- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

Irish charm

Irish smiles were infectious at the White House this week, when Michael Collins, the new ambassador from Dublin, presented his diplomatic credentials to President Bush.

“I am deeply conscious of how important the U.S. has been to Ireland’s success,” Mr. Collins said. “Ireland and the United States enjoy an especially close relationship. … People of Irish decent in the United States provide a living bridge between our two countries.”

Mr. Bush replied: “The ties between Ireland and the United States are deep and broad — as deep as the Irish family roots that 45 million Americans proudly claim and as broad as the extensive network of trade and commerce that flows between our countries.”

Mr. Collins, Ireland’s 16th ambassador to the United States, also thanked Mr. Bush for his efforts to promote peace in Northern Ireland. Mr. Collins was responsible for Northern Irish issues, along with European Union affairs and foreign relations, in his previous position as a top aide to Prime Minister Bertie Ahern.

“The historic developments that we have seen in the Northern Ireland peace process owe a great deal to the enduring support and encouragement of [the United States],” Mr. Collins said.

President Clinton was instrumental in helping to get the peace talks started between Northern Ireland’s Protestant and Catholic leaders. Mr. Bush helped advance the negotiations that recently resulted in a new Northern Irish coalition government between two former sectarian extremists — the Rev. Ian Paisley, once a firebrand Protestant leader, and Gerry Adams, chief of Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army.

Mr. Bush, in his remarks, noted Ireland’s close cooperation with Britain in promoting the Northern Irish negotiations.

“Ireland’s partnership with the United Kingdom in attaining real and lasting peace in Northern Ireland serves as a model and beacon of hope to all who struggle to end conflict and strife,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Collins served as ambassador to the Czech Republic from 1999 to 2001 and to Saudi Arabia from 1995 to 1999. He was political counselor in Washington in the early 1990s.

Pakistan’s ‘drama’

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan is becoming more autocratic as political tension threatens to explode into violence and damage a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, according to a former U.S. diplomat and South Asia specialist.

“Pakistan’s political drama seems to be playing out in slow motion,” Teresita Schaffer wrote in an article for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “But the United States will not gain much from its political maneuvering.”

Mrs. Schaffer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia, predicted that Gen. Musharraf will become increasingly authoritarian as the political opposition clamors for more democracy and as the army is repeatedly humiliated by terrorists who have been kidnapping hundreds of soldiers. Gen. Musharraf, who overthrew former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, recently prevented Mr. Sharif from returning from exile. Police have arrested as many as 2,000 of Mr. Sharif’s supporters.

“The kinder, gentler government is gone,” Mrs. Schaffer wrote. “Musharraf will now rule by more autocratic methods. … Musharraf will not allow his political opponents any space to organize, if his mass arrests of Sharif’s party-mates are any guide.”

Mrs. Schaffer, now director of the South Asia Program at CSIS, added, “Musharraf will have to be cautious precisely in those areas where the United States wants boldness: with domestic violent extremists and with pro-Taliban elements.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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