Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Could Jordan follow Egypt? Cables released by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten sheds light on US views

Could Jordan follow Egypt and Tunisisa? This question is likely asked in Washington at the moment. Protests are ongoing in the country and although the King remains popular there, there is serious unrest in the country and this unrest appears to rest on the view that political reforms are demanded, but never delivered.

According to Norwegian daily Aftenposten's recently leaked WikiLeaks cables, the US' view of King Abdullah is that he is largely withdrawn from politics and that he does not involve himself in reform efforts. In one of the cables released today (dated October 8, 2009), Ambassador R. Stephen Beecroft writes that...

Jordan´s politicians are looking intently to the King for direction, eagerly (and in some cases nervously) anticipating a royal ruling on the future of reform. They have received almost nothing. The King has been largely absent from the political scene as of late and sphinxlike in his increasingly rare public appearances. Beyond the usual business of meeting tribal leaders, greeting foreign dignitaries, and cutting ribbons, the King has said nothing to indicate his leanings on the future of the government, parliament, or reform efforts.

This view is likely to find support in Amman and other cities of Jordan. King Abdullah has called for reforms multiple times in the past, but has yet to actively deliver.

All of Aftenposten's cables related to Jordan can be read on the right side of this website.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Confidential US governmental information: Putin "cheats" in elections

I have previously looked at a few stories that highlight the trend that the US government is simply too fond of stamping information confidential. Another striking example of this emerged yesterday, and did not even concern the US the slightest bit. No, it in fact concerned Russia and the tendency that Russian governments cheat. This is hardly unknown to anyone,

The document, titled 07MOSCOW5598, concerns the 2007 Duma election in Russia. In the cable, the US Ambassador to the country argues that "three-fourths of the national television coverage and over half of the national print media coverage has gone to United Russia and Putin," and that this is caused by "Kremlin influence and media self-censorship."

Everything else the cable contains is simply references to research done by Russian polling agencies and references to comments on the situation made by other Russians. These names remain uncensored in the leaked WikiLeaks cable, which should indicate that whatever media station redacted it, did not view it as particularly threatening to that individual.

Since the information in this cable is so trivial, the only reason it was classified must have been that the US was afraid that publishing it would lead to increased difficulties in cooperating with the Russians. Looking at the wording of the cable, however, it is quite apparent that the cable hardly would be interpreted as anything serious, since the Russians unquestionably would have known that the US knew everything in the cable, and since the two countries do occasionally use strong words to describe the other.

This is not the only example of the absurd practice of stamping cables that contain what amount to reasonably trivial information.