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JFP 1/25: Shift in New York Times reporting on Iran's nuclear program?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 25 January 2012 - 7:28pm
Just Foreign Policy News, January 25, 2012
Shift in the New York Times reporting on Iran's nuclear program?
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Shift in the New York Times reporting on Iran's nuclear program?
"One swallow does not a summer make." But compare:
"Western politicians believe Iran is building a nuclear weapons *capability*, but the government in Tehran insists that its nuclear program is for civilian uses only."
- "Europe and U.S. Tighten Vise of Sanctions on Iran,"
Stephen Castle and Alan Cowell, New York Times, January 23, 2012
"Israel and the United States both say that Iran is pursuing the building of nuclear *weapons* - an assertion denied by Tehran - but they have had differing views on how aggressive the pursuit has been and what should be done about it."
- "U.S. General Visits Israel for Discussions on Iran"
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, January 19, 2012
We will continue to monitor. Thanks to everyone who has written in to the Times to complain about its coverage of Iran's nuclear program.
*Action: Tell Congress - Don't Sabotage the Afghan Peace Talks
Romney slams the President for talking to the Taliban. Reuters says some in Congress want to block President Obama from transferring Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo in a bid to spur peace talks. Urge Congress to support - not sabotage - efforts to start peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan.
RT: US and Iran on a collision course?
Just Foreign Policy talks to RT about the hype around Iran's nuclear program, the danger of war, and the prospects for a diplomatic solution.
Christian Science Monitor: Imminent Iran nuclear threat? A timeline of warnings since 1979
Breathless predictions that the Islamic Republic will soon be at the brink of nuclear capability, or – worse – acquire an actual nuclear bomb, are not new. For more than quarter of a century Western officials have claimed repeatedly that Iran is close to joining the nuclear club. Such a result is always declared "unacceptable" and a possible reason for military action, with "all options on the table" to prevent upsetting the Mideast strategic balance dominated by the US and Israel. And yet, those predictions have time and again come and gone. This chronicle of past predictions lends historical perspective to today's rhetoric about Iran.
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Romney Budget Proposals Would Require Massive Cuts in Nondefense Programs
Romney's proposals to cap total spending, boost military spending, cut taxes, and balance the budget would require extraordinarily large cuts in nondefense programs. If policymakers cut all nondefense programs by the same percentage, the cuts would measure 21 percent in 2016 and 36 percent in 2021. If policymakers exempted Social Security from the cuts and then cut all other nondefense programs by the same percentage, the cuts would rise to 30 percent in 2016 and 54 percent in 2021.
Help Support Our Advocacy for Peace and Diplomacy
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1) The EU decided no further oil contracts could be struck between the member states and Iran while existing oil delivery deals would be allowed to run until July, the Guardian reports. The impact of the embargo on countries such as Greece is to be reviewed in May. Senior EU officials concede that the move could be risky and send oil prices rocketing at a time of extreme economic difficulty in the west, the Guardian says.
2) Israel and France continue to insist on zero enrichment in Iran as part of any diplomatic solution, but many believe compromise is unlikely on those terms, writes Tony Karon for Time.
The Israelis and their supporters on Capitol Hill have pressed Obama to hold the line, Karon writes. In 2010, Secretary of State Clinton told the BBC a diplomatic solution would include Iran's exercising its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes once it "restored the confidence of the international community." In response, an influential group of U.S. Senators wrote to Obama demanding that the U.S. "make clear that [Iran] cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future," warning that they would strongly oppose any diplomatic outcome in which Iran was permitted to continue enriching uranium.
3) Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney breezily advocate war with Iran without ever having to explain what their support for the Iraq War says about their judgment on matters of war and peace, writes Peter Beinart for the Daily Beast. The media should make them explain what they've learned from being wrong and why we should trust their eagerness to bomb Iran.
4) The Pentagon will preview a budget proposal this week that begins to implement $487 billion in spending cuts [from previously projected growth - JFP] over the next decade by trimming the size of the military and canceling or scaling back some weapons programs, Reuters reports. The proposed budget will terminate or scale back spending on dozens of weapons programs, including the Air Force's high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane built by Northrop Grumman Corp and the Pentagon's biggest weapons program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
5) Israeli authorities ordered the speaker of the Palestinian parliament jailed for six months without trial, the Washington Post reports. Aziz Dweik, a senior Hamas official, was issued a six-month "administrative detention" order on unspecified security grounds. Hamas accused Israel of trying to undermine a reconciliation agreement with Fatah that includes a resumption of parliamentary sessions.
6) Several U.S. and European officials say the most attainable outcome for the West could be for Iran to maintain the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon while stopping short of doing so, the New York Times reports. A senior intelligence official briefed Obama on Jan. 9 about new polls in Iran that reflect strong public support for the country's nuclear program, the NYT says. U.S. officials admit tougher sanctions and increased global isolation might compel Iran to decide that the only way to get the West off its back is to speed up its program and become a nuclear power, the NYT says.
7) Iran is not doing anything that violates its legal right to develop nuclear technology, writes nuclear physicist Yousaf Butt for Foreign Policy. Under the NPT, it is not illegal for a member state to have a nuclear weapons capability. Argentina, Brazil, and Japan could break out of the NPT and make a nuclear device in a few months, if not less. Like Iran, Argentina and Brazil do not permit full "Additional Protocol" IAEA inspections. The real legal red line, specified in the IAEA's "Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements," is the diversion of nuclear materials to a weapons program. Under the NPT, there is nothing illegal about stockpiling low-enriched uranium.
8) Some democracy protesters in Bahrain are starting to say that peaceful protest might not be sufficient to win their democratic rights from the U.S.-backed regime, the New York Times reports. Until recently, Ayatollah Issa Qassim, Bahrain's most influential Shiite cleric, preached peaceful protest, but last Friday his language changed. Criticizing police violence against female protesters, he said the police who attacked women could be attacked in return. Some Shiite youth would take that as broad approval for violence against security forces, the report suggests.
9) Iraqis were outraged but not surprised to learn that the Marine considered the ringleader of a 2005 massacre that left 24 of their countrymen dead in 2005 avoided any jail time, the New York Times reports.
10) Human Rights Watch says the U.S. fails to enforce human rights conditions imposed on aid to Colombia, according to Colombia Reports. "Thirty percent of US military aid is subject to human rights conditions, which the US Department of State has not enforced," HRW said. The report also criticized the U.S. for failing to "address the paramilitary successor groups believed to be responsible for a large portion of anti-union violence," as promised in the April 2011 Labor Action Plan. Improving labor rights was a condition for Democrats to support the Colombia trade agreement.
11) The director of a leading Colombian think tank which monitors Colombia's illegal paramilitary groups said the groups continue to enjoy the protection of elements of the state, writes Colombia Reports.
12) HRW says Mexico's security forces enjoy impunity when they commit abuses, EFE reports. "There exists absolute impunity in Mexico for the military," HRW said. Among the human rights violations committed by the armed forces are killings, torture and forced disappearances.
1) EU agrees Iranian oil embargo
Foreign ministers' deal in Brussels could lead to soaring fuel prices and Iran closing the strait of Hormuz
Ian Traynor, Guardian, Monday 23 January 2012 05.35 EST http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jan/23/eu-ambassadors-iranian-oil-embargo
Brussels - The long-running standoff between Iran and the west over Tehran's nuclear programme has shifted into a more unpredictable phase after Europe decided to impose an oil embargo on the Islamic republic.
The EU decided no further oil contracts could be struck between the member states and Iran while existing oil delivery deals would be allowed to run until July.
Several countries shared reservations about the move, EU diplomats said. Greece was the trickiest problem since it imports a lot of Iranian oil on very favourable conditions. Given the financial collapse in Greece, it was in a difficult position and sought compensating measures from the rest of the EU. The impact of the embargo on countries such as Greece is to be reviewed in May.
Iran is Opec's second biggest oil producer after Saudi Arabia, and about 20% of its oil exports go to Europe. It has threatened to close the strait of Hormuz waterway if the oil embargo goes ahead, a move that would choke off global oil supplies and send international tensions soaring.
The oil embargo represents a leap in the sanctions regime against Iran, following four earlier rounds of escalating penalties.
Senior EU officials also concede that the move could be risky and send oil prices rocketing at a time of extreme economic difficulty in the west.
2) Can Obama and Iran Talk Their Way Out of War?,
Tony Karon, Time, January 23, 2012
Despite the deafening racket of the mass-media drums of war, neither President Obama nor the Pentagon has an appetite for a confrontation with Iran that could unleash havoc across the Middle East and would at best simply delay Tehran's acquisition of nuclear weapons. Yet although U.S. intelligence believes Iran has not yet taken a decision to build weapons, the nation has shown no inclination to halt its nuclear development despite facing an unprecedented array of sanctions. In an election year in which Obama's opponents paint him as weak in the face of an Iranian menace they routinely exaggerate, and in the face of a continued Israeli threat to unilaterally initiate hostilities, the President finds his options narrowing. Monday's formal adoption by the European Union of an embargo on Iranian oil tightens the screws of what Tehran views as a campaign of economic warfare by Western powers. At the same time, however, the Administration appears once again to be turning its attention to the vexing question of finding a diplomatic solution to the standoff.
Negotiations are clearly on the minds of both sides. "Consensus can only be reached through serious negotiations based on a cooperative approach and not via the wrong path of sanctions," said Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast on Saturday, Jan. 21. And Obama, in an interview with TIME's Fareed Zakaria last week, stressed that sanctions are designed to urge Iran to take "a diplomatic path where they forgo nuclear weapons, abide by international rules and can have peaceful nuclear power as other countries do, subject to the restrictions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty."
A diplomatic solution, Obama told TIME, requires not only that the Iranians disavow nuclear weapons - which, of course, they have done - but also that Iran say, "We won't stockpile material that can be used for weapons." By this, Obama said he meant stockpiling uranium that could be transformed into weapons-grade. That's where things get tricky: having "peaceful nuclear power as other countries do, subject to the restrictions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty" doesn't preclude stockpiling uranium enriched to levels used in civilian nuclear reactors (as Iran is currently doing), even though such material could potentially be reprocessed into weapons-grade material. That's a right all signatories to the NPT enjoy, putting their nuclear activities under the scrutiny of the IAEA. While Iran has been ordered to suspend enrichment until it satisfies concerns raised by the IAEA over its previous nuclear work, much of which was conducted in secret, its current enrichment activities occur under IAEA monitoring. It is under orders to suspend that work, but its right to enrich uranium once it has satisfied transparency requirements is not in question by the U.N.
Before Iran mastered the technology of enrichment, the Bush Administration, France and Israel insisted that it could not be allowed to enrich uranium on its own soil and should instead buy reactor fuel from abroad. But uranium enrichment became a "fact on the ground" in Iran in 2006 and has steadily expanded ever since despite sanctions and Security Council resolutions. Israel and France continue to insist on zero enrichment in Iran as part of any diplomatic solution, but many believe compromise is unlikely on those terms. When the Obama Administration took office, some key foreign policy players, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Senate Foreign Relations committee chairman John Kerry, warned that the zero-enrichment demand was untenable and that the focus instead should be on strengthening guarantees against weaponization.
But the Israelis in particular and their supporters on Capitol Hill have pressed Obama to hold the line. Late in 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a BBC interviewer that a diplomatic solution would include Iran's exercising its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes once it "restored the confidence of the international community" that its program had no military objective. In response, an influential group of U.S. Senators wrote to Obama demanding that the U.S. "make clear that, given the government of Iran's patterns of deception and noncooperation, its government cannot be permitted to maintain any enrichment or reprocessing activities on its territory for the foreseeable future," warning that they would strongly oppose any diplomatic outcome in which Iran was permitted to continue enriching uranium.
As Iran analyst Trita Parsi has noted, "The Obama administration has left this issue vague, neither rejecting nor accepting this red line. Israel fears that in a final agreement, the Obama White House would accept enrichment in Iran, a fear fueled by the administration's attempt to exchange Iranian low enriched uranium for fuel pads for a research reactor in Tehran earlier in 2009. Both France and Israel argued that the deal would legitimize Iranian enrichment. In Israel's view, Obama has made America's red lines flexible and unreliable."
Yahoo! diplomatic correspondent Laura Rozen reported last week that insiders were suggesting that Western powers will measure Iran's "seriousness" in the coming talks by its willingness to halt enrichment of uranium to 20% and turn over its existing stockpile of uranium that has been enriched to that level. (That material is substantially closer to bomb-grade, but Iran has been enriching to that grade ostensibly to provide fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor, whose need to create medical isotopes was the basis of the previous fuel-swap offer.) In exchange, reported Rozen, Western powers would agree to refrain from passing another Security Council sanctions resolution.
It doesn't take a clairvoyant to see that Iran is highly unlikely to accept a deal under which it gives Western powers something they want but that leaves the latest, most damaging sanctions on Iran's oil exports still in place, instead simply holding off on another round of U.N. sanctions - which are far less painful and which the Western powers are unable to persuade Russia and China to substantially tighten. While Iran may have begun enriching to 20% both to master the technological challenges of enriching to higher degrees (which any bomb program would require) and to create a bargaining chip that could be played in future talks, it's unlikely to trade it for something so insubstantial. Iran's leaders insist on the legitimacy of their enrichment of uranium, and it was the proposal to send a substantial proportion of a stockpile that Iran had suffered so much (by way of sanctions and covert warfare) in order to create that was used by opponents across the political spectrum to shoot down the deal championed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in late 2009.
The negotiating strategy on each side mimics the other, if anything, adding new pressures ahead of any talks to get a stronger hand. The Iranians are leaving little doubt that they would expect an easing of sanctions in exchange for concessions on 20% enrichment, but easing sanctions may be difficult for Obama in an election year, particularly if Israel is sharply opposed - and it has been skeptical of such deals throughout the process.
3) Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and GOP Forget Iraq Mistake in Push for Iran War
Peter Beinart, Newsweek/Daily Beast, January 23, 2012
Gingrich, Romney and Santorum pushed for the Iraq War. Now the media should make them explain what they've learned from being wrong and why we should trust their eagerness to bomb Iran.
Newt Gingrich thinks that because CNN's John King asked about his personal life last week, the "elite, liberal media" is out to get Republican presidential candidates. Nonsense. If journalists really wanted to make Gingrich and his fellow GOP frontrunners squirm, they'd ask why they supported the war in Iraq.
It's no secret that American political culture often suffers from amnesia. Still, there's something amazing about the fact that Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney can breezily advocate war with Iran without ever having to explain what their support for the Iraq War says about their judgment on matters of war and peace.
In a debate last November, Gingrich said that if other methods fail, "you have to take whatever steps are necessary to break its [the Iranian government's] capacity to have a nuclear weapon." He's also promised to nominate as his secretary of state former Bush administration United Nations ambassador John Bolton, a man who has said that the only remaining "option is to take preemptive military action to break Iran's program."
This is the same Gingrich who soon after Sept. 11 said that "if we don't use this as the moment to replace Saddam after we replace the Taliban, we are setting the stage for disaster." In 2003, Gingrich lauded Donald Rumsfeld while declaring that the lesson of the Iraq War was that the State Department-the one institution whose intelligence agency warned that Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction-had failed.
And let's not forget Mitt Romney, who last November argued that if sanctions and covert action fail, "then of course you take military action" against Iran. In 2008, he said, just as glibly, that "It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now."
Those questions are particularly important because, despite the myriad differences between invading Iraq and bombing Iran, the debate over the latter echoes the debate over the former in one crucial way. In 2002 and 2003, it was generals and career foreign policy professionals-people like Eric Shinseki, Anthony Zinni, Richard Clarke and Joe Wilson-who came out most strongly against war. They were drowned out by a group of hawkish politicians, political appointees and commentators who insisted that the threat from Iraq was much greater than the soldiers and spooks understood, and that invading Iraq would prove much easier.
The extraordinary thing about today's Iran debate is that being wrong about Iraq has barely undermined the hawks' influence at all. In 2012, as in 2002, Republicans are driving the political discussion, and in 2012, as in 2002, Democrats are petrified about being seen as too soft. Once again the media, which did not cover itself with glory in the run-up to Iraq, bears part of the blame. To allow Gingrich, Santorum and Romney to saber-rattle on Iran, as they have in debate after debate, without forcing them to confront the consequences of their saber-rattling on Iraq, is professional malpractice. If I were John King-or his equivalent on another network-I'd force Gingrich to answer that question in every foreign-policy segment of every debate. Let's see Newt demagogue his way out of that one.
4) Pentagon Budget To Cut Military, Cancel Programs
David Alexander and Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters, Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:43am EST
Washington - The Pentagon will preview a budget proposal this week that begins to implement $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade by trimming the size of the military and canceling or scaling back some weapons programs.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will discuss the broad outlines of his budget request for the 2013 fiscal year on Thursday. The proposal is expected to cut $260 billion in spending through 2017, taking the Pentagon more than halfway to its target for the decade.
The specifics of the Pentagon spending plan will not be formally released until President Barack Obama unveils his budget in February, but some details have begun to emerge from sources familiar with the discussions.
Cuts in proposed spending are expected to eliminate thousands of military and civilian jobs over the next five years at a time when Obama is running for re-election against a field of Republicans who accuse him of being weak on national security.
In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama underscored his commitment to maintaining the "finest military in the world," even as the Pentagon cuts nearly half a trillion dollars from its budget.
The proposed budget will terminate or scale back spending on dozens of weapons programs, including the Air Force's high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned surveillance plane built by Northrop Grumman Corp and the Pentagon's biggest weapons program, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, built by Lockheed Martin Corp.
But it will not tackle some $600 billion in additional spending cuts due to take effect in January 2013 after lawmakers failed to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit-cutting measures.
Officials say they will revisit the issue and address those cuts later if Congress does not take action this year.
The Pentagon's base budget is expected to be about $523 billion, some $5 billion more than approved in December for the 2012 fiscal year but $30 billion less than initially planned. The Pentagon is expected to seek about $82.5 billion for the war in Afghanistan, about $33 billion less than 2012 largely due to a drawdown in troops.
5) Israel jails Palestinian parliament speaker
Joel Greenberg, Washington Post, January 24
Jerusalem - Israeli authorities on Tuesday ordered the speaker of the Palestinian parliament jailed for six months without trial, in the latest of several detentions in recent days of lawmakers from the militant Islamic group Hamas.
Aziz Dweik, a senior Hamas official, was arrested at an army checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah last Thursday, and on Tuesday he was issued a six-month "administrative detention" order on unspecified security grounds, according to his attorney.
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli troops arrested another Hamas legislator, Abdel Jaber Fukaha, at his home in Ramallah.
On Monday, two Hamas lawmakers, Mohammed Totah and Khaled Abu Arafa, were arrested in East Jerusalem at a compound of the International Committee of the Red Cross, where they had taken refuge a year and a half ago after Israel revoked their residence in the city. Another lawmaker, Khaled Tafesh, was arrested Friday at his home near Bethlehem.
Hamas accused Israel of trying to undermine a reconciliation agreement with the rival Palestinian faction Fatah that includes a resumption of parliamentary sessions. The Palestinian legislature has been inactive since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after a brief civil war with Fatah.
6) Sanctions Against Iran Grow Tighter, But What's The Next Step?
Helene Cooper, New York Times, January 24, 2012
Washington - As the Obama administration and its European allies toughened economic sanctions against Iran on Monday - blocking its access to the world financial system and undermining its critical oil and gas industry - officials on both sides of the Atlantic acknowledge that their last-ditch effort has only a limited chance of persuading Tehran to abandon what the West fears is its pursuit of nuclear weapons.
That leaves open this critical question: And then what?
While the United States and Israel have not taken military options off the table, pursuing them is unpalatable, at least for now. Several American and European officials say privately that the most attainable outcome for the West could be for Iran to maintain the knowledge and technology necessary to build a nuclear weapon while stopping short of doing so.
So far, Iran has deliberately not taken certain technical steps toward building a nuclear weapon, even while it continues to enrich uranium, a senior American official said. He said that Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was using a cost-benefit analysis, adding that the American view was that the ayatollah had not made a final decision about whether to build a weapon.
That means the United States and Europe must be careful to calibrate the impact of sanctions, officials on both sides of the Atlantic said. If sanctions bite too hard, they could cause the Iranian public to rally around the government. A senior intelligence official briefed Mr. Obama on Jan. 9 about new polls in Iran that reflect strong public support for the country's nuclear program.
In debates at the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon, administration officials say they have gamed out several possibilities, including an alarming one: that tougher sanctions and increased global isolation might compel Iran to decide that the only way to get the West off its back is to speed up its program and become a nuclear power. That could leave the West with no choice but to back off, lest it provoke a nuclear confrontation.
Ray Takeyh, a former Obama administration official and an Iran expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, pointed to North Korea and Pakistan as guideposts for Iran's possible strategy in pressing ahead with a uranium enrichment program. Both are nuclear states whose stability the West is committed to keeping because of concerns that their nuclear arsenals might fall into the hands of rogue elements.
7) Stop the Madness
Despite all the hype, Iran's nuclear program has yet to violate international law. It's time to calm down, think, and above all halt the rush to war.
Yousaf Butt, Foreign Policy, January 19, 2012
[Butt is a nuclear physicist who serves as a scientific consultant for the Federation of American Scientists.]
Olli Heinonen is alarmed that Iran has begun producing 20 percent enriched uranium at a new, deeply buried site, and calculates that Iranian scientists could further purify the material to the 90 percent enrichment needed for a bomb in about six months' time. This prediction, however, is based on unsubstantiated assumptions regarding Iranian intentions, and only serves to provide ammunition for hawks in Washington that would rush the United States into another destructive war in the Middle East.
If Tehran enriched uranium to 90 percent, it would be forced to break its four decade-long adherence to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) -- a momentous step that would likely prompt swift military action from the United States or Israel. Furthermore, Heinonen fails to mention that, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, "All nuclear material in the facility remains under the Agency's containment and surveillance." The IAEA considers 20 percent enriched uranium to be low-enriched uranium and "a fully adequate isotopic barrier" to weaponization.
In reality, however, Iran is not doing anything that violates its legal right to develop nuclear technology. Under the NPT, it is not illegal for a member state to have a nuclear weapons capability -- or a "nuclear option." If a nation has a fully developed civilian nuclear sector -- which the NPT actually encourages -- it, by default, already has a fairly solid nuclear weapons capability. For example, like Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan also maintain a "nuclear option" -- they, too, could break out of the NPT and make a nuclear device in a few months, if not less. And like Iran, Argentina and Brazil also do not permit full "Additional Protocol" IAEA inspections.
The real legal red line, specified in the IAEA's "Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements," is the diversion of nuclear materials to a weapons program. However, multiple experts and official reports have affirmed over the years that they have no evidence that any such program exists.
There are many other explanations for Iran's uranium enrichment program other than that the country is embarking on a mad dash for nuclear weapons. The most objective reading of Iran's intention to stockpile more 20 percent enriched uranium than it needs for running its research reactor is that it may be preserving a "breakout" option to weaponize in the future, should it feel under threat. But the important point is that, under the NPT, there is nothing illegal about stockpiling low-enriched uranium. And whatever options and ambitions that Iranians leaders may hold in their heads, however worrying, cannot be illegal.
8) In Bahrain, Worries Grow of Violent Shiite-Sunni Confrontation
Souad Mekhennet, New York Times, January 25, 2012
Manama, Bahrain - Mohammed Ibrahim, 19, a Shiite student at the University of Bahrain, says he has gotten used to the tear gas the police use to disperse protests, which he and his friends attend every Friday.
Suspended for several months after the violent suppression of last year's pro-democracy movement, he recently was allowed back on campus. "They had suspended me because I participated in demonstrations on the campus and there had been fights with some Sunni students," Mr. Ibrahim said in an interview last week.
Now he is back in school, but the situation between Shiite students like him and Sunni students is very "tense," he said. "I don't think any longer that peaceful demonstrations are enough," he said. "I think we should fight the police back, when they attack us."
Mr. Ibrahim belongs to the 14th of February movement, a group that started with peaceful protests but that in recent weeks has seen some members calling on the Internet for violent protests to overthrow the government - and especially the ruling family.
He said he and other student activists were ready to fight with stones and Molotov cocktails. "We have to become strong, like some groups in Iraq who are defending the rights of Shiites," said his friend Salah, 22, who would only give his first name.
Each Friday, before heading to protests, Mr. Ibrahim, like many other young Shiites, drives to Diraz, a village on the northwest coast, to listen to the kingdom's most influential Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Issa Qassim.
Until recently, Ayatollah Qassim preached peaceful protest, but last Friday his language changed. Criticizing police violence against female protesters, he said the police who attacked women could be attacked in return.
"This is a really dangerous message to the government," said Habib al-Marzouk, who was present in the congregation. "He said, 'It is enough, we cannot sit silent and see how they are attacking our women."'
Mr. Marzouk said some Shiite youth would take that as broad approval for violence against security forces. A government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that since the speech some police officers had been heavily beaten.
Mutual distrust runs deep, people on both sides acknowledged in interviews. Ali Salman, the president of Al Wefaq, the main legal opposition group, said people would stop protesting only if they saw real changes. "We don't want the ruling family to step down," Mr. Salman said. "We want them to reign but to hand the power over to the people."
"Look at the Moroccan king - he did not ignore the voices of his people and has done the right steps," Mr. Salman said. "The problem is, we don't see such steps in Bahrain."
Wefaq's leaders say they are aware of the risk of growing radicalization among young Shiites after nearly a year of political stalemate. "We had incidents where some youths threw Molotov cocktails," Mr. Salam said. "We are trying to stop it, but there are some people who would not listen anymore."
Without concessions by the government, he said, "neither me nor Sheik Issa Qassim will be able to stop them."
9) Anger In Iraq After Plea Bargain Over 2005 Massacre
Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, January 24, 2012
Baghdad - Iraqis were outraged Tuesday to learn that the Marine considered the ringleader of a 2005 massacre that left 24 of their countrymen dead in 2005 was sentenced on Tuesday to a reduction in rank but avoided any jail time after pleading guilty the day before to a reduced charge.
"This is not new, and it's not new for the American courts that already did little about Abu Ghraib and other crimes in Iraq," said Khalid Salman, 45, whose cousin was killed by the Marines in the massacre, which occurred in the town of Haditha in November 2005.
For the past nine years, Iraqis have looked to the American legal system to provide justice for what they believe were war crimes committed by Americans, and most of the time, many say, they have been disappointed. This time was no exception.
The Marine, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich, 31, pleaded guilty on Monday in a military court in California to dereliction of duty, telling the judge that he regretted ordering his men to "shoot first, ask questions later," according to news agency reports.
Although the reduced charge carried a maximum sentence of three months in jail, which the military judge said he would have imposed, The Associated Press reported that as part of the plea deal, prosecutors had agreed that Sergeant Wuterich would receive no jail time.
10) US not enforcing human rights conditions tied to aid to Colombia: HRW
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, Sunday, 22 January 2012 11:49
The United States fails to enforce human rights conditions imposed on aid to Colombia, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sunday.
In its World Report 2012, the human rights organization stated that Washington "provided approximately US$562 million in aid, about 61 percent of which was military and police aid. Thirty percent of US military aid is subject to human rights conditions, which the US Department of State has not enforced."
The report also criticized the U.S. for failing to "address the paramilitary successor groups believed to be responsible for a large portion of anti-union violence," as promised in the April 2011 Labor Action Plan. Improving the situation of labor rights for Colombian workers was a condition for the Democrats to ratify the free trade agreement with the South American country.
The Prosecutor General's Office unit created to decrease impunity for labor rights-related crimes "has made virtually no progress in obtaining convictions for recent killings. Of the more than 195 trade unionist killings that have occurred since the sub-unit started operating in 2007, the special office had obtained convictions in only six cases as of May 2011. It had not obtained a single conviction for the more than 60 homicide attempts, 1,500 threats, and 420 forced displacements reported by the ENS during this period," said the report.
11) Colombia neo-paramilitary groups 'have protection of the state': Think tank
Charles Parkinson, Colombia Reports, Tuesday, 24 January 2012 19:19
Colombia's neo-paramilitary groups continue to enjoy the protection of elements of the state, the director of a leading think tank said Tuesday.
In an interview with Colombia Reports, Leon Valencia, director of Corporacion Nuevo Arco Iris, which monitors Colombia's illegal armed groups, said "it is impossible to exhibit such a degree of illegal activity without the protection of the security forces and without ties to politicians."
"The day the state as a whole is directed to pursue all of these people is the only time it can be over," he added.
12) HRW Rips Mexico for Rights Abuses by Military
EFE, January 23, 2012
Cairo – Mexico's security forces committed human rights violations and soldiers are enjoying immunity in those cases, a Human Rights Watch, or HRW, representative said Sunday during the presentation of its annual report in Cairo.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is using the military to fight drug traffickers and other organized crime groups, but the armed forces are not well-trained for police actions and enjoy impunity when they commit abuses, HRW Communications director Emma Daly said.
"We have figures that show that violence has increased horrifically in Mexico in recent years and that there is no system to judge the military in a way where there is justice," Daley said at the headquarters of the journalists' union in the Egyptian capital.
"There exists absolute impunity in Mexico for the military," who, with the system of military justice, are never brought to trial, which fosters the continuation of "abuses because there is no way to stop them," Daley said.
The efforts of the Mexican authorities to combat organized crime, according to the HRW report, have led to a significant increase in murders, torture and other abuses by the security forces, which are only making "the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country."
Among the human rights violations committed by the armed forces, according to the report, are killings, torture and forced disappearances.
One piece of proof that the soldiers who have committed human rights violations against civilians are not being brought to justice is, HRW says, the fact that the military prosecutor's office opened more than 3,600 investigations of these cases between 2007 and June 2011 but just 15 soldiers were convicted during that period.
The main people affected by those attacks are journalists, human rights defenders and migrants.
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