JFP 1/16: NPR denies "fomenting war with Iran"; PBS Ombud denies PBS "dishonest"
Just Foreign Policy News, January 16, 2012
NPR denies "fomenting war with Iran"; PBS Ombud denies PBS "dishonest"
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Martin Luther King Jr.: "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"
"I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government."
NPR Ombudsman: "Is NPR Fomenting A War With Iran? No."
Shorter NPR: first of all, we never said Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, Iran _is_ trying to develop a nuclear weapon, so there.
PBS Ombudsman: A FAIR Catch But UnFAIR Conclusion
PBS Ombud says it was a "good catch" to note that PBS NewsHour edited Panetta's remarks to remove the words: "Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No." But the Ombud says calling the editing dishonest "goes too far."
FAIR's criticism: PBS's Dishonest Iran Edit
Steve Coll: Looking For Mullah Omar
Some Western officials think negotiations blessed by Mullah Omar are crucial to ending the war in Afghanistan.
Mark Perry: 'Israel, if you want to be welcome in U.S., don't pull this kind of crap'
Dimi Reider of +972 talks to journalist Mark Perry about his article in Foreign Policy alleging that Mossad agents posed as CIA agents to recruit Jundullah terrorists.
A call from Gaza fishermen
"Do not forget Palestinian fishermen who are prevented from fishing beyond the unilaterally imposed Israeli limit of 3 nautical miles and whose life is constantly under threat from the Israeli Naval Forces. We are waiting for you to lift the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and its seawaters and to force Israel to respect international legal obligations."
Kathy Kelly: Big Shoulders in Chicago and Kabul: Get Ready for NATO in May
Carl Sandburg: "Who would guess what it cost to move two buttons one inch on the war map?"
Parody: Fake Rick Santorum vows to nuke Iowa, a hotbed for terrorists
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1) U.S. leaders are increasingly concerned Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran over U.S. objections and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict, the Wall Street Journal reports. President Obama, Defense Secretary Panetta and other top officials have delivered a string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike.
The U.S. military is preparing for a number of possible responses to an Israeli strike, including assaults by pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the Journal says. Panetta and other top officials have privately sought assurances from Israeli leaders in recent weeks that they won't take military action against Iran. But the Israeli response has been noncommittal, U.S. officials said.
2) Israel and the U.S. have postponed a massive joint defense exercise, which was expected to be carried out in the coming weeks, in order to avoid an escalation with Iran, Haaretz reports. According to an Israeli defense official, the U.S. wants to avoid causing further tensions in the region, after various reports in the international media that the U.S. and Israel are preparing to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
3) Analysts say that what began as a US-led carrot-and-stick policy designed to goad Iran into dropping any aspirations of developing nuclear weapons has turned into a purely punitive approach that leaves Iranian leaders little reason to cooperate, Scott Peterson reports in the Christian Science Monitor. "They have very few tools in their tool kit right now, and in a sense we have pushed them into a corner with sanctions," says Anoushiravan Ehteshami, an Iran specialist at Durham University in England. The stage appears set for a highly volatile year, as both the U.S. and Iran prepare for important elections, Peterson writes.
4) After two rounds of talks in October 2009, the Obama Administration appears to have abandoned diplomacy with Iran in favor of confrontation, writes Trita Parsi in the Washington Post. Parsi notes that after the U.S. gave up on diplomacy with Iran, Brazil and Turkey succeeded in getting Iran to agree to the nuclear fuel swap proposal that the U.S. had made, which the U.S. then rejected.
Parsi suggests a renewed diplomatic push, emulating Brazil and Turkey's success by patient and sustained diplomacy that would tacitly accept Iran's right to enrich uranium.
5) European governments have decided in principle to impose an oil embargo on Iran but plan to delay its implementation for six months or more, the Washington Post reports. Greece, Italy and Spain - the three E.U. countries that are particularly dependent on Iranian oil imports - would be exempted from the embargo for even longer than six months.
[The Post article claims "European officials have said the embargo is a necessary step to persuade Iran to open up for IAEA inspections," and that "Iran's recent announcement of the start of operations at a second, underground nuclear refinement plant..., according to Western experts, increases the likelihood that the government will soon be able to produce nuclear weapons," even though Iran's nuclear program, including the Fordo facility, is under IAEA inspection, as the IAEA confirmed to Bloomberg: "All nuclear material in the facility remains under the agency's containment and surveillance." http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-01-10/iran-says-work-at-fortified-enrichment-site-supervised-by-iaea.html.
To urge the Washington Post not to imply in its reporting that Iran's nuclear facilities are not under IAEA inspection, you can write to them here:
7) Iran has starkly warned Gulf states not to make up for any shortfall in its oil exports under new US and EU sanctions, adding yet another layer of peril to the international showdown over its nuclear program, AFP reports.
8) To understand the gap between U.S. criticism and Israeli self-congratulation over the killing of an Iranian scientist, you have to ask the questions that Israelis avoid, writes Avner Cohen in Haaretz. Do such killings do real damage to Iran's nuclear program? What could be the negative results of the assassination policy? Is it right to create a situation in which scientists become pawns in a war of assassinations and counter-assassinations?
9) Two weeks after Egyptian military authorities promised NGOs would be allowed to reopen their offices and that their property would be returned, their offices remain closed, their computers have not been returned, and their staff are still being summoned for interviews with prosecutors who say that they are conducting a criminal investigation, writes the Washington Post in an editorial. At a minimum, any Egyptian government that continues these policies ought to be denied military aid, the Post says. That's why it is fortunate that Congress, over the administration's objections, conditioned the 2012 funding for Egypt on a certification that the government was carrying out a democratic transition. Such a certification ought to be impossible until all the NGOs are allowed to reopen and harassment of their Egyptian partners ceases, the Post says.
10) Leaders of Bahrain's opposition say reform measures announced by the King fall short of opposition demands for constitutional monarchy, the New York Times reports. The measures announced by U.S.-backed King Hamad would give Parliament the right to approve cabinets proposed by the Sunni Muslim monarchy and grant legislators authority to question and remove cabinet ministers. But opposition leaders said Parliament would still not have the power to question or dismiss the King's appointed prime minister.
1) U.S. Warns Israel on Strike
Officials Lobby Against Attack on Iran as Military Leaders Bolster Defenses
Adam Entous, Julian E. Barnes and Jay Solomon, Wall Street Journal, January 14, 2012
Washington - U.S. defense leaders are increasingly concerned that Israel is preparing to take military action against Iran, over U.S. objections, and have stepped up contingency planning to safeguard U.S. facilities in the region in case of a conflict.
President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top officials have delivered a string of private messages to Israeli leaders warning about the dire consequences of a strike. The U.S. wants Israel to give more time for the effects of sanctions and other measures intended to force Iran to abandon its perceived efforts to build nuclear weapons.
Stepping up the pressure, Mr. Obama spoke by telephone on Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will meet with Israeli military officials in Tel Aviv next week.
The high-stakes planning and diplomacy comes as U.S. officials warn Tehran, including through what administration officials described Friday as direct messages to Iran's leaders, against provocative actions.
Tehran has warned that it could retaliate to tightened sanctions by blocking oil trade through the Strait of Hormuz. On Thursday, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to punish the perpetrators of the assassination-blamed by Iran on the U.S. and Israel-of an Iranian scientist involved in the nuclear program.
The U.S. denied the charge and condemned the attack. Israel hasn't commented.
Insults, taunts and threats between Israel and Iran have been heating up in recent months:
The U.S. and Iran, however, have taken steps in recent days apparently designed to ease tensions. Iran has agreed to host a delegation of United Nations nuclear inspectors this month.
The U.S. military is preparing for a number of possible responses to an Israeli strike, including assaults by pro-Iranian Shiite militias in Iraq against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, according to U.S. officials.
The U.S. believes its embassy and other diplomatic outposts in Iraq are more vulnerable following the withdrawal of U.S. forces last month. Up to 15,000 U.S. diplomats, federal employees and contractors are expected to remain in Iraq.
In large measure to deter Iran, the U.S. has 15,000 troops in Kuwait, and has moved a second aircraft carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf area.
It has also been pre-positioning aircraft and other military equipment, officials say. Arms transfers to key allies in the Gulf, including the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have been fast-tracked as a further deterrent, officials say.
Mr. Panetta and other top officials have privately sought assurances from Israeli leaders in recent weeks that they won't take military action against Iran. But the Israeli response has been noncommittal, U.S. officials said.
U.S. officials briefed on the military's planning said concern has mounted over the past two years that Israel may strike Iran. But rising tensions with Iran and recent changes at Iranian nuclear sites have ratcheted up the level of U.S. alarm.
The planned closing of Israel's nuclear plant near Dimona this month, which was reported in Israeli media, sounded alarms in Washington, where officials feared it meant Israel was repositioning its own nuclear assets to safeguard them against a potential Iranian counterstrike.
Despite the close relationship between the U.S. and Israel, U.S. officials have consistently puzzled over Israeli intentions. "It's hard to know what's bluster and what's not with the Israelis," said a former U.S. official.
Inside the Israeli security establishment, a sort of good cop, bad cop routine, in which Israeli officials rattle sabers amid a U.S. scramble to restrain them, has assumed its own name: "Hold Me Back."
Some American intelligence officials complain that Israel represents a blind spot in U.S. intelligence, which devotes little resources to Israel. Some officials have long argued that, given the potential for Israel to drag the U.S. into potentially explosive situations, the U.S. should devote more resources to divining Israel's true intentions.
2) 'Israel and U.S. postpone massive defense drill in fear of escalation with Iran'
Israeli defense officials tell Channel 2 that Washington wants to avoid causing further tensions in region after various foreign reports of U.S. and Israeli preparations for strike on Iran.
Haaretz/DPA, 15.01.12, 20:30
Israel and the United States have postponed a massive joint defense exercise, which was expected to be carried out in the coming weeks, in order to avoid an escalation with Iran, Channel 2 reported on Sunday.
According to an Israeli defense official, Washington wants to avoid causing further tensions in the region, especially in light of the sensitive situation that has been generated after various reports in the international media that the U.S. and Israel are preparing to strike Iran's nuclear facilities.
The drill, codenamed Austere Challenge 12, was supposed to simulate the missiles fired by Iran or other antagonistic states toward Israel. Defense officials told Channel 2 on Sunday that the drill is now scheduled to take place in the summer.
Both Israeli and U.S. officials said the exercise would be the largest-ever joint drill by the two countries, involving thousands of U.S. soldiers.
3) How Iranian Nuclear Scientist's Assassination Will Affect Tehran's Strategy
In Iran's eyes, the assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist is proof that the West's carrot-and-stick policy has become solely punitive – giving Tehran little reason to compromise.
Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, January 13, 2012
Istanbul, Turkey - With Wednesday's assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist – widely seen as the latest strike in a broader covert war – and impending sanctions targeting Iran's oil industry, tensions between the Islamic Republic and the West have escalated to their highest pitch in years.
The assassins remain unknown, but Iran is vowing to strike back against the US and Israel for the killing of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan.
Iran's hard-line Kayhan newspaper stated that retaliation is "legal under international law," and that "assassination of Israeli officials and military members are achievable. One Iranian intelligence official was quoted by the hard-line Rajanews warning that "Iran's reactions will extend beyond the borders [of Iran] and beyond the region."
The fevered rhetoric is further proof, analysts say, that what began as a US-led carrot-and-stick policy designed to goad Iran into dropping any aspirations of developing nuclear weapons has turned into a purely punitive approach that leaves Iranian leaders little reason to cooperate.
"They have very few tools in their tool kit right now, and in a sense we have pushed them into a corner with sanctions," says Anoushiravan Ehteshami, an Iran specialist at Durham University in England.
"So what else do [Iranian leaders] have to lose? If they retaliate, they can change the game a bit, and that's what they are doing," says Mr. Ehteshami. "Of course, when you start changing the game a bit, you don't quite control how much you change. You can unleash all kinds of forces."
Indeed, the stage appears set for a highly volatile year, as both the United States and Iran prepare for important elections, Tehran faces key decisions on its nuclear program, and an Iranian-American convicted of spying sits on death row in Iran.
"There is a danger: You can actually talk war into happening," says Ehteshami, coauthor of "Iran and the Rise of its Neoconservatives."
This year is full of uncertainties that are shaping the agenda, he says. Iran's March parliamentary election – the first since the 2009 presidential election that sparked mass protests, has been described by some as the "most important" since the 1979 Islamic revolution.
And in the US presidential election, where being tough on Iran is a no-lose policy, Republican candidates are openly talking of war. "It is how these have come together in such an unfortunate fashion," says Ehteshami, "that makes the situation very volatile and dangerous."
4) How About We Really Talk To The Iranians?
Trita Parsi, Washington Post, January 13
Just 13 minutes into his presidency, Barack Obama indirectly reached out to Iran in his inaugural address, offering America's hand of friendship if Tehran would unclench its fist. After eight years of the George W. Bush administration's ideological contempt for diplomacy with America's foes, it was a bold move born out of necessity, not desire.
But Obama's diplomacy has fallen short. After two rounds of talks in October 2009, in which Tehran refused to accept a U.S. confidence-building measure to exchange its low-enriched uranium in return for fuel for a medical research reactor, the sanctions track was activated. Ever since, Iran and the United States have been on a confrontational path. Washington has imposed unprecedented economic sanctions and isolated Iran politically. In turn, the Iranians have threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, amassed more low-enriched uranium and begun enrichment at a facility deep underground.
Rather than resolving the nuclear issue, Iran and the United States are inching closer to a military confrontation. But war is not inevitable. Diplomacy, which the Obama administration prematurely abandoned, can still succeed.
"Our Iran diplomacy was a gamble on a single roll of the dice," a senior State Department official told me in 2010. In short, it either had to work right away or not at all. In fact, six months after the U.S. talks collapsed, Turkey and Brazil secured a version of the fuel swap that Obama had sought.
Fearing that the failure of the U.S. talks would eventually lead to war, Turkey and Brazil stepped in to persuade Iran to accept the American benchmarks for the fuel swap. To the surprise of many in the White House, Turkey and Brazil succeeded.
But by then, it was too late. The Obama administration was already on the path to sanctions. Brazil and Turkey felt snubbed, temporarily chilling their relations with Washington. (Brazil has since turned its focus to other issues, but Turkey is still involved as an occasional mediator with Iran.)
Instead of continuing toward a war the U.S. military doesn't want, we should double down on diplomacy, in part by emulating Turkey and Brazil's efforts. In light of news reports this past week that Iran would be open to talks later this month with the P5+1 negotiating group - China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the United States - here are five ways we can learn from Turkey and Brazil's interactions with Iran.
Negotiating whether Iran can enrich uranium has been a losing proposition from the outset. There is a greater chance for success if the focus is shifted toward how enrichment can be inspected, verified, limited and controlled. This would require a clear acceptance of enrichment in Iran - a step the West has refused. In Amorim's assessment, his success in getting Iran to agree to the fuel swap was largely because the deal tacitly accepted enrichment on Iranian soil.
"Iran would never agree to anything, any kind of arrangement that would in theory or in practice deprive them of the right to enrich uranium," [Defense Minister Celso Amorim, Brazil's foreign minister during the negotiations] told me in 2010.
Sustained, persistent diplomacy remains untested between the United States and Iran. It is superior to war and sanctions for the simple fact that, if successful, it not only could prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, but the reduced tensions would lessen Iran's demand for nuclear deterrence. War and sanctions may limit Iran's nuclear capabilities, but at the expense of increasing Iran's desire to have those capabilities. At some point, the desire will overcome these obstacles.
One simply cannot threaten or sanction a country into a sense of security.
5) E.U. commits in principle to Iran oil embargo
Edward Cody, Washington Post, January 13
Paris - European governments have decided in principle to impose an oil embargo on Iran but plan to delay its implementation for six months or more so that vulnerable countries can arrange for alternate supplies, according to European diplomats.
The agreement, reached at a meeting of European Union ambassadors Thursday in Brussels, has to be confirmed in European capitals and ratified by foreign ministers at a meeting scheduled for Jan. 23. It is designed to dilute the painful effects of an oil embargo for Europeans while seeking to maintain the gesture's political impact.
The United States has been trying to build worldwide agreement on reducing or halting Iranian oil exports, which amount to an estimated 450,000 barrels a day. The goal is to pressure Iran into opening its nuclear development program to meaningful inspection by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Under the agreement, Greece, Italy and Spain - the three E.U. countries that are particularly dependent on Iranian oil imports - would be exempted from the embargo for even longer than six months, the diplomats said.
Greece, Italy and Spain account for almost all European oil imports from Iran, with Greece counting on Iran for 22 percent of its imports, Spain almost 10 percent and Italy 13 percent. By comparison, France, which pushed for an immediate implementation of the embargo, buys less than 4 percent of its oil from Iran.
Iranian Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi threatened last month to close off the Strait of Hormuz, through which more than 20 percent of the world's petroleum supplies pass, if the U.S.-promoted embargo succeeds in choking off oil exports from the increasingly isolated Islamic republic.
Halting oil imports from Iran would be particularly painful for the heavily indebted Greek government, which gets much of its Iranian oil on easy credit terms. Italy also would be hard-pressed to do without Iranian oil, because much of its import quota comes in the form of repayment of debts contracted earlier by the Iranian government.
European officials have said the embargo is a necessary step to persuade Iran to open up for IAEA inspections and reassure the world about its nuclear program. This is considered particularly urgent since Iran's recent announcement of the start of operations at a second, underground nuclear refinement plant that, according to Western experts, increases the likelihood that the government will soon be able to produce nuclear weapons.
[Iran's nuclear facilities, including the new Fordo facility, *are already under* IAEA inspection. If the Washington Post doesn't think those inspections are good enough, it should say so and say why. But it can't imply that there are no inspections at all. And the claim that enrichment at Fordow "increases the likelihood that the government will soon be able to produce nuclear weapons," given that Fordo is under IAEA inspection, can't be attributed to an anonymous paraphrase of "Western experts" - JFP.]
6) Iran Warns Gulf States Not To Make Up Oil Shortfall
Farhad Pouladi, AFP, January 15, 2012
Iran has starkly warned Gulf states not to make up for any shortfall in its oil exports under new US and EU sanctions, adding yet another layer of peril to the international showdown over its nuclear programme.
If Arab neighbours compensate for a looming EU ban on Iranian imports, "we would not consider these actions to be friendly," Iran's representative to OPEC, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, was quoted as saying by the Sharq newspaper on Sunday.
"They will be held responsible for what happens" in that case, he said, adding ominously: "One cannot predict the consequences."
7) What if the Iranians start killing scientists?
The next phase of the assassination war is liable to turn international scientific conferences into arenas of assassination.
Avner Cohen, Haaretz, 16.01.12 02:47
[Cohen is a professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, at California's Monterey Institute of International Studies]
Israel's official response to news of the assassination last week of Iranian nuclear scientist Mustafa Ahmadi Roshan was a deafening silence. The unofficial response was a wink. The day before, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, grinning slightly, spoke about "unnatural events" that were delaying Iran's nuclear program. The Israeli self-congratulation was obvious.
The Israeli public did not question the wisdom of assassinating the Iranian scientists. In Israeli culture, which sanctifies security, such questions are seen as treason. If the hit was successful - the scientist was eliminated and the assassins disappeared - you don't ask questions.
But U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted on calling a spade a spade: She categorically denied all U.S. involvement in the latest assassination and even declared that the United States emphatically opposed the assassination of scientists. Her announcement was received with shock and even dismay in Israel. Where is the wisdom in making this kind of public statement, some asked; and in any event, it's hypocritical in light of the fact that President Barack Obama has killed more terrorists using unmanned aerial vehicles than his predecessors.
In order to understand the American criticism of the hits on the scientists, one must ask the questions that Israelis avoid: Do such killings do real damage to Iran's nuclear program? What could be the negative results of the assassination policy? Is it right to create a situation in which scientists (first nuclear scientists and then perhaps scientists in general and senior officials ) become pawns in a war of assassinations and counter-assassinations?
Regarding efficacy, we know that Iran's nuclear program, based in Natanz, is an enormous project employing hundreds of scientists and thousand of technicians. It is hard to imagine that taking out a single scientist, however skilled and high-ranking, could damage the entire project enough to cause a significant delay. The project has long since passed the point where the fate of any one individual could affect it.
Not only will killing individuals fail to significantly delay the project or cause its leaders to dial back their political and strategic goals, it will almost certainly have the opposite effect: It will only add to Iran's determination to carry on. And to keep their scientists from becoming demoralized, the Iranians will do everything possible to make good on their promise of revenge.
If there are assassinations on one side, it must be assumed that there will be assassination attempts on the other side too. If Iranian scientists are not immune, then neither are scientists from the countries suspected of carrying out the assassinations. While Iranian officials had previously pointedly refrained from accusing any particular country, within hours of the attack this time, the government in Tehran and the Iranian media named Israel and the United States as the responsible parties, and promised revenge.
Israel may have rejoiced at the news of the hit, but let's consider how senior members of Israel's scientific community, especially the nuclear scientists, would view the assassination of scientists on the faculties of well-known academic institutions. (Most of the senior scientists in Iran's nuclear program also have academic posts. ) They would probably have reservations about the wisdom of expanding the shadow war to the scientific community.
Anyone who legitimizes the assassination of scientists in Tehran jeopardizes the personal security of scientists on the other side. The next phase of the assassination war is liable to turn international scientific conferences into arenas of assassination.
It is entirely possible that the damage caused by the assassinations far outweigh the benefits they bring.
8) Harassment in Egypt
Editorial, Washington Post, January 15
On Dec. 29, Egyptian security forces and troops launched an unprecedented raid on 17 offices of American and U.S.-funded civil-society groups, including stalwarts of democracy promotion such as the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute and Freedom House. Computers and other equipment were confiscated, and local staff members were issued summons for interrogation. Egyptian officials seeded local media with stories that portrayed the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) as part of an international conspiracy to interfere in the country's politics.
[There is certainly plenty of room to dispute the Post's glowing characterization of these US-financed "NGOs," given some of their past activities - e.g., the IRI's role in overthrowing democracy in Haiti - but it is nonetheless noteworthy - and praiseworthy - that the Post continues to take a hard line against the abuses of the Egyptian military regime, and to insist that U.S. military aid to Egypt should be conditioned on ending abuses - JFP.]
To its credit, the Obama administration reacted quickly. The State Department publicly condemned the raids and called on the government "to immediately end the harassment of NGO staff, return all property and resolve this issue immediately." U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta got on the phone to senior officials; the next day officials said that Mr. Panetta had been assured by the head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, that the groups would be allowed to reopen their offices and their property would be returned.
Two weeks later, however, the U.S. NGO offices as well as those of several Egyptian groups remain closed. Their computers have not been returned, and staff members are still being summoned for interviews with prosecutors who say that they are conducting a criminal investigation. In short, the Egyptian government is openly flouting the administration's demand for a quick reversal of its harassment.
U.S. officials say that they are still pressing the issue hard. But in public, the administration's rhetoric has been softening. On Jan. 2, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, "It is frankly unacceptable to us that the situation has not been returned to normal."
Ten days later, the matter was still unresolved after Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with Mr. Tantawi. Said Mr. Burns: "We are hopeful for a quick and fair resolution, and we will keep working at this." Egyptian authorities are insisting that the NGOs register under laws passed but never enforced by the deposed authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak, which would allow the government to control funding.
The significance of this dispute is difficult to overstate. U.S. funding for pro-democracy NGOs in Egypt - about $40 million this year - pales beside the $1 .2 billion set aside for the Egyptian military. But the aid is vital to nurturing a free political system - and to countering the huge flow of money from Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states to Islamist groups.
The officials campaigning against U.S. groups and funding, such as International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga, a Mubarak regime holdover, are trying to preserve their own powers by demonizing liberal civil-society groups and the United States.
At a minimum, any Egyptian government that follows Ms. Aboul Naga's policies ought to be denied military aid. That's why it is fortunate that Congress, over the administration's objections, conditioned the 2012 funding for Egypt on a certification that the government was carrying out a democratic transition. Such a certification ought to be impossible until all the NGOs are allowed to reopen and harassment of their Egyptian partners ceases. Administration officials say they accept that; let's hope that, through tough words or softer ones, Egyptian authorities are getting the message.
9) Bahrain Opposition Says King's Measures Fall Short
Nada Bakri, Washington Post, January 15, 2012
Beirut, Lebanon - Bahrain's king on Sunday announced constitutional amendments that will give the elected Parliament greater powers of scrutiny over the government, but the concessions fell short of the opposition's demands for change.
The move by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa came nearly a year after long-simmering dissent in Bahrain, an important American ally in the Persian Gulf, erupted against the monarchy. A sweeping crackdown that polarized the country managed to end most of the protests, though the riot police and demonstrators still clash almost daily.
In a nationally televised address, King Hamad said that the new measures had emerged from the national dialogue that he organized last year to try, at least symbolically, to bridge the gulf between the government and the opposition. The amendments will give Parliament the right to approve cabinets proposed by the Sunni Muslim monarchy and will grant legislators authority to question and remove cabinet ministers.
Since 1971, the cabinet in Bahrain has been led by the king's uncle, Prince Khalifa bin Sulman al-Khalifa, the world's longest-serving unelected prime minister and a figure deeply resented by the opposition. Under the new amendments, opposition leaders said, Parliament would still not have the power to question or dismiss the prime minister himself. A consultative council appointed by the king also limits the power of legislators.
The king's speech follows the release of a report by a panel of respected international jurists in November. Led by M. Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-American law professor, the panel recommended sweeping changes, which the government has said it will pursue.
The opposition praised parts of the report, but it has dismissed the government's response, saying that it has not addressed the deeper political imbalance in a country divided, in the simplest terms, between the Sunni monarchy and a Shiite Muslim majority.
Opposition leaders had a similar response on Sunday, saying that the king's amendments did not reflect their demands for establishing a full constitutional monarchy.
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