JFP 8/22: 25K troops in Afghan. til 2021? $121B added to US debt
Just Foreign Policy News
August 22, 2011
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*Take Action: "Super Committee" Should Cut the War Budget
Representative Lynn Woolsey is circulating a letter to the Super Committee calling on them to zero out future spending on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the debt deal. Urge your Rep. to sign on.
Glenn Greenwald: Qaddafi's Fall Won't Make the War Legal
Of course U.S. participation in the war is still illegal, as argued by Attorney General Holder, Office of Legal Counsel Chief Caroline Krass, and DOD General Counsel Jeh Johnsen, Greenwald writes. It's illegal because it was waged for months not merely without Congressional approval, but even in the face of a Congressional vote against its authorization. That NATO succeeded in defeating the Mighty Libyan Army does not have the slightest effect on that question, just as Saddam's capture told us nothing about the legality or wisdom of that war.
Groups Urge Senate to Close Pentagon FOIA Loophole
Just Foreign Policy joined with the Project On Government Oversight, OpenTheGovernment.org and other groups to urge the Senate to adopt the Leahy Amendment to remove a broad FOIA exemption for military facilities.
Union of Concerned Scientists: Climate Science References for the Campaign Trail
Given that a number of presidential hopefuls have been voicing their opinions recently on climate science, the Union of Concerned Scientists thought it would be helpful to provide a short list of authoritative scientific assessments on climate science, a relevant statement from 18 scientific societies on the threat of a warming world and a resource for debunking contrarian arguments.
Just Foreign Policy Makes Atlantic Wire "Top Five"
Our piece on cutting the U.S. debt by ending the Iraq war on time made the Atlantic Wire's list of "Five Best Saturday Columns."
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1) The U.S. and Afghanistan are close to signing a pact which would allow thousands of U.S. troops to remain in the country until at least 2024, The Telegraph reports. The deal risks derailing peace talks to end the war, the Telegraph notes. The Telegraph notes that the U.S. has talked about keeping 25,000 troops in Afghanistan. [At a cost of $694,000 per soldier per year (CRS), this would cost $121.5 billion between 2015-2021, 10% of what the Super Committee is supposed to come up with for debt reduction during the period - JFP.]
2) The strategic rationale by which Obama justified the Libya mission runs counter to the claim that the U.S. is not responsible for what happens to civilians in Libya after Qaddafi's fall, notes Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy. Obama invoked the "responsibility to protect" principle; why does Obama believe the U.S. would have no responsibility to act in August or September if a bloodbath arises out of a power vacuum that our military action catalyzed? As the Iraq war showed, as hard as it is to topple a dictator, the really hard part is what comes after.
3) The "diplomatic tsunami" that Israel was expecting in September at the UN appears to have started early in the region, with Turkey and Egypt trying to "re-educate" Israel, Reuters reports. "Israel must be aware that the days when it kills our children without getting a strong, appropriate response are gone for ever," Egyptian presidential candidate Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister and ex-Arab League chief, said.
4) New revelations in political scandals under former President Uribe have implicated U.S. aid, and possibly U.S. officials, in egregious abuses of power and illegal actions by the Colombian government under the guise of fighting terrorism and drug smuggling, the Washington Post reports. U.S. cash, equipment and training, supplied to elite units of the Colombian intelligence service, were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, Uribe's political opponents and civil society groups, according to law enforcement documents obtained by the Post and interviews with prosecutors and former Colombian intelligence officials. The U.S. - funded "Group to Analyze Terrorist Organization Media" assembled dossiers on labor leaders, broke into their offices and videotaped union activists. The U.S. provided equipment and tens of thousands of dollars, and the unit's members regularly met with a U.S. embassy official.
5) In an editorial, the New York Times calls on the State Department to reject the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada's Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast, citing the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does. [Bill McKibben, writing in the Washington Post, notes that this action on climate change is wholly within the power of the Administration and does not depend on Congress - JFP.]
6) A fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas appeared to be taking hold Monday after days of rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, the New York Times reports. Egypt and the UN were working Sunday to restore the informal cease-fire. A Hamas official said discussions were still under way Sunday night but that Hamas authorities had already reached understandings with smaller militant groups in Gaza and had deployed forces to try to stop them from firing rockets into southern Israel.
7) Egypt and Israel moved to de-escalate tensions after Israel killed three Egyptian soldiers and Egypt announced it would recall its ambassador, the New York Times reports. Israeli officials expressed regret and promised a joint investigation.
The diplomatic challenge newly posed by public opinion in Egypt was illustrated by the instant celebrity accorded Ahmed el-Shahat, now known on Twitter as #Flagman, the Times notes. Shahat scaled the multi-story Israeli embassy building in Cairo Sunday, removed the Israeli flag and replaced it with an Egyptian one. After video of the climb appeared on YouTube and circulated on Twitter, his fame circled the globe.
8) Pakistan president has authorized long-discussed reforms allowing political parties to campaign in the northwestern tribal region and relaxing British-era laws that hold entire tribes accountable for one person's crime, the Washington Post reports. The changes chip away at [but do not remove - JFP] measures that are widely viewed as violating fundamental rights and fueling violent militancy. There is general agreement that oppressive laws have made the region a sanctuary for terrorists, the Post says.
9) Britain, France and the U.S., have acted as the decisive weapon on the rebel side and they bear a huge responsibility for ensuring a calm and orderly transition, writes Jonathan Steele in the Guardian. The risk of score-settling and unjustified reprisals against members of Gaddafi's tribe will be high. The real test will come in the next few weeks, when the international spotlight is off. The experience of post-Taliban Afghanistan is not encouraging. Succumbing to triumphalism and impatience, a new administration was put in place which marginalized large parts of the Pashtun population of the south. The Taliban soon found it had a fertile soil on which to reorganize. If things go wrong in Libya, NATO will share the blame.
10) Nineteen months after the earthquake, almost 600,000 Haitians are still living in camps, mostly under tents and tarps, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. Building transitional housing would not be a long-term solution – people need to be resettled in permanent homes, and equally importantly, they need jobs – but transitional housing could be built for the entire displaced population at a cost of around $200 million. Given that individual Americans donated $1.4 billion after the earthquake and international donors have pledged $5.6 billion, this should be doable. But the "international community" that really calls the shots in Haiti has not made it a priority.
1) US troops may stay in Afghanistan until 2024
America and Afghanistan are close to signing a strategic pact which would allow thousands of United States troops to remain in the country until at least 2024, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.
Ben Farmer, Telegraph (UK), 19 Aug 2011470
Kabul - The agreement would allow not only military trainers to stay to build up the Afghan army and police, but also American special forces soldiers and air power to remain.
The prospect of such a deal has already been met with anger among Afghanistan's neighbours including, publicly, Iran and, privately, Pakistan.
It also risks being rejected by the Taliban and derailing any attempt to coax them to the negotiating table, according to one senior member of Hamid Karzai's peace council.
Many analysts also believe the American military would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China.
Both Afghan and American officials said that they hoped to sign the pact before the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in December. Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai agreed last week to escalate the negotiations and their national security advisers will meet in Washington in September.
In the past, Washington officials have estimated a total of 25,000 troops may be needed.
Dr Spanta added: "In the Afghan proposal we are talking about 10 years from 2014, but this is under discussion." America would not be granted its own bases, and would be a guest on Afghan bases, he said. Pakistan and Iran were also deeply opposed to the deal.
Andrey Avetisyan, Russian ambassador to Kabul, said: "Afghanistan needs many other things apart from the permanent military presence of some countries. It needs economic help and it needs peace. Military bases are not a tool for peace.
"I don't understand why such bases are needed. If the job is done, if terrorism is defeated and peace and stability is brought back, then why would you need bases?
"If the job is not done, then several thousand troops, even special forces, will not be able to do the job that 150,000 troops couldn't do. It is not possible."
A complete withdrawal of foreign troops has been a precondition for any Taliban negotiations with Mr Karzai's government and the deal would wreck the currently distant prospect of a negotiated peace, Mr Avetisyan said.
Abdul Hakim Mujahid, deputy leader of the peace council set up by Mr Karzai to seek a settlement, said he suspected the Taliban had intensified their insurgency in response to the prospect of the pact. "They want to put pressure on the world community and Afghan government," he said.
2) Five Reasons it is Premature to Declare Mission Accomplished for Obama's Libya Strategy
Peter Feaver, Foreign Policy, Monday, August 22, 2011 - 9:19 AM
A reporter called me up with the question of the hour: does the apparent fall of the Qaddafi regime vindicate President Barack Obama's "lead from behind" strategy? The administration's most ardent boosters are quick to answer in the affirmative, but there are five reasons why the early spin may not last.
1. The most recent progress happened because NATO shifted course and stepped up military operations, especially American military operations, as critics had been calling for. As the New York Times spells out, when the administration finally took the critiques on board and stepped up U.S. operations, the stalemate tilted in favor of the rebels.
4. The strategic rationale by which Obama justified the Libya mission runs counter to the operational commitments he has made for the next phase. Obama invoked the "responsibility to protect" principle as the rationale for committing U.S. military forces and prestige to the Libya operation: if we had not acted, there would have been a bloodbath. He has consistently argued, however, that it is the responsibility of the Libyans to provide all of the necessary security to prevent a bloodbath after the fall of Qhaddafy. If the international community, and the United States in particular, had a responsibility to act in March to forestall a possible bloodbath that was not precipitated by U.S. action, why does Obama believe that the United States will have no responsibility to act in August or September if a bloodbath arises out of a power vacuum that our military action catalyzed? Which brings me to....
5. The real test of Obama's Libya operation will be how events play out after Qaddafi is gone. If post-Qaddafi Libya quickly transitions to a stable, representative political order, then the messiness of the last five months will be forgiven and forgotten. If the Obama team's planning for post-Qaddafi Libya is up to the task, that will go a long way to vindicating their approach. But as the George W. Bush administration ruefully knows, as hard as it is to topple a dictator, the really hard part is what comes after.
3) Analysis: Diplomatic woes pile up for isolated Israel
Crispian Balmer, Reuters, Sat, Aug 20 2011
Jerusalem - Israel was expecting a diplomatic tsunami to strike in September, but the problems have come sooner than expected, leaving it ever more isolated in the Middle East.
Egypt's decision on Saturday to recall its envoy from Israel will remove the last Arab ambassador from Tel Aviv, further undermining a relationship that had started to buckle following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak in February. [This announcement was later pulled back, see #7 below - JFP.]
Tensions flared after a cross-border attack earlier this week, with Cairo accusing Israeli forces of shooting dead three Egyptian security guards during gunbattles with Palestinian militants who had earlier ambushed and killed eight Israelis.
The row comes days after renewed verbal barbs between Israel and its one-time ally Turkey, which is still fuming over the deaths of nine Turks last year when Israeli commandos stormed a boat trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Turkey is demanding an apology for the incident, something Israel is refusing to provide.
Now Egypt wants to hear "sorry" too, but all it is getting so far are offers of "regret."
"Egypt is trying to re-educate Israel and is following the same line as the Turkish foreign policy," said Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern studies in Tel Aviv.
Israel's international standing faces a fresh assault next month as Palestinian leaders from the West Bank seek full membership of the United Nations in a General Assembly vote that will expose decades of rancour. "Israel needs to learn that it is facing a different Middle East," Rabi told Reuters Television.
Israel's 1979 peace deal with Egypt has been the cornerstone of its Middle East policy, providing much-needed stability to its southern flanks and enabling successive leaders to maintain the status quo in the unresolved Palestinian conflict.
Egypt's new military leaders are highly unlikely to tear up the Camp David accords, which brought Cairo enhanced security stability and also gave it access to generous Western funds.
But after an uprising among a populace that is overwhelmingly pro-Palestinian, the military has already shown itself to be more open to the Islamist Hamas group that governs the Gaza enclave and more assertive when it comes to dealing with Israel.
"Israel must be aware that the days when it kills our children without getting a strong, appropriate response are gone for ever," Amr Moussa, a former Egyptian foreign minister and ex-Arab League chief, said on his Twitter feed.
As ties with regional neighbours sour, relations with some of Israel's closest allies, including the United States, are not as rosy as they once were.
Western diplomats have pinned much of the blame for stalled Palestinian peace talks on Israel, with Washington and European capitals roundly condemning a spurt of recent approvals for settlement building in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
While the United States has said it will side with Israel in the impending showdown in the United Nations, a big majority of U.N. members are likely to back the Palestinians. "The real wake-up call will come in September. The Palestinians are headed toward a diplomatic Intifada, not a military Intifada," [Alon Liel, former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry] said, seeing diplomacy rather than street violence as the main threat for Israel.
4) U.S. aid implicated in abuses of power in Colombia
Karen DeYoung and Claudia J. Duque, Washington Post, August 20
The Obama administration often cites Colombia's thriving democracy as proof that U.S. assistance, know-how and commitment can turn around a potentially failed state under terrorist siege.
The country's U.S.-funded counterinsurgency campaign against a Marxist rebel group - and the civilian and military coordination behind it - are viewed as so successful that it has become a model for strategy in Afghanistan.
But new revelations in long-running political scandals under former president Alvaro Uribe, a close U.S. ally throughout his eight-year tenure, have implicated American aid, and possibly U.S. officials, in egregious abuses of power and illegal actions by the Colombian government under the guise of fighting terrorism and drug smuggling.
American cash, equipment and training, supplied to elite units of the Colombian intelligence service over the past decade to help smash cocaine-trafficking rings, were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, Uribe's political opponents and civil society groups, according to law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Post and interviews with prosecutors and former Colombian intelligence officials.
The revelations are part of a widening investigation by the Colombian attorney general's office against the Department of Administrative Security, or DAS. Six former high-ranking intelligence officials have confessed to crimes, and more than a dozen other agency operatives are on trial. Several of Uribe's closest aides have come under scrutiny, and Uribe is under investigation by a special legislative commission.
U.S. officials have denied knowledge of or involvement in illegal acts committed by the DAS, and Colombian prosecutors have not alleged any American collaboration. But the story of what the DAS did with much of the U.S. aid it received is a cautionary tale of unintended consequences. Just as in Afghanistan and other countries where the United States is intensely focused on winning counterterrorism allies, some recipients of aid to Colombia clearly diverted it to their own political agendas.
For more than a decade, under three administrations, Colombia has been Washington's closest friend in Latin America and the biggest recipient of military and economic assistance - $6 billion during Uribe's 2002-10 presidency. The annual total has fallen only slightly during the Obama administration, to just over a half-billion dollars in combined aid this year.
Although significant gains were made against the rebels and drug-trafficking groups, former high-ranking intelligence agents say the DAS under Uribe emphasized political targets over insurgents and drug lords. The steady flow of new revelations has continued to taint Colombia's reputation, even as a government led by Uribe's successor and former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, has pledged to replace the DAS with a new intelligence agency this fall.
Prosecutors say the Uribe government wanted to "neutralize" the Supreme Court because its investigative magistrates were unraveling ties between presidential allies in the Colombian congress and drug-trafficking paramilitary groups. Basing their case on thousands of pages of DAS documents and the testimony of nine top former DAS officials, the prosecutors say the agency was directed by the president's office to collect the banking records of magistrates, follow their families, bug their offices and analyze their court rulings.
"All the activity mounted against us - following us, intercepting our telephones - had one central purpose, to intimidate us," said Ivan Velasquez, the court's lead investigative magistrate and a primary target of the DAS surveillance.
Gustavo Sierra, the imprisoned former DAS chief of analysis, who reviewed intelligence briefs that were sent to the presidency, said that targeting the court "was the priority" for the DAS under Uribe. "They hardly ever gave orders against narco-trafficking or guerrillas," Sierra said in an interview.
Some of those charged or under investigation have described the importance of U.S. intelligence resources and guidance, and say they regularly briefed embassy "liaison" officials on their intelligence-gathering activities. "We were organized through the American Embassy," said William Romero, who ran the DAS's network of informants and oversaw infiltration of the Supreme Court. Like many of the top DAS officials in jail or facing charges, he received CIA training. Some were given scholarships to complete coursework on intelligence-gathering at American universities.
Romero, who has accepted a plea agreement from prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation, said in an interview that DAS units depended on U.S.-supplied computers, wiretapping devices, cameras and mobile phone interception systems, as well as rent for safe houses and petty cash for gasoline. "We could have operated" without U.S. assistance, he said, "but not with the same effectiveness."
One unit dependent on CIA aid, according to the testimony of former DAS officials in depositions, was the National and International Observations Group.
Set up to root out ties between foreign operatives and Colombian guerrillas, it turned its attention to the Supreme Court after magistrates began investigating the president's cousin, then-Sen. Mario Uribe, said a former director, German Ospina, in a deposition to prosecutors. The orders came "from the presidency; they wanted immediate results," Ospina told prosecutors.
Another unit that operated for eight months in 2005, the Group to Analyze Terrorist Organization Media, assembled dossiers on labor leaders, broke into their offices and videotaped union activists. The United States provided equipment and tens of thousands of dollars, according to an internal DAS report, and the unit's members regularly met with an embassy official they remembered as "Chris Sullivan."
"When we were advancing on certain activities, he would go to see how we were advancing," Jose Gabriel Jimenez, a former analyst in the unit, said during a court hearing.
Interviews with former U.S. officials and evidence surfacing in the DAS investigation show that the agency has for years committed serious crimes, a propensity for illegal actions not unknown to embassy officials.
The first DAS director in Uribe's presidency, Jorge Noguera - whom the U.S. Embassy in 2005 considered "pro-U.S. and an honest technocrat" and recommended to be a member of Interpol for Latin America, according to WikiLeaks cables - is on trial and accused of having helped hit men assassinate union activists. Last year, prosecutors accused another former DAS director of having helped plan the 1989 assassination of front-running presidential candidate, Luis Carlos Galan.
Myles Frechette, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia from 1994 to 1997, said that even in his tenure American officials believed that DAS units were tainted by corruption and linked to traffickers. But he said the embassy needed a partner to develop intelligence on drug smugglers and guerrillas.
"All the people who worked with me at the embassy said to me, 'You can't really trust the DAS,' " said Frechette. adding that he thinks the DAS has some of the hallmarks of a criminal enterprise.
Several senior U.S. diplomats posted to the embassy in more recent years said they had no knowledge that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies were involved in DAS dirty tricks, but all said it would not surprise them.
"There were concerns about some kinds of activities, but also a need in the name of U.S. interests to preserve the relationship," said one diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
5) Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers
Editorial, New York Times, August 21, 2011
This page opposes the building of a 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL, which would carry diluted bitumen - an acidic crude oil - from Canada's Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. We have two main concerns: the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.
The Canadian government insists that it has found ways to reduce those emissions. But a new report from Canada's environmental ministry shows how great the impact of the tar sands will be in the coming years, even with cleaner production methods.
It projects that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest - a natural carbon reservoir. Extracting oil from tar sands is also much more complicated than pumping conventional crude oil out of the ground. It requires steam-heating the sands to produce a petroleum slurry, then further dilution.
One result of this process, the ministry says, is that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole will rise by nearly one-third from 2005 to 2020 - even as other sectors are reducing emissions. Canada still hopes to meet the overall target it agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009 - a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. If it falls short, as seems likely, tar sands extraction will bear much of the blame.
Canada's government is committed to the tar sands business. (Alberta's energy minister, Ronald Liepert, has declared, "I'm not interested in Kyoto-style policies.") The United States can't do much about that, but it can stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
The State Department will decide whether to approve or reject the pipeline by the end of the year. It has already delivered two flawed reports on the pipeline's environmental impact. It should acknowledge the environmental risk of the pipeline and the larger damage caused by tar sands production and block the Keystone XL.
6) Efforts Seek to Restore Calm Between Israel and Hamas
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, August 21, 2011
Jerusalem - A fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, appeared to be taking hold on Monday after days of intense rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli airstrikes on the Palestinian enclave, actions that have taken casualties on both sides.
A trickle of rockets and mortar shells were fired Monday morning from Gaza at southern Israel, but with much less intensity than in previous days, while there have been no Israeli raids on Gaza since midnight Sunday.
Egypt and the United Nations were working Sunday to restore the informal cease-fire, according to officials on all sides.
The Egyptian involvement came in the wake of a diplomatic embroilment with Israel over the deaths of three Egyptian soldiers on Thursday. Israeli forces pursuing assailants who carried out a deadly terrorist attack near the Egyptian border fired into Egypt, killing the soldiers, according to Egyptian officials, and setting off an eruption of Egyptian anger against Israel.
A retaliatory Israeli airstrike in Gaza, aimed at the militant group that Israel said carried out the attack, produced a wave of rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel.
An Israeli official said Sunday that Israel and Egypt, each for their own reasons, had an interest in restoring the calm. "We want to contain this crisis and lead it to a quick finish," said the Israeli official, who insisted on anonymity because of the delicate diplomacy involved.
Ismail al-Ashqar, a Hamas official based in Gaza, said the discussions were still under way on Sunday night but that the Hamas authorities had already reached understandings with smaller militant groups in Gaza and had deployed forces to try to stop them from firing rockets into southern Israel.
Robert H. Serry, the United Nations special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, issued a statement saying the United Nations was "actively engaged and supporting Egypt's important efforts" in trying to return to full calm.
7) Egypt and Israel Move to Halt Growth of Crisis
Stephen Farrell and Heba Afify, New York Times, August 21, 2011
Cairo - The Egyptian and Israeli governments moved Sunday to ease tensions over fatal cross-border attacks, apparently seeking to stop the crisis from flaring up into a full-scale diplomatic rift.
Egypt, which reacted angrily in the first days after the killings of three of its security officers by Israel, maintained a low profile on Sunday, while senior government officials held crisis meetings in private.
An Israeli official confirmed that an Israeli military delegation arrived in Egypt on Sunday, quietly and unannounced, for behind-the-scenes talks with Egyptian officials, and a second Israeli official issued a public statement of regret for the deaths of Egyptian soldiers.
The dispute arose Thursday after Palestinian militants carried out an attack in southern Israel, near the Egyptian border, killing eight Israelis. Israeli security forces chasing the militants fired into Egypt, killing three Egyptian soldiers in what officials have said was an accident.
Israel has yet to officially accept responsibility for the killings but has promised to hold a joint inquiry with Egypt to determine the facts.
The killings prompted an outpouring of rage against Israel in Cairo and provided a thorny diplomatic test for Egypt's new military government, which has sought to maintain its peaceful relationship with Israel while being responsive to the street, where antipathy toward Israel holds sway.
The Egyptian cabinet issued a statement on Saturday demanding an apology and an investigation, and saying the ambassador to Israel would be recalled. Thousands of protesters gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, burning an Israeli flag and demanding the ambassador be expelled and the embassy closed.
The protests at the embassy continued on Sunday night, but the crowd had dwindled to several hundred. They waved flags, launched fireworks at the building and chanted slogans, including "Close the embassy" and "Arab blood is not cheap." Some expressed anger that the Egyptian military government had not taken sterner measures against Israel.
The noisy demonstration contrasted sharply with the remarkable official silence from both governments.
Egyptian authorities made no official statements on Sunday, and there were conflicting reports about whether the government intended to follow through with the announced plan to recall its ambassador to Israel. A statement about recalling the ambassador was removed from the cabinet's Web site over the weekend, shortly after being posted.
The anger on the streets of Cairo was evidence that the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February has ushered in a new era in which Egyptians critical of their country's 1979 peace treaty with Israel are far more willing to give public voice to anti-Israel sentiments. So far it is unclear how the military government will respond.
The diplomatic challenge it faces was perhaps brought into sharpest relief on Sunday by the instant celebrity accorded Ahmed el-Shahat, now known on Twitter as #Flagman.
Mr. Shahat scaled the multi-story Israeli embassy building in the early hours of Sunday, removed the Israeli flag and replaced it with an Egyptian one. He brought the blue and white Israeli standard down with him, where it was burned and he was celebrated as a local hero. After video of the climb appeared on YouTube and circulated on Twitter, his fame circled the globe.
8) Pakistan amends tribal laws said to fuel militancy
Karin Brulliard and Haq Nawaz Khan, Washington Post, August 17
Islamabad, Pakistan - The weak, U.S.-backed government of Pakistan's unpopular president, Asif Ali Zardari, is receiving rare domestic praise this week for a move that even opponents say could help accomplish something that has long been the domain of the Pakistani army: pacifying the militant-riddled tribal belt.
Last week, Zardari authorized long-discussed reforms allowing political parties to campaign in the northwestern tribal region and relaxing dated laws that hold entire tribes accountable for one person's crime. The changes chip away at measures that are widely viewed as violating the fundamental rights enjoyed by the rest of Pakistan's 180 million people - and that have inspired little loyalty to the state among residents of the borderlands.
The changes have yet to be implemented, and some observers and tribal representatives complain that they barely scratch the surface of the problems. But in Pakistan, where governance is characterized more often by side-switching and potshots than by policymaking, the development is being greeted as a stride toward civilian control in an area where the power players have long been the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the army.
"These steps are very, very important," said Khadim Hussain, a university professor who directs a research institute focusing on the tribal areas. "So many times, people there tell me, 'You have given us a national identity card, but you have not given us a feeling that we belong to Pakistan.' "
The mountainous, conservative tribal belt has long been as isolated politically as it is geographically. For decades, British colonialists and the Punjabi-dominated Pakistani state attributed that to the "warrior-like" culture of the area's Pashtun population. Now there is general agreement that oppressive and unique laws, long encouraged by the powerful military, marginalized the region - and, in recent years, made it a sanctuary for terrorists.
The belt is known as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, and it is divided into seven sections overseen by an appointed "political agent." The agent often serves as little more than a conduit for patronage, analysts say. There are no state police, and courts consist of politically influenced tribal councils or Taliban tribunals. Political parties are barred, so the region's 12 elected representatives in Pakistan's national assembly have had little incentive to sit in the opposition.
"Any government would be able to purchase their votes," said Babar Sattar, a legal expert and newspaper columnist in Islamabad, the capital. "People weren't really represented - individuals were represented."
The most notorious problem is a British-era criminal code enacted to suppress Pashtun opposition and long assailed by human rights activists and FATA residents. Among other things, the regulations allow whole tribes to be jailed or their businesses blocked if one member is suspected of a crime; political agents can deny bail, imprison people to "prevent" killings and expel those they deem "dangerous fanatics."
One elder of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe in South Waziristan agency said the political agent there recently suspended state stipends to his tribe and the salaries of those who work for the tribal police. The reason, he said, was that militants had fired mortar rounds at an army camp near the tribe's settlements.
"We are at war, and there could be firing of gunshots from any quarter," said the elder, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. "How could we be punished for a crime we neither committed nor saw?"
Amid the vacuum of governance, Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters have set up shop, and domestic Taliban insurgents have cemented their sway through systematic killings of tribal leaders. Today, the tribal belt is a virtual no man's land, even for political agents. That has suited the military, which prefers minimal civilian oversight in a strategic area where it carries out regular operations and is accused of nurturing militants to act as proxies in Afghanistan, Hussain said.
Under the amended laws, political parties can attempt to win and represent voters, and residents will be able to appeal political agents' decisions before a new tribunal. Women, children and people older than 65 are exempt from collective punishment, and the national auditor is authorized to scrutinize political agents' use of state funds.
Until now, the political agent "was answerable to none," said Abdul Latif Afridi, a politician and lawyer from Khyber agency, in the tribal areas.
Analysts have raised plenty of caveats, starting with the question of whether and how quickly the changes will take root. Militant threats will also make political campaigning difficult, if not impossible, Afridi said.
Many observers add that the changes are too piecemeal. To fully "mainstream" the FATA, they say, it must be declared a province or incorporated into another province, a police force should be formed, and the British-era criminal code must be abolished. Hussain, the FATA researcher, said numerous surveys have found that the region's residents agree.
Zardari promised reforms two years ago, but enactment was slowed by the endless wrangling of Pakistan's unstable coalition government and by resistance from the military, one person involved in negotiations said. Some worry that the army allowed the changes in exchange for another ordinance recently signed by Zardari, which legalized some of the military's unchecked powers to detain and try terrorism suspects in the restive northwest.
"The basic status of the region remains the same," said Imtiaz Gul, an analyst and author of "The Most Dangerous Place," a recent book on the tribal areas. "This represents fears within the bureaucracy, who have been opposed to any overnight change, saying it would disturb the social-political structures in the tribal areas."
9) Reconciliation is crucial to rebuilding Libya
The rebels have so far shown restraint with Gaddafi's allies – good news for a Nato fearful of a repeat of Afghanistan
Jonathan Steele, Guardian, Monday 22 August 2011
Now that the military battle for Libya is all but finished, the challenge for Nato is enormous. Britain, France and the United States, in particular, have acted as the decisive weapon on the rebel side and they bear a huge responsibility for ensuring a calm and orderly transition.
It has long been apparent that Nato's agenda was regime change rather than the humanitarian imperative of protecting civilians on which it based its pleas to Russia and China not to block a UN security council resolution to set up a no-fly zone in March.
Nato air power played a vital role in destroying Gaddafi's fixed-wing aircraft in the early days after the resolution was passed. Later, Nato attacks on his helicopters helped to level the pitch and make it easier for the rebels to pursue their advance. Although the rebels often complained that Nato was not doing enough, it is clear that without Nato they would have been able to do very little at all.
Thanks to its crucial role in tipping the military scales in Libya, Nato and the rebels are inextricably linked. Gaddafi had few supporters in the Arab world but there is a justified perception on the Arab street that the rebels are over-reliant on western support and that the overriding western motive is access to Libya's oil. Hence the rebels' attempt to distance themselves by calling for Nato to leave now.
Even among the nine states of the 22-member Arab League that voted in March to support a no-fly zone (the rest were absent or voted against), discontent with Nato's stretching of the UN resolution had become visible. For the same reason the Syrian opposition is adamant that it does not want foreign military support in its struggle against the Assad regime.
The new rulers in Libya face a long road ahead in establishing their legitimacy on the Arab and African stage. The west will repeatedly insist, as Barack Obama said on Sunday night, that Libya's future is in Libyan hands. Nato cannot be expected to micro-manage every detail of the post-Gaddafi arrangements, and the rebels' political leadership in the National Transitional Council will not allow it anyway. But Nato cannot pretend it has no responsibility for the way its allies behave.
The risk of score-settling and unjustified reprisals against members of Gaddafi's tribe will be high. They may also be excluded unfairly from the new dispensation as it moves towards a decent constitution and elections.
The real test will come in the next few weeks, when the international spotlight is off. The experience of post-Taliban Afghanistan is not encouraging. Succumbing to triumphalism and impatience, a new administration was put in place which marginalised large parts of the Pashtun population of the south and restored warlords in power in Kabul, thereby undermining the value of the expensively organised but easily manipulated new electoral system. The Taliban soon found it had a fertile soil on which to reorganise.
Libya's ethnic makeup is obviously different, but the fact remains that it is a disparate country with significant tribal differences which has never had a central government that commanded much respect. Reconciliation must be the key value in the forthcoming transition. In July, General Abdel Fattah Younes, who spent years in Gaddafi's inner circle before defecting to become the military chief in the rebel National Transitional Council, was murdered by other rebels. It was not a good omen.
Even as Tripoli and Benghazi celebrate today, it is vital that the world does not lose interest in the weeks ahead. If things go wrong, Nato will share the blame.
10) Illegal Evictions and Violence Are No Solution to Haiti's Post-Earthquake Housing Problem
Individual Americans donated a total of $1.4bn after the 2010 earthquake, yet 600,000 Haitians are still living in tents. Why?
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Monday 22 August 2011 18.32 BST
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - At a sprawling internally displaced persons (IDP) camp of battered tents and tarps, in the Barbancourt neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince, a confrontation was underway. A landlord, who claimed ownership over land on which some 75 families had been living since the earthquake, was very angry. A crowd of hundreds had gathered and a man in his thirties said that the landlord had beaten him and destroyed his tent.
"These people have been here for 19 months and I want them out of here!" the landlord shouted. He was yelling in English now because a group of activists had arrived, including the actor and human rights campaigner Danny Glover. They were defending the camp residents, but the landlord wasn't having it.
Meanwhile, a group of heavily armed troops from Minustah – the UN military force that has occupied the country for the past seven years – came on the scene. They were tense and sweating in the morning heat, and as the confrontation continued and the crowd spilled into the street, another contingent of troops arrived, bringing the total to about 15.
Finally, a well-known human rights lawyer, Mario Joseph of the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI), showed up. He explained to the landlord – in another heated argument – that there was a legal and judicial process for evictions, and that as a matter of law, people could not be evicted without a court decision. The standoff came to an end, for the moment, as residents returned to the camp to avoid being locked out and possibly losing their possessions.
Nineteen months after the earthquake, almost 600,000 Haitian people are still living in camps, mostly under tents and tarps. Despite the billions of dollars of aid pledged by governments and donors since the earthquake, there are probably less than 50,000 that have been resettled. And for the 600,000 homeless, the strategy seems to be moving in the direction of evictions – without regard as to where they might end up.
"The government, in collaboration with international donors and some NGOs, is trying to pretend that there is no land," says Etant Dupain, an activist with the group Bri Kouri Novel Gaye (Noise Travels, News Spreads). His group is organising to stop the evictions, and he was present in the confrontation in Barbancourt on Saturday, where he tried to defuse the confrontation by talking to the landlord, whom he happened to know. "But there is land," Dupain said to the landlord. "They gave a big piece of land to Minustah, and this was cultivated land."
Indeed, this seems to be the heart of the problem: the international donors, led by the US, do not seem to care enough to resolve the problem by "building back better", as President Clinton promised after the earthquake. Or building much of anything, really. (Clinton heads up the Haiti Interim Recovery Commission – which, until recently, was called the Haiti Interim Reconstruction Commission; he is also the UN's special envoy to Haiti.)
A visit to another IDP camp called Corail, about 12 miles outside Port-au-Prince, makes this lack of commitment clear. About 10,000 people live in "transitional shelters", which are made of plywood and have a cement floor and corrugated steel roof. It's not exactly a house, but is a huge step-up from a tent or tarp, which floods in the rain and can be entered with a razor blade. The shelters are about 18sq m each and designed to last three to five years. Just across the fence, another 60,000 people are surviving in tents and tarps.
Building transitional housing would not be a long-term solution to the problem – people need to be resettled in permanent homes, and equally importantly, they need jobs – but transitional housing could be built for the entire IDP population at a cost of around $200m. This should be doable, considering that international donors have pledged $5.6bn since the earthquake.
But to do this, the government would have to acquire the necessary land. This is entirely constitutional, in many countries including the United States, and compensation could be provided to the landowners. Land ownership is, of course, very poorly documented in Haiti, but that is no excuse. The land could be acquired first and the owners compensated as their claims are settled. That is where the will is lacking, and the "international community" should bear most of the responsibility here, because in reality they are in charge.
Meanwhile, landowners – or those who claim to own the land which is occupied by about 1000 IDP camps – have stepped up their efforts at evictions, often through violence and coercion. Some have hired thugs with machetes and knives to destroy tents. In the Port-au-Prince suburb of Delmas, the mayor has ordered police to deploy, without a legal order to evict, destroying tents and using force to evict the residents – the majority of whom are women and children. With the compliance of NGOs, they have sometimes even cut off water supplies. In late May, a 63-year-old woman was killed when a security guard working for the landowner knocked her to the ground in the camp of Orphee Shada.
Some 94% of IDP camp residents have said they would leave if they could, according to a recent Intentions Survey from the International Organisation for Migration. They just have no place to go.
Half of all American households donated money to Haiti after the earthquake, for a total of $1.4bn in private donations; and the US Congress has appropriated more than $1bn in addition. Why can't this money be used to provide shelter for the victims of the earthquake, 19 months later?
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