JFP 4/4: "No Contact" Is Keystone of Iran policy; Lieberman: Iran war would be "nightmare"
Just Foreign Policy News, April 4, 2012
"No Contact" Is Keystone of Iran policy; Lieberman: Iran war would be "nightmare"
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"No Contact" Is the Keystone XL of Iran Policy
Ending the "no contact" policy -- like the Keystone XL permit -- is totally under the control of the administration. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can reverse this anti-diplomacy policy right now. They don't need a hechsher from Joe Lieberman or Lindsay Graham.
The Pledge of Resistance Could Change the Game Against a War With Iran
If people were convinced that there were a 90% chance of war in the next three months, many people would be in the streets. By inaction on the threat of war with Iran, people are effectively saying: 'so we're on a slow path? Give me a call when we're on a fast path. I have other demands on my time.' The problem with this is that by the time we are on a fast path to war, our political leverage to stop the war will be very small - much smaller than it is today.
Daniel Levy: Crisis in Zion Square: Can Peter Beinart Shake Up American Zionism?
Levy responds to Peter Beinart's call in the NYT for boycott of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank - and the resulting controversy.
Public Citizen Condemns WTO Attack on U.S. Efforts to Reduce Teen Smoking
The World Trade Organization's final ruling against U.S. efforts to reduce teen smoking shows that our current trade regime is incompatible with basic public health regulation, Public Citizen said.
Ali Alaswad: Bahrain's government must stop killing its people, and listen to them
Former member of Bahrain's parliament reiterates opposition's call for a democratically elected government, decries international failure to respond, reaffirms Wefaq's commitment to peaceful protest.
Jay Rockefeller Calls For Expedited Afghanistan Withdrawal
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) sent a letter to President Obama urging him to accelerate withdrawal from Afghanistan, arguing that recent steps to pull troops back from combat in 2013 do not go far enough. "I am encouraged by your recent comments regarding the transition of U.S. forces to a support role by the end of 2013 ... but I request that you continue to look at every possibly avenue for safely and responsibly bringing our troops home even more expeditiously," Rockefeller wrote.
Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control
April 28-29, 2012 - Washington, DC
The peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights are hosting the first international drone summit.
1) Sixty-two percent of Jewish American voters would like to see U.S. President Barack Obama reelected in November, and only 4% define Israel as the most important issue influencing their vote, Haaretz reports. The results emerged as part of a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. Of the Jews who voted for Obama in 2008, 86% would like to see him reelected, while 7% said they would prefer to see a Republican candidate win.
When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, 46% mentioned a commitment to social equality, 20% spoke of their support for Israel, and 17% cited religious observance. Fifty-three percent of Jewish Americans said they would support the establishment of a Palestinian state. Sixty-three percent think that, in general, diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, versus 24% who prefer military action. But when it comes to Iran, 59% of Jewish Americans think the U.S. should take military action to stop Iran's nuclear program should sanctions fail, while 37% oppose it.
2) Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman has declared that a war with Iran would "be a nightmare," drawing in countries from around the region and leaving "no one...unscathed," the Huffington Post reports. Lieberman's statements about military action in Iran contrast starkly with those made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, HuffPo notes.
3) The International Criminal Court has halted a Palestinian Authority bid to clear the way for the permanent war crimes tribunal to investigate the 2008 Israeli military offensive in Gaza, on the grounds that the UN does not recognize Palestine as a state, Al Jazeera reports. Amnesty International denounced the decision.
4) U.S. and Afghan officials said they were close to a deal on night raids, allowing them to continue with more Afghan participation and oversight, the New York Times reports. The article says that "finding a way to continue the raids" is "considered essential for the post-2014 plan that is shaping up," since the plan envisions the US "leaving behind a small force that would focus on counterterrorism." For that kind of mission to work, "the force would probably need to be able to carry out night raids," the NYT says. [This is striking because U.S. media - including, sometimes, the New York Times - often repeat the claim that "all U.S. forces are supposed to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014," even though there is no such deadline - JFP.]
5) A year and a half ago, there was great umbrage at claims that UN troops had brought cholera to Haiti, notes former AP reporter Jonathan Katz at the Daily Beast [Katz did a great deal to help bring the UN role to the world's attention - JFP.] Today Bill Clinton, the U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, can casually link UN troops to the epidemic, Katz notes. A summary of the facts can sit comfortably as the lead story in Sunday's New York Times. But one key group still insists upon doubting the cholera's source: the United Nations.
6) Russia's foreign minister warned other nations again Wednesday not to arm the Syrian opposition, saying it would only escalate hostilities, AP reports. Foreign Minister Lavrov said the Syrian opposition wouldn't be able to overwhelm government forces even if it was supplied with weapons from abroad. Moscow also has strongly supported U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, which gives an April 10 deadline for Syrian troops to pull out of towns and cities, AP notes.
Lavrov criticized Sunday's meeting of the "Friends of the Syrian People" in Istanbul, saying it sent signals to the opposition that would undermine Annan's plan. "All that would undermine efforts to end violence," he said. "They want to solve the Syrian problem with the opposition only, but it's impossible to settle the situation like that. There must be a dialogue of all the parties involved."
7) The UN launched an international investigation into Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, with the US isolated in voting against the initiative brought by the Palestinian Authority, Reuters reports. The U.N. Human Rights Council condemned Israel's planned construction of new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying they posed a threat to the two-state solution and the creation of a contiguous and independent Palestinian state.
8) Colombia's main rebel group, the FARC, freed what it says were its last 10 military and police captives, AP reports. President Juan Manuel Santos praised the move but called it insufficient to merit a peace dialogue. Slthough the rebels have praised Santos' willingness to address land reform and return stolen property to landless peasants, recent weeks have seen an upsurge in violence in the conflict, AP says.
1) Survey: 62% of U.S. Jews would reelect Obama, 4% say Israel is most important issue
Survey shows most Jewish Americans favor diplomacy for peace over military action; 73% of respondents say Netanyahu represents Jewish values.
Natasha Mozgovaya, Haaretz, 20:16 03.04.12
Sixty-two percent of Jewish American voters would like to see U.S. President Barack Obama reelected in November, and only 4% define Israel as the most important issue influencing their vote.
The results emerged as part of a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute based in Washington, D.C.
According to the survey, while only 62% of Jewish voters in the U.S. would like to reelect Obama, 30% would prefer to see a Republican candidate take the upcoming elections.
In the 2008 elections, 78% of Jewish Americans voted for Obama, but, according to the survey's authors, the figure reflects statistics measured at a similar point in the campaign that year. The current figure also shows that Jewish support for Obama is much higher than that of the general American population (44% for Obama and 37% for a Republican candidate).
Of the Jews who voted for Obama in 2008, 86% would like to see him reelected, while 7% said they have switched sides and would prefer to see a Republican candidate win this time round.
The survey gives a decisive answer as to how important Israel is for the Jewish voters this time round: Not very. Only 4% define it as "the most important issue" influencing their vote. The economy is the top issue for 51%, while for 15% of respondents, the most important issue is the "growing gap between the rich and poor." Nearly two-thirds of the American Jews think the government should do more to reduce this gap, and 81% support raising taxes on Americans earning more than 1 million dollars a year. Ten percent were more concerned about health care, 7% for the federal deficit. Only 4% are worried about national security issues and Israel, 2% are most concerned about Iran, and 1% the environment, immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion.
While "Birthright" trips to Israel might make participants more connected to the Jewish state, the survey showed that, overall, Israel is far from being the issue that defines Jewish identity among Americans. When asked which qualities are most important to their Jewish identity, 46% mentioned a commitment to social equality, 20% spoke of their support for Israel, and 17% cited religious observance. To the question of what influenced their political beliefs, 87% mentioned the Holocaust, 85% the "opportunities for economic success" in America, and 66% referred to being a religious minority in America.
Fifty-three percent of Jewish Americans said they would support the establishment of a Palestinian state, while 42% would oppose it. Sixty-three percent think that, in general, diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, versus 24% who prefer military action. But when it comes to Iran, 59% of Jewish Americans think the U.S. should take military action to stop Iran's nuclear program should sanctions fail, while 37% oppose it.
Dr. Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, told Haaretz that amid the speculations on the slipping Jewish support for the president, the results have shown "fairly solid support for President Obama - the numbers are virtually identical to the June 2008 Gallup poll that showed 62% for Obama and 32% for McCain.
2) Avigdor Lieberman: Israeli Foreign Minister Says Iran War Would 'Be A Nightmare'
Huffington Post, 04/ 3/2012
In little-noticed remarks last month, Israel's foreign minister declared that a war with Iran would "be a nightmare," drawing in countries from around the region and leaving "no one...unscathed."
During a diplomatic visit to China, Avigdor Lieberman told the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth:
"If, God forbid, a war with Iran breaks out, it will be a nightmare. And we will all be in it, including the Persian Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. No one will remain unscathed. We have to do everything we can to urge the international community to assume responsibility and take action to stop the Iranians … The State of Israel keeps all options open. However, we do believe that if we make the required effort and present a unified international front, we may yet talk the Iranians into giving up their nuclear aspirations … Let me make it clear: The right way to prevent [an all-out flare-up] is to present a solid unified front of the international community."
Portions of Lieberman's March 18 remarks were translated from Hebrew to English by the Israeli paper, but the quotes received virtually no coverage in U.S. news outlets.
Lieberman's statements about military action in Iran contrast starkly with those made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who rarely discuss possible negative consequences of an attack. Indeed, Barak has proclaimed that an Israeli strike would not be prolonged nor would it risk mass casualties. "There's no chance in such a situation for 500,000 killed, not 5,000 or even 500 killed," he said last year.
3) ICC rejects bid for Gaza war crimes tribunal
International Criminal Court says it cannot investigate alleged Israeli crimes in Gaza because Palestine is not a state.
Al Jazeera, 3 Apr 2012 20:08
The International Criminal Court has halted a Palestinian Authority bid to clear the way for the permanent war crimes tribunal to investigate an Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip that began in December 2008.
"The office [of the prosecutor] has assessed that it is for the relevant bodies at the UN or the Assembly of State Parties to make a legal determination whether Palestine qualifies as a state for the purpose of acceding to the Rome Statute [the court's founding treaty]," the prosecutor's office said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Palestinian Authority in January 2009 accepted the Hague-based court's jurisdiction, asking prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to launch a war crimes investigation against Israel following the Gaza war.
It wanted Moreno-Ocampo to look into "acts committed on the territory of Palestine" going as far back as July 2002. Moreno-Ocampo's office then opened a preliminary probe to see if there were grounds to proceed with an investigation.
Tuesday's statement, however, said the court's reach was not based on a principle of universal jurisdiction and it could open investigations only if asked to do so by either the UN Security Council or by a recognised state.
Palestine does not have full UN membership, though it has asked for it.
Human rights groups on Tuesday strongly criticised the prosecutor's statement, while Israel hailed the move.
"Today's decision appears to close the door for now on access to the ICC for victims of international crimes committed in the Palestinian Territories, at least until the General Assembly recognises Palestinian statehood," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said.
Marek Marczynski, head of Amnesty International's International Justice campaign, added: "This dangerous decision opens the ICC to accusations of political bias and is inconsistent with the independence of the ICC."
"It also breaches the Rome Statute, which clearly states that such matters should be considered by the institution's judges."
4) Deal Close on Night Raids, U.S. and Afghan Officials Say
Matthew Rosenberg, New York Times, April 3, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan - After years of insisting that American forces end covert nighttime raids on Afghan homes, President Hamid Karzai's government was close to completing a deal that would give the Afghan authorities legal oversight of the raids, while allowing American forces to retain a guiding role in conducting them, officials from both countries said Tuesday.
The night raids' deep unpopularity with the Afghan public has long put Mr. Karzai at odds with his American backers, who say the operations are among the most effective tools they have to combat the Taliban.
An agreement on the raids, after months of sometimes contentious negotiations, would allow Kabul and Washington to move toward completion of a broader pact that lays out the strategic relationship between the two countries after the official end of the NATO combat mission here in 2014. Afghan and American officials hope to have that broader agreement concluded in time for a NATO summit meeting planned for May in Chicago.
The deal that is nearing completion would give Afghan military forces a lead role in all the raids - officials say they already take part in most of them - and would also bring the operations under Afghan legal jurisdiction by requiring a court warrant within 48 hours of a raid in order to continue detention of any suspects, according to American and Afghan officials close to the negotiations.
At the same time, it would include a series of face-saving compromises to allow American forces to retain the freedom of action that commanders believe is necessary for the operations to remain effective. The raids would still rely heavily on American intelligence, and most would include American or allied forces for the foreseeable future, the officials said.
As late as Tuesday afternoon, the two sides thought they had reached agreement, and Afghan and American officials were making preparations for a signing ceremony on Wednesday.
But the plans were put on hold on Tuesday evening after a last-minute dispute over whether the Afghans or Americans would hold people detained in the raids after a warrant was granted, the officials said.
American officials have pushed to retain custody of the detainees for a limited time so they could be interrogated, the officials said. The interrogations are an important source of intelligence that American officials said they were not yet ready to give up.
Neither Afghan nor American officials would say how long the Americans wanted to keep the detainees. It also was not clear where American forces would hold them, since the United States agreed last month to hand over its main prison here to Afghan authorities within six months.
Finding a way to continue the raids is also considered essential for the post-2014 plan that is shaping up. The plan, in essence, envisions the United States' leaving behind a small force that would focus on counterterrorism. For that kind of mission to work, the force would probably need to be able to carry out night raids.
[That is: according to this account, U.S. forces would not only remain in Afghanistan, but continue to carry out night raids, after 2014, despite the claim often repeated in U.S. media that "all U.S. forces are supposed to withdraw in 2014" - JFP.]
5) United Nations Still Denies its Troops Brought Cholera to Haiti
Should the U.N. be held responsible for bringing cholera to Haiti?
Jonathan Katz, Daily Beast, Apr 4, 2012 3:29 PM EDT
Picture this: soldiers from a foreign army are stationed near the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Sewage running from their base has long polluted the waterway, but the authorities never paid attention. One day a new rotation of soldiers arrives, carrying a deadly bacteria never before seen in the U. S. It enters the water. People get sick, then die. The infection spreads from St. Louis to Memphis to New Orleans, explodes along the Gulf Coast, and from there to every state in the union. Overwhelmed health responders watch in horror as family after family succumbs. Within a year, five percent of Americans have fallen seriously ill and thousands have died. The president tells a terrified and exhausted nation that it will cost more than the annual national budget to control the disease. Yet no court can hold the soldiers accountable for negligence, or even get them to acknowledge their role in causing the outbreak. "It doesn't matter," an army spokesman says.
Such a nightmare is happening right now in Haiti. Cholera erupted on the shores of the country's most important river in the fall of 2010, downstream from a base that housed U.N. soldiers from Nepal. The disease has sickened half a million people and killed at least 7,000. As health officials and bureaucrats bicker over the best response, the disease is surging again with the spring rains. Haitians are left struggling to deal with the unending epidemic, caused by the very soldiers dispatched to protect them.
A year and a half ago, that last sentence would have been incendiary. Most foreigners assumed that cholera was part of the impoverished country's landscape, a result of the squalid living conditions that many Haitians found themselves in after the country's massive 2010 earthquake. Suggesting otherwise was seen as an exercise in reckless scapegoating. But as the Associated Press correspondent in Port-au-Prince, I quickly realized that there was more to the story. For one thing, the outbreak had first been noticed outside of the quake zone in the country's rice-growing heartland. More startlingly, no one had ever before recorded an outbreak of cholera in Haiti. Our resulting investigation in late 2010, along with those of Harvard microbiologists, a French-led team of epidemiologists, and others would uncover a mountain of evidence pointing to the U.N. base as the source of the outbreak. Today Bill Clinton, the U.N. Special Envoy to Haiti, can casually link the peacekeepers to the epidemic. A summary of the facts to date can sit comfortably as the lead story in Sunday's New York Times.
But one key group still insists upon doubting the cholera's source. The U.N. Stabilization Mission in Haiti, or MINUSTAH, has steadfastly refused to accept the evidence of its negligence. Aware of its nosediving popularity in Haiti eight years after it was installed, the U.N. has become increasingly defensive in the face of criticism there. The spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Martin Nesirky, reiterated on Monday that "it was not possible to be conclusive about how cholera was introduced into Haiti … and therefore, at this point, I don't have any further comment."
6) Russia's foreign minister says arming Syrian opposition would only lead to more bloodshed
Associated Press, Wednesday, April 4, 7:48 AM
Baku, Azerbaijan - Russia's foreign minister warned other nations again Wednesday not to arm the Syrian opposition, saying it would only escalate hostilities.
Speaking on a trip to Azerbaijan, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Syrian opposition wouldn't be able to overwhelm government forces even if it was supplied with weapons from abroad. He warned that a foreign military intervention would lead to even more disastrous consequences for Syria, where President Bashar Assad's forces have violently cracked down on a yearlong uprising in which more than 9,000 people have died.
"Even if they arm the Syrian opposition to the teeth, it won't be able to defeat the Syrian army," Lavrov said. "The carnage will go on for many years."
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two Sunni-ruled nations, have backed the idea of arming the opposition against Assad's Shiite-ruled government, but the West remains opposed. Western nations moved instead to create a fund for the rebels at a meeting in Istanbul.
Russia, along with China, has twice shielded Assad from United Nations sanctions over his bloody crackdown on dissent. But Moscow also has strongly supported U.N. envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan, which gives an April 10 deadline for Syrian troops to pull out of towns and cities.
Lavrov reaffirmed that Assad needs to take the first step to end bloodshed, but all international players need to back Annan's proposals.
He criticized Sunday's meeting of the "Friends of the Syrian People" in Istanbul, saying it sent signals to the opposition that would undermine Annan's plan.
"All that would undermine efforts to end violence," he said. "They want to solve the Syrian problem with the opposition only, but it's impossible to settle the situation like that. There must be a dialogue of all the parties involved."
Russia's Foreign Ministry said that Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem will hold talks with Lavrov in Moscow next Tuesday, and representatives of the Syrian opposition will visit the Russian capital on April 17-18.
7) UN rights body launches probe into Israeli settlements
Stephanie Nebehay, Reuters, Fri, Mar 23 2012
Geneva - The United Nations launched an international investigation on Thursday into Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories, with the United States isolated in voting against the initiative brought by the Palestinian Authority.
The U.N. Human Rights Council condemned Israel's planned construction of new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying they undermined the peace process and posed a threat to the two-state solution and the creation of a contiguous and independent Palestinian state.
The 47-member forum adopted the resolution to launch a probe by a vote of 36 states in favour, including China and Russia, with one against (the United States). Ten abstained, including European Union members Italy and Spain.
The text was introduced by Pakistan on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and co-sponsored by states including Cuba and Venezuela.
"In violation of international humanitarian and human rights law, Israel is continuing construction of illegal settlements in the occupied territories including East Jerusalem," Pakistan's ambassador Zamir Akram told the talks.
The Council's resolution called on Israel to take serious measures to prevent settler violence "including confiscation of arms and enforcement of criminal sanctions", and protection of Palestinian civilians and property in the territories.
About 500,000 Israelis and 2.5 million Palestinians live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war. Palestinians seeks the territory for an independent state along with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Palestinians say settlements, considered illegal by the International Court of Justice, the highest U.N. legal body for disputes, would deny them a viable state. Israel cites historical and Biblical links to the West Bank and says the status of settlements should be decided in peace negotiations.
8) Colombian rebels free last 10 military, police captives in peace gesture
Associated Press, April 2
Villavicencio, Colombia - Colombia's main rebel group freed what it says were its last 10 military and police captives, a goodwill gesture that President Juan Manuel Santos praised but called insufficient to merit a peace dialogue.
The men had spent between 12 and 14 years in jungle prisons, captured with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia was at the height of its military strength.
But Latin America's oldest and most potent guerrilla band has since been weakened by Colombia's U.S.-backed military and Monday's release of six police and four soldiers highlighted its desire for a peaceful solution.
Flown from a secret jungle rendezvous aboard a loaned Brazilian air force helicopter emblazoned with the Red Cross logo, the freed captives waved jubilantly.
Some jumped for joy on the tarmac before reunions with relatives. Nurses helped others walk, while pets accompanied some: a peccary, a monkey, two small birds. A few wore the Colombian flag over their shoulders. Their loved ones were overjoyed.
"I shouted! I jumped up and down!" said Olivia Solarte when got first word her 41-year-old son, police officer Trujillo had been freed. He'd been held since July 1999.
The group was flown to Bogota where other relatives were waiting along with obligatory hospital stays for medical checks.
The rebel group, known as the FARC, had announced Monday's liberation on Feb. 26 in tandem with a halt in ransom kidnappings as a revenue source.
Santos called the release "a step in the right direction, a very important step" but cautioned against "pure speculation" that it augured peace talks.
He said he wants proof the FARC, which took up arms in 1964, is truly abandoning ransom kidnapping. "When the government considers that sufficient conditions and guarantees exist to begin a process that brings an end to the conflict the country will know," he said.
To begin with, the government wants an accounting of two other security force members captured by the FARC in 1998 and 1999. It also wants a reckoning of ransom kidnap victims held by the FARC, along with their freedom.
The head of Colombia's anti-kidnapping police puts the number at least six, including four Chinese oil workers seized last June. Other officials put the number closer to two dozen.
The citizens' watchdog group Fundacion Pais Libre maintains a list of at least 400 people the FARC kidnapped or has otherwise held against their will since 1996 who were never freed. It doesn't expunge a name from its records until the person is released or a body is found.
Two serious government-FARC peace negotiations failed over the past three decades. And although the rebels have praised Santos' willingness to address land reform and return stolen property to landless peasants, recent weeks have seen an upsurge in violence in the conflict.
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