JFP 1/27- LibDems: mil cuts shld be 2X; Israel can't hit Iran nukes; Admin threats Egypt aid

Just Foreign Policy News, January 27, 2012
LibDems: mil cuts shld be 2X; Israel can't hit Iran nukes; Admin threats Egypt aid

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Go Straight to the News Summary in this Email

I) Actions and Featured Articles

*
Action: Urge Obama: In Iran Diplomacy, Go for a Feasible Deal Now
Few have hope that a diplomatic deal that would resolve all outstanding issues between the U.S. and Iran is politically feasible within the six month timeline envisioned by the sanctions passed by Congress, especially given that this is an election year. But a deal that would lower tensions and put off the most extreme sanctions may be possible. Join us in urging President Obama to pursue an interim deal to ease tensions with Iran.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/20percentdeal

*Action: Methodists consider selective divestment from Israeli occupation
"Aligning United Methodist Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine." There is a form for individuals and groups to endorse the resolution.
https://www.kairosresponse.org/The_Resolution.html

Tony Karon: Israel's Bombing Threat Helped Spur Iran Sanctions, How Will it Affect Iran Diplomacy?
Analysts agree that Israel doesn't have the military capacity to effectively attack Iran's nuclear program, but Israel does have the capacity to launch a raid that might provoke Iranian retaliation and therefore could draw the U.S. into war.
http://globalspin.blogs.time.com/2012/01/27/israels-bombing-threat-helped-spur-iran-sanctions-how-will-it-affect-iran-diplomacy

Robert Wright: Do Israeli Leaders *Really* Think Iran Is an Existential Threat?
Is the Ehud Barak depicted in Ronen Bergman's piece in Sunday's New York Times Magazine the same Ehud Barak who said in 2010: "I don't think the Iranians, even if they got the bomb, (would) drop it in the neighborhood. They fully understand what might follow. They are radical but not totally crazy. They have a quite sophisticated decision-making process, and they understand reality."
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/01/do-israeli-leaders-really-think-iran-is-an-existential-threat/252093/

Juan Cole: GOP Candidates Harm Israeli Security by Pushing for Impractical "Greater Israel"
A caller asked: "How would a Republican administration help bring peace to Palestine and Israel when most candidates barely recognize the existence of Palestine or its people? As a Palestinian-American Republican, I'm here to tell you we do exist."
http://www.juancole.com/2012/01/gop-candidates-harm-israeli-security-by-pushing-for-impractical-greater-israel.html

Barney Frank endorses Dennis Kucinich, citing need for military cuts
Frank: "we have been the most active in the House in arguing for a cause that is now getting the recognition it deserves - substantially reducing America's military activity across the world, far beyond what is needed for our own defense, so that we can reduce our deficit in a responsible way without inflicting severe cuts on things that improve the quality of our lives."
http://kucinich.us/congressman-barney-frank-dennis-kucinich-ohio%E2%80%99s-new-ninth

Steven Kull: Does the public favor military budget cuts?
The more people consider the trade-offs involved in spending and taxation - the more they act like policymakers - the more they favor military budget cuts.
http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/incl/printable_version.php?pnt=709

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II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Rep. Barney Frank and three other liberal Democrats said the White House should cut nearly twice the $487 billion by which it has committed to reducing the Pentagon's budget, The Hill reports. Reps. Barbara Lee, Rush Holt and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) signed the letter calling for deep spending cuts and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year. "We believe that savings of around $900 billion over the next 10 years can be realized … We ask you to take even bolder leadership on this issue as you finalize your budget," they wrote.

Reducing troops in Europe should be a "first step," the Democrats wrote, pointing to the Marine base in Okinawa, Japan, as another good example. The lawmakers also urged the president to reduce the "nuclear triad" of land, sea and air delivery systems to two.

2) Time Magazine reported a senior IDF commander has said Israel is unable to attack Iran's nuclear program in a meaningful way, Haaretz reports. According to the report, a senior IDF commander presented the Israeli cabinet with the assessment last fall. A defense official told Time Israel would only be able to push back Iran's nuclear program by several months to a year.

3) The Obama administration threatened publicly to withhold U.S. aid to the Egyptian military after Egypt confirmed it had barred at least a half-dozen Americans working for U.S. "democracy promotion" organizations from leaving the country, the New York Times reports. "This is out of control," Representative Frank Wolf said. "If the administration follows the law, there's no way they can continue the aid." Officials have said that current military funds will dry up by March.

4) Much of the press in the U.S. has attributed the increase in violence in Honduras solely to drug trafficking and gangs, writes Dana Frank in an op-ed in the New York Times. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression. The coup that the U.S. didn't stop and the fraudulent election that the U.S. accepted have allowed corruption to mushroom.

5) Elliot Abrams testified that U.S. officials knew Argentina's military regime was taking babies from dead or jailed dissidents during its "dirty war" against leftists in the 1970s, and it appeared to be a systematic effort, CBS reports. At the time, the U.S. government was "circumspect," CBS says. The Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo said Abrams' testimony showed how useful it would be for the U.S. to declassify all of its documents on the Argentine dictatorship. Abrams has said that he is also in favor of having relevant U.S. documents declassified for use by Argentina.

Libya
6) MSF said it has suspended work in prisons in Misrata because detainees are being tortured and denied urgent medical care, CBS reports. MSF said since August its medical teams have treated 115 people in Misrata who bore torture-related wounds, including cigarette burns, heavy bruising, bone fractures, tissue burns from electric shocks, and renal failure from beatings. Amnesty International has said several people have died from torture by militias in Libyan detention centers in Tripoli, Misrata, and Gheryan, the BBC reports.

Iran
7) Obama is catching heat for not doubling down on Iran and Afghanistan at the same time, but if he is wise he will heed Lincoln's advice to fight 'one war at a time,' writes former CIA analyst Bruce Riedel for the Daily Beast. A new military operation in Iran would divert resources from Afghanistan. Moreover, an American military operation against Iran would almost certainly prompt Iranian retaliation and Afghanistan would be particularly attractive target. The Kabul government would find itself in the middle between two friends. Pakistan will side with Iran at least rhetorically and diplomatically. It would see the American decision to go after Iranian nuclear sites as a clear warning that it could be next someday.

8) President Ahmadinejad said Iran is ready to revive talks with the U.S. and other world powers, AP reports. Ahmadinejad accused the West of claiming to seek talks but preferring failure as a way to further punish Iran with "economic warfare."

Israel/Palestine
9) Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore visited Gaza and renewed Ireland's call for a lifting of the blockade, AFP reports. "Ireland is completely opposed to the blockade," Gilmore said. "The blockade should be ended soon in order to allow the local economy to grow and ensure that people who live in Gaza can exercise their human rights: freedom of movement and travel."

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Liberal Democrats say Pentagon spending cuts should be doubled
Jeremy Herb, The Hill, 01/27/12 12:02 PM ET
http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/budget-approriations/207047-pentagon-cuts-arent-deep-enough-for-some-democrats

The White House should cut nearly twice the $487 billion by which it has committed to reducing the Pentagon's budget, said Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.) and three other liberal Democrats.

They said the planned cuts, announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, don't go nearly far enough to reduce the defense budget.

"The Cold War is long over, and no remotely comparable adversary has emerged or is likely to emerge," the Democrats wrote in a letter to Obama. "We believe that savings of around $900 billion over the next 10 years can be realized … We ask you to take even bolder leadership on this issue as you finalize your budget."

Besides Frank, Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.), Rush Holt (N.J.) and Lynn Woolsey (Calif.) signed on to the letter calling for deep spending cuts and the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan this year.

The Democrats' call for a smaller Pentagon budget stands in stark contrast to Republican howls Thursday that the new cuts threaten to hollow out the military.

The fight over Pentagon spending on both sides of the ledger is only going to amplify as the year progresses and the Pentagon faces a cut even larger than the four Democrats are asking for. Should the $500 billion through sequestration take effect in January 2013, total cuts would reach nearly $1 trillion.
[...]
In the Democrats' letter, they wrote that there's more meat on the bone to be trimmed further.

The group wrote that withdrawing this year from Afghanistan could save "hundreds of billions of dollars," and argued that keeping U.S. troops there until 2014 won't have much effect on the capability of the Afghan Security Forces, which are supposed to take over at that point.

The group wrote that between the drawdowns in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and the reductions of troops in Europe, the United States should be able "to reduce our 1.5 million member active-duty military by much more than the roughly 100,000 troops you have stated is your goal."

Reducing troops in Europe should be a "first step," the Democrats wrote, pointing to the Marine base in Okinawa, Japan, as another good example.

The lawmakers also urged the president to reduce the "nuclear triad" of land, sea and air delivery systems to two, an issue that has been hotly debated in anticipation of the budget cuts. Panetta announced Thursday that the United States will maintain all three systems, although there will be delay in the construction of a new nuclear submarine.

2) 'Senior IDF officer told cabinet Israel cannot stop Iran's nuclear program'
Time Magazine quotes Israeli defense official as saying that Israel can only delay Tehran's nuclear program by several months, at most a year.
Haaretz, 21:30 26.01.12
http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/senior-idf-officer-told-cabinet-israel-cannot-stop-iran-s-nuclear-program-1.409374

A senior Israel Defense Forces commander has said that Israel is unable to attack Iran's nuclear program in a meaningful way, Time Magazine reported on Thursday.

According to the report, which is quoting an Israeli defense official, a senior IDF commander presented the cabinet of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a gloomy assessment last fall.

"I informed the cabinet we have no ability to hit the Iranian nuclear program in a meaningful way," the official quoted the senior commander as saying. "If I get the order I will do it, but we don't have the ability to hit in a meaningful way."

The defense official told Time, that according to an estimate by the Atomic Energy Commission, Israel will only be able to push back Iran's nuclear program by several months to a year, after taking into account the wide geographic dispersion of Tehran's nuclear facilities and the limits of Israel's air force.
[...]

3) As Tensions Rise, Egypt Bars Exit Of Six Americans
Steven Lee Myers and David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, January 26, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/world/middleeast/egypt-bars-son-of-ray-lahood-from-leaving.html

Washington - Building tensions between the United States and Egypt flashed into the open Thursday when Cairo confirmed that it had barred at least a half-dozen Americans from leaving the country and the Obama administration threatened explicitly to withhold its annual aid to the Egyptian military.

The travel ban came to light on Thursday after the International Republican Institute, an American-backed democracy-building group, disclosed that the Egyptian authorities had stopped its Egypt director, Sam LaHood, at the Cairo airport on Saturday before he could board a flight to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Mr. LaHood is the son of Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation and a former Republican congressman from Illinois. He is one of six Americans working for the Republican Institute or its sister organization, the National Democratic Institute, whom Egypt has blocked from leaving as part of a politically charged criminal investigation into their activities.

Just a day before Mr. LaHood was detained temporarily, President Obama had warned Egypt's leader, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, that this year's American military aid hinged on satisfying new Congressional legislation requiring that Egypt's military government take tangible steps toward democracy, said three people briefed on the conversation.

Mr. Obama referred specifically to the criminal inquiry into several democracy-building groups with foreign financing, including the Republican Institute, the people who were briefed said, and he made clear that Egypt had not fulfilled the Congressional requirements, but Field Marshal Tantawi did not seem to believe him.

Then, after the travel ban on the Americans became public on Thursday, the administration made the warning public as well. "It is the prerogative of Congress to say that our future military aid is going to be conditioned on a democratic transition," Michael H. Posner, an assistant secretary of state responsible for human rights issues, said at a previously scheduled press conference in Cairo on Thursday.

Raids last month on nongovernmental organizations, along with respect for basic rights, he said, are "very much a part of that package." He said repeatedly that the military aid was now at stake and that the treatment of the American-backed groups had set off a Congressional outcry. "Obviously any action that creates tension with our government makes the whole package more difficult."

State Department officials said that it was the first time in three decades that American military aid to Egypt was at risk. That aid, $1.3 billion a year, has always been sacrosanct as the price the United States pays to preserve Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Though members of Congress have talked this year of imposing conditions on American aid to Egypt, the Obama administration had previously opposed the idea.

The White House negotiated intensely to allow the president the option of waiving the conditions, if necessary, in the name of national security. Now Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, is required to certify that Egypt is making democratic progress - carrying out "policies to protect freedom of expression, association and religion, and due process of law" - before releasing the aid this fiscal year.

Representative Frank R. Wolf, a Republican from Virginia who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, said the Egyptian government continued to flout American efforts and to undermine democratic rights. "This is out of control," Mr. Wolf said on Thursday. "If the administration follows the law, there's no way they can continue the aid."
[...]
Amr Roshdy, a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, said the travel restrictions were "a purely judicial process," imposed at the request of the attorney general. Told that the furor over the handling of the investigations could affect American aid to Egypt, he paused and then said, "Really?"

Since the fiscal year began in October, the United States has not provided any money, though portions of last year's budget are still in the pipeline. The administration has budgeted an additional $250 million in economic assistance, but that is not subject to the certification. All aid, however, is subject to a separate requirement that Egypt abide by the peace treaty with Israel. Officials have said that the current military funds will dry up by March.
[...]

4) In Honduras, a Mess Made in the U.S.
Dana Frank, New York Times, January 26, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/opinion/in-honduras-a-mess-helped-by-the-us.html

Santa Cruz, Calif - It's time to acknowledge the foreign policy disaster that American support for the Porfirio Lobo administration in Honduras has become. Ever since the June 28, 2009, coup that deposed Honduras's democratically elected president, José Manuel Zelaya, the country has been descending deeper into a human rights and security abyss. That abyss is in good part the State Department's making.

The headlines have been full of horror stories about Honduras. According to the United Nations, it now has the world's highest murder rate, and San Pedro Sula, its second city, is more dangerous than Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, a center for drug cartel violence.

Much of the press in the United States has attributed this violence solely to drug trafficking and gangs. But the coup was what threw open the doors to a huge increase in drug trafficking and violence, and it unleashed a continuing wave of state-sponsored repression.

The current government of President Lobo won power in a November 2009 election managed by the same figures who had initiated the coup. Most opposition candidates withdrew in protest, and all major international observers boycotted the election, except for the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, which are financed by the United States.

President Obama quickly recognized Mr. Lobo's victory, even when most of Latin America would not. Mr. Lobo's government is, in fact, a child of the coup. It retains most of the military figures who perpetrated the coup, and no one has gone to jail for starting it.

This chain of events - a coup that the United States didn't stop, a fraudulent election that it accepted - has now allowed corruption to mushroom. The judicial system hardly functions. Impunity reigns. At least 34 members of the opposition have disappeared or been killed, and more than 300 people have been killed by state security forces since the coup, according to the leading human rights organization Cofadeh. At least 13 journalists have been killed since Mr. Lobo took office, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The police in Tegucigalpa, the capital, are believed to have killed the son of Julieta Castellanos, the rector of the country's biggest university, along with a friend of his, on Oct. 22, 2011. Top police officials quickly admitted their suspects were police officers, but failed to immediately detain them. When prominent figures came forward to charge that the police are riddled with death squads and drug traffickers, the most famous accuser was a former police commissioner, Alfredo Landaverde. He was assassinated on Dec. 7. Only now has the government begun to make significant arrests of police officers.

State-sponsored repression continues. According to Cofadeh, at least 43 campesino activists participating in land struggles in the Aguán Valley have been killed in the past two and a half years at the hands of the police, the military and the private security army of Miguel Facussé. Mr. Facussé is mentioned in United States Embassy cables made public by WikiLeaks as the richest man in the country, a big supporter of the post-coup regime and owner of land used to transfer cocaine.

And yet, in early October, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Lobo at the White House for leadership in a "restoration of democratic practices." Since the coup the United States has maintained and in some areas increased military and police financing for Honduras and has been enlarging its military bases there, according to an analysis by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Congress, though, has finally begun to push back. Last May, 87 members signed a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calling for a suspension of military and police aid to Honduras. Representative Howard L. Berman of California, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to her on Nov. 28, asking whether the United States was arming a dangerous regime. And in December, Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and others obtained conditions on a small portion of the 2012 police and military aid appropriated for Honduras.

Why has the State Department thrown itself behind the Lobo administration despite brutal evidence of the regime's corruption? In part because it has caved in to the Cuban-American constituency of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Republican chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and her allies. They have been ferocious about Honduras as a first domino with which to push back against the line of center-left and leftist governments that have won elections in Latin America in the past 15 years. With its American air base, Honduras is also crucial to the United States' military strategy in Latin America.

As Honduras plunges into a tragic abyss, it's time to finally cut off all police and military aid. "Stop feeding the beast" is the way Ms. Castellanos, the academician whose son was killed, puts it.
[...]

5) Ex-diplomat: US knew about Argentina baby thefts
CBS News, January 27, 2012 6:25 AM
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57367249/ex-diplomat-us-knew-about-argentina-baby-thefts/

Buenos Aires, Argentina - A former U.S. diplomat testified Thursday that American officials knew Argentina's military regime was taking babies from dead or jailed dissidents during its "dirty war" against leftists in the 1970s, and it appeared to be a systematic effort at the time.

Elliot Abrams testified by videoconference from Washington in the trial of former dictators Jorge Videla and Reynaldo Bignone and other military and police figures accused of organizing the theft of babies from women who were detained and then executed in the 1976-1983 junta's torture centers.

Abrams said U.S. officials were aware that some children had been taken and then illegally adopted by families loyal to the regime.

"We knew that it wasn't just one or two children," Abrams testified. There must have been some sort of directive from a high level official, he suggested: "a plan, because there were many people who were being murdered or jailed."

"It was a very serious problem because these were children who were alive," Abrams added.

He said he suggested to the junta's ambassador to Washington, Lucio Alberto Garcia del Solar, that the dictatorship could improve its image by creating a process sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church to return the children to their rightful families. But he said the ambassador told him Bignone had spurned the idea.

The junta apparently saw the program as a way to prevent children from growing up "communist," Abrams said. Also, enabling loyal families who couldn't conceive to adopt the babies was seen as a blessing by the regime, he said.
[...]
The activist group Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo said Abrams' testimony shows how useful it would be for the United States to declassify all of its documents on the Argentine dictatorship, in particular the secret files of the CIA and the FBI. Doing so might provide information to help identify more of the illegally adopted children, it said.

Abrams had expected to be called to testify after his long-classified memo describing his secret meeting with the ambassador was made public in December at the request of the Grandmothers group, which has spent decades gathering evidence against the 1976-1983 military junta.

At the time of the "dirty war," the junta officially denied any knowledge of systematic baby thefts, let alone responsibility for the disappearances of political prisoners. In public, the U.S. government also was circumspect, even as the junta's death squads kidnapped and killed its opponents, eventually eliminating more than 13,000 purported subversives.

Asked about the case by The Associated Press last month, Abrams said through a spokeswoman that he, too, was "in favor of having relevant U.S. documents declassified" for use by Argentina.

Libya
6) Aid group quits Libyan prisons over torture
CBS News, January 26, 2012 11:47 AM
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-202_162-57366772/aid-group-quits-libyan-prisons-over-torture/

Benghazi, Libya - The medical aid group Doctors Without Borders said Thursday it has suspended its work in prisons in the Libyan city of Misrata because it said detainees are being tortured and denied urgent medical care.

Additionally, Amnesty International has said several people have died from torture by militias in Libyan detention centers in Tripoli, Misrata, and Gheryan, the BBC reports.

"The torture is being carried out by officially recognized military and security entities as well as by a multitude of armed militias operating outside any legal framework," a spokesman for London-based Amnesty told the BBC.

Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name Medecins Sans Frontieres, said that since August its medical teams have treated 115 people in Misrata who bore torture-related wounds, including cigarette burns, heavy bruising, bone fractures, tissue burns from electric shocks, and renal failure from beatings. Two detainees died after being interrogated, the group's director general said.

"Patients were brought to us in the middle of interrogation for medical care, in order to make them fit for further interrogation. This is unacceptable," MSF general director Christopher Stokes said in a statement. "Our role is to provide medical care to war casualties and sick detainees, not to repeatedly treat the same patients between torture sessions."

There was no immediate response from Libyan authorities, but the allegations were an embarrassment for the country's new leaders, who have promised to respect human rights and end the rampant abuses of the Qaddafi regime.
[...]
"They need to ensure a zero tolerance policy on abuse. We are concerned about these reports and are taking the up with the Libyans as a matter of urgency," British Prime Minister David Cameron's office said in a statement.

Stokes told The Associated Press that those subjected to torture include ex-combatants and people accused of theft and looting. "There is a significant number of people with darker skin, but there is really a wide mix," he said. "Whatever the motives, it is unacceptable to do this to human beings."

He said most of the cases date from the past three months, but that two detainees died after beatings in October and November. He said his group is not in charge of autopsies and couldn't determine what was the immediate cause of the death.

The interrogations were carried out by Libya's National Army Security Service at facilities outside the detention centers, MSF said in a statement.

The group, which operates in the prisons but not the interrogation centers, said it contacted the NASS as well as authorities in Misrata, the port city whose fighters played a leading role in the eight-month war that toppled dictator Muammar Qaddafi, to demand an end to the abuse, but received no official response, prompting MSF to halt its operations in the city's detention centers.

"This is not a decision we wanted to take because we have people on treatment basically," Stokes said by telephone from Brussels. "But we are not there to patch people up so they can be tortured between torture sessions. ...This was becoming impossible and unacceptable."

In its statement, MSF said the most alarming case was on January 3, when MSF doctors treated a group of 14 detainees returning from an interrogation center. It said nine of the detainees had numerous injuries, including broken arms and renal failure, and displayed obvious signs of torture.

Stokes said his group has informed the National Army Security Service that a number of patients needed to be transferred to hospitals for urgent and specialized care. All but one of the detainees were deprived of further medical care and hospitalization, and instead taken back to interrogation centers. "Some of them couldn't even stand up, they were so badly beaten," he said.

Some officials have denied such torture is taking place, while others dismissed it as prevalent in all countries around the world, Stokes said.

Iran
7) GOP Candidates Are Wrong to Urge a Second Front War in Iran
Bruce Riedel, Daily Beast, Jan 27, 2012 4:45 AM EST
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/01/27/gop-candidates-are-wrong-to-urge-a-second-front-war-in-iran.html

[Riedel, a former CIA analyst who chaired the Administration's 2009 review of U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a senior fellow at Brookings.]

Obama is catching heat for not doubling down on Iran and Afghanistan at the same time, but if he is wise he will heed Lincoln's advice to fight 'one war at a time.'

The top Republican presidential candidates are trying to out-tough each other on Iran, calling President Obama too weak and threatening to use force. The prospect of war with Iran is usually discussed in isolation from the war we are already fighting in Afghanistan. That's a big mistake, taking on a second war before finishing the one you're in is a recipe for two disasters.

One hundred and fifty years ago, the United States was engulfed in its Civil War when the threat of a second war with Britain and France developed in 1862. Secretary of State William Seward urged the cabinet to declare war on the European powers for tilting toward the Confederacy. Seward pressed for an invasion of Canada. President Abraham Lincoln disagreed and famously said to Seward "one war at a time, please."

With so many politicians and pundits now calling for using military force to keep Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is wise to heed Lincoln’s advice. The first Republican president’s advice, of course, was ignored by our last Republican president, George Bush, who took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003 to invade Iraq. Resources needed to stabilize Afghanistan after a quarter century of war were deployed to Iraq, and Afghanistan was shortchanged. The result was the revival of al Qaeda in Pakistan and the resurrection of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The 2007 surge in Iraq only made a bad situation much worse. More troops were desperately needed in Afghanistan by 2007 to halt the Taliban’s momentum, instead they went to Iraq. By 2009 President Obama had inherited a disaster in Afghanistan because his predecessor had neglected the “forgotten” war he had started.

A new military operation in Iran today—while NATO is still heavily engaged in Afghanistan—will have the same effect, only worse. Intelligence-collection capabilities now being used to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda would be immediately diverted to dealing with Iranian threats. If a conflict with Iran escalated beyond airstrikes to a naval struggle in the Strait of Hormuz, more resources would be diverted. Some argue a war with Iran can be kept limited but history shows that wars are inherently unpredictable, and while we can decide alone how a war starts it takes two sides to determine how it ends.

Moreover, an American military operation against Iran would almost certainly prompt Iranian retaliation and Afghanistan, Obama’s war now, would be particularly attractive target for Iran. Today most of western Afghanistan is relatively stable, unlike the south and east, and is lightly manned by Italian and Spanish NATO forces. The largest city, Herat, is connected to the Iranian electrical grid and there is considerable cross-border trade. But Iran has been quietly building connections to the Taliban for the past few years. It could easily help the Taliban destabilize the west rapidly and offer it sanctuary in eastern Iran. It could turn off the lights in Herat and elsewhere. It could stretch already thin NATO forces beyond their capabilities. A very difficult war in Afghanistan would become even more difficult, if not impossible. More U.S. troops would be needed, throwing into jeopardy Obama’s plan to downsize the commitment.

Shia Iran and the Sunni Taliban are not natural allies, they came close to war in 1998, but they are likely to work together against America if pressed. An American or Israeli strike on Iranian nuclear facilities would facilitate their rapprochement as Tehran seeks vulnerable openings. Senior Italian officials, with some 4,000 troops on a 300 mile long border frontier with Iran outside Herat, have told me they are horrified at the idea of a war with Iran and would immediately need substantial reinforcement.

The Kabul government, our ally, would find itself in the middle between two friends. President Karzai and his government have never been comfortable with America’s Iran policy. Karzai has tried hard to build a cooperative relationship with Iran, in part to offset Pakistan’s support for the Taliban. With Indian help a new highway linking Afghanistan to the Arabian Sea through Iran was opened in 2009; now it may be followed by a railroad. For the first time in its modern history Afghanistan has an alternative outlet for exports to the sea other than Karachi, Pakistan. With the Pakistan border closed since November, the Iran outlet has become even more critical. The Karzai government could collapse if it had to choose between Tehran and Washington.

Pakistan will not be so conflicted. It will side with Iran at least rhetorically and diplomatically. It will see the American decision to go after Iranian nuclear sites as a clear warning that it could be next someday. Pakistan’s deeply anti-American population will side with their fellow Muslims next door and its equally anti-American generals will be determined to build even more bombs to deter any American adventure in their country. The fastest growing nuclear arsenal in the world will grow even faster.

Whether you support Obama’s policies in Afghanistan or not, we are there now and will have tens of thousands of troops in place at least through the election and probably well beyond. We should keep Lincoln’s advice in mind.

8) Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready to return to nuclear talks but Tehran's foes need to compromise
Associated Press, January 26
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/president-ahmadinejad-adds-voice-to-irans-call-for-nuclear-talks-with-world-powers/2012/01/26/gIQAjt9XSQ_story.html

Tehran, Iran - Iran is ready to revive talks with the U.S. and other world powers, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday, but suggested that Tehran's foes will have to make compromises to prevent negotiations from again collapsing in stalemate.
[...]
Ahmadinejad added his voice to proposals by Iranian officials to return to talks Thursday at a rally in the southeastern city of Kerman, saying a nation that is in the "right" should not be worried about holding dialogue.

Iran indicated earlier this week that it was ready for a new round of talks with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members plus Germany.
[...]
Ahmadinejad tried to turn the tables, accusing the West of claiming to seek talks but preferring failure as a way to further punish Iran with what the Islamic Republic has called "economic warfare."

"It is you who come up with excuses each time and issue resolutions on the verge of talks so that negotiations collapse," Ahmadinejad said. "It is evident that those who resort to coercion are opposed to talks and always bring pretexts and blame us instead."
[...]
Iran says it won't give up its right to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel, but it has offered to allow IAEA inspectors to visit its nuclear sites to ensure that the program won't be weaponized.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
9) Ireland's top diplomat in Gaza to see blockade impact
Mai Yaghi, AFP, January 27, 2012
http://news.yahoo.com/irelands-top-diplomat-gaza-see-blockade-impact-203304044.html

Visiting Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore on Friday kicked off a three-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories with a brief visit to the Gaza Strip.

It was Gilmore's first visit to the Hamas-ruled coastal territory which has been languishing under an Israeli blockade for more than five years. "Ireland is completely opposed to the blockade," Gilmore told AFP in Gaza City.

"It has a huge impact on people who are living in Gaza and it is clearly having a devastating impact on the local economy," said the minister.

"The blockade should be ended soon in order to allow the local economy to grow and ensure that people who live in Gaza can exercise their human rights: freedom of movement and travel."

Gilmore's spokesman Philip Grant earlier said the minister wanted to see first hand the impact of the embargo. "Within the European Union, Ireland has been one of the most forceful countries calling for a lifting of the Gaza blockade. He is here to see what the economic and social impact has been on the people of Gaza," he said.
[...]

-

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



http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews



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