News of the World, 2007
2007 news of the world from Iraq to Sudan
by Beth Rowen
Report Says Iran Has Halted Its Nuclear Weapons Program | Palestinian and Israeli Leaders Pledge to Work Toward Peace | North Korea Makes Concessions on Nuclear Program | Political Turmoil in Pakistan | Sudan Resists UN Efforts for Peace
For the war in Iraq, please see News of the Nation.
Report Says Iran Has Halted Its Nuclear Weapons Program
A National Intelligence Estimate, released in December 2007 and compiled by the 16 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community, reported "with high confidence" that Iran had frozen its nuclear weapons program in 2003. The report contradicted one written in 2005 that stated Iran was determined to continue developing such weapons. The 2007 report seemed to immediately put the brakes on any plans by the Bush administration to preemptively attack Iran's weapons facilities.
As recently as October, President Bush said, “I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” He made the statement after meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin, who has said that he’s not convinced that Iran is seeking to procure nuclear weapons.
The NIE report suggested that Iran has bowed to international pressure to end its pursuit of an atomic bomb. "Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issues than we judged previously," it said. After the release of the intelligence report, President Bush, however, said Iran remains a threat and can not be trusted to pursue uranium enrichment for civilian use, such as nuclear power. Bush also said he would continue to pursue another round of sanctions against Iran.
"Look, Iran was dangerous, Iran is dangerous, and Iran will be dangerous, if they have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," he said. "What’s to say they couldn’t start another covert nuclear weapons program?"
Democrats immediately pounced on Bush’s statement, saying he was following the same course he did in the march to war against Iraq—ignoring intelligence to justify a preemptive strike.
“President Bush continues to not let facts get in the way of his ideology,” said Senator Barack Obama. Presidential hopeful and former Democratic senator John Edwards said Bush’s response was “eerily similar to what we saw with Iraq.”
European Support of Bush
French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel said that Iran still posed a threat. “Notwithstanding the latest elements, everyone is fully conscious of the fact that there is a will among the Iranian leaders to obtain nuclear weapons,” Sarkozy said. “I don’t see why we should renounce sanctions. What made Iran budge so far has been sanctions and firmness.” Many observers assumed that the NIE report would diminish international support of further sanctions against Iran.
In March the UN Security Council voted in favor of resolution that banned the sale or transfer of weapons to Iran and froze the assets of 15 Iranians and 13 groups, many of which are associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, an elite military corps. Weeks after the vote to impose the sanctions, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that the country had acquired the ability to enrich uranium on an industrial scale.
Palestinian and Israeli Leaders Pledge to Work Toward Peace
At a Middle East peace conference in November hosted by the United States in Annapolis, Md., Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas agreed to work together to broker a peace treaty by the end of 2008. "We agree to immediately launch good-faith bilateral negotiations in order to conclude a peace treaty, resolving all outstanding issues, including all core issues without exception, as specified in previous agreements,” a joint statement said. “We agree to engage in vigorous, ongoing and continuous negotiations, and shall make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.” Officials from 49 countries, including Syria and Saudi Arabia, who held out on attending until the last minute, were present at the conference. Many observers speculated that the Bush administration was pushing for a peace agreement before the end of his term in 2008 to salvage his diminishing reputation and establish a legacy that isn’t dominated by the war in Iraq.
Fighting between Hamas and Fatah continued into 2007, with dozens of Palestinians dying in deadly street fights. In March 2007, after months of fruitless attempts to form unity government, the leaders of Hamas and Fatah finally agreed on a coalition government, which Parliament later approved. Despite the breakthrough, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya of Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah clearly remained divided on important issues regarding Israel. Furthermore, the platform of the government seemed to adopt Hamas’s ideology and disregard Fatah’s concerns. The document stated that the government does not recognize Israel, does not accept earlier Israeli-Palestinian accords, and will not renounce violence. Western countries required that Palestinians comply with each condition before they would resume aid to the Palestinian government. Palestinians continued to suffer from the decision in 2006 by Western donor countries to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in direct aid to the Hamas government.
Fighting between Hamas and Fatah intensified in June 2007, with Hamas effectively taking control of the Gaza Strip. In response, Palestinian president Abbas dissolved the government, fired Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and declared a state of emergency. Salam Fayyad, an economist, took over as interim prime minister. In an effort to boost Abbas, the United States and the European Union said they would resume direct aid to the Palestinians.
A commission that investigated 2006's war between Israel and Lebanon released a scathing report in April 2007, saying Prime Minister Olmert was responsible for "a severe failure in exercising judgment, responsibility, and prudence." It also said that Olmert rushed to war without an adequate plan. In addition, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and former army chief Dan Halutz were rebuked in the report. Olmert resisted calls for his resignation and survived a no-confidence vote in parliament.
In June 2007, President Moshe Katsav reached a plea deal with the government, agreeing to resign and plead guilty to committing indecent acts without consent, sexual harassment, and harassing a witness. In exchange, the government dropped rape charges against Katsav, who maintained his innocence and said he pleaded guilty to avoid a long and embarrassing trial. He was accused of raping and sexually assaulting several female coworkers. In June elections, Shimon Peres, of the Kadima Party, was elected president at age 83.
Israeli jets fired on targets deep inside Syria in September 2007. American and Israeli intelligence analysts later said that Israel had attacked a partially built nuclear reactor. Several officials wondered aloud if North Korea had played a role in the development of the nuclear plant. Syria denied that any such facilities exist and protested to the United Nations, calling the attack a "violation of sovereignty."
North Korea Makes Concessions on Nuclear Program
Officials from North Korea, South Korea, China, Russia, the United States, and Japan met several times beginning in 2003 to discuss ways to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Each round of negotiations ended in failure. A breakthrough was finally reached in February 2007, when North Korea agreed to dismantle its nuclear facilities and allow international inspectors to enter the country in exchange for about $400 million in oil and aid. In July, the country followed up on the February agreement, shutting down its weapons-making nuclear reactor at Yongbyon. North Korea went a step further in October, announcing it would disable its nuclear facilities and disclose to international monitors an accounting of all its nuclear programs by the end of 2007. While President Bush was widely praised for using carrot and stick diplomacy, a few hawks in his administration—and some former members of it—sharply criticized the deal, saying it lacked a means to verify North Korea’s claims about the status of its nuclear program.
“It is rewarding bad behavior of the North Koreans by promising fuel oil,” said John Bolton, once a Bush loyalist and the former ambassador to the UN. “It's a bad signal to North Korea and it's a bad signal to Iran. It will say to countries like Iran and other would-be proliferators, if you just have enough patience, if you just have enough persistence, you’ll wear the United States down.”
Political Turmoil in Pakistan
President Pervez Musharraf’s reputation both domestically and internationally plummeted during the course of 2007. In March, Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftakar Mohammed Chaudhry, accusing him of abuse of power and nepotism. Supporters of Chaudhry took the streets in protest, claiming the move was politically motivated. Justice Chaudhry had agreed to hear cases involving disappearances of people believed to have been detained by intelligence agencies as well as constitutional challenges involving Musharraf’s continued rule as president and head of the military. In July Pakistan’s Supreme Court reinstated Chaudhry.
Musharraf's political troubles intensified in the late summer. In August, the Supreme Court ruled that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif could return to Pakistan from exile in Saudi Arabia. Both Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, also a former prime minister, have sought to challenge Musharraf’s leadership. Days after the ruling, Bhutto revealed that Musharraf had agreed to a power-sharing agreement, in which he would step down as army chief and run for reelection as president. In exchange, Bhutto, who has been living in self-imposed exile for eight years, would be allowed to return to Pakistan and run for prime minister.
On Oct. 6, Musharraf was easily reelected to a third term by the country's national and provincial assemblies. Opposition parties boycotted the vote, however, and only representatives from the governing party participated in the election. The Supreme Court said the results would not be formalized until it determined whether Musharraf was constitutionally eligible to run for president while still head of the military.
State of Emergency
On Nov. 3, Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution, and fired Chief Justice Iftakar Mohammed Chaudhry and the other judges on the Supreme Court. Analysts suggested that Musharraf was trying to preempt the upcoming ruling by the Supreme Court, which was expected to declare he could not constitutionally run for president while being head of the military. Musharraf, however, said he acted to stem a rising Islamist insurgency and to "preserve the democratic transition.” Thousands of lawyers took to the streets to protest the emergency rule.
Later in November, the Supreme Court, stacked with judges loyal to Musharraf, dismissed the case that challenged the constitutionality of Musharraf’s election as president. Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Pakistan on Nov. 25 after eight years in exile.
Musharraf stepped down as military chief on November 28, the day before being sworn in as a civilian president. Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the former head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, took over as army chief. Since he no longer controls the military, Musharraf's power over Pakistan has been significantly diminished.
Bhutto was assassinated in a suicide attack on Dec. 27 at a campaign rally in Rawalpindi. President Musharraf blamed al Qaeda for the attack, which killed 23 other people. Bhutto's supporters, however, accused Musharraf's government of orchestrating the combination bombing and shooting. Rioting throughout the country followed the attack, and the government shut down nearly all the country's services to thwart further violence. Bhutto had criticized the government for failing to control militants who have been unleashing terrorist attacks throughout Pakistan. The assassination thurst the country deeper into chaos.
Sudan Resists UN Efforts for Peace
The four-year-old conflict in Darfur continued in 2007, with the Janjaweed—the pro-government Arabic militias—slaughtering black villagers and rebel groups with impunity. More than 200,000 have been killed in Darfur and 2.5 million have become refugees. In. January 2007, the government of Sudan and Darfur rebel groups agreed to a 60-day cease-fire, which was intended to lead to peace talks sponsored by the African Union. Libya hosted peace talks in October, but several rebel groups boycotted the proceedings, and the summit ended shortly after the opening ceremony.
In February 2007, the International Criminal Court at the Hague named Ahmad Harun, Sudan's deputy minister for humanitarian affairs, and Ali Abd-al-Rahman, a militia leader, as suspects in the murder, rape, and displacement of thousands of civilians in the Darfur region. In May, the Court issued arrest warrants for Haroun and Ali Kosheib, a Janjaweed leader, charging them with mass murder, rape, and other crimes. The Sudanese government refused to hand them over to the Court. President Oman al-Bashir, continuing to show disregard and contempt for the UN, placed Harun on a committee that supervises the deployment of UN peacekeepers.
In July 2007, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to deploy as many as 26,000 peacekeepers from the African Union and the United Nations forces to help end the violence in Darfur. The Sudanese government, however, has refused to allow some non-African peacekeepers into the country.
- More from Current Events