JFP 8/17: Brazil Mooting Withdrawal of Troops from Haiti
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August 17, 2011
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1) The new Brazilian Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, is considering a withdrawal of troops from the UN force in Haiti, Metropole Haiti reports. The Brazilian troops are the largest contingent of the force, the report notes, suggesting that could mean the end of the UN mission.
2) Since the first of July, five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have died in apparent suicides, part of an Army-wide upsurge, the Seattle Times reports. The widow of one said he had been deployed to combat zones eight times, including after being diagnosed with PTSD. She said her husband was increasingly desperate to get out of a scheduled ninth deployment this year. "He actually had a gun to his head at least three times that last month talking about wanting to kill himself," she said. "They pretty much backed him into a corner." She said she was told a memorial service had not been scheduled due to concerns that the service might generate media coverage.
3) Israel has arrested a senior Palestinian journalist with Al-Jazeera, accusing him of being a member of Hamas, AP reports. Samer Allawi, Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Afghanistan, was brought before an Israeli military court Tuesday, a week after soldiers detained him as he tried to return to Afghanistan for work, his lawyer said. Under Israeli procedures, Palestinian nationals in the West Bank are tried in military courts, AP notes.
The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Israel to clarify the legal basis for holding Allawi, saying he was detained without charges. "Our concern for Allawi's well-being and his legal rights is amplified with every passing day that he is held without due process," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East director of the group.
4) Iran's foreign minister said Iran is ready to resume negotiations on its nuclear program and a Russian proposal will aid the process, AP reports. The Russian proposal is for a "step-by-step" approach under which the international community would make limited concessions to Iran for each step it makes in disclosing its nuclear intentions. The U.S. has worked with Russia on the plan.
5) Pakistani civilian and military leaders are insisting on an effective veto over which targets U.S. drone strikes hit, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. The Pakistani military has been galvanized by a drone attack that killed many civilians and was widely seen - including by a US official - as CIA revenge for the Pakistani detention of CIA operative Raymond Davis on the charge of killing two Pakistanis, Porter writes.
1) Brazil is considering a withdrawal of its peacekeepers in Haiti
Metropole Haiti, Tuesday, 09 August 2011 22:57
[translated from French by Defend Haiti -JFP.]
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - The new Brazilian Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, is considering a withdrawal of troops from the United Nations Mission for Stabilization in Haiti (MINUSTAH).
Amorim, the former Foreign Minister who has made two visits to Haiti, believes that the Brazilian mission comes to an end with the strengthening of democracy and economic growth.
Former Defense Minister Nelson Jobim resigned after criticizing the government to reporters. Defense Minister Amorim took office last Monday.
The new Minister justified his decision with the slowdown of the Brazilian economy. "Internationally, it is time for military withdrawal and in economic terms, growth in Brazil ran out of steam," he said.
The many accusations in the media against the peacekeepers, accused of spreading cholera in Haiti, are also likely to cause a decline in confidence in the UN mission. A departure of Brazilian troops, who provide the largest contingent, may spell the end of the mission which arrived in Haiti in 2004.
2) Upsurge of suicides at Lewis-McChord, Army-wide
Hal Bernton, Seattle Times, August 17, 2011
Since the first of July, five soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have died in apparent suicides, part of an Army-wide upsurge in such deaths despite stepped-up prevention efforts.
The Army suicide rate has nearly doubled during a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, which has seen more-frequent overseas deployments for soldiers and a broader range of recruits.
Jonathon Gilbert was one of the men behind the July statistics.
In many respects, Gilbert's life appeared headed in a good direction. In early July, he joined his mother on a cross-country drive from Lewis-McChord to North Carolina to marry his sweetheart.
"During the drive, he was joking and we had a great time," Champion, his mother, recalls. "He was happy to be alive."
When he returned to base, he had a promotion in his near future and, in a sign of respect within the unit, had been selected to serve as a gunner in the battalion commanders' Stryker vehicle.
Yet Gilbert, who often held things in, also had stresses. He'd had a difficult year in Iraq and witnessed a Stryker rollover accident that killed two of his comrades.
"It was a bad scene, and those guys were in pieces, and Jonathon had to clean out the Stryker," said Champion.
Gilbert, who was raised in California and Texas, also appeared disillusioned with military service. He repeatedly said he didn't like military politics, and did not want to go with his unit on an overseas deployment in the months ahead, according to Champion.
Less than a month after his wedding, he attended a unit barbecue, where he seemed in good spirits.
But back at his apartment, after drinking, he got upset. He pulled out a hand gun, which a friend struggled to take away, and shot himself in what Lakewood police concluded was a suicide.
Ashley Joppa-Hagemann, of Yelm, is the widow of Staff Sgt. Jared Hagemann, 25, an Army Ranger whose body was found in late June at a training area at Lewis-McChord. His wife said it was a suicide, though the Army would not confirm that.
Joppa-Hagemann said her husband had deployed to combat zones eight times, including after briefly being admitted in 2009 to Madigan Army Medical Center, where she said he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
In his final months of life, she said her husband was increasingly desperate to get out of a scheduled ninth deployment this year.
"He actually had a gun to his head at least three times that last month talking about wanting to kill himself," said Joppa-Hagemann. "They pretty much backed him into a corner."
She said the Thurston County Sheriff's Department, which responded to the suicide threats, said they would contact her husband's command.
The Army Rangers have yet to schedule a memorial service for her husband. She said she was told that was due to concerns that the service might generate media coverage.
3) Israel arrests Al-Jazeera reporter, lawyer says he's accused of Hamas membership
Associated Press, August 16
Jerusalem - Israeli military prosecutors have accused a senior Palestinian journalist with the Arabic language Al-Jazeera satellite network of being a member of Hamas, an accusation that he denies, his lawyer said Tuesday.
Samer Allawi, Al-Jazeera's bureau chief in Afghanistan, was brought before an Israeli military court Tuesday, a week after soldiers detained him along the West Bank border with Jordan as he tried to return to Afghanistan for work, said his lawyer.
At the military court Tuesday, prosecutors said they suspect Allawi of belonging to Hamas, which Israel, the U.S. and EU have labeled a terror group for conducting attacks, including suicide bombings, that have killed civilians.
Allawi's lawyer, Salim Wakim, said his client has not yet been formally indicted and that the court extended his detention for an additional week while Israeli agents continue to investigate.
Wakim said Israeli investigators tried to pressure Allawi to act as an informant and told him that if he refused he would be imprisoned.
He said they then accused Allawi of transferring unspecified items from Afghanistan to the West Bank and of having contact with Hamas militants.
Allawi was in the West Bank spending an annual vacation with his family in his native village of Sebastia near Nablus, his lawyer said. Allawi had entered the West Bank at the same crossing without incident about a month earlier, said Wakim.
Video footage filmed by Al-Jazeera at the military court showed Allawi wearing an olive green prison uniform and speaking to his lawyer. Under Israeli procedures, Palestinian nationals in the West Bank are tried in military courts.
Al-Jazeera's brief footage showed Allawi telling Wakim that his arrest was baseless.
"All of their accusations have no connection to my work with Al-Jazeera. It's an arbitrary arrest. They are trying to search for information to implicate me or Al-Jazeera," said Allawi in the footage taken at the military court just before soldiers instructed the crew to stop filming.
Wakim said Israeli agents questioned Allawi about his work, finances, personal relationships dating back to his schooldays in the West Bank and was asked whether he has had any contact with U.S., Jordanian or Palestinian intelligence forces, according to an Al-Jazeera statement issued Monday. Investigators also took his password for his personal and work emails, the statement added.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based advocacy group, called on Israel to clarify the legal basis for holding Allawi, saying he was detained without charges.
"Our concern for Allawi's well-being and his legal rights is amplified with every passing day that he is held without due process," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East director of the group.
4) Iran's foreign minister says Tehran ready to resume talks on its nuclear program Associated Press, August 17, 6:50 AM
Moscow - Iran is ready to resume negotiations on its nuclear program and a Russian proposal will aid the process, Iran's foreign minister said Wednesday.
Ali Akbar Salehi spoke at a news conference in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, but neither side gave new details about the Russian proposal.
Six nations - the U.S., Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany - have been pushing Iran to meet U.N. Security Council demands to stop enriching uranium amid fears Iran aims to develop nuclear weapons. The last round of the "sextet" talks was in January.
The Russian proposal is for a "step-by-step" approach under which the international community would make limited concessions to Iran for each step it makes in disclosing its nuclear intentions. The United States has worked with Russia on the plan, which Russian Security Council head Nuikolai Patrushev discussed in Iran this week with Tehran's top nuclear negotiator.
"I agree that talks should be begun on the Iranian nuclear question," Salehi said, adding "(But) we will not accept any kind of pressure."
On the Russian proposal, "we consider that there are good elements in this proposal. It puts obligations on all sides," Salehi said.
5) Why Pakistani Military Demands a Veto on Drone Strikes
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Aug 16
Islamabad - Pakistani civilian and military leaders are insisting on an effective veto over which targets U.S. drone strikes hit, according to well-informed Pakistani military sources here.
The sources, who met with IPS on condition that they not be identified, said that such veto power over the conduct of the drone war is a central element in a new Pakistani demand for a formal government-to-government agreement on the terms under which the United States and Pakistan will cooperate against insurgents in Pakistan.
The basic government-to-government agreement now being demanded would be followed, the sources said, by more detailed agreements between U.S. and Pakistani military leaders and intelligence agencies.
The new Pakistani demand for equal say over drone strikes marks the culmination of a long evolution in the Pakistani military's attitude toward the drone war. Initially supportive of strikes that were targeting Al-Qaeda leaders, senior Pakistani military leaders soon came to realise that the drone war carried serious risks for Pakistan's war against the Pakistani Taliban.
A key turning point in the attitude of the military was the unilateral U.S. decision to focus the drone war on those Pakistani insurgents who had already decided to make peace with the Pakistani government and who opposed the war being waged by Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani military.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was allowed to run the drone war almost completely unilaterally for years, according to former Pakistani military leaders and diplomats, and the Pakistani military has only mustered the political will to challenge the U.S. power to carry out drone strikes unilaterally in recent months.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf allowed the drone strikes from 2004 to 2007 in order to ensure political support from the George W. Bush administration, something Musharraf had been denied during the Bill Clinton administration, Shamshad Ahmad, who was Pakistan's foreign secretary and then ambassador to the United Nations from 1997 to 2002, told IPS.
"Those were the days when we felt that we had to work with the Americans on Al-Qaeda," recalled Gen. Asad Durrani, a former director general of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI), in an interview with IPS.
The choice of targets "usually was done by the U.S. unilaterally", said Durrani. Two Pakistani generals confirmed that point in a separate interview with IPS.
The Musharraf regime even went so far as to provide cover for the drone strikes, repeatedly asserting after strikes that the explosions had been caused by the victims themselves making home-made bombs.
But that effort at transparent deception by the U.S. and Musharraf quickly fell apart when drone strikes were based on faulty intelligence and killed large numbers of civilians rather than Al- Qaeda leaders.
The worst such strike was an Oct. 30, 2006 drone attack on a madrassa in Chenagai village in Bajauer agency, which killed 82 people. Musharraf, who was primarily concerned with avoiding the charge of complicity in U.S. attacks on Pakistani targets, ordered the Pakistani military to take complete responsibility for the incident.
The spokesman for the Pakistani military claimed "confirmed intelligence reports that 70 to 80 militants were hiding in a madrassa used as a terrorist training facility" and said the Pakistani military had fired missiles at the madrassa.
But eyewitnesses in the village identified U.S. drones as the source of the attack and said all the victims were simply local students of the madrassa. Local people compiled a complete list of the names and ages of all 80 victims, showing that 25 of the dead had been aged seven to 15, which was published in the Lahore daily The News International.
Senior military officers believed the CIA had other reasons for launching the strike in Bajaur. The day before the drone attack, tribal elders in Bajaur had held a public meeting to pledge their willingness to abide by a peace accord with the government, and the government had released nine tribesmen, including some militants.
Former ISI chief Durrani recalled that the strike "effectively sabotaged the chances for an agreement" in Bejaur. That was "a very clear message" from the CIA not to enter into any more such peace agreements, Durrani told IPS.
The Bejaur madrassa strike was a turning point for many officers. "So many of us went in and said this is stupid," Durrani recalled.
When Musharraf was pressured to step down as Army chief of staff, and was replaced by Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani in November 2007, the unilateral character of the CIA's drone war "pretty much continued", according to Gen. Jehanger Karamat, who was ambassador to the United States from 2004 to 2006 after having retired as Army chief of staff in 1998.
The CIA's drone war became more contentious in 2008, as the Bush administration concentrated the strikes on those who had made peace with the Pakistani government. Two-thirds of the drone strikes that year were on targets associated with Jalaluddin Haqqani and Mullah Nazeer, both of whom were involved in supporting Taliban forces in Afghanistan, but who opposed attacks on the Pakistani government.
Targeting the Haqqani network and his allies posed serious risks for Pakistan. When the Pakistani Army was fighting in South Waziristan, it had its logistic base in an area that was controlled by the Haqqani group, and it had been able to count on the security of that base.
Meanwhile, ISI had given the CIA accurate information on anti- Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud's location on four occasions, but the U.S. had failed to target him, according to a May 2009 column by retired Pakistani Gen. Shaukat Qadir.
In 2009, more of the drone strikes - almost 40 percent of the total - focused on the Taliban under Mehsud, and Mehsud himself was killed, which tended to mollify the Pakistani military.
But that effect did not last long. In 2010, only three strikes were aimed at Mehsud's anti-Pakistan Taliban organisation, while well over half the strikes were against Hafiz Gul Bahadur, an ally of Haqqani who had signed an agreement with the Pakistani government in September 2006 that he would not shelter any anti-Pakistani militants.
The Barack Obama administration had made a deliberate decision around mid-2010 that it didn't care if targeting the Haqqani network and other pro-Pakistani Taliban groups upset the Pakistanis, as the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 23, 2010.
But two events caused Pakistani army chief Kayani to demand a fundamental change in U.S. policy toward the drone war.
The first was the arrest of CIA operative Raymond Davis on the charge of killing two Pakistanis in cold blood in January, which was followed by intense U.S. pressure for his release.
The second was a drone strike on Mar. 17, just one day after Davis was released, which was initially reported to have been an attack on a gathering of Haqqani network officials.
It turned out that the drone attack had killed dozens of tribal and sub-tribal elders who had gathered from all over North Waziristan to discuss an economic issue.
A former U.S. official admitted that the strike was carried out because the CIA was "angry" over the fact that Davis had been kept in prison for seven weeks. "It was retaliation for Davis," the official said, according to an Aug. 2 Associated Press story.
That strike helped galvanise the Pakistani military leadership. ISI chief Shuja Pasha took it as a slap in the face, because he had personally intervened to get Davis out of jail. Kayani shocked the Americans by issuing the first denunciation of drone strikes by an Army chief.
When Pasha went to Washington in April, he took with him the first official Pakistani demand for an equal say in drone strike decisions.
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