JFP 1/31: US-funded NGO "democracy promotion" challenged; Obama denies "huge" drone deaths

Just Foreign Policy News, January 31, 2012
US-backed NGO "democracy promotion" challenged; Obama denies "huge" drone deaths


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Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

*
Action: Help Wyden-McGovern Oppose the Bahrain Arms Sale
The Obama Administration is wants to sell more arms to Bahrain, although repression of peaceful protests continues and the government is blocking human rights monitors from visiting the country. Sen. Wyden and Rep. McGovern are circulating a letter of opposition. Ask your Senators and Rep. to support the Wyden-McGovern letter.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/newbahrainarms

Freedom House Opposes Arms Sale to Bahrain
Freedom House opposes the Obama Administration's decision to move forward with an arms sale to Bahrain as that government continues to repress peaceful demonstrations for political reform. "Even a limited sale of military items to the Bahraini Government sends the wrong message," said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. "Until the Bahraini Government ends systemic human rights abuses, allows unfettered access to media and international organizations, and begins implementing meaningful political reform, the United States should not consider the sale of any military items."
http://freedomhouse.org/article/freedom-house-opposes-arms-sale-bahrain

Peter Hart: NBC's Curry on What 'Everyone' Knows About Iran
NBC Today's Ann Curry: "…the concerns about Iran's rise in its efforts, everybody believes, in creating nuclear power--not only nuclear power, but nuclear weapons." Really? Everybody believes that? [We complained to Ann Curry. We'll let you know in this space if she responds. -JFP]
http://www.fair.org/blog/2012/01/30/nbcs-curry-on-what-everyone-knows-about-iran/

Feb. 4 local actions against war with Iran
Check to see if there is an event organized near you.
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/1170/p/salsa/event/common/public/search.sjs?distributed_event_KEY=655

Help Support Our Advocacy for Peace and Diplomacy
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II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Media descriptions of the US-taxpayer funded International Republican Institute as an "organization that promotes democracy" cover up a lot of dirty history, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. In 2004, the IRI played a major role in overthrowing the democratically elected government of Haiti. In 2002, the head of the IRI publicly celebrated the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Venezuela. The IRI was also working with organizations and individuals that were involved in the coup. In 2005, the IRI was involved in an effort to promote changes in Brazil's electoral laws that would weaken the governing Workers Party of then President Lula da Silva. In 2009, the IRI and the National Democratic Institute went to Honduras to legitimate an election that took place under the coup regime - an election that the OAS refused to observe.

2) President Obama claimed that CIA drone strikes had not caused huge civilian casualties, the New York Times reports. Secrecy has prevented an open debate on legal and ethical questions surrounding the strikes, since neither intelligence officials nor members of Congress can speak openly about them, the Times says.

3) A new U.S. arms sale to Bahrain is drawing opposition from some in Congress who argue that it sends the wrong signal about the U.S. commitment to human rights, AP reports. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., collected signatures from lawmakers on a letter they plan to send to Secretary of State Clinton later this week expressing their opposition to the administration's moves. They argue that Bahrain is still violating human rights and using excessive force to crack down on protests.

"Small steps deserve small rewards," the two wrote. "In the case of Bahrain, any military equipment is a big reward and will be viewed as such by other governments and the people of Bahrain. The incentives are simply wrong."

4) Russia stressed its opposition to any Security Council resolution that would call for President Assad of Syria to step down, the New York Times reports. Foreign Minister Lavrov made clear that Western powers' abuse of the Security Council resolution on Libya was key to their opposition. But in the West and among Arab League members, there is no support for the kind of foreign military intervention that occurred in Libya, the Times says. [It's not obvious exactly what the Times means by this; Qatar has called for Arab troops to be sent - JFP.]

Diplomats were anticipating a showdown vote, with at least Russia resorting to a veto, to come as early as Friday, the Times says. Russia, backed by China and India, rejects the idea that the UN can interfere in the domestic politics of any country to force a leadership change. They all feel that they were duped into supporting a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians last March, and are infuriated at the West for using it as a license to help overthrow the Libyan leader, the Times says.

Israel/Palestine
5) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu won the leadership race of his Likud Party over his ultranationalist rival, hours after his government approved new incentives to entice people to move to West Bank settlements, AP reports. The Israeli move threatened international efforts to revive Mideast peace talks. This week's decision approved housing subsidies and loans for 70 settlements, most of them deep inside the West Bank in areas that Israel would likely have to evacuate to make way for a Palestinian state.

In the past month's dialogue in Jordan, Israel has indicated that it wants to turn its West Bank separation barrier into the border with a future Palestine, according to two Palestinian officials. About three quarters of the settlements qualifying for the new subsidies lie on territory that would be turned over to the Palestinians under that scenario.

The government also appointed a panel to review a 2005 government report that found several dozen outposts were built not only without state approval, but on privately held Palestinian land. The panel's makeup aroused suspicions it would legalize at least some of the more than 100 outposts built without government authorization, including dozens the report said were erected on privately held Palestinian land.

Iran
6) Ronan Bergman's alarmist article in the New York Times Magazine doesn't add to our knowledge regarding the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran, because it is based on interviews with Israeli leaders and we have no idea if these leaders are being truthful about their intentions, writes Stephen Walt for Foreign Policy.

As Gary Sick notes, the Bergman piece ignores the considerable evidence suggesting that Iran is not in fact trying to build a nuclear weapon. Equally important are Sick's reminder that the IAEA still has lots of inspectors keeping a watchful eye on Iran's nuclear activities, and his observation that Israel cannot attack Iran without warning, because doing so would almost certainly kill a bunch of IAEA inspectors. His conclusion (and mine): until Iran expels the inspectors or Israel warns them that it is time to leave, there isn't going to be a war.

Afghanistan
7) Afghan officials said the Afghan government is pushing to open its own direct negotiations with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia, the New York Times reports. But a former Obama Administration official said the Taliban has explicitly rejected the idea of talks in Saudi Arabia, because Saudi Arabia is too close to Pakistan, and "they didn't want to be under the thumb of the Pakistanis."

Okinwawa
8) Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said Tuesday the government will look into conducting test flights of the MV22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft at a U.S. base in Okinawa before their full deployment there later this year, Kyodo reports. Local residents have expressed concerns over the plane's noise and safety given the aircraft's history of fatal crashes during test flights.


Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Why American 'democracy promotion' rings hollow in the Middle East
Egypt's crackdown on Republican and Democratic organisations is hardly surprising: they're widely seen as stooges of US empire
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Tuesday 31 January 2012 11.44 EST
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2012/jan/31/american-democracy-promotion-rings-hollow

I have to laugh when I see the International Republican Institute (IRI) described by the international media as an "organization that promotes democracy" (in this case, on NPR). The IRI is in the news lately because Egypt's military government has put some of its members on a "no-fly" list and thereby trapped them in the country, facing investigation and possible trial. I am wondering just how credulous these journalists and editors are: if I were to describe the Center for Economic and Policy Research as "a magical organization that transforms scrap metal into gold", would that become CEPR's standard description in the news?

The IRI is an international arm of the US Republican party, so anyone with the stomach to watch the Republican presidential debates might doubt whether this would be a "democracy-promotion" organization. But a look at some of their recent adventures is enough to set the record straight: in 2004, the IRI played a major role in overthrowing the democratically elected government of Haiti. In 2002, the head of the IRI publicly celebrated the short-lived military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Venezuela. The IRI was also working with organizations and individuals that were involved in the coup. In 2005, the IRI was involved in an effort to promote changes in Brazil's electoral laws that would weaken the governing Workers party of then President Lula da Silva.

Most recently, in 2009, there was a military coup against the democratically elected government of Honduras. The Obama administration did everything it could to help the coup succeed, and supported "elections" in November of 2009 to legitimize the coup government. The rest of the world – including even the Organization of American States (OAS), under pressure from South American democracies – refused to send observers. This was because of the political repression during the campaign period: police violence, raiding of independent media, and the forced exile of political opponents – including the country's democratically elected president.

But the IRI and the National Democratic Institute (NDI) – its Democratic party-linked counterpart – went there to legitimate the "election". But don't take my word for why they chose to participate. Here is what the USAID, part of the US State Department and the major funder of IRI and NDI activities, had to say about their role in Honduras:

"The absence of the OAS and other recognized international observation groups made NDI and IRI's assessment/observation processes more meaningful in the eyes of the international community. The recognition of a free, fair and transparent electoral process provided a strong argument to support the new government. […] The international "assessment" conducted by NDI and the "observation" conducted by IRI, even if they did not fulfill accepted standards, partially achieved the sought-after impact."

Who knows what the IRI is doing in Egypt? But we know what the US government has done there: supported a brutal dictatorship for decades right up to the point where mass protests made it clear that Washington could not stop Mubarak's ouster by a real, popular, democratic movement last year.

The IRI and NDI are core grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy, an organization that conducts activities "much of [which]" the "CIA used to fund covertly", as the Washington Post reported when the Endowment was being created in the early 1980s. These organizations will sometimes support democracy, but often do not, or are even against it. This is not because they are inherently evil, but because of the position of the United States in the world. The United States government, more than any other in the world, is running an empire. By their nature, empires are about power and control over other people in distant lands. These goals will generally conflict with many people's aspirations for democracy and national self-determination.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in the Middle East, where the US government's policy of collaboration with Israel's denial of Palestinian national rights has put it at odds with populations throughout the region. As a result, Washington fears democracy in many countries because it will inevitably lead to more governments taking the side of the Palestinians, and opposing other US ambitions in the region, such as its desire for military bases and alliances. Even in Iraq, where Washington brags about having toppled a dictatorship, the people had to fight the occupying authorities for the right to hold national elections, and then to kick US troops out of the country.

This creates a vicious cycle in which hated and often repressive governments are supportive of US foreign policy, and these governments receive US support, increasing regional animosity toward the United States. In some cases, it also leads to terrorist attacks against US institutions or citizens, which is then used by our leaders to justify long or endless wars (for example, Iraq and Afghanistan). A poll of Arab public opinion (pdf) by the University of Maryland and Zogby International, which included Egypt, asked respondents to "name two countries that are the biggest threat to you": 88% named the United States, and 77% named Israel; only 9% chose Iran.

Another ugly side-effect of US government-sponsored "democracy-promotion" is that it helps governments that want to repress authentic, national, pro-democracy movements. Most of the repressive governments in the Middle East and North Africa have tried to delegitimize their opponents with the taint of association with Washington, in most cases falsely. In Egypt, before the raids on foreign organizations, the government arrested youth activists associated with the April 6th movement, and other activists.

Here in Washington, there seems to be little awareness that "pro-democracy" groups funded by the US government might have a credibility problem in most of the world. But this is true – even when these groups aren't actively opposing democracy. Their funding would be a good target for budget cuts.

2) Civilian Deaths Due To Drones Are Not Many, Obama Says
Mark Landler, New York Times, January 30, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/world/middleeast/civilian-deaths-due-to-drones-are-few-obama-says.html

Washington - President Obama on Monday defended the use of drones to strike suspected terrorists in Pakistan and elsewhere, saying the clandestine program was "kept on a very tight leash" and enabled the United States to use "pinpoint" targeting to avoid more intrusive military action.

Mr. Obama, in an unusually candid public discussion of the Central Intelligence Agency's covert program, said the drone strikes had not inflicted huge civilian casualties. "We are very careful in terms of how it's been applied," he said. "It is important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash."

The president made the remarks in answer to questions posed by people during a live Web interview sponsored by Google Plus, the social media site of Google.
[...]
The C.I.A.'s drone program, unlike the use of armed unmanned aircraft by the military in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq, is a covert program, traditionally one of the government's most carefully-guarded secrets. But because of intense public interest - the explosions cannot be hidden entirely - American officials have been willing to discuss the program on condition of anonymity.

Until Monday, Mr. Obama, who has overseen a dramatic expansion of the use of drones in Pakistan and on a smaller scale in Yemen and Somalia, had spoken only indirectly about the program. For example, after a C.I.A. drone strike in September killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Qaeda propagandist hiding in Yemen, Mr. Obama never mentioned the agency, its unmanned aircraft or the missiles they fired.

Instead, speaking at a Virginia military base, he said Mr. Awlaki "was killed" in what he said was "a tribute to our intelligence community." The secrecy has prevented an open debate on legal and ethical questions surrounding the strikes, since neither intelligence officials nor members of Congress can speak openly about them.

3) US sale of some military items to Bahrain draws congressional opposition
Associated Press, January 30
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-sale-of-some-military-items-to-bahrain-draws-congressional-opposition/2012/01/30/gIQArJ9pcQ_story.html

Washington - The United States is selling some military equipment to Bahrain as it walks a fine line between pushing the Sunni monarchy to open talks with the opposition while proceeding cautiously with a strategic ally to counter Iran.

The sale of an undisclosed amount of spare parts and equipment has drawn opposition from some in Congress who argue that it sends the wrong signal about the U.S. commitment to human rights. The State Department said late Friday that the equipment is for Bahrain's external defense and support for the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, which is based in the country.
[...]
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., collected signatures from lawmakers on a letter they plan to send to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton later this week expressing their opposition to the administration's moves. They argue that Bahrain is still violating human rights and using excessive force to crack down on protests.

"Small steps deserve small rewards," the two wrote. "In the case of Bahrain, any military equipment is a big reward and will be viewed as such by other governments and the people of Bahrain. The incentives are simply wrong."

4) Russia Stands in the Way of U.N. Call for Assad to Step Down
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, January 31, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/world/middleeast/battle-over-possible-united-nations-resolution-on-syria-intensifies.html

United Nations -
[...]
With a draft Security Council resolution put on the table by Morocco that calls for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to step aside to speed a democratic transition, Russia stressed its opposition to any such plan, even while attempting to distance Moscow from the man himself.

"The Russian policy is not about asking someone to step down; regime change is not our profession," Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation during a stop on a tour of Asia. "We are not friends or allies of President Assad," he went on, according to a transcript on the Interfax news service, evidently hoping to deflect accusations that Moscow should be held responsible for the widening bloodshed. "We never said that Assad remaining in power is a precondition for regulating the situation. We said something else - we said that the decision should be made by Syrians, by the Syrians themselves."

Mr. Lavrov made it clear that it was the ghost of Libya, where foreign powers intervened with force, and recent Security Council resolutions that haunt the debate on Syria in the United Nations and beyond. "The international community unfortunately did take sides in Libya and we would never allow the Security Council to authorize anything similar," Mr. Lavrov said.
[...]
But even in the West and among Arab League members, there is no support for the kind of foreign military intervention that occurred in Libya, because of concerns that an implosion of Syria could spread beyond its borders, dragging neighbors, like Israel, Iraq and Lebanon, into a wider conflagration.
[...]
No vote is scheduled Tuesday at the United Nations - the haggling over the wording is expected to commence in earnest again on Wednesday. But privately diplomats were anticipating a showdown vote, with at least Russia resorting to a veto, to come as early as Friday. Russia and China vetoed a similar resolution last October.

Russia, backed discreetly by China and India, rejects the idea that the world organization can interfere in the domestic politics of any country to force a leadership change.

They all feel that they were duped into supporting a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians last March, and are infuriated at the West for using it as a license to help overthrow the Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
[...]
Members of the Syrian National Council, a nascent government in exile, made their debut around the United Nations in another attempt to sway the argument in favor of condemning the Assad government. But the Syrian council rejected a Russian offer to sponsor talks in Moscow between the government and the opposition. Council members said that Mr. Assad's stepping down and an end to the violence were their preconditions.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
5) Israeli prime minister wins ruling party's leadership race, offers concessions to settlers
Associated Press, Tuesday, January 31, 7:03 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/israeli-government-offers-settlers-concessions-ahead-of-leadership-race-in-netanyahus-party/2012/01/31/gIQARyzZeQ_story.html

Jerusalem - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won the leadership race of his Likud Party over his ultranationalist rival early Wednesday, hours after his government approved new incentives to entice people to move to West Bank settlements.
[...]
Upon taking office in 2009, Netanyahu reluctantly embraced the concept of an independent Palestinian state, antagonizing hard-line Likud loyalists who believe Israel should hold on to the West Bank for religious and security reasons.

The new housing subsidies offered to West Bank settlers appeared to be aimed at appeasing those hard-liners.

The Israeli move threatened international efforts to revive Mideast peace talks, just as U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was visiting the region, and drew angry condemnations from the Palestinians, who accused Netanyahu of undermining prospects for a Palestinian state. "They are adding obstacles at a time when everyone is intensifying efforts to try to resume peace talks," said Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib.

A round of low-level peace negotiations hosted by Jordan ground to a halt last week, in large part because of continued Palestinian objections to Israeli settlement construction.
[...]
This week's decision approved housing subsidies and loans for 557 communities deemed "national priority areas."

An announcement in English made no mention that West Bank settlements were included in the order. But attached to the original Hebrew announcement was a full list that included 70 settlements, most of them deep inside the West Bank in areas that Israel would likely have to evacuate to make way for a Palestinian state.

The incentives, according to the Prime Minister's office, are "meant to encourage positive migration to these communities."

In the past month's dialogue in Jordan, Israel has indicated that it wants to turn its West Bank separation barrier into the border with a future Palestine, according to two Palestinian officials. About three quarters of the settlements qualifying for the new subsidies lie on territory that would be turned over to the Palestinians under that scenario.

In a separate move, the government on Monday appointed a committee to examine land ownership issues in the West Bank.

The panel will review a 2005 government report that found several dozen outposts were built not only without state approval, but on privately held Palestinian land.

Officials said the report needs to be reviewed because its author, state prosecutor Talia Sasson, later entered politics with a dovish political party, raising questions about her objectivity.

A court-ordered evacuation of Migron, the largest unauthorized outpost, set for next month, would not be affected by the formation of the new committee, officials said.

The panel's makeup aroused suspicions it would legalize at least some of the more than 100 outposts built without government authorization, including dozens Sasson says were erected on privately held Palestinian land.

The committee's head, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Edmond Levy, spoke out against Israel's withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

Iran
6) Israel's not going to attack Iran -- yet
Stephen M. Walt, Foreign Policy, Monday, January 30, 2012 - 4:05 PM
http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/01/30/Israel's_not_going_to_attack_Iran_yet

Having written a fair bit about the pros and cons (mostly the latter) of a war with Iran, I feel compelled to offer a brief comment on Ronan Bergman's alarmist article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine. I say this even though I think the article was essentially worthless. It's a vivid and readable piece of reportage, but it doesn't provide readers with new or interesting information and it tells you almost nothing about the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran.

First off, the article is essentially a reprise of Jeffrey Goldberg's September 2010 Atlantic Monthly article on the same subject. The research method is identical: a reporter interviews a lot of big-shots in the Israeli security establishment, writes down what they say, and concludes that that Israel is very likely to attack. Bergman doesn't present new evidence or arguments, pro or con; it's just an updated version of the same old story.

Second, the central flaw in this approach is that there is no way of knowing if the testimony of these various officials reflects their true beliefs or not. There are lots of obvious reasons why Israeli officials might want to exaggerate their willingness to use force against Iran, and this simple fact makes it unwise to take their testimony at face value. Maybe they really mean what they say. Or maybe they just want to keep Tehran off-balance Maybe they want to distract everyone from their continued expansion of West Bank settlements and other brutalities against Palestinians. Maybe they want to encourage Europe to support tougher economic sanctions against Iran, and they know that occasional saber-rattling helps makes sanctions look like an attractive alternative. Maybe it's several of these things at once, depending on who's talking. Who knows?

By the way, I'm not accusing the officials that Bergman interviewed of doing anything wrong. I don't expect top officials of any country to tell the truth all the time, and I'm neither surprised nor upset when foreign officials try to manipulate fears of war in order to advance what they see as their interests. My point is that it is impossible to tell if they mean what they are saying or not, which is why an article based on interviews of this kind just isn't very informative. They might be telling the truth, or they might be lying, and nobody knows for sure.

Lastly, as Gary Sick notes in an excellent post of his own, the Bergman piece ignores the considerable evidence suggesting that Iran is not in fact trying to build a nuclear weapon. Equally important are Sick's reminder that the IAEA still has lots of inspectors keeping a watchful eye on Iran's nuclear activities, and his observation that Israel cannot attack Iran without warning, because doing so would almost certainly kill a bunch of IAEA inspectors.

His conclusion (and mine): until Iran expels the inspectors or Israel warns them that it is time to leave, there isn't going to be a war. And if that is the case, then Bergman's scary essay is just another example of empty alarmism.

Afghanistan
7) Afghan Officials Consider Own Talks With Taliban
Graham Bowley and Declan Walsh, New York Times, January 30, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/world/asia/afghan-officials-consider-separate-talks-with-taliban.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - Concerned that it is being left out of potential peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, the Afghan government is pushing to open its own direct negotiations with the insurgent group in Saudi Arabia, Afghan officials said on Monday.

The talks would be separate from efforts by the United States to begin negotiations with the Taliban in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, where the Taliban is opening an office, the officials said.

It was not clear whether the effort to start parallel talks would succeed or amount to nothing more than an attempt by President Hamid Karzai to regain momentum after feeling sidelined by the American efforts to help open the Qatar office.
[...]
Afghan and some Taliban officials have told the United States that they do not want Pakistan to have a full seat at the table. For its part, Pakistan's military would much prefer Saudi mediation in peace talks. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strong ties dating to the 1980s, when the Soviets occupied Afghanistan and Riyadh pumped billions of dollars in aid to Afghan rebel groups based in northern Pakistan, and supported a conservative tilt in Pakistani society whose effects endure.

"Our favorites are the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates," said Tanveer Ahmed Khan, a retired Pakistani diplomat and political commentator. "When it comes to Qatar, there have always been reservations."

The Taliban, however, may be less keen on Saudi involvement. One of the insurgents' early demands to American officials was that negotiations not take place in Saudi Arabia, a former Obama administration official said. "The Taliban specifically wanted the office" in Doha, the capital of Qatar, "because they didn't want to be under the thumb of the Pakistanis," said the official.
[...]
The Obama administration hopes the negotiation process will unfold in three phases - exploratory, confidence-building and political, according to a former administration official who could not speak for attribution because he was not authorized to discuss the talks. The administration considers that first phase to be now drawing to a close.

The exact details of the Taliban "office" in Doha are still being hammered out - where it would be located, for instance, and what format any talks would take. Qatari security services are expected to have a major role in watching over Taliban negotiators, particularly any who may be released from the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay.

"If the detainee transfer goes ahead, and they are sent over there, then they would be heavily monitored. It would probably be a form of house arrest," said the former Obama official.

The administration's goal is to establish the Doha office by the time of a NATO summit meeting scheduled to take place in Chicago this May.

Okinwawa
8) Government Mulls Test Flights Of Controversial U.S. Aircraft In Okinawa
Kyodo News, January 31, 2012
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20120131p2g00m0dm080000c.html

Tokyo -- Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka said Tuesday the government will look into conducting test flights of the MV22 Osprey vertical takeoff and landing aircraft at a U.S. base in Okinawa Prefecture before their full deployment there later this year.

Local residents have expressed concerns over the plane's noise and safety given the aircraft's history of fatal crashes during test flights. The envisaged test flights are unlikely, however, to change a U.S. plan to deploy it at the Marine Corps' Futenma Air Station within this year, political analysts say.

Tanaka told a parliament session that he views as "necessary" such test flights to check noise, and will consider this after consulting with the U.S. government and local residents, accepting a suggestion by opposition lawmaker Nobutaka Machimura to do so.
[...]
The local community in Okinawa, which has long hosted the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan, is also deeply opposed to a Japan-U.S. accord to relocate the Futenma base from the populated city of Ginowan to a coastal area in Nago, both within Okinawa.
[...]

-

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