempt to curry favor. Preventing proliferation is a priority for the Obama administration and confirmation that Iran has a nuclear bomb would trigger an arms race in the Middle East, with heavyweights such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia seeking to counter Iranian domination in the region. An Iranian nuclear bomb would also bring Israel and Iran closer to war. Iran’s anti-Semitic leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has publicised his hatred of Israel so often that Israeli leaders deem a nuclear-armed Iran an existential threat. Just last year an Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear sites was narrowly averted after George W. Bush refused to give Ehud Olmert the green light. The Obama administration has since tried to convince the Israelis of the virtues of diplomacy with Iran, but the latest setback means that hawks in Israel and the US will be circling Iran with greater intensity.

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It was a quintessentially cold night in Moscow when Anna Politkovskaya arrived back at her flat with her shopping on October 7, 2006. As she took the elevator down for the last bag of groceries, she was confronted by a gunman who shot her twice in the chest and once in the head. She died instantly. Ms. Politkovskaya’s murder sparked worldwide outrage because she was a prominent journalist and an outspoken critic of Vladmir Putin, the Russian government and its polices in Chechynya. Her death has come to personify the long, lamentable list of journalists killed in Russia, whose murders remain unsolved.

It is estimated that over 300 journalists have died or disappeared in Russia since 1993 as a result of their work.  This figure is all the more shocking when we consider that the impune murder of journalists is acknowledged as a sign that a country does not observe the fundamental right to freedom of speech and is the reason that Russia is ranked by the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) as the third-deadliest country in the world for journalists. Despite the fact that current Russian President Dimitri Medvedev came to power last year promising to end the legal nihilism that peremeates the country’s judicial system, the Russian government’s unwillingness to prosecute many of the cases has persisted. While justice lags, the murders continue unabated, as demonstrated by the murder this year of Stanislav Markelov, and Natalia Estemriova.

The international community has reacted in typically futile fashion. The EU keeps its mouth closed for fear that Russian criticism will adversely affect its gas supply, something Ukraine experienced last winter. Meanwhile, the Obama adminstration is eager to reset relations with Russia and is therefore reluctant to make demands, given that it needs Russia’s cooperation on Iran and nuclear proliferation. On a trip to Russia last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton was pushed by Russian journalists to make a statement on the Russian Government’s refusal to comprehensively investigate the murders of their colleagues. Clinton responded by commenting that the situation “is a matter of grave concern”.

Yet it is clear that merely paying lip service to human rights groups will not be enough to end this wanton wave of violence. It is high time that the U.S. and the E.U. pressurized Russia into taking action on this matter. Medvedev, Putin and co. must realize that while they may not be pulling the trigger, they are ultimately responsible for the failures of the justice system. Although the days of Gulags and communist repression are long gone in Russia, blood remains on the hands of those in the Kremlin.

Michael Collins, November 2009

michael.mc.collins@gmail.com


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