JFP 4/23: Holocaust survivor Wiesel rejects N'yahu Iran remarks; Iran upbeat on talks

Just Foreign Policy News, April 23, 2012
Holocaust survivor Wiesel rejects N'yahu Iran remarks; Iran upbeat on talks

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Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

The US and Iran Are Talking: Why Is the New York Times Peddling Iran Islamophobia?
At long last, the U.S. and Iran are having serious talks about Iran's nuclear program. But the New York Times has told its readers that Iran's Supreme Leader is uniquely and intrinsically untrustworthy when he says that Iran will never pursue a nuclear weapon. Why? Because, according to the Times, Iran's leaders are Shiites, and Shiites have a religious doctrine called "taqiyya," which allows them to lie. Not one named analyst or scholar was cited in support of this claim.
http://truth-out.org/news/item/8628-the-us-and-iran-are-talking-why-is-the-new-york-times-peddling-iran-islamophobia

* Take Action: Urge NYT Public Editor to Investigate Iran Islamophobia in NYT reporting on Iran diplomacy
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/nyt-iranophobia

American Nuns Reject Vatican’s Orders – Say They Are Not Going To Stop ‘Caring For The Least Among Us’
Peace and justice nuns push back against Vatican criticism. Network, which is mentioned in the article, has long been a leader in opposition to war and in opposition to U.S. policy at the IMF and World Bank.

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/04/22/american-nuns-reject-vaticans-orders-say-they-are-not-going-to-stop-caring-for-the-least-among-us/

 

Drone Summit: Killing and Spying by Remote Control

The peace group CODEPINK and the legal advocacy organizations Reprieve and the Center for Constitutional Rights are hosting the first International Drone Summit. On Saturday, April 28, we are bringing together human rights advocates, robotics technology experts, lawyers, journalists and activists for a summit to inform the American public about the widespread and rapidly expanding deployment of both lethal and surveillance drones, including drone use in the United States. Participants will also have the opportunity to listen to the personal stories of Pakistani drone-strike victims.

https://codepink.salsalabs.com/o/424/donate_page/dronesummit


II) Summary:
U.S./Top News

1) The U.S. and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement on Sunday that pledges U.S. support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of [most?] combat troops at the end of 2014, the New York Times reports. The agreement does not say what the U.S. military and security presence will be after 2014 or what role it will play, the Times says. A more detailed security agreement is to come later, perhaps in the next year, Western diplomats said.

 

2) Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has dismissed comparisons between Iran's intentions for Israel and the fate of Jews during World War II, the Times of Israel reports. Asked about Prime Minister Netanyahu's increasing tendency to invoke parallels between the regime in Iran and the Nazis, Wiesel said the comparisons were out of place. "Iran is a threat, but can we say that it will make a second Auschwitz?" Wiesel said in an interview published in the Hebrew daily Globes on Thursday. "I don't compare anything to the Holocaust."

 

3) Opposition groups blamed police for the death of a protester in Bahrain, the New York Times reports. The widow of the protester who was killed said her husband had been attending the daily protests and was a local leader. She said her husband was opposed to the use of violence, and had spent five years in prison for his opposition activities.

 

4) A team from UK Channel Four News was deported from Bahrain, the BBC reports. The journalists had been denied media accreditation to report on protests surrounding the Formula One Grand Prix, but entered the country as tourists. Foreign correspondent Jonathan Miller said the police had been physically abusive of his driver and human rights activist who was traveling with them.

 

5) Some supporters say the current hunger strike of Palestinian prisoners could force changes to Israeli detention policies, the Washington Post reports. The has centered on the Israeli military's use of detention without charge or trial for terrorism suspects, which can be renewed indefinitely. Evidence is based on secret intelligence and withheld from detainees and their attorneys. There currently are about 320 administrative detainees, almost 50 percent more than one year ago. About 40 percent of Palestinian men have served time as political prisoners, according to prisoner rights groups.

 

6) The U.S. can't abandon Afghanistan, but our troops must leave, writes Jim Cason of the Friends Committee on National Legislation. The U.S. troop withdrawal should be coupled with a willingness of U.S. officials to take political risks by supporting talks among all Afghan groups. Negotiations need to be coupled with a timetable for the responsible withdrawal of U.S. and other international troops from Afghanistan, a unilateral end to U.S. offensive military operations, and financial support for rebuilding the Afghan economy, Cason writes.

 

7) Wal-Mart's leaders shut down an internal investigation of company violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act without notifying U.S. or Mexican officials of evidence that Wal-Mart had engaged in substantial bribery of Mexican officials, the New York Times reports. In one meeting where the bribery case was discussed, Wal-Mart's chief executive rebuked internal investigators for being overly aggressive. Primary responsibility for the investigation was then given to the general counsel of Wal-Mart de Mexico - a remarkable choice since the same general counsel was alleged to have authorized bribes. The general counsel promptly exonerated his fellow Wal-Mart de Mexico executives.

 

Iran

8) Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran is optimistic that talks in Baghdad next month will make progress toward resolving its nuclear dispute with world powers, Reuters reports. Diplomats and analysts say an agreement is still far off, but the signs are growing that Iran's leaders are changing their approach and preparing public opinion for a potential shift. Analysts and some diplomats have said both sides must compromise for any chance of a long-term settlement, suggesting Iran could be allowed to continue limited low-level enrichment of uranium if it accepts more intrusive nuclear inspections.

 

Yemen

9) The U.S., which recently announced it was increasing its antiterrorism cooperation with Yemen, also appears to be stepping up its use of drone attacks in the country, the New York Times reports. But Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst and the head of a group that campaigns for democracy, said he thought the increased involvement by the United States could inflame the situation in the south, and possibly draw in more foreign fighters. "I think it is going to be counterproductive," he said.

 

Syria

10) The UN Security Council unanimously approved increasing the number of cease-fire monitors in Syria on Saturday, and the battered Syrian city of Homs was calm for the first time in months as an advance team of those observers toured the city, the New York Times reports. The Russian envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly I. Churkin, emphasized that Saturday's resolution meant that the "Libyan model" had been retired.


Contents:
Contents:

U.S./Top News

1) With Pact, U.S. Agrees to Help Afghans for Years to Come

Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, April 22, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/world/asia/us-and-afghanistan-reach-partnership-agreement.html

 

Kabul, Afghanistan - After months of negotiations, the United States and Afghanistan completed drafts of a strategic partnership agreement on Sunday that pledges American support for Afghanistan for 10 years after the withdrawal of combat troops at the end of 2014.

 

The agreement, whose text was not released, represents an important moment when the United States begins the transition from being the predominant foreign force in Afghanistan to serving a more traditional role of supportive ally.

 

By broadly redefining the relationship between Afghanistan and the United States, the deal builds on hard-won new understandings the two countries reached in recent weeks on the thorny issues of detainees and Special Operations raids. It covers social and economic development, institution building, regional cooperation and security.

 

The talks to reach the agreement were intense. At times they broke down altogether, primarily because of geopolitical frictions in the region from two powerful neighbors, Iran and Pakistan. Each country opposes long-term American ties with Afghanistan.

 

The American and Afghan negotiators have been working hard in recent days to complete the draft so that it could be signed before a NATO conference in Chicago on May 20. There, decisions are to be made on how much money and support will be provided to the Afghan security forces after 2014 and by whom.

 

Lacking certainty about a long-term American commitment to Afghanistan, some countries were holding back, waiting to see what the United States, the leader in shaping Afghan policy, would do. Western diplomats said Sunday that the allies would now be more willing to make commitments.

 

The agreement - sweeping by design, with few details to bog down negotiators - puts down in writing for the first time the nature of the relationship the United States will have with Afghanistan once the bulk of American troops go home. It is meant to reassure the Afghan people that the United States will not abandon them, to warn the Taliban not to assume that they can wait out the West, and to send a message to Pakistan, which American officials believe has been hedging its bets in the belief that an American departure would leave the Taliban in charge.

[...]

Many Afghans, including some who are ambivalent about the American presence, believe that the country's survival is tied to having such an agreement with Washington. They say it will make clear to the Taliban and to regional powers that the Americans will not walk away the way they did in the 1990s after the Soviets were pushed out of the country.

[...]

Western diplomats in Kabul said the agreement was an important marker and a positive one, both because it would help persuade other Western countries to continue to support Afghanistan and because it will signal all sides, including the Taliban, that they will not have a free hand to manipulate the country after 2014.

[...]

The Taliban responded to the draft agreement within minutes, issuing a detailed statement condemning it as a giveaway to the Americans.

 

The goals of the agreement for the Americans, the Taliban statement said, are: "First goal: securing routes to the Central Asian and Caspian oil fields. Second goal: prevention of a movement in favor of a true Islamic government. Third goal: Bringing secularism and liberalism to Afghanistan. Fourth goal: establishing an army hostile to Islam that protects Western interests. Fifth goal: Continuous threats to Islamic countries in the region and the prevention of political and military ties between them and Afghanistan."

 

In many respects the strategic partnership agreement is more symbolic than substantive. It does not lay out specific dollar amounts of aid or name programs that the Americans will support; the financing must be authorized and appropriated by Congress from year to year.

 

Nor does it lay out specifically what the American military and security presence will be after 2014 or what role it will play. A more detailed security agreement is to come later, perhaps in the next year, Western diplomats said, once it becomes clear how much support European nations will give to the Afghan security forces.

 

Even so, the United States expects to make substantial contributions toward the cost of Afghanistan's security forces beyond 2014. A total figure for the United States of $2.7 billion a year has been discussed, and it could easily be more; there would most likely be aid for civilian programs as well.

 

That would be a steep reduction from the amount the United States now spends here, which has been $110 billion to $120 billion a year since the "surge" in American troop levels began in 2010, according to the Congressional Research Service.

[...]

 

2) Elie Wiesel rejects Netanyahu's comparisons of Iranian threat to the Holocaust

Nobel Prize winner says Tehran will not build another Auschwitz, decries references to Final Solution in political debates

Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, April 19, 2012, 9:49 am

http://www.timesofisrael.com/elie-wesiel-dismisses-comparisons-between-irans-intentions-and-holocaust/

 

Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has dismissed comparisons between Iran's intentions for Israel and the fate of Jews during World War II.

 

Asked about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's increasing tendency to invoke parallels between the regime in Iran and the Nazis, Wiesel said the comparisons were out of place.

 

"Iran is a threat, but can we say that it will make a second Auschwitz?" Wiesel said in an interview published in the Hebrew daily Globes on Thursday. "I don't compare anything to the Holocaust."

 

Netanyahu made the parallel most recently on Wednesday night, in a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, saying that warning of the Iranian threat was the best way to honor the victims of the Holocaust. "I know there are some who don't like it when I express uncomfortable truths like these," Netanyahu said. "They would prefer that we not speak of a nuclear Iran as an existential threat. They claim that this statement, even if it is true, only spreads fear and panic… Those who dismiss the Iranian threat as a whim or an exaggeration have learnt nothing from the Holocaust… The memory of the Holocaust is a command to learn the lessons of the past in order to ensure the future."

 

Wiesel, in the interview, said he did not approve of the frequency with which comparisons with the Nazis were made, and mentioned isolated incidents in which ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel put on yellow stars in protest at ostensible persecution. "Putting yellow stars on children? And in Israel? What have we come to?

 

The world-renowned concentration camp survivor-turned-educator decried using references to the Holocaust in the political arena and also warned against comparisons to acts of genocide that, aside from being inaccurate, only belittle the Holocaust itself.

 

"Only Auschwitz was Auschwitz. I went to Yugoslavia when reporters said that there was a Holocaust starting there. There was genocide, but not an Auschwitz. When you make a comparison to the Holocaust it works both ways, and soon people will say what happened in Auschwitz was 'only what happened in Bosnia.'"

[...]

 

3) In Bahrain, More Clashes, and Death of a Protester

Souad Mekhennet, New York Times, April 21, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/world/middleeast/in-bahrain-more-clashes-and-death-of-a-protester.html

 

Manama, Bahrain - After a night of clashes between antigovernment demonstrators and the police, a protester was found dead Saturday near this capital, as Bahrain struggled to restore calm before an international auto race on Sunday. Opposition groups blamed the police for the death.

 

Bahrain, a Sunni-ruled monarchy in the Persian Gulf, has beaten back persistent protests from the country's Shiite majority for more than a year. The protesters have intensified their actions in recent days, and clashed with the police again on Saturday, hoping to use the international attention focused on the country during the Formula One Grand Prix race to press their grievances.

 

The protester who died, Salah Abbas Habib Musa, 36, was a local leader of the antigovernment demonstrations and had taken part in one on Friday afternoon, family members and colleagues said. His brother, Hussain Abbas Habib Musa, said that he had joined another protest on Friday night outside Manama.

 

A security official who said he had seen the body said it had gunshot wounds, but a government spokesman, Abdulaziz Mubarak al-Khalifa, would not comment on the cause of death until an autopsy was completed.

 

The chief of public security, Maj. Gen. Tariq al-Hassan, said Mr. Musa's body was found in Shakoura, on the outskirts of Manama. He said "the death was determined to have happened under suspicious circumstances." The Interior Ministry said it was investigating. A spokesman for Al Wefaq, the largest opposition group in the kingdom, said Mr. Musa had been among a group of protesters beaten by the police, and that the police had killed him.

 

Antigovernment protesters have been demonstrating for democratic reforms here since the Arab Spring revolts erupted across the Middle East and North Africa last year. The Bahrain government quashed the protests soon after, backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but they have never entirely ended.

 

The United States, which bases its Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, has been relatively subdued in its criticism of Bahrain's leaders.

[...]

Mariam Isa Ali Jawad, 33, Mr. Musa's wife, said that her husband had been attending the daily protests and was one of the leaders in the Shakoura area.

 

Ms. Jawad said that although the government had accused his group of encouraging protesters to throw homemade bombs at the police, her husband was opposed to the use of violence. She said that he had been politically active and had spent five years in prison for his opposition activities.

[...]

 

4) Undercover UK journalists deported from Bahrain

BBC, 23 April 2012, 10:00 ET

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17810477

 

A team from Channel Four News, led by foreign correspondent Jonathan Miller, has been deported from Bahrain, the Foreign Office says.

 

The journalists had been denied media accreditation to report on protests surrounding the Formula One Grand Prix, but entered the country as tourists.

 

Mr Miller told BBC Radio 5 Live they were pursued by riot police officers and a helicopter prior to arrest.

 

He was detained along with cameraman Joe Sheffer and producer Dave Fuller.

 

He said: "We were in a particular village where we were filming a small demonstration of mostly kids when we realised that we were being monitored by a police helicopter.

 

"We looked in our rear view mirror and suddenly realised that a large number of riot police were literally charging us from behind. So we set off at high speed.

 

"The helicopter stayed across us for about two or three miles I would say. There was a police car behind us and eventually we ran into a checkpoint. We were cut off by the police, held for about an hour inside our vehicle by scores of riot police, many of them wearing balaclavas, being quite rough, quite abusive. My driver was injured."

 

There are concerns about the welfare of the driver, and also Anglo-Bahraini human rights activist Dr Ala'a Shehabi, who was travelling with them.

 

The driver, who has not been named, was arrested and assaulted and Mr Miller said Dr Shehabi had her arm slammed in a car door by riot police.

 

Dr Shehabi later tweeted that both she and the driver had been released by police.

[...]

 

5) Palestinian hunger strikes draw attention to Israeli detention practice

Karin Brulliard, Washington Post, Monday, April 23, 7:24 AM

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/palestinian-hunger-strikes-draw-attention-to-israeli-detention-practice/2012/04/23/gIQAF2DmbT_story.html

 

Arraba, West Bank - A stream of visitors passes through a simple concrete house in this sleepy village, bearing tribute plaques, floral bouquets and plaudits for a soft-spoken man who has become the latest icon for the Palestinian cause.

 

Khader Adnan arrived home on Wednesday morning following his detention without charge in an Israeli military prison, an early release he brokered by refusing food for 66 days and bringing himself to the brink of death. To many Palestinians, that made Adnan, an alleged activist of the militant group Islamic Jihad, a victor over the Israeli occupation, as well as inspiration: Half a dozen other Palestinian political prisoners are weeks into fasts of their own, and at least 1,200 more embarked on hunger strikes last week.

 

The tactic is not new. But some supporters say the current campaign, which has drawn international attention, could force changes to what they deem unfair and illegal Israeli detention policies - if, that is, large numbers of detainees go as far as Adnan.

"The new phenomenon is that these people, they are ready to die," said Shawan Jabarin, director of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq.

 

Israel, eager to avert the negative publicity and possible unrest that could follow deaths, struck release deals with Adnan and a second detainee who fasted for six weeks, Hana Shalabi, 30. And although Israeli officials say they are not considering policy changes and express confidence that the new campaign will not last, they acknowledge that it could force them to make uncomfortable decisions.

 

"You can't have a situation where everyone who goes on hunger strike, to use a Monopoly term, gets a 'get out of jail free' card," said one Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive issue.

 

Advocates of prisoner rights say detainees like Adnan have little other option. While those who began fasts last week are protesting various policies, including isolation, the campaign sparked by Adnan has centered on the Israeli military's use of detention without charge or trial for terrorism suspects, which can be renewed indefinitely. Evidence is based on secret intelligence and withheld from detainees and their attorneys, limiting their ability mount a defense.

 

Thousands of Palestinians have been held under "administrative detention" over the decades. There currently are about 320 administrative detainees, almost 50 percent more than one year ago, but down from more than 800 in 2007, according to B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization.

[...]

Critics say that if military prosecutors are confident enough in their evidence to imprison a suspect, they should prove their case in an open court. Sahar Francis, director of the Palestinian prisoner advocacy organization Addameer, said that although limited use of administrative detention is legal under international law, Israel uses it too liberally. "They use it in every case where they don't find evidence against the person, and they use it as a kind of punishment," Francis said.

 

Criticism of Israel's use of the practice has grown inside and outside of the country with the case of Adnan. His supporters have spray-painted his bearded and bespectacled visage on walls around Israel and the Palestinian territories, made him a cause celebre on Twitter and compared him to Bobby Sands, an Irish Republican Army member who died while on hunger strike in 1981. "He is an icon of Palestinian will ... imagine what kind of victory this could produce!," Qadura Musa, the district governor, said last week as he visited Adnan's family home.

[...]

The Israeli military has said Adnan is an operative with Islamic Jihad, which it considers a terrorist organization, and it circulated a video clip of him at a 2007 rally in which he encourages suicide bombings. The government said he was not suspected of direct involvement in terrorist attacks, and the security official suggested that he was detained for being part of a "terrorist infrastructure."

 

In an interview, Adnan refused to discuss his affiliation with Islamic Jihad, whose black-and-yellow flags fluttered on the rooftop of his house. He said that he is a baker by trade, but that he believes Israel belongs to Palestinians who have a right to fight occupation using both violent and nonviolent means. "I have an ideology, and you cannot jail me for that ideology," said Adnan, who said he has been imprisoned several times, for a total of about five years.

 

Administrative detention is a resonant issue among Palestinians. About 40 percent of Palestinian men have served time as political prisoners, according to prisoner rights groups, and families often include multiple current or former detainees.

 

Among the current administrative detainees is Thaer Halahleh, who has lost more than 50 pounds during a hunger strike of more than 50 days. His father, Aziz Halahleh, said in a telephone interview that his son was determined to reach "freedom or martyrdom" and viewed either option as a victory. The father said he approved of the strategy because he, too, had spent 19 months in administrative detention in 2007 and "went in and out of jail without knowing why."

 

Back home in Arraba, Adnan said he began his fast to protest what he called brutal treatment by the Israeli military, which he said arrested him in front of his children and insulted his wife and mother during interrogations. He said he never expected to forego food for so long, but he discovered that he was "facing a very stubborn, vicious government of occupation."

 

Now, he said, he will tend to his bakery, and work to inspire others. Just how, he would not say. "I was hoping to send a message to all the free people of the world," Adnan said. "I think the message was clearly delivered."

 

6) An Exit Strategy for Afghanistan

The United States can't abandon the country, but our troops must leave.

Jim Cason, Other Words, April 23, 2012

http://www.otherwords.org/articles/an_exit_strategy_for_afghanistan

 

[Cason is the associate executive secretary for campaigns at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.]

 

Here in Washington, it's easy to find boosters for the current U.S. war strategy in Afghanistan. Outside of Washington, it's harder. A CNN poll late last month found that three-quarters of Americans now oppose the war and more than half would like U.S. combat troops leave Afghanistan sooner than 2014, their scheduled withdrawal date. France, Spain, and Australia are all planning to accelerate the withdrawal of their soldiers from Afghanistan.

 

It's easy to see why so many coalition countries are bolting. More than 10 years after the U.S. invasion, the goals of the continuing U.S. occupation are unclear, the insurgency is powerful, and the violence continues. Almost every month, Afghan soldiers and police turn their guns on the U.S. troops and military contractors training them. In mid-April, anti-government insurgents staged a coordinated series of attacks in four provinces in one day. This set of violent actions suggests a very well organized military force that's unlikely to go away anytime soon.

 

The late May summit of NATO leaders in Chicago could mark a turning point. But to what? It's time for the debate to move away from simplistic discussions of "winning" or leaving. That may be difficult in an election year when Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to score political points. But it's what our country needs to do.

 

The U.S. can't abandon Afghanistan, but our troops must leave.

 

The manner in which the U.S. military withdraws matters. A responsible withdrawal means acknowledging that military force isn't contributing to a political solution in Afghanistan. The U.S. military invasion of Afghanistan has cost tens of thousands of lives and billions of dollars, yet the country is less stable now than at any time since September 2001. Rather than quelling the violence, the presence of foreign forces is uniting extremist groups and feeding recruits to the Taliban, criminal gangs, and al-Qaeda.

[...]

The U.S. troop withdrawal should be coupled with a willingness of U.S. officials to take political risks by supporting talks among all Afghan groups. "This war is going to end in a negotiated solution that involves the Taliban and the government in some way," James Shinn, an assistant secretary of defense in the George W. Bush administration, told Charlie Rose.

 

And it isn't just the Taliban. Warlords, regional leaders, and Afghanistan's neighbors also have a stake in what happens. Yet every news report of U.S. efforts to support negotiations brings attacks from Congress and politicians that the United States is accepting "defeat" in Afghanistan.

 

Washington needs to begin talking to Pakistan as well as the rest of Afghanistan's neighbors, who are often left out of the picture. Did you know that millions of people in Iran rely on water that flows from Afghanistan, that China also shares a border, and that India and Russia are close enough to be concerned?

 

With the anniversary of Osama bin Laden's assassination and the NATO summit coming up in May, you'll be hearing a lot more talk about Afghanistan. In this election year, too many politicians will be reluctant at best to take the risks for peace, such as talking to the Taliban and Iran, that may be necessary to support efforts to build a lasting peace.

 

But after a decade of fighting, the United States needs to do just that. Negotiations need to be coupled with a timetable for the responsible withdrawal of U.S. and other international troops from Afghanistan, a unilateral end to U.S. offensive military operations, and financial support for rebuilding the Afghan economy.

 

We should all watch carefully to see if our political leaders have the courage to follow this approach.

 

7) Vast Mexico Bribery Case Hushed Up by Wal-Mart After Top-Level Struggle

Confronted with evidence of widespread corruption in Mexico, top Wal-Mart executives focused more on damage control than on rooting out wrongdoing, an examination by The New York Times found.

David Barstow, New York Times, April 21, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/business/at-wal-mart-in-mexico-a-bribe-inquiry-silenced.html

 

Mexico City - In September 2005, a senior Wal-Mart lawyer received an alarming e-mail from a former executive at the company's largest foreign subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico. In the e-mail and follow-up conversations, the former executive described how Wal-Mart de Mexico had orchestrated a campaign of bribery to win market dominance. In its rush to build stores, he said, the company had paid bribes to obtain permits in virtually every corner of the country.

 

The former executive gave names, dates and bribe amounts. He knew so much, he explained, because for years he had been the lawyer in charge of obtaining construction permits for Wal-Mart de Mexico.

 

Wal-Mart dispatched investigators to Mexico City, and within days they unearthed evidence of widespread bribery. They found a paper trail of hundreds of suspect payments totaling more than $24 million. They also found documents showing that Wal-Mart de Mexico's top executives not only knew about the payments, but had taken steps to conceal them from Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In a confidential report to his superiors, Wal-Mart's lead investigator, a former F.B.I. special agent, summed up their initial findings this way: "There is reasonable suspicion to believe that Mexican and USA laws have been violated."

 

The lead investigator recommended that Wal-Mart expand the investigation.

Instead, an examination by The New York Times found, Wal-Mart's leaders shut it down.

 

Neither American nor Mexican law enforcement officials were notified. None of Wal-Mart de Mexico's leaders were disciplined. Indeed, its chief executive, Eduardo Castro-Wright, identified by the former executive as the driving force behind years of bribery, was promoted to vice chairman of Wal-Mart in 2008. Until this article, the allegations and Wal-Mart's investigation had never been publicly disclosed.

[...]

In one meeting where the bribery case was discussed, H. Lee Scott Jr., then Wal-Mart's chief executive, rebuked internal investigators for being overly aggressive. Days later, records show, Wal-Mart's top lawyer arranged to ship the internal investigators' files on the case to Mexico City. Primary responsibility for the investigation was then given to the general counsel of Wal-Mart de Mexico - a remarkable choice since the same general counsel was alleged to have authorized bribes.

 

The general counsel promptly exonerated his fellow Wal-Mart de Mexico executives.

[...]

In December, after learning of The Times's reporting in Mexico, Wal-Mart informed the Justice Department that it had begun an internal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal law that makes it a crime for American corporations and their subsidiaries to bribe foreign officials. Wal-Mart said the company had learned of possible problems with how it obtained permits, but stressed that the issues were limited to "discrete" cases.

[...]

But The Times's examination found credible evidence that bribery played a persistent and significant role in Wal-Mart's rapid growth in Mexico, where Wal-Mart now employs 209,000 people, making it the country's largest private employer.

[...]

 

Iran

8) Iran sees progress at Baghdad nuclear talks in May

Lin Noueihed, Reuters, Mon Apr 23, 2012 10:53am EDT

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/23/us-iran-nuclear-talks-idUSBRE83M0PS20120423

 

Tunis - Iran is optimistic that talks in Baghdad next month will make progress toward resolving its nuclear dispute with world powers, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Monday.

 

"I see that we are at the beginning of the end of what I call the 'manufactured Iran file'," he told reporters in the latest in a series of positive statements from senior figures on the long-running standoff. "At the Baghdad meeting, I see more progress," he said during a visit to Tunis, speaking in Arabic.

[...]

Diplomats and analysts say an agreement is still far off, but the signs are growing that Iran's leaders are changing their approach and preparing public opinion for a potential shift. Salehi said this month that Iran was "ready to resolve all issues very quickly and simply".

 

Analysts and some diplomats have said both sides must compromise for any chance of a long-term settlement, suggesting Iran could be allowed to continue limited low-level enrichment of uranium if it accepts more intrusive nuclear inspections.

 

Yemen

9) Militants and Politics Bedevil Yemen's New Leaders

Kareem Fahim, New York Times, April 23, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/23/world/middleeast/militants-and-politics-bedevil-yemens-new-president.html

 

Cairo - Two months after a new president took office, Yemen's fledgling interim government has found itself overwhelmed by a set of dangerous new challenges to the country's stability, including a series of a bold attacks by a resurgent militant movement in the south and a festering political standoff in the capital.

[...]

Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani, a Yemeni political analyst and the head of a group that campaigns for democracy, said the latest crises - which included power blackouts in Sana - were most likely related. "Whenever there is a bottleneck in national politics, there has been a pattern," he said. "There are links between the biggest political groupings in Sana and violent extremist militias in other parts of the country."

[...]

The United States, which recently announced it was increasing its antiterrorism cooperation with Yemen, also appears to be stepping up its use of drone attacks in the country, according to reports collected by The Long War Journal.

 

On Sunday, the American ambassador to Yemen, Gerald M. Feierstein, urged Yemeni officials to support Mr. Hadi's reforms and praised the new leadership for "a strategy to challenge Al Qaeda in ways they have not done in the past months." The government has claimed successes in the last few days, saying it had killed dozens of militants near Lawdar and the city of Zinjibar, in attacks that included airstrikes.

 

Mr. Iryani said he thought the increased involvement by the United States could inflame the situation in the south, and possibly draw in more foreign fighters. "I think it is going to be counterproductive," he said. "We have new leadership. The Yemeni military should deal with this itself."

[...]

 

Syria

10) U.N. Agrees to Send More Cease-Fire Observers to Syria

Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, April 21, 2012

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/world/middleeast/battered-city-in-syria-is-quiet-as-un-cease-fire-monitors-visit.html

 

Beirut, Lebanon - The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved increasing the number of cease-fire monitors in Syria on Saturday, and the battered Syrian city of Homs was calm for the first time in months as an advance team of those observers toured the city.

 

Observers had initially been denied government permission to visit Homs, which activists said has been shelled daily by government forces despite the cease-fire put in place on April 12.

 

The new resolution established the number of observers at 300, as requested by Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general. But Western ambassadors put Syria on notice that the unarmed observers would stay only briefly if there was no progress toward implementing a recent peace plan negotiated under United Nations auspices.

 

A previous Syria resolution passed last Saturday authorized only a 30-member advance team, but that number had been expected to grow to at least 250. Other than authorizing a larger monitoring group, the latest resolution basically repeated the support for the peace plan laid out in the earlier resolution.

 

The United States and other Western powers had sought to give the newest resolution teeth by threatening sanctions if Syria did not comply, but diplomats said those were removed in a compromise with Russia, one of the strongest backers of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad. The final version made only a reference to unspecified further action if Syria fails to carry out the peace plan.

 

Homs has been the main exception to the wobbly cease-fire. Opposition activists said the government had delayed letting observers in because it wanted to erase evidence of war crimes, according to Reuters, and they worried the shelling would resume as soon as monitors left.

 

The United Nations decided to leave two observers there for the time being, said Ahmad Fawzi, the spokesman for Kofi Annan, who negotiated the peace accord.

 

Ammar, a lawyer and activist suddenly reachable again via cellphone on Saturday, said the phone network had sprung to life for the first time in weeks and that people were edging nervously back to hard-hit neighborhoods.

[...]

The new Security Council resolution created a civilian team to help implement the full peace plan, which includes nonmilitary objectives such as the start of a national political dialogue and the government's granting the right for Syrians to demonstrate.

[...]

The foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, also said last week that 250 monitors was the "logical" number. But Bashar al-Jaafari, the Syrian envoy to the United Nations, said that Syria would welcome the monitors approved Saturday, as they could confirm the violent campaign being waged by "armed terrorist groups," as the government characterizes its opposition.

 

The Russian envoy to the United Nations, Vitaly I. Churkin, emphasized that Saturday's resolution meant that the "Libyan model" had been retired. Moscow, which has twice vetoed resolutions on Syria along with China, abhorred the idea that diplomatic action might pave the way for any foreign military intervention like the NATO bombing campaign that helped oust the Libyan leader, Muammar el-Qaddafi. Russia and China also argued that the resolutions proposed earlier did not place sufficient responsibility on the rebels. Although the protests against the government started out as peaceful, some army defectors and others took up arms after a brutal crackdown by Mr. Assad's forces.

[...]


-

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just Foreign Policy News is here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews

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