Posted on November 30, 2010 in Viewpoint with James Zogby

Qubad Talabani, Kurdistan Regional Government representative in the United States, discussed the current status of the Iraqi government and the Kurdish role in Iraq’s emerging democracy. Mr. Talabani insisted progress is being made with regards to the structure of the government and believes this is reflected by the appointment of three top government posts. Mr. Talabani was quick to dismiss recent suggestions that Iraq is following a pattern of a fixed sectarian government formation similar to Lebanon. “This is not the ‘Lebanonization’ of Iraq,” Talabani said, and conveyed that unlike Lebanon, Iraq’s accord to form a new government “Wasn't made in a capital elsewhere. It wasn't made in Washington. It was made in Iraq.” On the Kurdish role in Iraqi government, Mr. Talabani who is the second son of the Kurdish president, reaffirmed the significance of his father’s post stating, “there's no stronger commitment of Kurdish participation in the new Iraq than having the post of president.” When asked about the influence of Iran in the formation of Iraq’s new government, Talabani acknowledged Tehran’s role, but stressed that “Everyone got involved. For better or for worse, some a lot, some little… Ultimately the decision was made in Iraq.”


Ori Nir, spokesman for the newspaper Peace Daily and for Americans for Peace Now discussed the progress being made in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mr. Nir discussed the logic behind the recent incentive package offered by the Obama Administration to Israel for an extended three month freeze on settlement activity. Nir believes the White House is hopeful that an additional freeze will add momentum to the talks and render settlements as a “non-issue for the remainder of the negotiation.” Moreover, Nir stressed that the exact details of the package are being overemphasized. He believes that one should consider whether or not the three month moratorium will bring the countries closer to a peace deal. Nir discussed the dynamics and the implications of the peace process if both sides agree to proceed with negotiations.


Christopher Boucek, an associate at the Carnegie Endowment Middle East program discussed security concerns in Yemen. The beginning of Mr. Boucek’s segment focused on the merit of using drones in Yemen. Mr. Boucek stated that drone use in Yemen is not a new issue. In the seoncd half of his segment, Boucek discussed the threat of Al Qaeda in Yemen and the renewed national security focus on Yemen. “Terror is a very small part of Yemen's overall problems”, he said. Mr. Boucek highlighted Yemen’s economic problems as the main issue in the country and explained the country’s economic structure makes it vulnerable to organizations such as Al Qaeda. Expressing a degree of pessimism, Boucek, commenting on the likelihood of a U.S. role in Governmental and economic development in Yemen, said: “I don't think there's a solution. We will not fix Yemen's problems. We can make them less bad.”  The discussion concluded with an analysis of the relationship between Yemen and Somalia.


Christopher Calabrese, Legislative Counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) discussed the recent uproar of T.S.A screening in American airports. Mr. Calabrese believes the driving force behind the angry response to the screening has been “the groping, enhanced pat-down procedure.” “I think that's set a lot of people off,” he said. Calabrese believes the T.S.A introduced enhanced pat-down procedures blindly and neglected the fact that “people also need an input into how this is happening. They need to feel invested in the security.” By and large, Calabrese summarized the enhanced T.S.A. screening as a “very fundamental privacy issue.” Mr. Calabrese provided ways for the T.S.A. enhance security while respecting the civil liberties of passengers under a universal profiling system.

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