JFP 2/22: N'yahu calls Gen. Dempsey "servant of Iran"; Summers to the World Bank?
Just Foreign Policy News, February 22, 2012
N'yahu calls Gen. Dempsey "servant of Iran"; Summers to the World Bank?
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: UltraViolet: Tell President Obama: No to Summers at the World Bank!
President Obama will nominate someone to head up the World Bank very soon. News reports say Larry Summers is leading his short-list. But Summers would be a terrible pick. Summers has a long history of making sexist comments--like saying girls don't have the genetic gifts to do well in math and science like boys do. And the World Bank has a lot of power over the education and training of women and girls in developing countries. We need a nominee who believes girls have the same potential as boys.
*Action: Center for Constitutional Rights: End U.S. Funding to Honduran Military and Police
Contact your Representative and ask that they sign on to a letter circulated in the House of Representatives initiated by Representative Jan Schakowsky. The letter urges the State Department to take concrete actions to promote human rights in Honduras.
Does AIPAC want war? Lieberman Capability "Red Line" May Tip AIPAC's Hand
If AIPAC embraces the Lieberman bill at its March policy conference, it will show that AIPAC has shifted to openly calling for war.
Randa Musa: My husband, Khadar Adnan, has shed a light on Israel's disregard for human rights
Some 300 Palestinians are being held in administrative detention by the Israeli occupation: held indefinitely without charge or trial.
Medea Benjamin: Police Chief Timoney, Meet Bahraini Mothers
John Timoney was brought in to "reform" Bahrain's security forces. Timoney told reporters that there is no evidence that tear gas has killed anyone. He should meet Zahra Ali, the mother of Yassin Jassim Al Asfoor, an asthmatic who died after riot police fired three tear gas canisters directly into their home. In January, Amnesty International called on Bahrain to investigate 13 deaths that followed the misuse of tear gas by security forces. At least three of those deaths occurred after Timoney was hired.
1) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak have launched a vicious attack on JCS chair Gen. Martin Dempsey, an American war hero, saying his recent statements "served Iran," writes Juan Cole at Informed Comment. They objected to Dempsey's statement that "I don't think a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a military attack on Iran." Netanyahu accused Dempsey of "serving Iranian interests," according to Haaretz.
2) From the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the head of Mossad, the experts are speaking out against attacking Iran over its nuclear program, but hawks like the GOP presidential candidates are drowning out the warnings, writes Peter Beinart for the Daily Beast. Who are the hawks who have so far marginalized the defense and intelligence establishments in both Israel and the U.S.? From Rick Santorum to John McCain to Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, their defining characteristic is that they were equally apocalyptic about the threat from Iraq, and equally nonchalant about the difficulties of successfully attacking it.
3) Echoes of the period leading up to the Iraq war in the talk of war over Iran's nuclear program are unmistakable, igniting a familiar debate over whether journalists are overstating Iran's progress toward a bomb, writes Scott Shane in the New York Times.
Graham Allison, a leading expert on nuclear strategy at Harvard University, has long compared the evolving conflict over Iran's nuclear program to a "slow-motion Cuban missile crisis," in which each side has only murky intelligence, tempers run high and there is the danger of a devastating outcome. Watching Iran, Israel and the United States, he said, "you can see the parties, slowly but almost inexorably, moving to a collision."
In a Pew Research Center poll, 58 percent of those surveyed said the United States should use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Only 30 percent said no. In the same survey, 75 percent of respondents said Obama was withdrawing troops from Afghanistan at the right pace or not quickly enough, a finding in keeping with many indications of war weariness.
Micah Zenko, who studies conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees an old pattern. "It's true throughout history: there's always the belief that the next war will go much better than the last war," he said. Faced with an intractable security challenge, both politicians and ordinary people "want to 'do something,' " Zenko said. "And nothing 'does something' like military force."
4) Seven in 10 Americans believe that Iran currently has nuclear weapons, CNN reports. [Reporting this result, CNN fails to note that this totally contradicts the understanding of the situation across the U.S. government - perhaps inadvertently demonstrating how it could the case that the majority of Americans would believe this - JFP.]
5) Central to the case for a military strike on Iran is the argument that a nuclear-armed Iran, unlike the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War or North Korea today, would be impossible to contain, writes former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl in The Hill. But the most likely road to "containment" is the very course war proponents advocate: a near-term preventive strike on Iran's nuclear program.
A near-term U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program would knock it back, at most, a few years. Meanwhile it would motivate Iran's hardliners to kick out IAEA inspectors, incentivize the regime to rapidly rebuild a clandestine nuclear program, and rally the Iranian people around that cause to deter future attacks. Consequently, in the aftermath of a strike, Washington would have to encircle Iran with a costly containment regime-much like twelve-year effort to bottle up Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War-and be prepared to re-attack at a moment's notice to prevent Iran from reconstituting its program. And with inspectors gone, it would be much more difficult to detect and prevent Iran's clandestine rebuilding efforts. The net result would be a decades-long requirement to contain an even more implacable nuclear foe.
Washington would be left to bear the burden alone. In the absence of clear evidence Iran had made the decision to build a bomb, a unilateral Israeli or U.S. strike would shatter international consensus and allow Iran to play the victim. The result would be the worst of all worlds: an Iran emboldened to go for a bomb and a requirement for post-war containment without the international cooperation required to actually implement such a policy.
The war hawks want would likely be a prelude to failed containment, not a substitute for it. Fortunately, there are other options and we still have time to pursue them, Kahl writes. U.S. and Israeli officials have both noted that it would take Iran at least a year to produce a testable nuclear device once Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei decides to do so; it would take several more years to develop a warhead for a missile.
6) President Obama's FY13 Afghanistan budget request assumes that 68,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through September 2013, when the fiscal year ends, writes Matt Southworth for FCNL. This seems at odds with what President Obama said in June 2011 about troop withdrawals. While announcing the removal of 33,000 U.S. troops by September of this year, the president said: "After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead."
7) Khader Adnan's extraordinary hunger strike of 66 days has ended due to Israel's agreement to release him on April 17, notes UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk at Al Jazeera. It should be noted that on matters of principle, Israel gave not an inch: even in relation to Adnan, he will remain in captivity and will be subject to the "legal" possibility that his period of imprisonment could be extended indefinitely; beyond this, Israeli authorities conceded no intention whatsoever to review the cases of the 309 other Palestinians who are presently being held under the administrative detention procedure.
8) Officials said at least nine demonstrators were shot dead and dozens wounded Wednesday in violent protests across Afghanistan over the burning of the Koran at a US-run military base, AFP reports. The Afghan interior ministry blamed at least one of the deaths on "foreign guards of Camp Phoenix", a US military base. In Kabul and in provinces to the east, north and south of the capital, furious Afghans took to the streets screaming "Death to America."
9) The uprisings in Bahrain raise an uncomfortable question for the United States: how long the U.S. maintain close ties with the regime cracking down on protests, reports John Bentley for CBS News. Unlike the rulers in Egypt, Libya and Syria, the U.S. has not called for King al Khalifa to step down. The State Department has instead issued a much milder rebuke, asking Bahrain to "exercise restraint and operate within the rule of law and international judicial standards."
1) Israeli PM Netanyahu attacks Gen. Dempsey as Servant of Iran
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, 2/21/2012
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have launched a vicious attack on US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, an American war hero, saying his recent statements "served Iran." They objected to his statement on Sunday, on Fareed Zakaria's GPS , that
"I don't think a wise thing at this moment is for Israel to launch a military attack on Iran…"
He also said such a strike "would be destabilizing" and "not prudent." He added,
"…we are of the opinion that the Iranian regime is a rational actor. And it's for that reason, I think, that we think the current path we're on is the most prudent path at this point."
Prime Minister Netanyahu, who in the past has called for expulsion of Palestinians from their West Bank home and boasted of derailing the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, accused Dempsey of "serving Iranian interests," according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz ("The Land"), which wrote:
"We made it clear to Donilon that all those statements and briefings only served the Iranians," a senior Israeli official said. "The Iranians see there's controversy between the United States and Israel, and that the Americans object to a military act. That reduces the pressure on them."
Likely officials of the far right wing Likud Party were especially angered by Dempsey's assessment that the Iranian leadership is made up of "rational actors." Israel and its media agents in the United States have expended enormous resources in attempting to convince the US public that the Iranian leadership is made up of mad mullahs obsessed with the end of the world who would gleefully light the nuclear match that brought about an apocalypse. (All this completely untrue and mere racist pablum.) To have the top military man in the United States undo the work of millions of dollars worth of propaganda must have been galling indeed.
Netanyahu's charge that Dempsey is "serving Iran" is completely unacceptable and deserves a stern rebuke from the Obama administration if it is not going to make itself look like a complete set of wusses.
Dempsey served in the Gulf War and deployed twice to Iraq during the Iraq War. "General Dempsey's awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Distinguished Service Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star with "V" Device and Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge."
If it is the fact, as the Israeli right wing kept loudly insisting, that Saddam Hussein was a dire threat to Israel, then they might show a little gratitude and respect to a man like Dempsey, who deployed to Iraq to take down that regime and build a new one.
2) Experts Say Iran Attack Is Irrational, Yet Hawks Are Winning the Debate
From the chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the head of Mossad, the experts are speaking out against attacking Iran over its nuclear program, but hawks like the GOP presidential candidates are drowning out the warnings.
Peter Beinart, Daily Beast, Feb 21, 2012 4:45 AM EST
The debate over whether Israel should attack Iran rests on three basic questions. First, if Iran's leaders got the bomb, would they use it or give it to people who might? Second, would a strike substantially retard Iran's nuclear program? Third, if Israel attacks, what will Iran do in response?
The vast majority of people opining on these questions-myself very much included-lack the expertise to answer. We've never directed a bombing campaign; we have no secret sources in Tehran; we don't spend our days studying the Iranian regime. So essentially, we decide which experts to trust.
As it happens, both the American and Israeli governments boast military and intelligence agencies charged with answering exactly these sorts of questions. And with striking consistency, the people who run, or ran, those agencies are warning-loudly-against an attack.
Start with the first question: whether Iran would be suicidal enough to use or transfer a nuke. In 2007, the U.S. intelligence community's National Intelligence Estimate on Iran argued that the Iranian regime-loathsome as it is-is "guided by a cost-benefit approach." In 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testified before Congress that "we continue to judge Iran's nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach." Last week, Gen. Ron Burgess, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told Congress that "the agency assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or provoke a conflict." Last weekend, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN's Fareed Zakaria: "We are of the opinion that Iran is a rational actor."
Most of the Israeli security officials who have commented publicly have said similar things. In December, Haaretz reported that Mossad chief Tamir Pardo had called Iran a threat, but not an existential one. Earlier this month, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy echoed that view, declaring that "it is not in the power of Iran to destroy the state of Israel." That same week, former Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz said virtually the same thing: that "Iran poses a serious threat but not an existential one." In other words, Iran might use a nuclear weapon to put additional pressure on Israel, but not to wipe it off the map.
Then there's an attack's likelihood of success. In congressional testimony this week, Clapper warned that an Israeli strike would set back Iran's nuclear program by only one to two years. In January, Michael Hayden, who led the CIA from 2006 to 2009, said a successful strike was "beyond their [Israel's] capacity." This week in The New York Times, David Deptula, the Air Force general who planned the bombing campaigns against Iraq in 1991 and Afghanistan in 2001, mocked "the pundits who talk about, 'Oh, yeah, bomb Iran'" and said that only the United States could launch a strike massive enough to seriously retard Iran's dispersed and hardened nuclear program.
Finally, there's the likely fallout. This week, Dempsey predicted that an attack would have a "destabilizing" influence on the region. Last month, Hayden warned that while the U.S. intelligence community does not currently know whether Iran has decided to build a bomb-as opposed to developing the capacity to build one-an attack would "guarantee that which we are trying to prevent: an Iran that will spare nothing to build a nuclear weapon." Meir Dagan, who ran Mossad from 2002 to 2011, warned last year that attacking Iran "would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program."
Can you find former military and intelligence officials who are more sympathetic to a strike? Sure. But in my lifetime, I've never seen a more lopsided debate among the experts paid to make these judgments. Yet it barely matters. So far, the Iran debate has been a rout, with the Republican presidential candidates loudly declaring their openness to war and President Obama unwilling to even echo the skepticism of his own security chiefs.
And who are the hawks who have so far marginalized the defense and intelligence establishments in both Israel and the U.S.? They're a collection of think-tankers and politicians, most absolutely sincere, in my experience. But from Rick Santorum to John McCain to Elliott Abrams to John Bolton, their defining characteristic is that they were equally apocalyptic about the threat from Iraq, and equally nonchalant about the difficulties of successfully attacking it. The story of the Iraq debate was, in large measure, the story of their triumph over the career military and intelligence officials-folks like Eric Shinseki and Joseph Wilson-whose successors are now warning against attacking Iran.
3) In Din Over Iran, Rattling Sabers Echo
Scott Shane, New York Times, February 21, 2012
Washington - The United States has now endured what by some measures is the longest period of war in its history, with more than 6,300 American troops killed and 46,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan and the ultimate costs estimated at $3 trillion. Both wars lasted far longer than predicted. The outcomes seem disappointing and uncertain.
So why is there already a new whiff of gunpowder in the air?
Talk of war over Iran's nuclear program has reached a strident pitch in recent weeks, as Israel has escalated threats of a possible strike, the oratory of American politicians has become more bellicose and Iran has responded for the most part defiantly. With Israel and Iran exchanging accusations of assassination plots, some analysts see a danger of blundering into a war that would inevitably involve the United States.
Echoes of the period leading up to the Iraq war in 2003 are unmistakable, igniting a familiar debate over whether journalists are overstating Iran's progress toward a bomb. Yet there is one significant difference: by contrast with 2003, when the Bush administration portrayed Iraq as an imminent threat, Obama administration officials and intelligence professionals seem eager to calm the feverish language.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a CNN interview on Sunday that the United States had advised Israel that a strike now would be "destabilizing," adding that Iran had not yet decided whether to build a weapon. And American officials are weighing an Iranian offer to renew nuclear talks as a stream of threats from Tehran continued on Tuesday and international nuclear inspectors reported their mission to Iran had failed.
Still, unforeseen events can create their own momentum. Graham Allison, a leading expert on nuclear strategy at Harvard University, has long compared the evolving conflict over Iran's nuclear program to a "slow-motion Cuban missile crisis," in which each side has only murky intelligence, tempers run high and there is the danger of a devastating outcome.
"As a student of history, I'm certainly conscious that when you have heated politics and incomplete control of events, it's possible to stumble into a war," Mr. Allison said. Watching Iran, Israel and the United States, he said, "you can see the parties, slowly but almost inexorably, moving to a collision."
Another critical difference from the prewar discussion in 2003 is the central role of Israel, which views the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon as a threat to its very existence and has warned that Iran's nuclear facilities may soon be buried too deep for foreign bombers to reach. [The repetition of this standard media trope that "Israel" sees Iran's nuclear program as an "existential threat," when many top Israeli officials have said the opposite, is an annoying stain on an otherwise outstanding article - JFP.]
Israel's stance has played out politically in the United States. With the notable exception of Representative Ron Paul of Texas, Republican presidential candidates have kept up a competition in threatening Iran and portraying themselves as protectors of Israel. A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday released a letter to President Obama saying that new talks could prove a "dangerous distraction," allowing Iran to buy time to move closer to developing a weapon.
Despite a decade of war, most Americans seem to endorse the politicians' martial spirit. In a Pew Research Center poll this month, 58 percent of those surveyed said the United States should use military force, if necessary, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Only 30 percent said no.
"I find it puzzling," said Richard K. Betts of Columbia University, who has studied security threats since the cold war. "You'd think there would be an instinctive reason to hold back after two bloody noses in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In the same survey, 75 percent of respondents said that Mr. Obama was withdrawing troops from Afghanistan at the right pace or not quickly enough, a finding in keeping with many indications of war weariness.
Micah Zenko, who studies conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, sees an old pattern. "It's true throughout history: there's always the belief that the next war will go much better than the last war," he said.
Faced with an intractable security challenge, both politicians and ordinary people "want to 'do something,' " Mr. Zenko said. "And nothing 'does something' like military force."
Yet it is the military and intelligence establishment that has quietly sought to counter politicians' bold language about Iran's nuclear program, which the Iranians contend is solely for peaceful purposes. At a hearing last week, Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, pressed James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence.
"Do you have doubt about the Iranians' intention when it comes to making a nuclear weapon?" Mr. Graham asked.
"I do," Mr. Clapper replied.
"You doubt whether or not they're trying to create a nuclear bomb?" Mr. Graham persisted.
"I think they are keeping themselves in a position to make that decision," Mr. Clapper replied. "But there are certain things they have not yet done and have not done for some time," he added, apparently a reference to specific steps to prepare a nuclear device. Haunting such discussions is the memory of the Iraq war. The intelligence on weapons of mass destruction, which was one of the Bush administration's main rationales for the invasion, proved to be devastatingly wrong. And the news media, including The New York Times, which ultimately apologized to readers for some of its coverage of claims of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, are again under scrutiny by critics wary of exaggerated threats.
Both the ombudsman of The Washington Post and the public editor of The New York Times in his online blog have scolded their newspapers since December for overstating the current evidence against Iran in particular headlines and stories. Amid the daily drumbeat about a possible war, the hazard of an assassination or a bombing setting off a conflict inadvertently worries some analysts. After a series of killings of Iranian scientists widely believed to be the work of Israel, Israeli diplomats in three countries were the targets last week of bombs suspected to have been planted by Iranians.
In October, an Iranian American was charged in what American authorities assert was an Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States, possibly by bombing a Washington restaurant. Mr. Clapper, the intelligence director, told Congress in January that the accusation demonstrated that Iranian officials "are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States in response to real or perceived U.S. actions that threaten the regime."
An actual Iranian attack inside the United States - possibly following an Israeli strike on Iran - would inevitably result in calls for an American military retaliation.
Peter Feaver of Duke University, who has long studied public opinion about war and worked in the administration of President George W. Bush, said the Obama administration's policy was now "in the exact middle of American public opinion on Iran" - taking a hard line against a nuclear-armed Iran, yet opposing military action for now and escalating sanctions. But as the November election approaches, Mr. Feaver said, inflammatory oratory is likely to increase, even if it is unsuited to a problem as complicated as Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"This is the standard danger of talking about foreign policy crises in a campaign," he said. "If you try to explain a complex position, you sound hopelessly vague."
4) CNN Poll: American believe Iran has nuclear weapons
CNN, February 19, 2012
Washington – Seven in 10 Americans believe that Iran currently has nuclear weapons, according to a new national poll.
Friday's release of the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey comes just hours after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the Islamic republic isn't seeking and doesn't believe in pursuing nuclear weapons. Khamenei was responding to a draft United Nations report that said that Iran may be working to develop a nuclear weapon.
The poll indicates that 71 percent of the public says Iran has nuclear weapons, with just over one in four disagreeing. More than six in ten think the U.S. should take economic and diplomatic efforts to get Iran to shut down their nuclear program, with only a quarter calling for immediate military action.
"But if economic and diplomatic efforts fail, support for military action rises to 59 percent, with only 39 percent opposing military action under those circumstances," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
5) The Iran containment fallacy
Colin H. Kahl, The Hill, 02/22/12 11:53 AM ET
[From January 2009 to December 2011, Kahl was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East.]
It has become increasingly fashionable in Jerusalem and Washington to advocate a military strike on Iran. Central to the case for war is the argument that a nuclear-armed Iran, unlike the Soviet Union and China during the Cold War or North Korea today, would be impossible to contain, and therefore attacking Iran is the "least bad option" to prevent an intolerable threat. Ehud Barak, Israel's Minister of Defense, told an audience at the annual Herzliya security conference in early February that military action may soon be needed because "dealing with a nuclearized Iran will be far more complex, far more dangerous and far more costly in blood and money than stopping it today."
Echoing this theme, former Bush administration official and current Mitt Romney adviser John Bolton recently called for an immediate bombing campaign on the grounds that attempting to contain Iran was futile. "The mullahs," Bolton asserted, "do not buy our theories of deterrence." And last Thursday, on Capitol Hill, 32 senators introduced a resolution urging President Obama to "oppose any policy that would rely on containment as an option in response to the Iranian nuclear threat." Explaining the rationale, Senator Joe Lieberman said: "We . . . want to say clearly and resolutely to Iran: You have only two choices-peacefully negotiate to end your nuclear weapons program or expect a military strike to end that program."
Yet, paradoxically, the most likely road to containment is the very course war proponents advocate: a near-term preventive strike on Iran's nuclear program.
There are two pathways to containment. The one administration critics emphasize-that president Obama would somehow choose to "live with" a nuclear-armed Iran-is actually the least likely. Obama has made clear that an Iranian nuclear weapon is "unacceptable," his Secretary of Defense has described an Iranian nuclear weapon as a "red line," and the administration has put in place unprecedented sanctions to pressure the regime to accept a diplomatic solution. Obama has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use force abroad, and during his January 23 State of the Union address stated that the military option remains on the table regarding Iran. Meanwhile, General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has made clear that the Pentagon has a viable Iran contingency plan should it be required. In short, the least likely road to containment is the one being pursued by the administration.
A second, and far more likely, path to containment is to rush into war before all other options have been exhausted. A near-term U.S. or Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program would knock it back, at most, a few years. Meanwhile it would motivate Iran's hardliners to kick out International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, incentivize the regime to rapidly rebuild a clandestine nuclear program, and rally the Iranian people around that cause to deter future attacks. Consequently, in the aftermath of an Israeli or American strike, Washington would have to encircle Iran with a costly containment regime-much like twelve-year effort to bottle up Saddam Hussein after the 1991 Gulf War-and be prepared to re-attack at a moment's notice to prevent Iran from reconstituting its program. And with inspectors gone, it would be much more difficult to detect and prevent Iran's clandestine rebuilding efforts. The net result would be a decades-long requirement to contain an even more implacable nuclear foe.
Compounding matters, Washington would be left to bear the burden alone. In the absence of clear evidence that Iran has made the final decision to build a bomb, a unilateral Israeli or U.S. strike would shatter international consensus and allow Tehran to play the victim. The result would be the worst of all worlds: an Iran emboldened to go for a bomb and a requirement for post-war containment without the international cooperation required to actually implement such a policy.
In short, the choice between "war now" or "containment later" is a false one. The war hawks want would likely be a prelude to failed containment, not a substitute for it. Fortunately, there are other options and we still have time to pursue them.
The Iranian nuclear threat is growing, but it is not yet imminent. U.S. and Israeli officials have both noted that it would take Iran at least a year to produce a testable nuclear device once Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei decides to do so; it would take several more years to develop a warhead for a missile. Although Iran is clearly positioning itself to develop a nuclear weapons capability, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate on January 31 that there is no hard evidence that Khamenei has yet made the final decision to translate those capabilities into a bomb. Assuming Iran does not have covert enrichment sites, Khamanei is unlikely to dash for a bomb soon because doing so would require Iran to use the declared facilities at Natanz or Qom to produce weapons grade uranium. Because any such move would be detected by the IAEA, Iran is unlikely to go for broke until they can dramatically reduce their timeline or build a weapon at new covert facilities. This could be years away.
6) War Funding Request Denotes 68,000 Troops Through Late 2013
Matt Southworth, FCNL, 02/21/2012 @ 11:50 PM
It's no secret that war is expensive. The U.S. has spent over $1,400,000,000,000 ($1.4 trillion) in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. This figure represents operational costs, not long term costs such as veteran care, which will rise for decades to come. However, looking at the fiscal year 2013 war funding request, you might think war is getting less expensive. Not quite. Funding overall is on the decline, yes, but the war in Afghanistan still costs $1 million per soldier, per year.
Overall, war funding is on the decline because of troop withdrawals from Iraq. Afghanistan funding is also down due to troop withdrawals. The Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 funding request for Afghanistan (known as Overseas Contingency Operations, OCO) is $88.5 billion, approximately $26 billion less than what was appropriated in FY 2012. But there is a hitch: the FY13 request assumes that 68,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan through September 2013, when the fiscal year ends.
This seems at odds with what President Obama said back in June 2011 about troop withdrawals. While announcing the removal of 33,000 U.S. troops by September of this year, the president said:
"After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead. Our mission will change from combat to support. By 2014, the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security."
The projections do seem to square with the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's February first announcement that U.S. troops will end combat operations by mid 2013, and then switch to an advisory role. If there are to be no reductions in troop levels for the entire 2013 fiscal year-keeping levels around 68,000-then the Panetta's announcement would directly contradict the "steady" pace of reduction President Obama called for in June 2011.
The tide of war is supposed to be receding but appears to remain steady for the next 18 months. Moreover, it is this lack of clarity that is leading to instability and driving Afghanistan towards civil war.
7) Saving Khader Adnan's life and legacy
Richard Falk, Al Jazeera, 22 Feb 2012 11:15
[Falk is the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.]
Santa Barbara, CA - It is a great relief to those millions around the world who were moved to prayer and action by Khader Adnan's extraordinary hunger strike of 66 days that has ended due to Israel's agreement to release him on April 17.
We, who were inspired by such a heroic refusal to accept humiliation and arbitrary arrest, can only hope that for the sake of his family, for the cause of Palestinian resistance, and for the struggle to achieve a just peace that Mr Adnan will fully recover to resume his personal and political life. We cannot take for granted that there will be a full recovery given Mr Adnan's critical condition confirmed by examining doctors, just prior to his decision on February 21 to resume eating in a normal manner.
While it is appropriate to celebrate this ending of the strike as "a victory", there are several disturbing features that deserve comment. To call an arrangement that saved someone's life a "deal", as the media consistently put it, is itself demeaning, and reveals at the very least a failure to appreciate the gravity and deep dedication of purpose that is bound up with such a nonviolent form of resistance.
Similarly, the carelessness of the initial reactions was notable, often referring to Mr Adnan's "release" when in fact he will be still held in administrative detention for several more weeks, and could conceivably be confined much longer, should Israeli military authorities unilaterally decide that "substantial evidence" against him emerges in this period immediately ahead. It should be noted that on matters of principle, Israel gave not an inch: even in relation to Mr Adnan, he will remain in captivity and will be subject to the "legal" possibility that his period of imprisonment could be extended indefinitely; beyond this, Israeli authorities conceded no intention whatsoever to review the cases of the 309 other Palestinians who are presently being held under the administrative detention procedure.
These include one prisoner held for more than five years, and 17 others for periods of two to four years. Israel did not even agree to a review of their excessive use of administrative procedure, an approach that, at best, is supposed to be reserved for true and credible emergency situations.
It should also be noted that Israeli commentary treated the arrangement with measured cynicism, if not disdain. Even those Israelis who supported the agreement justified it as a way of avoiding trouble down the road should Khader Adnan have died, while held by Israelis in view of the measure of support his hunger strike was receiving among Palestinians and people around the world.
Keeping Mr Adnan alive was also seen by Israelis as a means to avoid a wider scrutiny of the institution and practice of administrative detention as it has been used by the Israeli military "justice" system. The announcement of the arrangement was made an hour before an emergency session of the Israeli Supreme Court was scheduled to hear Mr Adnan's petition for release. This highest judicial body in Israel has in the past supported the military position in such instances. Here there was worry that the extremities of this case could produce an adverse result and even a repudiation of the manner in which Israeli authorities used administrative detention.
The procedure is allegedly used by Israel for security purposes. Instead, administrative detention is seemingly used to harass and intimidate militant opponents of an oppressive occupation - an occupation that has continued for 45 years, and is aggravated by continuously appropriating Palestinian land and water for the benefit of settlement expansion, while disrupting and cleansing long-term Palestinian residency.
Mr Adnan's prior arrests stemmed from militant peaceful demonstrations that landed him in Israeli jails eight times, and induced him to undertake shorter hunger strikes on three previous occasions, one as recently as 2010. From what we can tell, Mr Adnan is a committed activist who has associated himself with Islamic Jihad, but works on a daily basis as a baker and maintains an admired strong family role and popular community presence in his small West Bank town of Arraba.
Substantively, it is crucial to support a campaign to free the other several hundred Palestinians currently being held in administrative detention and to exert enough pressure to end reliance on the practice altogether. Mr Adnan's brave stand will have been mostly without effect if his compelling exposure of the cruelty and arbitrariness of Israeli reliance on administrative detention is allowed to slip from view now that his strike is over.
Instead, knowing what we have come to know, it is the responsibility of all of us to do all we can to discredit and force the abandonment of administrative detention by Israel, and challenge its role in the United States and elsewhere. A fitting tribute to Mr Adnan's hunger strike would be to put opposition to administrative detention on the top of the human rights agenda throughout the world. We should begin by refusing to use the phrase "administrative detention", rechristening it as "administrative torture" or "lawless captivity".
8) Nine killed in Afghan protests over Koran burning
Shah Marai, AFP, February 22, 2012
At least nine demonstrators were shot dead and dozens wounded Wednesday in violent protests across Afghanistan over the burning of the Koran at a US-run military base, officials said.
The Afghan interior ministry blamed at least one of the deaths on "foreign guards of Camp Phoenix", a US military base in eastern Kabul attacked by protesters, but most were attributed by local officials to clashes with police.
The ministry said it would investigate all the deaths, blaming some of them on "security guards" at unnamed foreign bases. A spokesman said it was not known whether the guards were Afghans or foreigners.
In Kabul and in provinces to the east, north and south of the capital, furious Afghans took to the streets screaming "Death to America", throwing rocks and setting fire to shops and vehicles as gunshots rang out.
In the eastern city of Jalalabad, students set fire to an effigy of President Barack Obama, and the US embassy in Kabul went into lockdown.
Afghanistan is a deeply religious country where slights against Islam have frequently provoked violent protests and Afghans were incensed that any Western troops could be so insensitive, 10 years after the 2001 US-led invasion.
The US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, apologised and ordered an investigation, admitting that religious materials, including Korans "were inadvertently taken to an incineration facility".
Allen and US Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called on Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday to apologise again for the incident at Bagram airbase north of Kabul, the president's office said.
Karzai also urged the US military to speed up a transfer to Afghan control of the controversial US-controlled prison at Bagram, sometimes known as Afghanistan's Guantanamo Bay. "The sooner you do the transfer of the prison, the fewer problems and unfortunate incidents you will have," the president told Carter.
In the capital, hundreds of people poured onto the main artery to the east, the Jalalabad road, throwing stones at US military base Camp Phoenix. "As a result of shooting by foreign guards of Camp Phoenix one of our countrymen was killed and 10 others were injured," an interior ministry statement said.
In Jalalabad one person was killed as more than 1,000 demonstrators, many of them university students, blocked the highway shouting "Death to Americans, Death to Obama".
9) A U.S. double-standard for Bahrain?
John Bentley, CBS News, February 20, 2012 2:26 PM
Manama, Bahrain - Screaming at the riot police, dozens of women dressed head-to-toe in black excoriated the police for dragging away a teenage boy. The police, dressed in shiny white helmets and black flak jackets, held their billy clubs in check. A policeman with a megaphone finally dispersed the crowd, threatening them with jail if they stayed.
The boy was allegedly picked up by plainclothes officers for organizing a protest.
"Welcome to living under a dictatorship," said a young Bahraini-American, an architect from Ohio who was back in Bahrain for the one-year anniversary of the uprisings here.
Those uprisings didn't result in a regime change, the way many of the protests in the Arab Spring did, but they did raise an uncomfortable question for the United States: How long can the U.S. maintain close ties with a regime accused of human rights violations?
At least 35 people were killed during protests in February-March 2011, according to Amnesty International. More than 20 have died since then in the ongoing protests; dozens of people have been reportedly tortured.
The protesters are mainly Shia Muslims, who make up 70 percent of the population but are shut out of almost all government posts. The Sunni al Khalifa family has ruled Bahrain for more than 200 years, with King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa holding nearly complete control of the country.
Bahrain has cracked down on allowing foreign and independent journalists in the country, recently detaining reporters from CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Reuters, the Associated Press, and the BBC for several hours before letting them into the country.
Reporters were not allowed to bring in their cameras, satellite phones, or satellite transmission equipment. The equipment was seized at the airport by customs officials, and only given back after the journalists left the country.
Unlike the rulers in Egypt, Libya and Syria, the U.S. has not called for King al Khalifa to step down. The State Department has instead issued a much milder rebuke, asking Bahrain to "exercise restraint and operate within the rule of law and international judicial standards."
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