[dehai-news] Foreignpolicy.com: America's Other Most Embarrassing Allies

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Wed Feb 02 2011 - 09:37:08 EST

assing_allies> America's Other Most Embarrassing Allies

Hosni Mubarak has plenty of company.

BY JOSHUA E. KEATING | February 02, 2011

Maintaining good relations with autocrats is an unfortunate but often
necessary component of the delicate balancing act that is U.S. foreign
policy. But as Washington
_life_after_mubarak> learned once again this week, supporting an strongman
for the sake of stability can present risks of its own. Here are eight more
alliances that could prove embarrassing.


Leader: King Abdullah

Record: The king has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005. As ruler of a country
with no elections, parliament, or political parties, Abdullah and his family
exercise unchecked power within the kingdom, and -- thanks to
<http://www.forbes.com/profile/abdullah-bin-abdul-aziz-al-saud> their
control of one-fifth of the world's oil reserves and Islam's two holiest
sites -- quite a bit of influence beyond their borders as well. Abdullah
surprised many by undertaking
g?hidecomments=yes> some minor reforms of the country's clerical
establishment in 2009, though this may have had more to do with a desire to
consolidate his power than any enlightened pluralistic impulses. The
86-year-old king has
suffered poor health in recent years, leading to
speculation about which of his relatives will succeed him.

The kingdom remains one of the
<http://www.hrw.org/en/world-report-2011/saudi-arabia> most repressive
countries on Earth, particularly so for its 9 million female citizens, who
are prevented from holding many jobs or driving and are considered by law to
be legally beholden to their husbands. Practicing any religion other than
Islam is banned. Torture and detention without trial are commonplace. Around
2,000 people were arrested in 2009 alone on political charges.

U.S. support: Whether they're
kissing and holding hands or
<http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-4931755-503544.html> bowing,
American presidents of both parties can be counted on to show their
affection for the House of Saud, a tradition dating back to Franklin
Roosevelt's administration. As the only country in the world with "spare
production capacity" -- enough extra oil that they can affect global energy
prices at will -- Saudi cooperation is crucial in order to keep the U.S.
economy humming.

Since 9/11, the Saudis have also provided aid and intelligence to the
U.S.-led war on terrorism and cracked down on violent extremists in the
kingdom and across the border in Yemen. Yet questions remain about the
degree to which members of the Saudi royal family still provide
<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/world/middleeast/24saudi.html> financial
assistance to Al Qaeda. The U.S. also relies on Saudi Arabia's stabilizing
influence in the Middle East as a counterweight to Iran and as a mediator
with the Palestinian Authority. In 2010, the relationship was further
cemented by a
6518.html> $60 billion weapons deal including fighter jets, helicopters, and


Leader: Ali Abdullah Saleh

Record: Saleh first took power in Northern Yemen in a military coup in 1978
and has ruled the entire country since unification in 1991. Opposition
parties are marginalized, parliamentary elections have been indefinitely
postponed, and civilians are frequently caught up in military strikes in the
country's lawless south.

Yemen is both one of the world's
nteractive_map_and_rankings> least stable countries, with an ongoing
insurgency by Shiite rebels in the country's south, and one of the
<http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=363&year=2010> most
repressive: Arbitrary detention and torture are pervasive and "honor
killings" of women by family members frequently go unpunished. Inspired by
the events in Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrators have
s9GL69> taken to the streets of the capital Sana'a for near-daily protests
since mid-January, demanding Saleh's removal as president.

U.S. support: Saleh might seem like an unlikely U.S. ally. In addition to
his autocratic style and tolerance of official corruption, he was a close
ally of Saddam Hussein and supported Iraq's
1990 invasion of Kuwait. But counterterrorism makes for strange bedfellows:
Extremist groups within Yemen have been the source of numerous anti-American
terrorist attacks, from the <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cole_bombing>
U.S.S. Cole bombing in 2000 to the 2009
<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39957555/ns/us_news-security/> Christmas Day
bomb plot to the 2010 <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11729720>
printer bomb attempt. It's also reputedly the home of noted terrorist Anwar
Al-Awlaki and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Given the dangers emanating
from Yemen, U.S. policymakers have decided that Saleh's efforts to restore
order the country are the best bet for preventing further attacks, and
military aid to the country has
2?type=politicsNews> more than doubled since the Christmas plot. U.S.
military aid to Yemen will likely
yemen> reach $250 million in 2011, in addition to substantial increases in
development aid.


Leader: King Abdullah II

Record: When the Western-educated Abdullah took the throne in 1999, hopes
were high that political reforms would follow. The government
ml> lifted 20 years of martial law in 1989, restoring the country's
parliament. But open democracy did not follow: The country's election system
1497_pf.html> deeply flawed, gerrymandered to support tribal candidates and
government loyalists. The country's largest opposition party, the Muslim
Brotherhood-affiliated Islamic Action Front,
<http://www.economist.com/blogs/newsbook/2010/11/jordans_election> has
boycotted the last two parliamentary elections citing widespread fraud and
vote-buying. The government has cited the electoral success of Hamas in the
nearby Palestinian territories to justify the slow pace of political reforms
in the country.

Abdullah's economic reforms have produced steady GDP growth, but like Egypt,
this hasn't translated into improved quality of life for the country's
poorest citizens. Unemployment
H9Kw?docId=CNG.9964072691a62252d0a98b0308fb8063.171> may be as high as 30
percent in the kingdom, and the poverty rate is around 25 percent. Thousands
H9Kw?docId=CNG.9964072691a62252d0a98b0308fb8063.171> protested the
government's economic policies with a sit-in outside parliament on Jan. 16.

Update: On Feb. 1, Jordan's Prime Minister Samir al-Rifai
ster> stepped down amid widespread protests over the government's economic
policies. King Abdullah quickly named Marouf Bakhit as his replacement.

U.S. support: The U.S. relies on Jordan for counterterrorism assistance as
well as its often constructive role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process. Under the Hashemite royal family, Jordan has pursued one of the
most consistently pro-American foreign policies in the Middle East. It has
been rewarded with more than <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3464.htm> $6
billion in development aid since 1952; it's the second-largest recipient of
U.S. foreign aid on a per-capita basis. In 2010, the U.S. and Jordan
<http://www.jordantimes.com/?news=30509> signed a development deal worth
$360 million. The U.S. has also provided significant aid to the Jordan
military, including a
<http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-03-04-us-jordan_N.htm> new fleet of
F-16 fighters in 2007.


Leader: Meles Zenawi

Record: The 2010 election, in which Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's party won
a remarkable 99.6 percent of the vote, was the culmination of what Human
Rights Watch <http://www.hrw.org/en/world-report-2011/ethiopia> called "the
government's five-year strategy of systematically closing down space for
political dissent and independent criticism." This included attacks and
arrests of prominent opposition figures, the shutting down of newspapers and
assaults on journalists critical of the government, and doling out
international food aid as an incentive to get poor Ethiopians to join the
ruling party.

In addition to attacks on domestic media and NGOs, the government also
jammed broadcasts by Voice of America and Deutsche Welle in the run-up to
the elections. The U.S. NGO Freedom House
<http://www.freedomhouse.org/template.cfm?page=70&release=1310> downgraded
Ethiopia to "Not Free" for the first time in its annual Freedom in the World
survey this year.

U.S. support: Bordered by Sudan and Somalia, Ethiopia benefits from being an
at least nominally pro-American government in a very dangerous neighborhood.
In 1998, U.S. President Bill Clinton described Zenawi as
ome> the leader of an "African Renaissance." Washington's strong support for
Addis Ababa continued under President George W. Bush, who saw Zenawi's
primarily Christian government as a bulwark against Islamic extremism in
East Africa, and poured in millions in military aid. Bush opposed
legislation linking military aid for Ethiopia to human rights and gave tacit
support for the country's
<http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-01-07-ethiopia_x.htm> 2007 invasion
of Somalia.

The rhetoric is somewhat less enthusiastic under the Obama administration --
the State Department s
-Flaws-94958534.html> trongly criticized the 2010 election, for instance --
but the U.S. <http://www.foreignassistance.gov/OU.aspx?FY=2011&OUID=171>
will continue to fund Ethiopia to the tune of $583.5 million this year,
n%27> evidence that the government is directly using this aid to suppress


Leader: Yoweri Museveni

Record: Museveni talks a big game on democracy, economic development, and
anti-corruption efforts, and to be fair he did institute a number of
promising reforms early in his presidency, encouraging the development of
free press and elections following decades of strongman rule. But the
president has lately started to resemble his predecessors, abolishing term
limits after nearly three decades in office, launching
_by_police_for_sedition_over_political_cartoon> legal attacks on independent
journalists, harassing opposition parties and flying a
press-bill> $50 million private jet while more than a third of his people
live on less than $1 a day, having previously criticized other African
leaders for indulging in similar perks. NGOs have also
<http://www.hrw.org/node/82082> documented numerous cases of unlawful
detention and torture by the country's Joint Anti-Terrorism Task Force.

Uganda came under international condemnation in 2010 for a proposed law,
still pending, that would punish homosexuality with harsh sentences
including the death penalty. Museveni
initially supported the law, but later backed off after several countries in
Europe threatened to withhold foreign aid. The country's most prominent gay
rights activist, David Kato, was
er> beaten to death on Jan. 27, just weeks after a popular tabloid published
his photo along with the caption, "Hang Them."

U.S. support: Uganda's stable government, economic growth, and effective
response to HIV/AIDS have made it something of a poster child for African
development, and it's one of the <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2963.htm>
top recipients of U.S. aid in Africa. Additionally, Museveni has helped out
his friends in Washington by contributing nearly 3,000 peacekeepers to the
international mission in Somalia and carried out a massive military
offensive against the Lord's Resistance Army, one of Africa's most notorious
rebel groups.

Obama at first appeared reluctant to cozy up to Museveni, denying several
attempts by the Ugandan leader to secure a White House meeting and publicly
criticizing the anti-gay bill. But the U.S. administration was
<http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2016175,00.html> nearly
silent after Museveni used the 2010 World Cup bombing committed by Somalia's
al Shabaab militants in Kampala as a pretext to further restrict media
coverage and opposition parties, likely balancing democracy concerns with
the need for Uganda's continued support in Somalia. U.S. Assistant Secretary
of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson even told reporters that Uganda
had conducted "free and fair elections, in 2006, contradicting the State
Department's own reports, which cited numerous irregularities.


Leader: Islam Karimov

Record: Karimov, Uzbekistan's first and only post-independence president,
has <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4554997.stm> routinely stifled political
dissent in Uzbekistan, banning opposition groups -- particularly Islamic
ones -- stifling the press and jailing thousands. His country is routinely
cited as one of the
<http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2009/sca/136096.htm> world's worst
torturers, with punishments including beatings, rape, and even boiling meted
out in its overcrowded jails. Uzbekistan faced international condemnation in
2005 after hundreds of unarmed protesters demonstrating in support of a
group of arrested local businessmen were shot by security forces in the city
of Andijan. Karimov has repeatedly extended his own tenure beyond the
constitutionally mandated two-term limit and international observers have
dismissed the country's elections as shams.

U.S. support: Uzbekistan shut down a U.S. airbase in the country in 2005,
after U.S. criticism of the events at Andijan. The base remains closed, but
relations are improving. Gen. David Petraeus made a
high-profile visit to the country in 2009 to discuss a possible Uzbek role
in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. In April of that year, the two countries
GJXg> signed a deal to allow supplies for the NATO effort to travel through
Uzbekistan. In November 2010, CENTCOM commander Gen. James Mattis
visited Uzbekistan to sign a security cooperation pact, including military

The administration has
tan-111199769.html> continued to push Uzbekistan to improve its human rights
record, but the country's real estate -- and proximity to the war in
Afghanistan -- is evidently too valuable for it to be cut off altogether.


Leader: Nursultan Nazarbayev

Record: Nazarbayev, former leader of the Kazakh Communist Party, has
ruled the country without any serious political challenge since independence
in 1991. Restrictive election laws make it nearly impossible to opposition
parties to run, anti-government newspapers are routinely harassed and shut
down, and corruption -- particularly related to the country's energy sector
-- is
reportedly pervasive throughout the state.

In January, the compliant Kazakh Parliament asked Nazarbayev to call a
referendum that would
TRE70329320110104> extend his term to 2020, skipping the planned 2012 and
2017 elections entirely. Police
lice-seize-pro-democracy-protesters.html> cracked down hard on opposition
protests against the move. After international condemnation of the plan,
Nazarbayev scrapped it and instead called for
gypt-unrest-grows.html> snap presidential elections to be held nearly two
years ahead of schedule.

U.S. support: Kazakhstan and the United States have
html> cooperated closely since 1996 on a project to secure and dispose of
the country's Soviet-era nuclear material. Kazakhstan has also
fghanistan-kazakhstan?_s=PM:WORLD> provided transit routes for the U.S.-led
war effort in Afghanistan. The country's
<http://www.eia.doe.gov/cabs/Kazakhstan/NaturalGas.html> estimated 85
trillion cubic feet of natural gas also make it a highly attractive regional

To be fair, Kazakhstan isn't nearly as repressive as its central Asian
neighbors, has been far more effective at delivering economic growth, and is
-- along with Ukraine -- one of the great nonproliferation success stories
since the end of the Cold War. But U.S. praise for the regime, which has
never held a genuinely contested election, has been ridiculously effusive at
times. In a 2006 meeting between Bush and Nazarbayev, the U.S. president
<http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/30/world/asia/30prexy.html> described
Kazakhstan as a "free nation" with a "commitment to institutions that will
enable liberty to flourish."


Leader: Nguyen Tan Dung

Record: The Communist Party of Vietnam is the only party allowed by law and
appoints the country's leaders from within its own ranks -- Nguyen Tan Dung
was <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12222997> reappointed for
a second term in Jan. 26. According to Human Rights Watch, Vietnam has
-rights> intensified its repression of human rights over the past year,
imprisoning human rights defenders, bloggers, and anti-corruption
campaigners. Religious groups, both Christian and Buddhist, have faced
repeated harassment. Police brutality and deaths under police custody are

Like China, Vietnam <http://opennet.net/research/profiles/vietnam> filters
the Internet within the country, blocking objectionable websites and
requiring service providers and Internet cafes to install monitoring
software to track users.

U.S. support: Thirty-five years after the end of the Vietnam War and 15
after diplomatic relations were restored, the U.S.-Vietnam relationship has
never been closer. The two countries signed a
<http://trade.gov/press/press_releases/2006/vietnam_053106.asp/> free-trade
agreement in 2006, moving Vietnam one step closer to WTO membership. With an
eye toward a rising China, the two countries have also
deepened defense cooperation, including
gthen-with-military-exercises-to-China-s-chagrin> military drills and a
tml> civilian nuclear deal. In 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
0713.html> said that despite "profound differences" over human rights, it
was time for the countries to take their relationship to the "next level."

Those two impulses may prove more difficult to reconcile than Clinton had
hoped: In January 2011, the United States registered a protest with the
Vietnamese government after a U.S. diplomat was
tml> wrestled to the ground and then arrested by police while trying to
visit the home of a prominent Vietnamese dissident.



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