JFP 2/13: What I Learned at the Airport in Bahrain; ending war worth xfer of 5 detainees

Just Foreign Policy News, February 13, 2012
What I Learned at the Airport in Bahrain; ending war worth five detainees


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I) Actions and Featured Articles

What I Learned at the Airport in Bahrain
The government of Bahrain is paying a real cost for its efforts to shield its crackdown on peaceful protesters from international scrutiny.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/bahrain-us-relations_b_1272934.html
 
II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Bahrain deployed thousands of security forces Sunday to confront anti-government protesters ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Shiite-led uprising that seeks to loosen the ruling Sunni dynasty's monopoly on power, AP reports. Bahrain's ruling Sunni monarchy has warned it would not tolerate a spike in protests to mark the anniversary. Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain's population of some 525,000 people, but say they have faced decades of discrimination.
 
In another tightening of policies, the official Bahrain News Agency said the kingdom will now demand prior visa approval for many nations that had been allowed to obtain entry stamps upon arrival, including the U.S. and other Western countries. The move follows the deportation Sunday of two American activists accused of joining protests after entering on tourist visas.
 
2) The prospect of a settlement to end the war in Afghanistan is worth letting five detainees out of Gitmo, writes former U.S. intelligence officer Paul Pillar in The National Interest.
 
3) Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak warned that a failure to make peace with the Palestinians would leave either a state with no Jewish ­majority or an "apartheid" regime, the Guardian reports.
 
4) Lt. Col. Daniel Davis' analysis refuting the official military narrative of success in the Afghanistan War since the "surge" has leaked to Rolling Stone, Gareth Porter reports. Journalist Michael Hastings reported that "officials familiar with the situation" had said the Pentagon was "refusing" to release the report, but that it had been making the rounds within the U.S. government, including the White House.
 
5) U.S. officials say the Iraqi branch of al Qaida carried out two recent bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and likely was behind suicide bombings Friday that killed at least 28 people in the largest city, Aleppo, McClatchy reports. The officials cited U.S. intelligence reports on the incidents, which appear to verify Syrian President Bashar Assad's charges of al Qaida involvement in the 11-month uprising against his rule. The Syrian opposition has claimed that Assad's regime staged the bombings to discredit the movement calling for his ouster.
 
6) The latest upsurge in calls for military action against Iran resembles the run-up to the Iraq war in that military concerns about the consequences have been blithely dismissed by war boosters, writes Matt Duss in Salon. U.S. military leaders have repeatedly made clear that they believe those consequences would be severe. Asked by Sen. Jack Reed in April 2010 whether the only way to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability was "to physically occupy their country and disestablish their nuclear facilities," then-Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright answered: "Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, that's a fair conclusion."
 
7) More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war, the New York Times reports. Experts say that because many contractors do not comply with even the current, scanty reporting requirements, the true number of private contractor deaths may be far higher. "No one believes we're underreporting military deaths," one expert said. "Everyone believes we're underreporting contractor deaths."
 
Iran
8) Turkey's top diplomat said Friday that Iran is ready to negotiate an end to the standoff with Western powers over its nuclear program, the Washington Post reports. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also criticized economic sanctions against Iran as ineffective and warned that any military strike against the country's nuclear facilities would inflame the region while doing little to curb Iran's ambitions.
 
9) India is determined to continue buying Iranian oil, despite pressure from the U.S. and Europe to stop, the New York Times reports. India buys about 12 percent of its crude oil from Iran, and many Indian refineries have been built to run solely on Iranian crude, meaning they would have to be retrofitted in order to process oil from other countries.
 
Afghanistan
10) Afghan officials who traveled to the village where seven children and a young adult reportedly were killed in a NATO airstrike this week said that the bombing was based on incorrect information, the New York Times reports.
 
Israel/Palestine
11) A UN investigator accused Israel of imposing a "strategy of Judaization" in its housing policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Post Reports. In east Jerusalem, Palestinians can apply for building permits on only 13% of the area, Raquel Rolnik said. More than 70% of the demolitions in Jerusalem are carried out against Palestinian residents, even though they make up only 20% of the infractions,.
 
Saudi Arabia
12) Activists in Saudi Arabia said that for the second day in a row, a protester was shot dead Friday by security forces, the New York Times reports. "In Saudi Arabia there are no rubber bullets, no water hoses, no birdshot," a Saudi activist said, referring to the less lethal methods used to quell protests in many countries. "There is only live ammunition that is used against peaceful protesters."

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Bahrain puts security forces on high alert before uprising anniversary
Associated Press, February 12
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/bahrain-puts-security-forces-on-high-alert-before-uprising-anniversary/2012/02/12/gIQAnFGa8Q_story.html
 
Manama, Bahrain - Bahrain deployed thousands of security forces Sunday to confront anti-government protesters ahead of the one-year anniversary of the Shiite-led uprising that seeks to loosen the ruling Sunni dynasty's monopoly on power.
 
Opposition groups urged marchers to stream toward an empty lot dubbed "Freedom Square" outside the capital Manama. Some activists seek to occupy the site before Tuesday's anniversary of the start of the wave of protests, and turn it into a new semi-permanent hub for the uprising to replace Pearl Square.
 
The central Manama roundabout was the opposition's headquarters during the first weeks of the Shiite majority's campaign against the Sunni monarchy. Security forces stormed the protesters' encampment at the landmark square after authorities imposed martial law in March and tore down the pearl sculpture that marked the site.
 
The now heavily-guarded square holds great symbolic value for Bahrain's opposition movement, and protesters have repeatedly tried to retake it. But the capital has largely been off limits to demonstrators since March.
 
Street battles between security forces and protesters still flare up almost every day in the predominantly Shiite villages around the capital.
 
Bahrain's ruling Sunni monarchy has warned it would not tolerate a spike in protests to mark the anniversary. Sporadic clashes occurred Sunday with police firing tear gas.
[...]
Shiites account for about 70 percent of Bahrain's population of some 525,000 people, but say they have faced decades of discrimination, such as being blocked from top political and security posts.
 
Bahrain's Sunni rulers have taken steps on reforms, including giving more powers to parliament. In an announcement early Monday, Bahrain's king named a Shiite, Sadok bin Abdulkarim al-Shehabi, as health minister.
 
The health position is significant because Bahrain's main hospital figured prominently during the early weeks of the uprising with authorities claiming medical staff aided demonstrators. Dozens of doctors and nurses have been put on trial.
 
The government, however, has so far refused to make the far-reaching changes the protesters and the main Shiite group, Al Wefaq, have demanded. These include ending the monarchy's ability to select the government and set all-important state policies.
 
Al Wefaq criticized the authorities for imposing "a siege" on the villages around Manama ahead of the first anniversary of Bahrain's "revolution."
 
Its statement Sunday said police have stormed houses and fired tear gas indiscriminately in densely populated civilian areas. There were no reports of injuries, but Al Wefaq said several people have been detained.
 
At least 40 people have been killed during months of unprecedented political unrest in Bahrain, the Gulf country hardest hit by unrest during last year's Arab Spring protests. Neighboring Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf states dispatched troops to Bahrain in March to help crush the protests.
 
In another tightening of policies, the official Bahrain News Agency said the kingdom will now demand prior visa approval for many nations that had been allowed to obtain entry stamps upon arrival, including the U.S. and other Western countries.
 
The move follows the deportation Sunday of two American activists accused of joining protests after entering on tourist visas.
 
2) Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Roach Motel
Paul R. Pillar, The National Interest, February 7, 2012
http://nationalinterest.org/print/blog/paul-pillar/afghanistan-the-guantanamo-roach-motel-6477
 
[Pillar is a former U.S. intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia.]
 
One of the latest efforts by members of Congress (especially, but not exclusively, Republicans) to impede the executive branch's conduct of foreign policy concerns the possible transfer of several Afghan Taliban out of the detention facility at Guantanamo as part of the process of negotiating an agreement with the Taliban. Specifically, the move would entail transferring five senior Taliban from Guantanamo to Qatar as a good-faith gesture. One anonymous Republican member of Congress forecast strong opposition if the Obama administration attempted this transfer, saying, "If they do that, then all hell breaks loose. There's just no way."
 
Opposition to this move probably reflects a combination of several misconceived and unhelpful beliefs:
 
*That negotiating is mutually exclusive with fighting.* A substantial modern history of warfare, including the U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam, demonstrates that not only are they not mutually exclusive, but negotiating while fighting may be the only way out of a war with even a hope of a satisfactory outcome. This belief is related to a more general one...
 
*That diplomacy is a reward that should not be bestowed on enemies.* This attitude merely handicaps ourselves by removing one of our tools of statecraft. The late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin said it best: you negotiate peace with your enemies, not with your friends.
 
*That we need not and should not make concessions to an adversary to achieve peace.* Negotiations that are conceived as all taking and no giving seldom work. The transfer of the five Taliban hardly even merits being considered a concession. It would be only an act of good faith to help make a negotiating process possible.
 
*That the Afghan Taliban are international terrorists.* The Taliban are an insular group concerned with the internal political and social structure of Afghanistan with no affinity to the transnational terrorist ideology of al-Qaeda. The prime objective of negotiations with the Taliban should be to eliminate any possibility of future alliances of convenience between the Taliban and the likes of al-Qaeda. The Taliban have given plenty of indication that such an outcome is achievable.
 
*That something better than a very messy compromise is achievable in Afghanistan.* This is related to the belief that prolonging U.S. involvement in the combat in Afghanistan can somehow achieve what a decade of such involvement to date has not achieved. A spokesman for House Armed Services Committee chairman Buck McKeon reacted to the possible Taliban detainee transfer by saying, "It would seem that the Taliban are free to wait the president out and recoup their senior leaders without obtaining any real guarantee for a peaceful, stable or free Afghanistan." Eschewing negotiations and prolonging the war would guarantee a peaceful, stable or free Afghanistan? This war certainly has given no reason to believe it would.
 
*That Guantanamo ought to be a roach motel where detainees check in but never check out.* If the prospect of a settlement to end the war in Afghanistan is not worth letting five detainees out of Gitmo, then what ever would be worth it?
 
3) Barak: make peace with Palestinians or face apartheid
Rory McCarthy, Guardian, Wednesday 3 February 2010
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/feb/03/barak-apartheid-palestine-peace
 
Herzliya - Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, last night delivered an unusually blunt ­warning to his country that a failure to make peace with the Palestinians would leave either a state with no Jewish ­majority or an "apartheid" regime.
 
His stark language and the South African analogy might have been unthinkable for a senior Israeli figure only a few years ago and is a rare admission of the gravity of the deadlocked peace process.
 
There have been no formal negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in more than a year, but Barak was speaking at a rare joint event with the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, as part of an annual national security conference in the Israeli city of Herzliya. The pair shook hands and both were warmly applauded.
[...]
As long as in this territory west of the Jordan river there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic," Barak said. "If this bloc of millions of ­Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state."
[...]
Though Barak articulates a willingness for peace talks, he represents a government that has defied US and Palestinian calls for a full settlement freeze as a prelude to any negotiations. He was also defence minister during last year's Gaza war in which nearly 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
[...]
 
4) Army Officer's Leaked Report Rips Afghan War Success Story
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Feb 11, 2012
http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106726
 
Washington - An analysis by Lt. Col. Daniel Davis, which the U.S. Army has not approved for public release but has leaked to Rolling Stone magazine, provides the most authoritative refutation thus far of the official military narrative of success in the Afghanistan War since the troop surge began in early 2010.
 
In the 84-page unclassified report, Davis, who returned last fall after his second tour of duty in Afghanistan, attacks the credibility of claims by senior military leaders that the U.S.-NATO war strategy has succeeded in weakening the Taliban insurgent forces and in building Afghan security forces capable of taking primary responsibility for security in the future.
 
The report, which Davis had submitted to the Army in January for clearance to make it public, was posted on the website of Rolling Stone magazine by journalist Michael Hastings Friday. In a blog for the magazine, Hastings reported that "officials familiar with the situation" had said the Pentagon was "refusing" to release the report, but that it had been making the rounds within the U.S. government, including the White House.
 
Hastings wrote that he had obtained it from a U.S. government official.
 
Contacted by IPS Friday, Davis would not comment on the publication of the report or its contents.
 
Writing that he is "no Wikileaks guy Part II", Davis reveals no classified information in the report. But he has given a classified version of the report, which cites and quotes from dozens of classified documents, to several members of the House and Senate, including both Democrats and Republicans.
 
"If the public had access to the classified reports," Davis writes, "they would see the dramatic gulf between what is often said in public by our senior leaders and what is true behind the scenes."
 
Davis is in a unique position to assess the real situation on the ground in Afghanistan. As a staff officer of the "Rapid Equipping Force", he traveled more than 9,000 miles to every area where U.S. troop presence was significant and had conversations with more than 250 U.S. soldiers, from privates to division commanders.
 
The report takes aim at the March 2011 Congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus, then the top commander in Afghanistan, and the Defence Department's April 2011 Report to Congress as either "misleading, significantly skewed or completely inaccurate".
 
Davis attacks the claim in both the Petraeus testimony and the DOD report that U.S. and NATO forces had "arrested the insurgents' momentum" and "reversed it in a number of important areas".
 
That claim is belied, Davis argues, by the fact that the number of insurgent attacks, the number of IEDs found and detonated and the number of U.S. troops killed and wounded have all continued to mount since 2009, the last year before the addition of 30,000 U.S. troops and 10,000 NATO troops.
 
Davis notes that Petraeus and other senior officials of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the U.S.-NATO command in Afghanistan, have boasted of having killed and captured thousands of insurgent leaders and rank and file soldiers, cut insurgent supply routes and found large numbers of weapons caches as well as depriving the insurgents of their main bases of operation since spring 2010.
 
If these claims were accurate measures of success, Davis writes, after the Taliban had been driven out of their strongholds, "there ought to have been a reduction in violence not a continual, unbroken string of increases."
 
In fact, Davis writes, Taliban attacks "continued to rise at almost the same rate it had risen since 2005 all the way through the summer of 2011" and remained "well above 2009 levels in the second half of 2011" even though it leveled off or dropped slightly in some places.
 
Davis notes that total attacks, total number of IEDs and total U.S. casualties in 2011 were 82 percent, 113 percent and 164 percent higher, respectively, than the figures for 2009, the last year before the surge of 30,000 troops. The annual number of U.S. dead and wounded increased from 1,764 in 2009 to 4,662 in 2011.
[...]
 
5) U.S. Officials: Al Qaida Behind Syria Bombings
Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers, Fri, Feb. 10, 2012
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/02/10/138593/us-officials-al-qaida-behind-syria.html
 
Washington - The Iraqi branch of al Qaida, seeking to exploit the bloody turmoil in Syria to reassert its potency, carried out two recent bombings in the Syrian capital, Damascus, and likely was behind suicide bombings Friday that killed at least 28 people in the largest city, Aleppo, U.S. officials told McClatchy.
 
The officials cited U.S. intelligence reports on the incidents, which appear to verify Syrian President Bashar Assad's charges of al Qaida involvement in the 11-month uprising against his rule. The Syrian opposition has claimed that Assad's regime, which has responded with massive force against the uprising, staged the bombings to discredit the pro-democracy movement calling for his ouster.
 
The international terrorist network's presence in Syria also raises the possibility that Islamic extremists will try to hijack the uprising, which would seriously complicate efforts by the United States and its European and Arab partners to force Assad's regime from power. On Friday, President Barack Obama repeated his call for Assad to step down, accusing his forces of "outrageous bloodshed."
 
The U.S. intelligence reports indicate that the bombings came on the orders of Ayman al Zawahiri, the Egyptian extremist who assumed leadership of al Qaida's Pakistan-based central command after the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden. They suggest that Zawahiri still wields considerable influence over the network's affiliates despite the losses the Pakistan-based core group has suffered from missile-firing CIA drones and other intensified U.S. counterterrorism operations.
[...]
 
6) The neocons' big Iran lie
The right-wing hawks who thought Iraq would be a cakewalk think it'd be easy to attack Iran. Real soldiers say no.
Matt Duss, Salon, Friday, Feb 10, 2012 1:00 Pm Utc
http://www.salon.com/2012/02/10/the_neocons_big_iran_lie/
 
In February 2003, less than a month before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Gen. Eric Shinseki told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that "Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers" would be required to occupy Iraq in order to stabilize it in the wake of an invasion.
 
What quickly followed is well known. Several days later, in what journalist James Fallows called "probably the most direct public dressing-down of a military officer, a four-star general, by a civilian superior since Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur, 50 years ago," Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki's estimate "wildly off the mark," and said that "it's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself."
 
The cavalier dismissal by civilian officials and conservative pundits of military analysts' predictions of the likely consequences of the Iraq war was symbolic of the entire hubristic enterprise. Over $800 billion and tens of thousands of civilian casualties later, the idea that America can deal with its problems and create specific outcomes simply through the application of its considerable military might is rightly understood as a mirage.
[...]
The latest upsurge in calls for military action against Iran began with a piece in Foreign Affairs by Matthew Kroenig, a former analyst at the Pentagon and fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, titled "Time to Attack Iran." The U.S. should carry out limited strikes on Iran's key nuclear facilities, Kroenig argued, and could "reduce the political fallout of military action by building global support for it in advance." "By building such a consensus in the lead-up to an attack and taking the outlined steps to mitigate it once it began," Kroenig wrote, "the United States could avoid an international crisis and limit the scope of the conflict."
[...]
As with the calls for war against Iraq, what all of these pieces share is a shockingly blithe attitude toward the likely costs of such a war, and a failure to seriously grapple with the consequences.
[...]
But as with Iraq, perhaps even more so, U.S. military leaders have repeatedly made clear that they believe those consequences would be severe. Let's review: In testimony to the Senate Armed Services committee in April 2010, then-Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Gen. James Cartwright said that strikes would, at best, only delay the Iranian nuclear program for a few years, while at the same time solidifying Iranian domestic support for the regime and removing any hesitancy that may have existed over the necessity of obtaining a nuclear weapon.
 
Asked by Sen. Jack Reed whether the only way to prevent Iran from achieving a nuclear capability was "to physically occupy their country and disestablish their nuclear facilities," Cartwright answered: "Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, that's a fair conclusion."
[...]
 
7) Risks Of Afghan War Shift From Soldiers To Contractors
Rod Nordland, New York Times, February 11, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/world/asia/afghan-war-risks-are-shifting-to-contractors.html
 
Kabul, Afghanistan - Even dying is being outsourced here.
 
This is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.
 
American employers here are under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not. While the military announces the names of all its war dead, private companies routinely notify only family members. Most of the contractors die unheralded and uncounted - and in some cases, leave their survivors uncompensated.
 
"By continuing to outsource high-risk jobs that were previously performed by soldiers, the military, in effect, is privatizing the ultimate sacrifice," said Steven L. Schooner, a law professor at George Washington University who has studied the civilian casualties issue.
 
Last year, at least 430 employees of American contractors were reported killed in Afghanistan: 386 working for the Defense Department, 43 for the United States Agency for International Development and one for the State Department, according to data provided by the American Embassy in Kabul and publicly available in part from the United States Department of Labor.
 
By comparison, 418 American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year, according to Defense Department statistics compiled by icasualties.org, an independent organization that monitors war deaths.
 
That trend has been growing for the past several years in Afghanistan, and it parallels a similar trend in Iraq, where contractor deaths exceeded military deaths as long ago as 2009. In Iraq, however, that took place as the number of American troops was being drastically reduced until their complete withdrawal at the end of last year. And last year, more soldiers than private contractors died in Iraq (54 compared with 41, according to Labor Department figures).
 
Experts who have studied the phenomenon say that because many contractors do not comply with even the current, scanty reporting requirements, the true number of private contractor deaths may be far higher. "No one believes we're underreporting military deaths," Mr. Schooner said. "Everyone believes we're underreporting contractor deaths."
[...]
 
Iran
8) Turkish diplomat: Iran is ready to cut a deal
Joby Warrick and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, February 11
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/turkish-diplomat-iran-is-ready-to-cut-a-deal/2012/02/10/gIQANA164Q_story.html
 
Turkey's top diplomat said Friday that Iran is ready to negotiate an end to the standoff with Western powers over its nuclear program, suggesting that the controversy could be resolved quickly if the deep distrust between the two sides could be overcome.
 
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu also criticized economic sanctions against Iran as ineffective and warned that any military strike against the country's nuclear facilities would inflame the region while doing little to curb Iran's ambitions. Israeli and U.S. officials have not ruled out military options to impede Iran's progress.
 
"I am telling you, a military strike is a disaster," Davutoglu told a gathering at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. "It should not be an option."
 
Davutoglu, in Washington to consult with the Obama administration on the Syrian and Iranian crises, said he perceived a new willingness among Iran's leaders to cut a deal on limits to its nuclear program. Talks between Iran and the "P5-plus-1" powers - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - have been frozen for more than a year.
 
Turkey has sought to play a mediating role in the dispute, and two years ago it sought to help broker a deal in which Iran would give up nearly all of its stockpile of enriched uranium in return for fuel rods for its medical research reactor. Iran initially accepted the deal but then reneged.
 
[This garbles the history. Iran "reneged" earlier. When Turkey helped broker the deal, it was the U.S. that "reneged" - JFP.]
 
"The deal is clear. It could be resolved in a few days," Davutoglu said Friday. The problem, he said, was "mutual distrust," including deep suspicions on the Western side that Iran may make a pretense of negotiating merely to buy more time for its nuclear scientists.
 
Both sides are responsible for the toxic atmosphere, said the Turkish diplomat. He said economic sanctions imposed by Western countries in the past two years have caused economic pain without slowing Iran's production of enriched uranium. "What happened? Iran produced more," he said.
[...]
 
 
9) India Defends Oil Purchases From Iran
Jim Yardley, New York Times, February 11, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/12/world/asia/india-trumpets-ties-with-us-amid-iran-oil-deal.html
 
New Delhi - Ranjan Mathai, the Indian foreign secretary, made the rounds in Washington last week, describing India's relationship with the United States as one of growing comfort, depth and candor, if not perfect harmony. On that last point he could have been talking about the recent frictions between the two countries over Iran.
 
India's determination to continue buying Iranian oil, despite sanctions and growing political pressure from the United States and Europe, has frustrated officials in Washington at a time when the forward momentum in the United States-India relationship has slowed, with differences over issues including civil nuclear cooperation, trade protectionism and military sales.
 
The situation was exacerbated last week by news reports that India had become Iran's top oil customer, while an Indian official announced plans to send a trade delegation to Tehran. In New Delhi, diplomats and analysts say India's purchasing of Iranian oil is a matter of economic necessity, given its dependence on imported oil. Some say the purchases also represent diplomatic hedging in a region bracing for the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan by 2014, or possibly sooner.
 
Indeed, many Indian officials, even those supportive of a stronger partnership with the United States, caution against turning issues like Iran into diplomatic litmus tests, considering the complexities of a neighborhood in which India represents a bulwark of stability, democracy and economic opportunity compared with Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries.
 
"This can't be a test of our friendship," said Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian ambassador to the United States. "Washington must realize that we are in a neighborhood where Iran is a factor."
 
India's most immediate concern is fueling its economy, which has slowed in the past year. India buys about 12 percent of its crude oil from Iran, and many Indian refineries have been built to run solely on Iranian crude, meaning they would have to be retrofitted in order to process oil from other countries.
 
"To shift is not something that can be done very easily," said one senior Indian official, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity given the delicacy of the situation. The official added: "Where would we get that refining capacity? Who would be our new suppliers?"
 
Even so, India has tried for several years to reduce its dependence on Iranian crude oil, partly because of the new sanctions by the Obama administration punishing any banks that do business with Iran. To work around these sanctions, Indian oil companies have made payments to Iran through a bank in Turkey that fell outside the American restrictions.
 
However, Indian officials are preparing for the likelihood that the Turkish avenue may soon be closed. The senior Indian official confirmed recent reports that India and Iran had agreed on a deal in which Indian companies would pay for 45 percent of their imports in Indian rupees - thus avoiding the need to pay in dollars - and might even settle the remainder of the debts through barter.
[...]
Iran is also a factor in the uncertain endgame in Afghanistan. K. C. Singh, a former Indian ambassador in Tehran, said India and Iran cooperated to support the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the fall of the Taliban in 2001. But that relationship cooled as American troops settled in Afghanistan, and India and the United States moved closer together. Now, though, Mr. Singh said India was "scampering to recover" its relationship with Iran as a hedge to prepare for an uncertain future in Afghanistan.
 
"They are attempting to do it now out of some serious concerns about what may happen after 2014, or earlier," Mr. Singh said.
[...]
 
Afghanistan
10) Informer Misled NATO In Airstrike That Killed 8 Civilians, Afghans Say
Alissa J. Rubin and Jawad Sukhanyar, New York Times, February 10, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/11/world/asia/afghans-say-informant-misled-nato-leading-to-airstrike-on-children.html
 
Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghan government officials who traveled to the snowbound village where seven children and a young adult reportedly were killed in a NATO airstrike this week said that the bombing was based on incorrect information.
 
The officials said that after talking to local residents and seeing the area, they concluded that an informer had misled the French troops who control the area.
 
The airstrike took place on Wednesday in the village of Geyaba in the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa. Seven boys under 14 and an 18-year-old were killed in the attack, according to Abdul Mubin Safi, the administrative director of Kapisa Province. They were herding sheep less than half a mile from their homes when the bombing happened.
[...]
One member of the team, Mohammad Hussain Khan Sanjani, the chairman of the provincial council who was reached by telephone in Kapisa, said that after talking with people in the village, it seemed that misinformation had been passed to NATO forces.
 
"These people are involved in animal husbandry, they own sheep and goats, and their children went out to feed the animals behind their village under some oak trees," Mr. Sanjani said.
 
"The French troops had a secret report from one of their agents who told them that in that area there were armed men preparing to attack the government and the French soldiers in Kapisa," he said. "We talked to locals and found that the intelligence was wrong and they targeted civilians."
[...]
 
Israel/Palestine
11) 'W. Bank housing policy is a 'Judaization strategy"
UN investigator in J'lem accuses Israel of imposing strategy in W.Bank, east J'lem, areas within pre-67 lines.
Tovah Lazaroff, Jerusalem Post, 13/02/2012
http://www.jpost.com/DiplomacyAndPolitics/Article.aspx?id=257564
 
A UN investigator on Sunday accused Israel of imposing a "strategy of Judaization" in its housing policies in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, as well as in areas of the country within the pre-1967 lines.
 
Israeli activity against Negev Beduin and Palestinians in both east Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank "are the new frontiers of dispossession of the traditional inhabitants and the implementation of a strategy of Judaization and control of the territory," said Raquel Rolnik, a special UN rapporteur on adequate housing.
 
She spoke at a Jerusalem press conference as she wrapped up a two-week visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
 
Rolnik plans to submit a full report on Israel's housing policies to the UN Human Rights Council, which will debate the issue in March 2013.
 
But her initial findings, she said, already indicates "that the Israeli planning, development and land system now violates the right to adequate housing."
[...]
In east Jerusalem, Palestinians can apply for building permits on only 13% of the area, Rolnik said. "The number of permits issued is grossly inadequate to housing needs, leading many Palestinians to build without obtaining a permit," she said.
 
As a result, tens of thousands of Palestinians' homes are at risk of being demolished, she added.
 
More than 70% of the demolitions in Jerusalem are carried out against Palestinian residents, even though they make up only 20% of the infractions, Rolnik said.
 
In the West Bank, security and administrative measures result in the demolition of Palestinian homes, she said, and also limit Palestinian growth and access to livelihood and services.
 
Rolnik said she was concerned by plans to forcibly relocate the Jahalin Beduin who live in the area near Ma'aleh Adumim.
 
Last year, Israel demolished 622 Palestinian structures, including 222 that were family homes, she said, and 1,094 people were displaced. "This is almost double the number from 2010," she said.
[...]
 
Saudi Arabia
12) Second Protester Is Reported Killed in Saudi Arabia
J. David Goodman, New York Times, February 10, 2012, 3:42 PM
http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/10/second-protester-is-reported-killed-in-saudi-arabia/
 
Activists in Saudi Arabia said that for the second day in a row, a protester was shot dead Friday by security forces during demonstrations in the country's oil-rich eastern region.
 
The state-run Saudi Press Agency confirmed the killing of a man on Friday by security forces following "an illegal gathering," Reuters reported. The state news report said security officers came under fire and "dealt with the situation by firing back, which resulted with the death of one."
 
The violence occurred in a small town north of the city of Qatif, said Ahmed Hamad Al Rebh, a 46-year-old Saudi Arabian activist who maintains a main Facebook page for a network of activist videographers in eastern Saudi Arabia.
 
The page, Revolution East, included video of the protester, identified as Zohair Al Saad, shortly before activists said he died from gunshot wounds. A group of men can be seen carrying his limp body and attempting to stanch a wound just below his belt as he lay on the ground. Blood can be seen dripping onto the pavement.
 
Three others were wounded in the clash, Mr. Al Rebh said in a telephone interview from Beirut. He said he had lived outside Saudi Arabia since early last year for safety.
 
"In Saudi Arabia there are no rubber bullets, no water hoses, no birdshot," he said, referring to the less lethal methods used to quell protests in many countries. "There is only live ammunition that is used against peaceful protesters."
[...]
 

-

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:

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