JFP 12/20: Stop the War on Christmas: Cease Fire in Afghanistan

Just Foreign Policy News, December 20, 2011
Stop the War on Christmas: Cease Fire in Afghanistan

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Stop the War on Christmas: Cease Fire in Afghanistan
Shouldn't Americans of every faith tradition band together to stop the war on Christmas? Let us call on President Obama to announce that on Dec. 24th and 25, the United States will observe an offensive ceasefire in Afghanistan, and urge others to join the ceasefire, as a goodwill gesture to promote peace talks. According to recent press reports, a U.S.-initiated Christmas truce would complement peace efforts that the Obama Administration is already pursuing, while bringing a pause, at least, to universally detested US night raids.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/stop-the-war-on-christmas_b_1160669.html

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II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Afghan President Karzai and NATO officials have clashed again on the issue of nighttime raids by Western forces, this time over an incident that left a pregnant Afghan woman dead, the Los Angeles Times reports. Local officials said the woman was killed when U.S. and Afghan forces entered the home of the provincial head of counter-narcotics operations, an official named Hafizullah. He was arrested along with two of his sons, said Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the Paktia governor. The slain woman was Hafizullah's wife, who was eight months pregnant, Samon said, adding that four other female family members were injured.

Karzai and other senior Afghan officials have repeatedly denounced night raids. Most Afghans regard a home invasion by foreign troops as a grave cultural insult, and human rights groups say darkness and confusion -- and the attendant possibility of a firefight if those inside believe they are under attack by robbers or clan rivals -- pose a significant danger to civilians in raided residential compounds, including women and children.

2) More than 7,000 Haitians have been killed since October 2010 by cholera that UN troops brought to Haiti, but the UN is still refusing to take responsibility and is lying about its role, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. Two human rights groups are calling for the UN to pay damages to the victims and to provide the public health infrastructure for water and sanitation that is necessary to eventually get rid of cholera in Haiti, but so far the rest of the "human rights community" is strangely silent.

3) Because the names of the dead and the threat they were believed to pose are secret, it is impossible for anyone without access to U.S. intelligence to assess whether the deaths in CIA drone strikes in Pakistan were justified, the Washington Post reports. Even some outside experts who support the strikes and believe they are legal are uncomfortable with the Administration's secrecy and failure to specify its legal justification for the killings, the Post notes. Some State Department officials argue that the CIA's drone program in Pakistan is the primary cause of widespread anti-Americanism there.

4) Human Rights Watch calls on the US to end CIA drone attacks and transfer authority for them to the military, saying that the military has more transparent procedures than the CIA for investigating possible wrongdoing. Ending the CIA's command of targeted killing operations would be consistent with the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission and the recommendation of former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair, HRW notes.

5) US army prosecutors claim to have found email correspondence from Bradley Manning in which he expressed hope that publishing a file of hundreds of thousands of classified reports on Iraq and Afghanistan would prove "one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare," the Guardian reports.

6) Latin American leaders have joined together to condemn the U.S. and Europe for soaring drug violence in their countries, the Washington Post reports. The leaders are demanding that the US and Europe consider steps toward legalization if they do not curb their appetite for drugs. The complaints are not new but are remarkable for being nearly unanimous, the Post says.

Israel/Palestine
7) Fourteen frustrated members of the U.N. Security Council are pointing a finger at the US for blocking any condemnation of Israel's accelerated settlement construction in Palestinian territory, AP reports. In a move which Russia called historic, diplomats from all regional blocs represented on the council stepped to the microphone Tuesday to condemn the lack of progress toward a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While the US was not mentioned by name, their anger was clearly directed at Washington, AP says.

Egypt
8) Thousands of women marched through downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening to call for the end of military rule in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking a female demonstrator on the pavement of Tahrir Square, the New York Times reports. The event may have been the biggest women's demonstration in Egypt's history, and the most significant since a 1919 march led by pioneering Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi to protest British rule, the Times says. Secretary of State Clinton called the recent events in Egypt "shocking." "Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago," Clinton said. "Women are being attacked, stripped, and beaten in the streets," she added, arguing that "this systematic degradation" of Egyptian women "disgraces the state and its uniform."

Libya
9) Russia urged NATO on Monday to investigate civilian deaths in Libya from its bombing campaign, AP reports. Russia's U.N. "Unfortunately, NATO adopted the pure propaganda style, claiming zero civilian casualties in Libya which was completely implausible first of all and secondly not true," Ambassador Churkin said. Russia holds the council presidency this month and Churkin told reporters he will raise the issue of civilian casualties when it discusses Libya on Thursday.

Iran
10) Secretary of Defense Panetta says Iran could assemble a nuclear bomb in a year, should choose to do so, CBS reports. Panetta said he has no indication yet that the Iranians have made the decision to do so. Panetta said: if "we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it." [Thereby confirming yet again that the US has no such evidence, since it has taken no such action - JFP.]

Iraq
11) Iraq faced a dangerous political crisis as the Iraqi government ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice president, accusing him of running a death squad that assassinated police officers and government officials, the New York Times reports. The accusations against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi underlined fears that Iraq's leaders may now be using the very institutions America has spent millions of dollars trying to strengthen - the police, the courts, the media - as a cudgel to batter their political enemies and consolidate power.

Tunisia
12) Tunisia's newly elected president called Monday for the country's Jewish population to return, AP reports. During a meeting with the country's Grand Rabbi Haim Bittan, President Moncef Marzouki said Tunisia's Jews are full citizens and those that had left were welcome to return. His comments came after Israeli deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom called on the country's remaining Jews to emigrate to Israel. The Islamist Ennahda Party has stated that Jews in Tunisia are full citizens with full rights. A number of prominent Jews in Tunisia have rejected the Israeli call.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Pregnant Afghan woman's death in U.S.-led night raid sparks dispute
Laura King, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2011 | 8:28 am
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2011/12/afghan-pregnant-woman-dead-raid.html

Kabul, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai and NATO officials have clashed once again on the issue of nighttime raids by Western forces, this time over an incident that left a pregnant Afghan woman dead.

A spokesman for the NATO force, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, said Monday that the commander of Western troops in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, had met with Karzai over the weekend to express "deep condolences" over the woman's death in Paktia province.

The precise circumstances of the raid early Saturday remained unclear.

Afghan officials in Paktia's provincial capital, Gardez, said the woman was killed when U.S. and Afghan forces surrounded and then entered the home of the provincial head of counter-narcotics operations, an official named Hafizullah. He was arrested along with two of his sons, said Rohullah Samon, a spokesman for the Paktia governor.

The slain woman was Hafizullah's wife, who was eight months pregnant, Samon said, adding that four other female family members were injured.
[...]
Karzai and other senior Afghan officials have repeatedly denounced night raids. Most Afghans regard a home invasion by foreign troops as a grave cultural insult, and human rights groups say darkness and confusion -- and the attendant possibility of a firefight if those inside believe they are under attack by robbers or clan rivals -- pose a significant danger to civilians in raided residential compounds, including women and children.

Karzai has made a cessation of U.S.-led night raids a condition of a long-term military pact with Washington, a so-called strategic partnership agreement, which would govern the relationship between American troops and the Afghan government after 2014, when NATO's main combat mission is to end.

The issue has emerged as a key sticking point in negotiations, which have gone on for months.
[...]

2) UN Must Pay for Disaster It Caused in Haiti – and Stop Lying About It
Despite overwhelming evidence, the UN has still not taken responsibility for the cholera disaster in Haiti
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Tuesday 20 December 2011 16.15 EST
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/dec/20/united-nations-haiti-cholera

If an international agency brought a deadly disease to New York City that killed more people than the 9/11 attacks, what would be the consequences? Could they simply brush it off and have nobody hold them accountable for the damages? The answer is obviously no, and the same would be true for most of the countries in this hemisphere. But so far, it looks like they can get away with it in Haiti.

For some reason the "international community" thinks that it can get away with anything in Haiti. More than 7,000 Haitians have been killed since October 2010 by the deadly cholera bacteria that UN troops brought to Haiti in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in January that year.

More than 500,000 have been infected, and the disease – which Haiti has not had in more than a century – is now endemic to the country and will be killing people there for many years to come.

Last week, UN officials once again denied responsibility for the disaster, and were, in my view, publicly dishonest about the available scientific research – some of which was included in the UN's own report on the epidemic. On Thursday Nigel Fisher, the UN's Deputy Special Representative for Minustah said: "I think we all regret the breakout of this thing and I don't think the UN has ever denied the possibility [that it could have been at fault]." But he went on to say that describing the strain as Asian was "not helpful", telling the BBC:

"The cholera strain we have in Haiti is the same as the one they have in Latin America and Africa. They all derive from Bangladesh in the 1960s so they are all an Asian strain."

The Associated Press's reporter described that comment as "patently untrue", and the UN's own report (PDF) was definitive about the origin of the strain. "Overall, this basic bacteriological information indicates the Haitian isolates were similar to the Vibrio cholerae strains currently circulating in South Asia and parts of Africa, and not to strains isolated in the Gulf of Mexico [or] those found in other parts of Latin America ..."

So according to the UN's own research, Fisher was – at the very least – misleading. The evidence for the origin of the epidemic is overwhelming.
[...]
The UN's own study was clear: "The source of the Haiti cholera outbreak was due to contamination of the Meye Tributary of the Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae as a result of human activity." In other words, somebody dumped human fecal matter containing a deadly cholera bacteria from South Asia into one of the country's main sources of water for drinking and irrigation. Who might that be?

Suspect number one is the UN troop encampment from Nepal.
[...]
The most recent study confirms what was found in previous studies, for example, one published in the New England Journal of Medicine in January of this year. Harvard microbiologist John Mekalanos was a co-author of that article, and commented to Science Magazine on the most recent study comparing the Haitian and Nepalese strains of the bacteria:

"They're practically identical. This is as close as you can come to molecular proof" for the Nepalese link, says Harvard University microbiologist John Mekalanos, the author of the first genomic study on the issue, who had tried in vain to get his hands on samples from Nepal himself. "The authors have to be congratulated for closing the book on this issue at the molecular-genetic level."
[...]
Where are all the human rights organizations on this issue? Is the UN so sacrosanct, or perhaps influential, that nobody can state the obvious when an abuse of this horrific magnitude has been committed? So far one small, brave, and independent NGO – the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti – has announced it will pursue legal action to force the UN to pay for the damages.

Additionally, a Brazilian group – the Faculdade de Direito de Santa Maria – has filed a complaint with the OAS's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Perhaps even more important than compensation for the victims and their families, both groups are also demanding that the UN provide the public health infrastructure for water and sanitation that is necessary to eventually get rid of cholera in Haiti.

Everyone who cares about human rights in this hemisphere should join this effort to hold the UN accountable for this disaster.

3) Secrecy defines Obama's drone war
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, December 19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/secrecy-defines-obamas-drone-war/2011/10/28/gIQAPKNR5O_story.html

Since September, at least 60 people have died in 14 reported CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions. The Obama administration has named only one of the dead, hailing the elimination of Janbaz Zadran, a top official in the Haqqani insurgent network, as a counterterrorism victory.

The identities of the rest remain classified, as does the existence of the drone program itself. Because the names of the dead and the threat they were believed to pose are secret, it is impossible for anyone without access to U.S. intelligence to assess whether the deaths were justified.

The administration has said that its covert, targeted killings with remote-controlled aircraft in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and potentially beyond are proper under both domestic and international law. It has said that the targets are chosen under strict criteria, with rigorous internal oversight.

It has parried reports of collateral damage and the alleged killing of innocents by saying that drones, with their surveillance capabilities and precision missiles, result in far fewer mistakes than less sophisticated weapons.

Yet in carrying out hundreds of strikes over three years - resulting in an estimated 1,350 to 2,250 deaths in Pakistan - it has provided virtually no details to support those assertions.

In outlining its legal reasoning, the administration has cited broad congressional authorizations and presidential approvals, the international laws of war and the right to self-defense. But it has not offered the American public, uneasy allies or international authorities any specifics that would make it possible to judge how it is applying those laws.

The rapid expansion in the size and scope of the drone campaign as the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been winding down has led to increased criticism from human rights and international law experts, many of whom dispute the legal justification for the program.

The criticism has struck a chord inside an administration that prides itself on respect for international law, and it has intensified an internal debate over how much information can and should be revealed.

"Everybody knows we're using drones," said a senior U.S. official familiar with the program, one of several who agreed to discuss intelligence matters on the condition of anonymity. "On the other hand, we're doing it on a pretty systematic and standardized basis. Why don't we just say what those standards are?"

In Pakistan, at least 240 CIA drone strikes have been reported since 2009. The CIA and the U.S. military carried out strikes this year in Yemen and Somalia, with at least two U.S. citizens among those killed.

As armed drones become "an increasingly usual tool of war," said a second official, the public and U.S. allies have a right to ask "who makes these decisions. How are they made? Is there any sort of court or something that reviews them? Should there be?"

Even outside experts who believe the program is legal find the secrecy increasingly untenable. "I believe this is the right policy, but I don't think [the administration] understands the degree to which it looks way too discretionary," said American University law professor Kenneth Anderson.
[...]
Administration advocates of more openness about the drone program are in a minority. Many of them are in the State Department, where some officials argue that the CIA's drone program in Pakistan is the primary cause of widespread anti-Americanism.

The Pakistani government charges the United States is wantonly killing far more militant foot soldiers and civilians than senior insurgent leaders. With no independent access to the region by journalists or humanitarian organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, there is no way to verify the accuracy or effectiveness of the strikes.
[...]

4) US: End CIA Drone Attacks
Demonstrate 'Targeted Killings' Adhere to International Law
Human Rights Watch, December 19, 2011
http://www.hrw.org/news/2011/12/19/us-end-cia-drone-attacks

Washington, DC – The US government should transfer Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) command of aerial drone strikes to the armed forces and clarify its legal rationale for targeted killings, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to President Barack Obama and in a questions and answers document. A dramatic increase in the use of CIA drone strikes underscores the need for the US to demonstrate that the CIA adheres to international legal requirements for accountability, Human Rights Watch said.

"CIA drone strikes have become an almost daily occurrence around the world, but little is known about who is killed and under what circumstances," said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. "So long as the US resists public accountability for CIA drone strikes, the agency should not be conducting targeted killings."
[...]
"Unsupported claims by administration officials that all US agencies involved in targeted killings are complying with international law are wholly inadequate," Ross said. "By failing to adopt policies and practices that demonstrate compliance with international law, the US raises doubts among its allies about the lawfulness of its actions and creates a dangerous model for abusive governments."

Since the US has not demonstrated a readiness to hold the CIA to international legal requirements, the use of drones for attacks should be exclusively within the command responsibility of the US armed forces, Human Rights Watch said. The military has more transparent procedures for investigating possible wrongdoing, although it too needs to make clear that it is conducting attacks in accordance with international legal requirements.

Ending the CIA's command of targeted killing operations would be consistent with the recommendations of the independent 9/11 Commission, which in 2004 specifically urged that "[l]ead responsibility for directing and executing paramilitary operations, whether clandestine or covert, should shift to the Defense Department." In November, former director of national intelligence Dennis Blair called for military control over the armed drone program, noting that the armed forces have an open set of procedures, while CIA operations require secrecy, which is not sustainable over the long term: "If something has been going for a long period of time, somebody else ought to do it, not intelligence agencies."
[...]

5) Prosecutors claim Bradley Manning wanted to remove 'the fog of war'
Dominic Rushe and Matt Williams, Guardian, Monday 19 December 2011 17.34 EST
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/dec/19/bradley-manning-emails-wikilieaks-julian-assange

Fort Meade - US army prosecutors claim to have found email correspondence between alleged WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning and Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing website.

Manning is said to have expressed hope in an email to Assange that publishing a file of hundreds of thousands of classified reports on Iraq and Afghanistan would prove "one of the more significant documents of our time, removing the fog of war and revealing the true nature of 21st century asymmetrical warfare".
[...]

6) Latin American leaders assail U.S. drug 'market'
William Booth, Washington Post, December 19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/latin-american-leaders-assail-us-drug-market/2011/12/16/gIQAjyy63O_story.html

Mexico City - Latin American leaders have joined together to condemn the U.S. government for soaring drug violence in their countries, blaming the United States for the transnational cartels that have grown rich and powerful smuggling dope north and guns south.
[...]
With transit countries facing some of the highest homicide rates in the world, so great is the frustration that the leaders are demanding that the United States and Europe consider steps toward legalization if they do not curb their appetite for drugs.

At a regional summit this month in Mexico, attended by the leaders of 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries, officials declared that "the authorities in consumer countries should explore all possible alternatives to eliminate exorbitant profits of criminals, including regulatory or market options."

"Market options" is diplomatic code for decriminalization.

The complaints are not exactly new but are remarkable for being nearly unanimous. The critique comes from sitting presidents left to right, from persistent U.S. antagonists such as President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, and from close U.S. allies such as President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, which has received almost $9 billion in aid to fight the cartels.

The criticism has been bolstered by opinion leaders in the region, including the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, who called for the legalization of marijuana and an overhaul of U.S. thinking on the 40-year drug war, which has cost a trillion dollars by some estimates but has done little to reduce supply and demand.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
7) UN members point finger at US for refusing to condemn Israeli settlement building
Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press, Tuesday, December 20, 3:28 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/un-members-point-finger-at-us-for-refusing-to-condemn-israeli-settlement-building/2011/12/20/gIQAnkJY7O_story.html

United Nations - Fourteen frustrated members of the U.N. Security Council are pointing a finger at the United States for blocking any condemnation of Israel's accelerated settlement construction in Palestinian territory.

In a move which Russia called historic, diplomats from all regional blocs represented on the council stepped to the microphone Tuesday to condemn the lack of progress toward a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While the United States was not mentioned by name, their anger was clearly directed at Washington which vetoed a resolution in February backed by the 14 other council members that would have demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building.
[...]

Egypt
8) Mass March by Cairo Women in Protest Over Soldiers' Abuse
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, December 20, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/21/world/middleeast/violence-enters-5th-day-as-egyptian-general-blames-protesters.html

Cairo - Thousands of women marched through downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening to call for the end of military rule in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking a female demonstrator on the pavement of Tahrir Square.

"Drag me, strip me, my brothers' blood will cover me!" they chanted. "Where is the field marshal?" they demanded, referring to Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council holding onto power here. "The girls of Egypt are here."

The event may have been the biggest women's demonstration in Egypt's history, and the most significant since a 1919 march led by pioneering Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi to protest British rule. The scale was stunning, and utterly unexpected in this strictly patriarchal society. Previous attempts to organize women's events in Tahrir Square this year have either fizzled or, in at least one case, ended in the physical harassment of the handful of women who did turn out.

The women's chants were evidently heard at military headquarters as well. On Tuesday evening, the ruling military council offered an abrupt apology.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its utmost sorrow for the great women of Egypt, for the violations that took place during the recent events," the council said in a statement. "It stresses its great appreciation for the women of Egypt and for their right to protest and to actively, positively participate in political life on the path of democratic transition."

Although no one in the military has been publicly investigated or charged in connection with any misconduct, the statement asserted that the council had already taken "all the legal actions to hold whoever is responsible accountable."

On the fifth of day of clashes between demonstrators and military police, the outpouring of women represented a stark shift for a protest movement that has often seemed to degenerate to crowds of young men trading volleys of rocks with riot police. It comes at a moment when many protesters were beginning to despair that they were losing a propaganda war against the military rulers' attempts to portray them as vandals and arsonists out to ruin the country.

Just two hours before the women massed, a coalition of liberal and human rights groups unveiled a plan to try to break state media's grip on public opinion by holding screenings around the country of video capturing recent military abuses. Groups of soldiers have been recorded beating prone demonstrators with clubs, firing rifles and handguns as they chased protestors, and more than one version of soldiers stripping female demonstrators.

In the most famous of those, a half dozen soldiers beating a woman with batons rip away her abaya to reveal her blue bra before one plants his boot on her chest. Fearful of the stigma that would come with her public humiliation, she has declined to step forward publicly, but the images of "blue bra girl" have been circulated over the Internet and broadcast by television stations around the world.

In Washington on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton alluded to the episode when she called the recent events in Egypt "shocking."

"Women are being beaten and humiliated in the same streets where they risked their lives for the revolution only a few short months ago," Mrs. Clinton said. "Women are being attacked, stripped, and beaten in the streets," she added, arguing that "this systematic degradation of Egyptian women "disgraces the state and its uniform."
[...]

Libya
9) Russia Urges NATO To Probe Libyan Deaths
Associated Press, December 19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/russia-urges-nato-to-investigate-civilian-deaths-in-libya-from-its-bombing-campaign/2011/12/19/gIQARW7T5O_story.html

United Nations - Russia urged NATO on Monday to investigate civilian deaths in Libya from its bombing campaign, saying the alliance's claim that there were no civilian casualties is untrue.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he has been asking NATO to give "a definitive report" to the U.N. Security Council summing up its activities in Libya. But he said "unfortunately" the alliance only provided "piecemeal, rather perfunctory reports... (that) were not very informative."

Russia holds the council presidency this month and Churkin told reporters he will raise the issue of civilian casualties when it discusses Libya on Thursday.
[...]
"Unfortunately, NATO adopted the pure propaganda style, claiming zero civilian casualties in Libya which was completely implausible first of all and secondly not true," Churkin said.

He said it was "cruel and cynical" for people whose houses were destroyed, whose relatives were killed or injured, and who are suffering from stigma because their neighbors suspect they were bombed because they were Gadhafi sympathizers, "to be told that actually nothing of this kind happened."

He said he was sure the United Nations could provide help in thoroughly investigating civilian casualties from NATO aerial bombing if the alliance "is reluctant to do it on their own."
[...]

Iran
10) Panetta: Iran will not be allowed nukes
Scott Pelley, CBS, December 19, 2011 7:19 PM
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18563_162-57345322/panetta-iran-will-not-be-allowed-nukes/

The U.S. Secretary of Defense said Monday night that Iran will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. In an interview, Leon Panetta, said despite the efforts to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program, the Iranians have reached a point where they can assemble a bomb in a year or potentially less.
[...]
Pelley: So are you saying that Iran can have a nuclear weapon in 2012?

Panetta: It would probably be about a year before they can do it. Perhaps a little less. But one proviso, Scott, is if they have a hidden facility somewhere in Iran that may be enriching fuel.
[...]
Pelley: If the Israelis decide to launch a military strike to prevent that weapon from being built, what sort of complications does that raise for you?

Panetta: Well, we share the same common concern. The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it.

Pelley: You just said if we have to do it we will come and do it. What is it?

Panetta: If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.
[...]
Panetta also told CBS News that while Iran needs a year or less to assemble a weapon, he has no indication yet that the Iranians have made the decision to go ahead.

Iraq
11) Arrest Order For Sunni Leader In Iraq Opens New Rift
Jack Healy, New York Times, December 19, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/world/middleeast/iraqi-government-accuses-top-official-in-assassinations.html

Baghdad - A day after the United States withdrew its last combat troops, Iraq faced a dangerous political crisis Monday as the Shiite-dominated government ordered the arrest of the Sunni vice president, accusing him of running a death squad that assassinated police officers and government officials.

The sensational charges drew a worried response from Washington and brought Iraq's tenuous partnership government to the edge of collapse. A major Sunni-backed political coalition said its ministers would walk off their jobs, leaving adrift agencies that handle Iraq's finances, schools and agriculture.

The accusations against Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi also underlined fears that Iraq's leaders may now be using the very institutions America has spent millions of dollars trying to strengthen - the police, the courts, the media - as a cudgel to batter their political enemies and consolidate power.

On Monday night, Mr. Hashimi was in the northern semiautonomous region of Kurdistan, beyond the reach of security forces controlled by Baghdad. It was unclear when - or if - he would return to Baghdad.

In Washington, where officials have been quietly celebrating the end of the war, Obama administration officials sounded alarmed about the arrest order for Mr. Hashimi. "We are talking to all of the parties and expressed our concern regarding these developments," said Tommy Vietor, the National Security Council spokesman. "We are urging all sides to work to resolve differences peacefully and through dialogue, in a manner consistent with the rule of law and the democratic political process."
[...]

Tunisia
12) Tunisia's newly elected president calls for country's Jewish population to return
Associated Press, December 19
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/africa/tunisias-newly-elected-president-calls-for-countrys-jewish-population-to-return/2011/12/19/gIQAU6t44O_story.html

Tunis, Tunisia - Tunisia's newly elected president called Monday for the country's Jewish population to return, in statements carried by the state news agency.

During a meeting with the country's Grand Rabbi Haim Bittan, President Moncef Marzouki said that Tunisia's Jews are full citizens and those that had left were welcome to return. His comments come almost two weeks after Israeli deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom called on the country's remaining Jews to emigrate to Israel.

Tunisia presently has a Jewish population of 1,500, but in the 1960s there were 100,000. Most left following the 1967 war between Israel and Arab countries, and Socialist economic policies adopted by the government in the late 1960s also drove many Jewish business owners out of the country.

Most now live on the resort island of Djerba, near the country's border with Libya.
[...]
The rise of Islamists prompted Shalom - during a Dec. 6 memorial ceremony for Tunisian Jews who died in the Holocaust- to call on Tunisia's Jews to flee the country for the safety of Israel.

The Islamist Ennahda Party has stated that Jews in Tunisia are full citizens with full rights. A number of prominent Jews in the country have rejected Shalom's call.

-

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