JFP 3/2: Sachs: How I'd lead the World Bank; Ellison: Stick to Diplomacy

Just Foreign Policy News, March 2, 2012
Sachs: How I'd lead the World Bank; Ellison: Stick to Diplomacy


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Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

On Iran Strike, Israelis Trust Obama Over Bibi
A new poll shows that only 19% of Israelis would support an Israeli strike on Iran if it is not backed by the U.S. Moreover, the poll suggests that the majority of Israelis trust U.S. officials on the issue more than they trust Prime Minister Netanyahu.
http://www.truth-out.org/iran-strike-israelis-trust-obama-over-bibi/1330698148

FCNL: 37 Reps Say No to War, Yes to Diplomacy
Rep. Keith Ellison (MN), Rep. Walter Jones (NC), and 35 of their colleagues sent a letter to President Obama supporting robust, sustained diplomacy with Iran. Check to see if your Rep. signed. Thanks to everyone who took action!
http://fcnl.org/issues/iran/ellison-jones_letter_to_support_iran_diplomacy/

MSNBC Video: Rep. Keith Ellison: Obama Should Stick to Diplomacy with Iran
Rep. Ellison talks about the Ellison-Jones letter and offers Brazil and Turkey's diplomacy with Iran on the nuclear fuel swap as evidence that there is a path forward.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/#46587506

March 2: Occupy AIPAC
Under the banner of Occupy AIPAC, this long weekend will include a policy summit with panels on Iran, the Arab uprisings, Palestine/Israel and AIPAC, film screenings, mass protests, a teach-in on diplomacy and alternatives to war, creative actions, a cultural night, workshops, and a Capitol Hill policy briefing on the impact of U.S. military aid to Israel on Palestinians.
http://www.occupyaipac.org/
Our understanding is that the "Occupy AIPAC summit" on Saturday will be webcast;
http://ustre.am/Ic3b

II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Announcing his candidacy for President of the World Bank in an op-ed in the Washington Post, Jeffrey Sachs suggests the World Bank president should be a practitioner of economic development, not someone representing corporate or political interests.

2) Economist and health expert Jeffrey Sachs' candidacy for World Bank president is welcome news for the two-and-a-half billion people around the world living in poverty, CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. A Sachs presidency at the World Bank Group would likely make economic development a top priority.

3) The U.S. Energy Department said excluding Iran from the global oil market would increase the shortfall between worldwide supply and demand sixfold, Bloomberg reports. A month from now, the president must make a determination based on the EIA report as to whether there is enough non- Iranian oil available to impose sanctions related to oil transactions with the central bank starting on June 28, according to the recently passed sanctions law. [If this situation holds - and there's no reason to expect that it won't - this appears to give Obama a lot of room not to impose the sanctions - JFP.]

4) Analysts say gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict, the New York Times reports. [An estimate given in the article by Neal Soss, chief economist of Credit Suisse, suggests that would cancel half of the payroll tax holiday in terms of the money it would take out of the economy - JFP.]

The Iran situation has already raised the price of crude oil as much as 20 percent, according to oil experts, the Times says. If tensions ease in the Middle East, experts predict that energy prices will fall, with gasoline at the pump potentially dropping 50 cents a gallon or more. [Thus, easing tensions would have as much stimulative effect as half of the payroll tax holiday - JFP.]

5) Two more United States soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday when an Afghan soldier in league with a civilian attacked a barracks with gunfire and a rocket, the New York Times reports. The Afghan soldier involved in the shooting was a platoon leader who had taken part in joint patrols with Americans. The civilian was an Afghan literacy instructor at the base.

Afghanistan
6) Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs on average between $815,000 and $1.4 million a year, depending on how you count, CNN reports. The Pentagon says it is $815,000. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said last year it was $1.2 million. CSBA says the Pentagon removes some costs, like construction, from the Afghanistan spending before dividing by the number of troops.

Iran
7) The invasion and occupation of Iran is the most likely long-term outcome of bombing, argues Robert Wright in the Atlantic. Even if we were willing to make additional bombing runs on an annual basis, we could never be confident that Iran wasn't producing a nuclear weapon. The only path to such confidence would be to invade the country and seize the instruments of state. Wright notes that two years ago, Marine Gen. James Cartwright agreed in Senate testimony that "the only absolutely dispositive way to end any potential would be to physically occupy their country and to disestablish their nuclear facilities."

8) Alan Dershowitz and Elie Wiesel have joined efforts to remove the MEK from the State Department's terrorist list, JTA reports. [JTA cites reports of MEK-Israel collaboration as bringing them on board, which is striking because recent reports have centered on collaboration in the killing of Iranian scientists, that is, terrorism - JFP.] But the organized pro-Israel community has been reluctant to sign on, JTA says. One official at a pro-Israel group said pushing to de-list MEK without a full review could undercut efforts to keep groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah on the list.

Lebanon
9) A Hezbollah official said an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program would set the Middle East ablaze, possibly drag in the United States and unleash a conflict beyond Israel's control, Reuters reports. But he declined to say that Hezbollah would retaliate against Israel for a strike on Iran, saying that Iran could defend itself.

Bahrain
10) Bahrain has imposed new restrictions on groups trying to monitor reforms and asked the U.N. investigator into torture to postpone a trip, Reuters reports."The Bahraini government was supposed to improve its human rights record, but limiting NGO access like this is a step backwards," said Brian Dooley of Human Rights First.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) How I would lead the World Bank
Jeffrey Sachs, Washington Post, March 1
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/how-i-would-lead-the-world-bank/2012/03/01/gIQAfGbZlR_story.html

My quest to help end poverty has taken me to more than 125 countries, from mega-city capitals to mountaintop villages, from rain forest settlements to nomadic desert camps. Now I hope it will take me to 18th and Pennsylvania, to the presidency of the World Bank. I am eager for this challenge.

Unlike previous World Bank presidents, I don't come from Wall Street or U.S. politics. I am a practitioner of economic development, a scholar and a writer. My track record is to side with the poor and hungry, not with a corporate balance sheet or a government. Yet the solutions work for all - the poor, companies, governments and the rest of us - by creating a more prosperous, healthy and secure world.
[...]
Yet the World Bank is adrift. It is spread too thin. It has taken on too many fads. It is too disconnected from critical areas of science and knowledge. Without incisive leadership, the bank has often seemed like just a bank. And unfortunately, Washington has backed at the helm bankers and politicians who lack the expertise to fulfill the institution's unique mandate.

The World Bank presidency should not be a training ground in development. Its leader should come to office understanding the realities of flooded villages, drought-ridden farms, desperate mothers hovering over comatose, malaria-infected children, and teenage girls unable to pay high school tuition. More than knowing these realities, and caring to end them, the bank president should understand their causes and interconnected solutions.

Solutions to critical problems such as hunger, AIDS, malaria and extreme deprivation remain unaddressed because of vast gaps in knowledge, experience and power among those who ultimately need to work together. I work with scientists who have powerful answers but no public voice; bankers with ample finance but no clear idea of how to deploy it; business leaders with powerful technologies but no ways to reach the poor; civil society with deep community roots but no access to capital; and politicians who lack the time or experience to forge solutions.

Finding the graceful way forward, forging the networks that can create global change, should be the bank's greatest role. I'll stand on my record of helping to create those networks: to launch the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; to bring new support for the world's poorest farmers so they can boost yields, production and income; to scale up the role of community health workers; to translate debt relief into poverty reduction; to link the poorest countries to global markets in support of exports for growth; to make mobile technologies the new edge of development practice; and to link climate science with solutions.

My role has been to help bring together vastly diverse communities of knowledge, power, and influence to see what can work in practice and then to help make it happen.

I am ready to lead the bank into a new era of problem-solving. I will work with industry, governments and civil society to bring broadband to clinics, schools and health workers, creating a revolution of knowledge, disease control, quality education and small businesses. I will work with agronomists, veterinary scientists, engineers and communities to build prosperity in impoverished and violence-ridden dry lands.

I will work with engineers and financiers to harness the solar power of the deserts in the service of hundreds of millions in Asia and Africa who lack electricity. I will work with urban planners, architects and community organizations to help ensure that the developing world's mega-cities are places to live and thrive.

This and much more is within our grasp. Properly led, the World Bank can build bridges among science, business, civil society and finance that will put sustainable solutions within reach. Let's get started.

2) CEPR Co-Director Welcomes Jeffrey Sachs' Reform Candidacy for World Bank President
Supports a "Competitive Process" That Will Address Pressing Issues
Center for Economic and Policy Research, March 1, 2012
http://www.cepr.net/index.php/press-releases/press-releases/cepr-co-director-welcomes-jeffrey-sachs-reform-candidacy-for-world-bank-president

Washington, D.C.- Economist and health expert Jeffrey Sachs' reported candidacy for World Bank president is welcome news for the two-and-a-half billion people around the world living in poverty, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said today. A Sachs presidency at the World Bank Group would likely make economic development a top priority, Weisbrot added.

"Everyone should welcome an actual campaign, and a merit-based selection, rather than just the U.S. government choosing a political or Wall Street hack, which until now has been the process for selecting a World Bank president," Weisbrot said.

"If Sachs were to get the job, he would be the first World Bank president with this kind of experience and knowledge of economic development – in other words, the first president that would be qualified for the job. All of the others have been bankers, politicians, or political appointees."

Weisbrot added that "The World Bank is in need of serious reform. I hope this newly competitive process will address the most important issues."

While the Obama administration has yet to publicly put forward a candidate, Bloomberg reported that the administration's former Chief Economic Advisor and former World Bank Chief Economist Larry Summers may be under consideration. Over 37,000 people have signed a petition opposing Summers' possible candidacy due to past comments denigrating women's intellectual capacity in math and science. Critics of the World Bank's environmental policies haven't forgotten an infamous memo Summers wrote while at the World Bank arguing that Africa was "underpolluted."

Sachs, Weisbrot noted, has made economic development strategies to reduce poverty and inequality a cornerstone of his work, having served as Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals; and in his current capacity as President and Co-Founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty; and as Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

Weisbrot said that Sachs has the necessary experience to fight for reforms that civil society groups and affected communities have long demanded, such as greater transparency, exemption of primary health and education from budget cuts in low-income countries, greater support for agricultural development and access to essential medicines, and an end to funding of fossil fuel and other environmentally destructive projects.
[...]

3) Iran Oil Loss Would Worsen Global Fuel Shortage, U.S. Says,
Mark Shenk and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Bloomberg, March 1, 2012
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-29/global-fuel-demand-outside-iran-outstrips-supply-u-s-says-1-.html

Excluding Iran from the global oil market would increase the shortfall between worldwide supply and demand sixfold, based on February production and consumption estimates, the U.S. Energy Department said.

Global fuel use averaged 3 million barrels a day more than output when Iran is excluded from the calculations and 500,000 more when Iran is included, the department's Energy Information Administration said in a report yesterday.

The examination of oil and fuel supplies and prices with and without Iran was prepared to help guide President Barack Obama's administration in determining the feasibility of imposing sanctions related to Iranian oil trades through its central bank. Yesterday's report was the first assessment issued under a Dec. 31 law that requires the EIA to provide an update on oil market conditions every 60 days.

"The EIA report highlights how tight the global market is," Trevor Houser, an energy analyst and partner at Rhodium Group, a New York-based economic research firm, said in an interview. "With oil inventories and spare OPEC production capacity running low, consumers don't have much buffer against additional disruptions in supply."
[...]
A month from now, the president must make a determination based on the EIA report as to whether there is enough non- Iranian oil available to impose sanctions related to oil transactions with the central bank starting on June 28, according to the law.

The president has the authority to grant exceptions to countries that have significantly reduced the volume of Iranian oil purchases, and he may delay the implementation of sanctions if he determines based on the Energy Department reports that there is insufficient alternative supply to make up for the loss of Iranian barrels. The president also may waive sanctions if he determines it is in the U.S. national interest to do so.
Oil in New York surged to $109.77 a barrel in New York on Feb. 24, the highest settlement since May 3, as tensions escalated over Iran's nuclear program.
[...]

4) Tensions Raise Specter of Gas at $5 a Gallon
Clifford Krauss, New York Times, February 29, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/01/business/energy-environment/tensions-raise-specter-of-gas-at-5-a-gallon.html

Houston - Gasoline for $5 a gallon? The possibility is hardly far-fetched.

With no clear end to tensions with Iran and Syria and rising demand from countries like China, gas prices are already at record highs for the winter months - averaging $4.32 in California and $3.73 a gallon nationally on Wednesday, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report. As summer approaches, demand for gasoline rises, typically pushing prices up around 20 cents a gallon.

And gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more, analysts say, if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict or there is some other major supply disruption.

"If we get some kind of explosion - like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker - than we'd see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump," said Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research.

For the typical driver who pumps 60 gallons a month of regular unleaded gasoline, a 50-cent increase in price means an extra expense of $30 a month.

The prospect of such a price increase underscores the political and economic risks that Western political leaders must contend with as they decide how to address the Iran situation. A sharp rise in the prices of oil and gas would crimp the nation's budding economic recovery. It would also cause big political problems at home for President Obama, who is already being attacked by Republican presidential candidates over gas prices and his overall energy policies, and for European nations struggling to deal with the Continent's debt crisis.
[...]
The Iran situation has already raised the price of crude oil as much as 20 percent, according to oil experts. On Wednesday, the price of the benchmark American crude settled at $107.07 a barrel. That is about four dollars higher than on the same day in 2008.
[...]
That fear is tempered by optimism - if tensions ease in the Middle East, experts predict that energy prices will fall, with gasoline at the pump potentially dropping 50 cents a gallon or more because supplies are relatively strong in many parts of the country. Some analysts say the world price of oil could fall to $80 a barrel if tensions eased.
[...]
Neal Soss, chief economist of Credit Suisse, said sustained high gasoline prices would definitely have an impact on the American economy. "As a rule of thumb, a penny a gallon is worth a bit over $1 billion in consumer purchasing power if it is maintained a whole year. A dollar more would be something in excess of $100 billion, which is about the size of the Social Security tax cut."
[...]
Oil prices have surged about 8 percent since Iran threatened to cut off oil imports to France, Spain, Italy and other European countries three weeks ago as a pre-emptive move against Western moves to tighten sanctions.
[...]
But any success in tightening sanctions on Iran could squeeze global oil supplies, pushing up prices and causing serious economic repercussions at home and abroad. "It's a bind for Obama," said Mr. Kloza at the Oil Price Information Service. "How do you get tough on Iran without getting tough on American wallets?"

5) Two American Soldiers Die in Shooting at Afghan Base
Graham Bowley, New York Times, March 1, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/02/world/asia/afghanistan-two-nato-soldiers-killed.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - Two more United States soldiers were killed in southern Afghanistan on Thursday when an Afghan soldier, apparently in league with a civilian, killed an Afghan tower guard and attacked a barracks with gunfire and a rocket, officials said.

Four American soldiers were shot dead last week, including two at the Afghan Interior Ministry, after the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base in Afghanistan set off protests across the country.

The attack on Thursday took place at a joint Afghan-NATO base in the Zhare district in Kandahar Province. Four other Americans were wounded in the attack, which began around 2:30 a.m. local time.
[...]
Masoom Khan, the district chief of police, said that the two were killed by helicopter gunfire more than a mile from the scene of the attack.

The base is close to the village of Sangesar, the birthplace of the Taliban and the hometown of its leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. Mr. Khan said the attackers were suspected of having links to the insurgency.

The Afghan soldier involved in the shooting, he said, was a platoon leader who had taken part in joint patrols with Americans. The civilian was an Afghan literacy instructor at the base.
[...]

Afghanistan
6) One soldier, one year: $850,000 and rising
Larry Shaughnessy, CNN, February 28th, 2012, 05:50 PM ET
http://security.blogs.cnn.com/2012/02/28/one-soldier-one-year-850000-and-rising/

Keeping one American service member in Afghanistan costs between $850,000 and $1.4 million a year, depending on who you ask. But one matter is clear, that cost is going up.

During a budget hearing today on Capitol Hill, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-North Dakota, asked Department of Defense leaders, "What is the cost per soldier, to maintain a soldier for a year in Afghanistan?" Under Secretary Robert Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, responded "Right now about $850,000 per soldier."

Conrad seemed shocked at the number. "That kind of takes my breath away, when you tell me it's $850,000," Conrad said

A Pentagon spokesman later said a more accurate figure is $815,000 a year.

Regardless of which number is used Sen. Conrad would be really shocked by the estimate that the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments reached about the same issue.

"The cost per troop in Afghanistan has averaged $1.2 million per troop per year," the center's Todd Harrison wrote in an analysis of last year's Department of Defense budget.

Why the difference? Harrison said the center arrives at its figure by taking "the amount of money spent in Afghanistan for a year and dividing it up by the number of soldiers."

He believes Hale's estimate is lower because the Pentagon removes some costs, like construction, from the Afghanistan spending and divides that lower number by the number of troops.
[...]

Iran
7) Why Bombing Iran Would mean Invading Iran
Robert Wright, The Atlantic, March 1, 2012
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/why-bombing-iran-would-mean-invading-iran/253834/

Mitt Romney is tired of hearing President Obama threaten Iran in only vague terms. Enough of this "all options are on the table" stuff. Obama, Romney says, should declare that "we are considering military options" and "they're not just on the table--they are in our hand."

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Romney will get some support next week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits Washington: Netanyahu will ask Obama to say publicly that "the United States is preparing for a military operation in the event that Iran crosses certain 'red lines'."

Before signing on to this mission, could we get some clarity on what exactly this "military operation" will ultimately entail?

There are two main schools of thought about how air strikes on Iran would work out. Most Americans seem to envision something cleanly surgical--a few days of bombing runs and then we get that "mission accomplished" banner out of the closet. A smaller number of Americans--notably including a lot of national security experts--realize that Iran would probably retaliate, possibly in ways that drew America into a sustained and even far-flung conflict.

What too few people emphasize, it seems to me, is that these two scenarios don't exhaust the possibilities. Even if air strikes don't draw us into an instant conflagration, they could drag us into a long-term conflict with Iran that winds up with American boots on the ground. In fact, when you think about the military and political logic of the situation, the invasion and occupation of Iran is the most likely long-term outcome of bombing regardless of what happens in the short term.

Among national security experts there is nearly universal agreement on the following: Bombing could set Iran's nuclear program back by one or two years, maybe even several, but it would also (1) remove any doubt in the minds of Iranian leaders about whether to pursue nuclear weapons; and (2) ensure that the Iranian nuclear program was revamped to resist future air strikes.

And the new, more entrenched Iranian nuclear program wouldn't be the kind of thing that could be undone by a new generation of bunker-buster bombs. According to experts I've talked to, Iran would probably react to bombing not by burying its nuclear facilities deeper, but by dispersing them much more widely. They would be impossible to identify from the air and for that matter not readily identifiable from the street. Meanwhile, the international inspectors who now keep us apprised of Iran's nuclear status would be banned in the wake of air strikes. So even if we were willing to make additional bombing runs on an annual basis ("mowing the lawn," as some call it), we could never be confident that Iran wasn't producing a nuclear weapon. The only path to such confidence would be to invade the country and seize the instruments of state.
[...]
But why take my word for any of this? I'll close with the judgment of now-retired four-star Marine Gen. James Cartwright. Two years ago, when he was Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he had this exchange with Sen. Jack Reed during Senate hearings:

Senator Reed: I presume that [a bombing campaign] would not be 100 percent effective in terms of knocking them out. It would probably delay them, but that if they're persistent enough they could at some point succeed. Is that a fair judgment from your position?

General Cartwright: That's a fair judgment.

Senator Reed: So that the only absolutely dispositive way to end any potential would be to physically occupy their country and to disestablish their nuclear facilities. Is that a fair, logical conclusion?

General Cartwright: Absent some other unknown calculus that would go on, it's a fair conclusion.

8) Pro-Israel voices joining bid to get Iranian dissident group off U.S. terror list
Ron Kampeas, JTA, February 28, 2012
http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/02/28/3091892/iranian-dissident-group-enlists-jewish-voices-in-bid-to-get-off-us-terror-l

Washington -- Famed attorney Alan Dershowitz, former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel -- three prominent Jewish activists who have joined with other prominent people in a bid to remove a group with a blood-soaked history from the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations.

The names on the growing list of influential American advocates to de-list the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MEK -- known in English as the National Council of Resistance of Iran -- suggest an effort to give the bid a pro-Israel imprimatur.

On the record, the people involved insist there is no Israel element to what they say is a humanitarian endeavor to remove the movement's followers from danger. "I don't see any Israel issue at all," Dershowitz told JTA in an interview, instead casting it in terms of Hillel's dictum, "If I am only for myself, who am I?"

Off the record, however, figures close to the campaign use another ancient Middle Eastern dictum to describe the involvement of supporters of Israel: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

A source close to the effort to bring pro-Israel voices into the initiative cited reports that Israel has allied with the MEK, which reportedly maintains agents in Iran and in the past has published details of Iran's nuclear weapons program.

[What is striking about this is that recent "reports that Israel has allied with the MEK" have been reports of U.S. officials fingering Mossad/MEK in the assassination of Iranian scientists, i.e. collaboration in terrorism. So apparently it's MEK collaboration with Israel in terrorism against Iranian civilians that has brought Dershowitz and Wiesel on board with the MEK - JFP.]

The organized pro-Israel community, however, has been reluctant to sign on. One official at a pro-Israel group said pushing to de-list MEK without a full review could undercut efforts to keep groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah on the list.

"They're listed as a terrorist group, and until the U.S. government says otherwise, we're not going to deal with them," said the official, whose group otherwise counsels a tough posture against the Iranian regime.
[...]

Lebanon
9) Hezbollah says attack on Iran would set Middle East ablaze
Michael Stott and Samia Nakhoul, Reuters, February 29, 2012
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/29/us-iran-israel-hezbollah-idUSTRE81S19J20120229

An Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear program would set the Middle East ablaze, possibly drag in the United States and unleash a conflict beyond the Jewish state's control, the deputy head of Lebanon's pro-Iranian Hezbollah movement said.
[...]
"America knows that if there is a war on Iran, this means that the whole region will be set alight, with no limit to the fires," Hezbollah deputy Sheikh Naim Qassem told Reuters.

Qassem also said the movement's fighters, estimated to number several thousand, were better trained and equipped to retaliate against Israel than in 2006, when the Jewish state fought a month-long war in southern Lebanon.

"Gone are the days when Israel decides to strike, and the people are silent," he said. "Israel could start a war ... but it does not know the scale of the consequences and it is incapable of controlling them."

The Hezbollah deputy said he believed Israel would try to drag a reluctant United States into confrontation with Tehran because it could not inflict sufficient losses on Iran alone.
[...]
Asked whether the militant Shi'ite group, which fought a 34-day war with Israel six years ago, would attack Israel in response to any strike on Iran, Qassem said Iran could defend itself but that such an attack would "ignite the entire region."

Hezbollah, he said, had a defensive rather than an offensive position against Israel but "is always preparing itself and it won't stop preparing itself for a single second because of its conviction that Israel is always preparing to attack."
[...]

Bahrain
10) Bahrain delays UN investigator, limits rights group visits
Andrew Hammond, Reuters, 01 Mar 2012 18:41
Special rapporteur was due in Bahrain next week
Rights groups say rules will limit visits to five days
Bahrain wants no glitches over F1 grand prix in April
http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/bahrain-delays-un-investigator-limits-rights-group-visits/

Manama, March 1 - Bahrain has imposed restrictions on groups trying to monitor reforms including the Gulf Arab state's handling of protests and asked the U.N. investigator into torture to postpone a trip, the United Nations and rights groups said on Thursday.

The U.N. human rights office in Geneva said Bahrain formally requested postponing until July the visit by the special rapporteur on torture, which had been scheduled for March 8-17.
[...]
Bahrain told a number of human rights organisations in January they should delay trips to the country to after Feb. 22, the date the government set itself for reviewing policing, the judiciary, education, media and other reforms such as paying torture victims and national reconciliation - as recommended by a body of international legal experts in November.

The government said on Thursday it would need up to 20 more days to complete its plans for implementing the recommendations of the experts, whose Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) issued a damning report in November.

The BICI said protesters, who come mainly from the majority Shi'ite population, had suffered systematic torture to force confessions that were used in military trials.

The country remains in turmoil as clashes between youths and riot police continue daily in Shi'ite neighbourhoods and the banking and tourism-based economy, already down after the world financial crisis, struggles to pick up.

Three international rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Bahrain's Human Rights and Social Development Ministry informed them this week of new rules limiting them to five-day trips which must be arranged via a Bahraini sponsor.

Brian Dooley, director of the Human Rights Defenders Program with U.S. group Human Rights First, said he made three trips to Bahrain last year without such limits.

"After the BICI report the Bahraini government was supposed to improve its human rights record, but limiting NGO access like this is a step backwards," he said. HRW said it had planned a three week trip in March. Amnesty also hope to send a team.
[...]


-

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