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Fresh from his recent mission to Cuba, NM Gov Bill Richardson has decided to engage on the Israel-Palestine crisis and is urging that all Americans support the President as he tries to secure peace.

In an op-ed that just ran on CNN the Gov shows why he was on the short, short list of candidates for Secretary of State and is a key ally of this administration.

The Gov uses his op-ed to make clear that the status quo is unacceptable:

The United States has long sought to manage an untenable combination of circumstances in the Middle East. Rather than the situation getting better, it has only gotten worse, ultimately resulting in the debacle in Iraq, our difficult fight in Afghanistan, our continued hunt for al Qaeda, tensions with Iran and perpetual insecurity for Israel.

He also nicely summarizes President Obama's approach:

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President Obama met with Israeli leader Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Abbas today and once again made clear that he is committed to securing a final status agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. By taking this challenge on, there is no doubt that President Obama will be confronted by those opposed to change both here in the US and in the Middle East. He is going to need our assistance to get this done and hopefully will be encouraged by a block of prominent and influential religious leaders who announced their support today. These leaders correctly noted that getting a final status agreement completed is an American National Interest Imperative.

Before I share their letter I want to make sure that all of you have seen the President's statement from today:

Poll

Are you ready to stand with President Obama and Support a Final Status Agreement Between the Israelis and Palestinians

91%62 votes
8%6 votes

| 68 votes | Vote | Results

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Just wanted to share this bit of solidarity from our Aussie friends:

The Australian Senate has passed Australian Greens' Leader Bob Brown's motion that:

The Senate

Notes efforts by US President Barack Obama and his administration to ensure all US citizens have access to affordable health care.

Commends this course as one Australia has long since undertaken with success and sends assurance to our trans-Pacific neighbours that since this nation adopted universal health care in 1984:

a. life expectancy for males has increased from 72.6 to 79.1 years and for females 78.7 to 83.5 years.
b. spending on health care has increased from 3.5% of federal government outlays to 4.4% (in 2008-2009).
c. lives have been saved and suffering reduced in our nation.

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Friends,  I just wanted to give you a heads up that over at Avaaz.org we have decided to run this Ad ahead of the Obama-Netanyahu face-off on Monday.

The Ad -- titled "Leadership" will run during the Sunday talk shows in the DC market.  We have been inspired to take this step by a stunning poll of Israeli-Jews suggesting that 65% want President Obama actively involved in helping solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

The Ad draws attention to the controversial statement made by new, right-wing Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman that Obama will do as he's told. This comment runs counter to the sentiment expressed in our poll of Lieberman's fellow Israelis, carried out by major Israeli polling institute Hagal Hahadash, which shows that a majority of respondents believe Obama could help bring about a two-state agreement (53% said he could help a lot or somewhat to achieve this, and only 19.2% answered not at all).  

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Friends, as you know I have raised the issue of strike drone use by the U.S. in Pakistan on a few occasions. I am currently working on this issue, and a few others, with Avaaz. Please find below a joint entry with my new Avaaz colleague and friend Brett Solomon. Cheers, Raj

With daily news reports suggesting that the democratically elected government of Pakistan is struggling to contain militancy within its borders, Americans and Pakistanis alike are waiting to see how the new U.S. policy, outlined in late March by President Obama, impacts the crisis.

There is a feeling that sustained U.S. and international focus is needed because the militant groups that grew so rapidly under the military government of General Musharraf are threatening the internal security of nuclear-armed Pakistan. This instability is also harming efforts to bring peace and security to bordering Afghanistan.

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Freeman sent a note to FP and I've also received it via email. Here is the link. I was going to let this one stand on its own without any comments from me but a few folks wanted my impression so here goes.

First, as I noted yesterday the debate around the appointment of Chas Freeman to lead the National Intelligence Council is about more than the man at its center. It is one area where we are currently seeing the boundaries around what can and cannot be raised in foreign policy discussion being tested. Freeman, it seems, has been appointed to the position because he is a smart analyst who has a tendency to push back against groupthink. His appointment has triggered a backlash among some who disagree with his views on Israel and the Middle East. I don't know and have never met CF but I do know that the lesson of the past 8 years is that debate on the tough issues within government is a good thing.

Poll

How will the fight over Chas Freeman Impact the Israel-Palestine/ Mideast debate in Washington?

29%36 votes
1%2 votes
15%19 votes
22%27 votes
16%20 votes
4%6 votes
9%11 votes

| 121 votes | Vote | Results

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Slowly but surely Washington, DC is becoming a place where all the foreign policy challenges we face can be seriously debated. Perhaps it was inevitable that the backlash against the groupthink and self-censorship that marked the lead up to the Iraq invasion would embolden analysts who have long tired of the false boundaries drawn around discussion of U.S. policy vis-à-vis Cuba, Israel-Palestine and India-Pakistan. These analysts are hungry to push the debate along and to encourage similar diverse thinking inside government. The President also seems keen to avoid the groupthink and bubble formed decision making of his predecessor (remember the report of this meeting at the Wilson Center).

The debate around the appointment of Chas Freeman to lead the National Intelligence Council is one area where we are currently seeing these boundaries being tested. Freeman, it seems, has been appointed to the position because he is a smart analyst who has a tendency to push back against groupthink. His appointment has triggered a backlash among some who disagree with his views on Israel and the Middle East.

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The International Criminal Court (ICC) has just issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. This action has historical implications with al-Bashir becoming the first sitting head of state to be subjected to an arrest warrant in the life of the court (the charges are war crimes and crimes against humanity). Now that the ICC has acted all eyes will turn first to Khartoum to see how the al-Bashir regime responds (we fear violence) and then to Washington for the Obama administration’s reaction.

The challenge for the Obama administration is to leverage the pressure the court’s action will bring to bear on the Sudanese leader. I would like to see the administration publicly support the arrest warrant and make clear that the U.S. will not sit idly by if any member of the Security Council - notably China - attempts to shield Mr. al-Bashir. I’d also like to see the administration name a special envoy to take charge of the Sudan/Darfur issue (there are a number of attractive options but I’d urge the President to choose Gov. Richardson, who has worked this issue in the past, to serve). Richardson has the ability to work this issue and we need his talent on the field at a time like this.

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In a stunning development that has rocked global cricket it has been announced that Sir Allen Stanford, the larger than life cricket promoter, is being investigated by the US government for running a multi-billion dollar fraudulent investment CD scheme. Stanford, who has bankrolled a series of Twenty20 tournaments in the West Indies, has been in talks with the English Cricket board over the formation of an English T20 tournament that would rival the Indian Premier League.

From a cricket standpoint this news will force the English Cricket Board to reconsider how and if it will launch its Twenty20 league. One interesting thought is whether Dubai will decide to fill the void left by Stanford - if their investment arm was to sponsor the tournament they could also hold games, on occasion in the UAE. We will consider that issue later, for now here is the SEC statement on Stanford:

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I wanted to take a couple of minutes to share an op-ed that I co-aurthored with my friend Howard Salter.
It ran in the Baltimore Sun today (link here) and suggests that the Obama administration use the pending ICC arrest warrant of Omar al-Bashir to push for international action to end the killing in Darfur.

We note that:

The expected warrant also opens a door for Mr. Obama and his talented foreign policy team. They can leverage the arrest warrant to work with influential partners across the globe to stop the killing and solidify a concrete peace agreement. By doing so, Mr. Obama would address a serious human rights crisis at the dawn of his presidency while also sending a clear signal that the U.S. is ready to once again lead by example.

and remind readers of the failure of the last administration:

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Friends - I hope you find this joint effort with my friend Amjad Atallah of interest. Amjad is the Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation.

International Justice Systems and the Muslim World: Why Bashir is Wrong
by Raj Purohit, and Amjad Atallah

If the International Criminal Court (ICC) issues an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in February, it will certainly be met by a volley of criticism from the accused as he continues to frame the ICC as a tool of the west in its fight against the Muslim world. Al-Bashir can be expected to use the world-wide revulsion over the civilian deaths in the Gaza Strip to deflect attention from his own crimes.

However, human rights activists should not cede ground to Mr. al-Bashir and his allies on this issue; instead they should embrace a debate centered on the relationship between international justice and the Arab and Muslim worlds while maintaining a moral consistency across every conflict that highlights the inviolability of every civilian life.

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C-posted at American Chronicle

Two weeks before he vacated the White House, President Bush finally took limited action to address the on-going atrocities in Darfur; atrocities his administration labeled genocide more than four years ago. In the face of mounting criticism of his Darfur policy, Bush announced that the U.S. would airlift vehicles and heavy equipment to an undersupplied United Nations peacekeeping force in the region.

By the end of January, just a few days into Barack Obama´s presidency, he will be given an opening to correct one of the most significant mistakes of the Bush administration - the failure to do anything meaningful to stop the atrocities committed by the Sudanese government and its militia allies against the civilians of Darfur. Obama's opportunity will come courtesy of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the tribunal that was largely shunned by the Bush administration. Within days of Obama being sworn in, the ICC prosecutor is expected to issue an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on war crimes charges related to the killing in Darfur.

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