JFP 8/31: Amnesty: Black Libyans at Risk from Rebels

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August 31, 2011

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

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*Action: Tell Congress: $200 Billion In "Real Savings" If We End the Wars "On Time"

Most Americans don't realize that the Super Committee can reach 1/6 of its debt reduction goal just by withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan when we said we were going to. Urge your representatives in Congress to make this part of any debt reduction deal.

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II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said US forces will leave Iraq as scheduled by year's end, and that there will not be any permanent US bases in the country, AFP reports. [It seems likely that what he means by this is that he will claim that the presence of "trainers" would not violate the current accord, but the report is unclear on this - JFP.]

2) Writing on the Huffington Post, former Admiral Joe Sestak challenges Defense Secretary Panetta to justify his claim that projected military spending cannot be further cut. He notes that the past strategic rationale for the current size of our armed forces no longer exists but has not been replaced by a strategic rationale that would justify the present size of the armed forces.

3) Amnesty International says Black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans are at high risk of abuse by anti-Gaddafi forces, after witnessing black Libyans being targeted in Tripoli. Amnesty called on the rebel leadership to do more to ensure that their fighters do not abuse detainees, "especially the most vulnerable ones such as black Libyans and Sub-Saharan Africans."

4) Much of Tripoli remains divided into fiefs, each controlled by quasi-independent brigades representing different geographic areas of the country, the New York Times reports. All sides agreed that the conquest of Tripoli has made it a crucible of regional rivalries, the Times says. A leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli called for militias from other areas to withdraw from the capital.

5) Over the past year, 1,555 Afghan policemen were killed, more than twice the number of Afghan soldiers who died in the same period, even though there are 35,000 fewer police than soldiers in the country, the Washington Post reports.

6) Human rights activists in Bahrain said security forces there killed a 14-year-old boy on Wednesday as they violently dispersed a protest in the oil town of Sitra, the New York Times reports. The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights said security forces fired tear gas directly at a crowd of demonstrators. Witnesses said the boy was in the crowd and was hit in the head by a tear gas canister. He died shortly after at the hospital.

Activists say that because the Bahraini government is a strategic ally of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, the violent suppression of protests there has not received the same attention from the international community as the crackdowns in Syria and Libya, the Times says.

7) Some Western officials are urging a less militarized approach to dealing with radical Islamists in Nigeria, saying the Nigerian government's repression has transformed Boko Haram into a more menacing force, the New York Times reports. In northern Nigeria, mass unemployment and poverty have fueled social discontent, the Times notes.

"The chickens have come home to roost," said a Western diplomat. "Nigeria's political elite has been ruling irresponsibly for decades, shamelessly plundering the nation's wealth with little or no regard for the country's masses," the diplomat said. "The rise of Boko Haram and its millions of tacit, quiet supporters is a challenge to this corrupt political class."

A man describing himself as a spokesman for Boko Haram said the U.S. was culpable because it "has been collaborating with the Nigerian government to clamp down on our members nationwide."

8) The Israeli finance minister said he believed it would be impossible to stop the Palestinian bid at the UN, which represents a greater threat to Israel than Hamas, AFP reports. The Israeli infrastructure minister called for formally annexing Palestinian land in the West Bank in retaliation for the UN bid.


U.S./Top News
1) US Iraq pull-out 'to proceed as scheduled': Maliki
AFP, Tue, Aug 30, 2011

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said US forces will leave Iraq as scheduled by year's end, and that there will not be any permanent US bases in the country, a statement from his office said on Tuesday.

"The agreement on the withdrawal of American forces will be implemented on schedule by the end of the year, and there will not be any bases for US forces here," Maliki told Al-Ittijah TV channel in an interview to be broadcast later, it said.

Iraqi leaders have approved negotiations with the United States on a post-2011 training mission, but no deal has yet been announced.
Unless Baghdad and Washington reach a new accord, all of the roughly 46,000 US troops still in the country must leave by December 31, under the terms of a 2008 security agreement.

2) Where's the Plan for Defense Spending?
Secretary Panetta must justify his "can't cut" assertion as part of the debt reduction debate.
Joe Sestak, Huffington Post, 8/30/11

Three defense issues have implications for both savings and investments in the debt reduction debate: (1) what size does our future military need to be; (2) why do we still measure military power by numbers of ships or brigades rather than the capability to rapidly acquire the knowledge to win; and (3) how do we achieve savings through transparency and accountability in the acquisition system?

Since Gen. Colin Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early 1990s, the United States has sized its military principally based upon a strategy of being able to win two large wars simultaneously. During his tenure, the two most stressing -- and likely -- wars were chosen: defending South Korea and a conflict with Iraq. These requirements have largely justified today's force levels.

One of those two wars began in 2002, and over time defense officials acknowledged that the Army's continuing commitment in Iraq prevented it from fulfilling its requirements for the defense of South Korea. Senior military leaders characterized this as an "acceptable risk," emphasizing that the Navy and Air Force's new technology was capable of "filling in" for Army units.

The defense budget has also increased 40 percent since 9/11, not including the costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those two conflicts were funded by "emergency" supplementals, containing significant spending that was neither "emergency" nor needed for these two conflicts. The Navy funded submarine-hunting helicopters, the Air Force bought the future "Joint Strike Fighter," and the Army purchased more new equipment in the 2008 "emergency" supplemental than was in that year's normal defense budget.

Despite this large increase in funding, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently stated that defense cannot be part of further debt reduction. After 31 years in the U.S. Navy, I strongly support a military always capable of defending us and winning. But the super committee on debt reduction should ask Secretary Panetta: What is the metric-based justification for your assertion?

One of the two force-sizing wars of our past national strategy is ending (Iraq); the second, Korea, hasn't had large numbers of Army units able to support it for a decade -- at "acceptable risk." What, then, should be the basis for the size of the Armed Forces now? What is the national strategy -- and the related force-sizing metrics -- that justifies how many future forces we need? What has replaced Gen. Powell's two war strategy to objectively determine the size of our military force?

For far too long we have continued to benchmark our military prowess to the size of our forces: believing that numbers of ships, airwings, and brigades is what matters -- just like during the Cold War. The right metric is now knowledge gained by sensors and our capability to quickly turn this gained information into swift action -- from the strike on Osama bin Laden to Korea's defense, where aircraft technologically connected to exact targeting information can replace large Army units.

In 2005, the Navy sent Congress a ship-building plan that sought to improve its capability to win a future conflict by investing in knowledge and speed, not in more costly force size. For instance, rather than buying more submarines at $2 billion each, the plan proposed a netted sensor information system to track Chinese underwater movements, and then direct an aircraft to drop a torpedo for the "kill."

The plan never advanced beyond Congress, not only because of internal Navy, Defense and industry resistance. There was also inevitable Congressional opposition to reducing a program that meant jobs for representatives' districts -- whether these programs are the ones best needed for our military or not.

Now the Navy can afford even fewer submarines than in 2005, yet it has no plans for any netted tracking system. We risk having a less effective military today both by retaining size-driven metrics and by not investing in less-expensive capabilities that make the number of planes or ships less relevant to our ability to win.

Along with changing the metric for sizing our force, Secretary Panetta should pursue real savings from an accountable acquisition system. In heading the Navy's $70 billion warfare requirements directorate, I was struck by what the Defense Department does not tell Congress, who approves its funding. And when I was in Congress, I was taken by Congress' failure to be accountable for the funds provided for our country's defense.

"Unanticipated" growth in defense costs -- $300 billion for programs in 2008 -- could be checked if Defense Department were to reveal to Congress its "confidence level" (the probability that the price is right) in originally pricing its programs.

For instance, when Congress approved the new nuclear aircraft carrier (CVN 78), the internal Defense confidence level was less than 50 percent for its $11 billion cost. Nor was Congress informed of the same low chance of achieving the estimated cost of $2 billion for a Virginia-class submarine. In 2006-2007 alone, 30 major warfare programs ran 15 to 25 plus percent over cost estimates. And while Nunn-McCurdy legislation mandates a report to Congress of cost breaches, there is no follow-on enforcement of accountability for these frequent cost overruns.

Congress should pass legislation mandating: (1) The Defense Department provide Congress its confidence level for the cost of a program, with Congressional approval requiring an 80 percent confidence factor; and (2) if a Nunn-McCurdy breach then occurred, continued program approval would be contingent upon the Defense Department providing other programs to offset the breach. Otherwise, the "tyranny of optimism" that pervades industry, Congress and the Defense Department about unrequited funding is a detriment to military readiness -- and accountability.

3) Libya: Fears For Detainees Held By Anti-Gaddafi Forces
Amnesty International, 30 August 2011

People suspected of having fought for Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi, in particular black Libyans and sub-Saharan Africans, are at high risk of abuse by anti-Gaddafi forces, Amnesty International said today after witnessing black Libyans being targeted in Tripoli on Monday.

An Amnesty International delegation visiting the Central Tripoli Hospital witnessed three thuwwar revolutionaries, as the opposition fighters are commonly known, dragging a black patient from the western town of Tawargha from his bed and detaining him. The men were in civilian clothing.

The thuwwar said the man would be taken to Misratah for questioning, arguing that interrogators in Tripoli "let killers free".

Two other black Libyans receiving treatment in the hospital for gunshot wounds were warned by the anti-Gaddafi forces that "their turn was coming".

The delegation also witnessed a group of thuwwar beating a man outside the hospital. The man, in distress, was shouting "I am not a fifth columnist", as al-Gaddafi loyalists are known.

"Within an hour, Amnesty International witnessed one man being hit and one dragged out of his hospital bed to an unknown fate," said Claudio Cordone, Senior Director at Amnesty International.

"We have to fear for what may be happening to detainees out of the sight of independent observers", he added.

In May, the NTC issued guidelines for its forces to act in accordance with international law and standards. In another move, the NTC has in recent days messaged Libyan mobile phone users urging its supporters to treat captives with dignity and to avoid revenge attacks.

"We welcome these initiatives by the NTC. But the council must do more to ensure that their fighters do not abuse detainees, especially the most vulnerable ones such as black Libyans and Sub-Saharan Africans" said Claudio Cordone.

"Fighters engaging in abuses should be immediately removed from active duty, pending investigation," he added. "All crimes, no matter who committed them, should be investigated and those responsible brought to justice, he added.

The thuwwar fighters told Amnesty International that they were taking the Tawargha patient from the hospital as they were unhappy that the hospital staff were about to discharge a man they believed was loyal to Colonel Mu'ammar al-Gaddafi.

Tawargha is home to many ethnically black Libyans. In the mind of Misratah residents, the town is associated with the worst violations committed during the month-long siege and relentless shelling of Misratah earlier this year.

The doctor on duty authorized the "arrest" and the patient was eventually taken away, despite Amnesty International's protests.

Sub-Saharan Africans are particularly vulnerable to abuses. Many risk reprisals as a result of allegations that al-Gaddafi forces used "African mercenaries" to commit widespread violations during the conflict.

In recent visits to detention centres in al-Zawiya and Tripoli today, Amnesty International was told that between one third and half of those detained were from Sub-Saharan Africa.

On 29 August, Amnesty International examined the body of an unidentified black man at the Tripoli Medical Centre morgue. He was brought into the morgue earlier that morning by unknown men.

His feet and his torso were tied. He bore no visible injuries, but had blood smudged around his mouth. The state of his body pointed to a recent death. No autopsy report was available, and no identification documents were found on him.

On 28 August, Amnesty International visited a group of Eritreans hiding in their home in a poor Tripoli neighbourhood.

They told the organization that they were staying indoors for fear of violent attacks. Their situation was particularly dire given the absence of electricity and running water.

4) Tripoli Divided As Rebels Jostle To Fill Power Vacuum
David D. Kirkpatrick and Rod Nordland, New York Times, August 30, 2011

Tripoli, Libya - Fighters from the western mountain city of Zintan control the airport. The fighters from Misurata guard the central bank, the port and the prime minister's office, where their graffiti has relabeled the historic plaza "Misurata Square." Berbers from the mountain town Yafran took charge of the city's central square, where they spray-painted "Yafran Revolutionaries."

A week after rebels broke into Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi's former stronghold, much of its territory remains divided into fiefs, each controlled by quasi-independent brigades representing different geographic areas of the country. And the spray paint they use to mark their territory tells the story of a looming leadership crisis in the capital, Tripoli.

The top civilian officials of the Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council - now styling itself as a provisional government to be based in the capital - are yet to arrive, citing personal safety concerns even as they pronounce the city fully secure.

There are growing hints of rivalry among the various brigades over who deserves credit for liberating the city and the influence it might bring. And attempts to name a military leader to unify the bands of fighters have instead exposed divisions within the rebel leadership, along regional lines but also between secularists and Islamists.

They were all signs, one influential member of the council said, that point to a continuing "power vacuum" in the civilian leadership of the Libyan capital. But the jockeying for power also illustrates the challenge a new provisional government will face in trying to unify Libya's fractious political landscape.

The country was little more than a loose federation of regions and tribes before Colonel Qaddafi came to power. His reliance on favoritism and repression to maintain control did little to bridge Libya's regional, ethnic and ideological divisions. Nor did the rebels who ousted Colonel Qaddafi ever organize themselves into a unified force. Rebels from the western mountains, the mid-coastal city of Misurata and the eastern city of Benghazi each fought independently, and often rolled their eyes in condescension at one another.

And although the transition so far has been surprisingly orderly - almost no looting and little violence - Tripoli has become an early test of the revolution's ability to bridge those divisions because in contrast to other Libyan cities liberated by their own residents, Colonel Qaddafi was ousted from Tripoli by brigades from other regions, and most remain in the streets.

Early steps toward unifying the brigades under a common command have brought out latent divisions among rebel leaders. Some became apparent when a fighter named Abdel Hakim Belhaj was named commander of a newly formed Tripoli Military Council.

Several liberals among the rebel leadership council complained privately that Mr. Belhaj had been a leader of the disbanded Libyan Islamist Fighting Group, which rebelled against Colonel Qaddafi in the 1990s. Some said they feared it was the first step in an attempt at an Islamist takeover. They noted that Mr. Belhaj was named commander by the five battalions of the so-called Tripoli Brigade, rather than by any civilian authority. And they complained about the perceived influence of Qatar, which helped train and equip the Tripoli Brigade and also finances Al Jazeera.

"This guy is just a creation of the Qataris and their money, and they are sponsoring the element of Muslim extremism here," another council member from the western region said. "The revolutionary fighters are extremely unhappy and surprised. He is the commander of nothing!"

Mixed with the ideological concerns, however, was an equal measure of provincial rivalry over who did more to liberate Tripoli. Not only was Mr. Belhaj an Islamist, the council member argued, but he had done less than the western rebels in the fight for the capital.
Hints of another schism appeared this week after news reports that the council's prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril - who, like Mr. Jalil, is not present in Tripoli - was naming a former Libyan Army general, Albarrani Shkal, as the chief of the capital's security.

Fighters from Misurata, considered to the rebels' most formidable force, refused to accept his appointment, arguing that he was complicit in Colonel Qaddafi's vicious crackdown on their city. In Misurata, about 500 protesters took to its central square to chant that the appointment would betray "the blood of the martyrs," a correspondent for The Guardian reported, noting that the city's local council registered a formal complaint with the national leadership.

By Tuesday night, Mr. Jabril had taken back his decision, said Alamin Belhaj, a Tripoli member of the transitional council.
Libyan Islamists say they just want a chance to compete in an open democracy, and they argue that they are more qualified than the liberals to disarm the fighters in the streets.

"They trust us more," said Alamin Belhaj, the council member and a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood here, arguing that many Libyans fear that the revolution would be "stolen" by rich, Westernized and often expatriate liberals on the council.

All sides agreed, however, that the conquest of Tripoli has made it a crucible of regional rivalries. Although the early fighting was in the east, the final assault on Tripoli was led by rebel groups in the west and finished by seasoned fighters from Misurata.
More than pride may be at stake, said Anwar Fekini, a French-Libyan lawyer with ancestral ties to the mountains who is a member of the national leadership council. "The people in the west say, 'We paid a huge price, and we want to be in charge,' and Misurata the same," he said, adding that he argued Libyans should select their leaders on the basis of competence regardless of region.

Alamin Belhaj had another idea. He said he had asked the other local councils to withdraw their brigades from the city limits, to leave the capital to the Tripolitans.

5) Afghan police casualties soar
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Wednesday, August 31, 5:15 AM

Charikar, Afghanistan - They die in assaults on lonely mountain checkpoints and in group-beheadings captured on hand-held video cameras. They are engulfed by flaming car bombs and shot at point-blank range by men who often dress up in the same plain gray uniform as theirs.

Forever maligned as corrupt, incompetent and drug-addled, the Afghan national police nevertheless have sacrificed unlike any force in the country, foreign or domestic, taking casualties at a rate far higher than Afghan soldiers or their partners in the U.S.-led coalition.

Over the past year, 1,555 Afghan policemen were killed, more than twice the number of Afghan soldiers who died in the same period, even though there are 35,000 fewer police than soldiers in the country, according to statistics provided by the U.S.-led coalition. In the same period, 474 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan. The police death toll in June, 246 police - a rate of eight a day - was 50 percent higher than any other month in the past year.

The 135,000 Afghan police generally receive less training, more rudimentary equipment and lower pay than their colleagues in the army. Although soldiers drive around in armored Humvees, most police travel in pickup trucks, even though they are often called upon to operate in areas rife with insurgents. But U.S. military officials are hoping the police can become the primary long-term solution to Afghanistan's woes, a force they envision as growing even as the more expensive army shrinks in the future.

For now, they remain the weakest, and most regularly hammered, link in the war against the Taliban.

"The army is looked after very well - they get good food and Pepsi," said Lt. Mohammad Qahir, 41, a policeman based at the governor's compound in Parwan province, north of Kabul. "The police stand in the sun all day and don't get anything."

Qahir was away from his post earlier this month on a day that has come to typify the grim existence of Afghanistan's police. When he heard the commotion begin on the morning of Sunday, Aug. 14, he was unarmed, he said, because there were not enough guns to go around for the small team guarding the governor's gate.

His colleague, Rahimullah, said that he was stationed at the door when a black Toyota corolla pulled up and men in police uniforms demanded entry. Rahimullah said he soon recognized the men were suicide bombers.

As the Taliban insurgents stormed the compound, Rahimullah was shot in the left leg, took grenade shrapnel in his back and broke his ankle, he said later from his hospital bed.

Another police officer, Aynuddin, woke from his nap, rolled off his cot and rushed to the doorway of the police shack. As he stepped outside a bullet pierced his left thigh, he recalled. He fell down and passed out.

Seeing this unfold, Mohammad Azim, a 31-year-old officer who had been lounging in the shade in a blue plastic chair when the Taliban attack began, said he fired some shots from his Kalashnikov, then ran to hide in an empty kitchen as the suicide bombers stalked the grounds. He was alone. The room was dark. He had three bullets left.

"I believed they would come and kill me at any second," Azim recalled. "At that moment, you forget about everything. You only think about yourself."

He was not thinking about the fact that of the 15 police positions allotted for the governor's office, only four have been hired, not including the governor's personal bodyguards. Or that the surveillance camera affixed to the building closest to the gate was broken and hadn't been repaired. Or that they don't have body armor or helmets. Or that he makes $150 a month and with this supports a family of 12.

"We have three Kalashnikovs for four people. How can we defend the compound?" Qahir said.
The role of Afghan police as first line of defense often puts them in vulnerable spots. They guard government officials who are frequent targets of assassination. They man poorly fortified checkpoints along dangerous roads, presenting a wealth of soft targets for the Taliban to choose from. With a thriving insurgency, they are often thrust into a demanding paramilitary role. "Our job is to enforce law and order, but sometimes we're sent to the front lines to fight, and that's not the duty of the police," Qahir said.
The police still have a bad reputation in many parts of the country. They're often accused of extorting money and abusing their power or operating at the whim of a local power-broker or tribal leader. The behavior of the police in some areas has driven residents to turn to the Taliban for help.

6) Police in Bahrain Kill 14-Year-Old During Protest, Activists Say
J. David Goodman, New York Times, August 31, 2011, 11:20 AM

Human rights activists in Bahrain, the tiny but strategically important Persian Gulf monarchy, said security forces there killed a 14-year-old boy on Wednesday as they violently dispersed a protest in the oil town of Sitra, just south of the country's capital, Manama.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights published photos of the dead boy, whose name has been given as Ali Jawad Ahmad, and of the bloodstained sidewalk where they said security forces fired tear gas directly at a crowd of demonstrators. Witnesses said Ali was in the crowd and was hit in the head by a tear gas canister. He died shortly after at the hospital.
Sitra, an oil hub six miles south of Manama, is known for its activist Shiite population and was a stronghold of antigovernment activists at the height of demonstrations earlier this year. The government of Bahrain violently put down the country's peaceful protest movement in March.
Activists say that because the Bahraini government is a strategic ally of the United States - the Navy's Fifth Fleet is based there - and of Saudi Arabia, the violent suppression of protests there has not received the same attention from the international community as the brutal crackdowns in Syria and, before that, Libya.
The Associated Press spoke with the boy's uncle, Isa Hassan, who was also at Wednesday's morning march. He described a small group of protesters assembling after morning prayers before they were confronted by police who fired tear gas from roughly 20 feet away.

"They are supposed to lob the canisters of gas, not shoot them at people," Mr. Hassan told The A.P. "Police used it as a weapon."

7) Western Officials Seek Softer Approach to Militants in Nigeria
Adam Nossiter, New York Times, August 30, 2011

Abuja, Nigeria - Amid increasing evidence that the Nigerian government's heavy-handed strategy for containing a radical Islamist sect has failed, some Western officials are urging a new and less militarized approach.

The suicide bombing of the United Nations headquarters here on Friday, which killed 23 people, has added urgency to their appeal, demonstrating that the sect, Boko Haram, has expanded its scope well beyond domestic targets. Far from being crushed by Nigerian firepower, Boko Haram, which claimed responsibility for the attack, appears to be confirming the worst fears of Western analysts and diplomats - that repression is hastening its transformation into a menacing transnational force, with possible links to Al Qaeda's North African affiliates.

Repeated Nigerian military incursions against the group have yielded many civilian casualties but still not stopped Boko Haram. It merely went underground after a bloody operation against it in 2009, and now carries out regular attacks against the Nigerian government.

"I think we'd like to see Nigeria take a more holistic approach," said the American ambassador here, Terence P. McCulley, in an interview at the well-guarded and fortresslike United States Embassy here in the Nigerian capital.

"Clearly, the 2009 tactics may have contributed to the current direction," he said, adding that the Nigerian security forces should not jeopardize civilians in their operations. He suggested that the government "address the grievances" of the northern population on economic and social matters.

Boko Haram continues to call for a strict application of Shariah law and the freeing of imprisoned members in northern Nigeria, where mass unemployment and poverty have fueled social discontent. Overall, some 50 million youths are underemployed, the World Bank says, in a country of 154 million. Despite abundant oil revenues, incomes have barely budged in 30 years, life expectancy is only 48 and the country remains one of the most economically unequal in the world, the United Nations says.

In the wake of Friday's bombing, analysts and officials warn that those factors make repression a poor tactic for confronting Boko Haram.

"The chickens have come home to roost," said another Western diplomat, who was not authorized to speak publicly. "Nigeria's political elite has been ruling irresponsibly for decades, shamelessly plundering the nation's wealth with little or no regard for the country's masses," the diplomat said in an e-mail. "The rise of Boko Haram and its millions of tacit, quiet supporters is a challenge to this corrupt political class."
Mr. McCulley, the American ambassador, called the United Nations bombing a "paradigm shift," adding that "it suggests Boko Haram has upped its game, if you will. It seems to show it wishes to expand its scope beyond the domestic."

The ambassador said that the attack on the United Nations was a "game changer," and that American interests could also be in the group's sights. "It would be foolish to consider that we are not a possible target as well," he said.

Indeed, in a conference call after the attack, a man describing himself as a spokesman for Boko Haram said that the United States was culpable because it "has been collaborating with the Nigerian government to clamp down on our members nationwide."

8) Palestinian UN bid 'greater threat' than Hamas
AFP, August 31, 2011

The Palestinian campaign to secure full UN membership presents a greater threat to Israel than that posed by Hamas, the Israeli finance minister said on Wednesday. "This Palestinian initiative represents a more serious threat than that posed by Hamas," Yuval Steinitz told Israel's public radio, referring to Gaza's Islamist rulers whose founding charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

If the Palestinians made good on their plans to seek United Nations membership, Israel would "respond," he promised. Although Steinitz did not spell out exactly how Israel would retaliate, his remarks were made shortly after Haaretz newspaper published a report saying the minister had blocked the payment of 380 million shekels ($106 million, 73 million euros) in tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority.
The minister, who belongs to the ruling Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said he believed it would be impossible to stop the bid which is to take place when the UN General Assembly meets in New York next month.

Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau, who was also interviewed on public radio, said that if the Palestinian went ahead with their bid it would signal the end of all agreements signed with Israel. "In this case, it is clear that our agreements with the Palestinians would be null and void," said Landau, who belongs to the ultra-nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.

"We should then impose our sovereignty on territories over which there is consensus -- that is, in the Jordan Valley and the major settlement blocs, and even more," he said, reiterating a proposal raised by right-wing elements that Israel annex Palestinian land in response to the UN bid.

The Palestinians are to formally submit their request for membership on September 20 when world leaders begin gathering in New York for the 66th session of the General Assembly.


Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here:



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