JFP 5/4: Analysts say Khamenei giving full backing to talks
Just Foreign Policy News, May 4, 2012
Analysts say Khamenei giving full backing to talks
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
John Brennan Should Tell the Whole Truth About the Drone Strikes
The fact that Brennan publicly addressed the drone strikes is a significant improvement, long overdue. But John Brennan didn't tell the whole truth about the drone strikes. He didn't admit that the U.S. has launched drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen against people who are not known to be on any list of "suspected terrorists," without knowing who would be killed.
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Ask State Department on Twitter to speak out for Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike
Dear @TheStateDept, what are you doing to protect the lives of the Palestinian hunger strikers? #palhunger
In Quotes: What Israeli and Other Western Officials Really Think About Iran
1. Iran's leadership is rational.
2. Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel.
3. Iran has not made the decision to acquire a nuclear weapon.
4. Attacking Iran would make Iran more likely to acquire a nuclear weapon, not less so.
5. Attacking Iran would ignite a regional conflict.
6. Attacking Iran would not be in US or Israeli national interests.
7. There is time to pursue non-military options.
8. The West needs to talk to Iran.
Barbara Lee/Walter Jones: Sign on to Letter to President Obama: Expedite Withdrawal from Afghanistan
Representative Barbara Lee and Walter Jones are circulating a letter calling on President Obama to expedite US military withdrawal from Afghanistan ahead of the NATO summit in Chicago. Urge your Rep. to sign.
1) That Obama has set a date for bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan - the end of 2014 - shows he is willing to settle for something short of victory, writes the Seattle Times in an editorial. He is right to settle for less. But given that, the editorial asks, why wait two and a half years? If exit is the best option, Obama should take it now, saving the Americans and Afghans who would otherwise be killed between now and Dec. 31, 2014.
2) Analysts in Iran say Supreme Leader Khamenei has lent upcoming nuclear negotiations unprecedented legitimacy, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Open involvement in current nuclear talks conveys a message that Iran's negotiators have Khamenei's explicit approval. This means their final commitments won't be protested by lawmakers in Iran. It also means Iran's supreme leader will expect the country's negotiators to take a hard-line.
3) The view of Israel's military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, that "the Iranian leadership is comprised of very rational people" and that of the current head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, Tamir Pardo, that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel, represent consensus among Israeli security officials, writes Joel Rubin in the Jewish Chronicle.
4) The National Academy of Sciences recommends scrapping key parts of the Obama administration's European-based missile defense shield, AP reports. The academy dismisses administration's claims that the system will offer protection to the U.S. It also recommends abandoning a satellite tracking system now in development. It estimates the satellite system would cost $27.7 billion.
5) The government wants to censor any statements defendants at the 9/11 military commission have made about how they've been treated while in U.S. custody, Steve Gosset reports for the ACLU. If they were tortured or abused by CIA or DoD personnel, that's information the government wants to keep classified. Such a move has no basis in law, which is why the ACLU filed a motion with the military commission that asks it to deny the government's request to suppress the defendants' statements.
6) Documents from Osama bin Laden's hideout show Al Qaeda's relationship with Iran's government has been fractious at best and openly antagonistic at worst, Reuters reports. "The documents suggest that the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran was antagonistic, dominated by indirect negotiations over the release of jihadis and their families detained in Iran," said Lieutenant Colonel Liam Collins, director of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a co-author of an analysis of the confiscated documents published by the center on Thursday.
7) Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists repulsed an effort by the Israeli army to destroy 1400 olive trees in the West Bank, the International Middle East Media Center reports.
8) Political activists and analysts in Jordan said the quick succession of governments over the past year and a half suggested that King Abdullah was not serious about his promises of political reform, the New York Times reports.
9) Reporters Without Borders says neo-paramilitaries known as "Aguilas Negras" (Black Eagles) are imposing a "reign of terror" over Colombian journalists, according to Colombia Reports. The Committee to Protect Journalists 2012 Impunity Index named Colombia the fifth worst country in the world for unsolved journalists' murders. CPJ says 43 journalists have been killed in Colombia since 1992. Colombia's Foundation for Press Freedom said in its February report 131 journalists had fallen victim to some form of aggression in 2011.
1) Exit From Afghanistan: Why Wait Two And A Half Years?
The United States should make a quick exit from Afghanistan.
Editorial, Seattle Times, Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 3:16 PM
No argument is necessary about whether President Obama's six-hour visit to Afghanistan was political. Of course it was. Obama is running for re-election. The better question is whether a celebration is justified.
Regarding the mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden - and Wednesday was the anniversary of it - some crowing is fine. The Navy SEALs' mission was successful, and spectacularly so. Obama ordered it. He took the political risk and won a victory for America. Any president would remind people of that.
The overall mission in Afghanistan is something else again. U.S. troops have been there for 10 years. President Bush put them there and Obama increased their numbers. That Obama has now set a date for bringing them home - the end of 2014 - shows he is willing to settle for something short of victory.
He is right to settle for less. The political realities in Afghanistan and America strongly suggest exit is the best option. But given that, why wait two and a half years?
One reason is not to retreat during an election year. But that is a reason for Obama.
Another reason is that the government of Hamid Karzai is of value to the United States, and a delay would give it a better chance of survival.
We are not convinced the government in Kabul is of any huge value to America. Investing in it is a gamble, and of the sort we have seen before.
The South Vietnamese government was supposed to be of value to the United States. After President Nixon drew down U.S. troops, the Saigon government was to stand on its own, at least for "a decent interval" that would make any subsequent defeat its fault. Still, it fell.
When U.S. and NATO troops leave Afghanistan, the same thing may happen.
If exit is the best option, Obama should take it now, saving the Americans and Afghans who would otherwise be killed between now and Dec. 31, 2014.
2) Ayatollah Khamenei gives Iran nuclear talks unprecedented legitimacy
Iran's supreme leader appears much more involved in current nuclear negotiations, meaning that any deal struck will not face resistance back in Iran. But he's also likely to press for a harder line.
Roshanak Taghavi, Christian Science Monitor, May 4, 2012
Washington - With a second round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and the "P5+1" powers just weeks away, analysts inside the Islamic Republic say Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lent upcoming nuclear negotiations unprecedented legitimacy.
For Mr. Khamenei, who traditionally maintains a quiet, albeit fundamental, role behind the scenes of Iran's foreign policies, an open involvement in current nuclear talks conveys a message that Iran's negotiators have his explicit approval.
This means their final commitments won't be protested by lawmakers back in Tehran, as they were after the country's 2009 nuclear negotiations. But it also means Iran's supreme leader, long known to harbor a deep distrust of US intentions, will expect the country's negotiators to take a hard-line on final nuclear agreements, according to domestic analysts.
"The Leader's [open] involvement in the whole process is a major shift because until now, he had never done it," says a Tehran-based analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the media. "This means Iran's negotiators will have a lot more leeway in the compromises they make, and that whatever they commit to will stick."
"So Iran will negotiate," the analyst adds. "But he's taking the lead in foreign policy because he thinks [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad was too compromising in the past."
On Wednesday, a chief adviser to Iran's supreme leader told local media that Tehran's "minimum expectation" for the May 23 talks in Baghdad is the lifting of sanctions against the Islamic Republic. Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel's blunt comments mark the first time a senior political figure has specifically stated Iran's expectations since nuclear talks were rekindled in April.
Inside many government circles, the coming talks are viewed as a moment of truth for the country's Islamic regime. They're being compared to a domestically controversial decision in 1988 by Khamenei's predecessor – the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – to drink the so-called "poison" of accepting a UN Security Council resolution ending Iran's eight-year war with Iraq.
"When Ayatollah Khomeini decided to end the [Iran-Iraq] war, he drank the 'poison,'" says a senior government official, speaking from Tehran on condition of anonymity. "For the sake of the system, the regime will maybe decide again to drink the 'poison,'" the official says.
At the same time, analysts counter that Iran's ruling elite remains highly wary that the US and Europe will aim to achieve fundamental changes beyond the nuclear dossier. If demands from the "P5+1" powers – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany – go beyond the nuclear issue to encompass policies considered intrinsic to Tehran's regional security interests, Khamenei will not support them, in the view of the Tehran-based analyst.
"Khamenei believes the issue at hand isn't, fundamentally, the nuclear dossier," says the analyst. "He thinks that even if Iran agreed to the nuclear dossier, the West would then start pressuring Iran on its support for Syria," says the Tehran-based analyst.
Tehran's support for the Lebanon-based Shiite militant group Hezbollah could be another target.
In Washington, analysts remain cautiously optimistic about the extent of any nuclear compromises Iranian negotiators will finally agree to make. They say Iran's governing regime will remain ideologically opposed to the United States, and will want compromises the "P5+1" may not want to give.
"There are indications Iran could be preparing its elite and the population for some sort of deal. But the Iranian side will also be looking for some of the sanctions to be rolled back, and that could be more difficult," says Alireza Nader, a senior policy analyst at the RAND Corporation in Virginia.
3) Israeli generals balk at PM's Iran policy
Joel Rubin, The Jewish Chronicle, May 3, 2012
Washington - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is convinced that Iran is on the verge of acquiring a nuclear weapon. He believes that the Iranians cannot be deterred through diplomacy, and he views the Iranian threat as one that may bring about a second Jewish Holocaust.
His generals disagree.
In one of the most astounding public breaks by the Israeli national security establishment with a sitting Israeli prime minister, Netanyahu's own military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, said in an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, "I think the Iranian leadership is comprised of very rational people. … Iran is moving step by step toward a point where it will be able to decide if it wants to make a nuclear bomb. It has not decided yet whether to go the extra mile."
In the past several months, as Netanyahu has ramped up his warnings about Iran, this statement reflects how senior Israeli national security leaders from the military and intelligence communities have pushed back. In addition to Gantz, the current head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, Tamir Pardo, has stated that Iran does not pose an existential threat to Israel. And many more retired military and intelligence leaders echo the same sentiment.
Gantz and Pardo are not an aberration. They are the consensus. Their professional views mirror those of their counterparts in the United States - Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper - who have said that Iran hasn't decided to make a nuclear bomb and whose leadership makes rational decisions.
Their views reflect the position of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which assesses that Iran has not yet decided to build a bomb. They also reflect the majority sentiment of the Israeli population, which views Iran as a threat - as do these security leaders - but does not support taking military action to deal with its nuclear program.
Perhaps that's because the Israeli people, like their national security leaders, do not want to live in a world of hysteria. This serious moment merits a reasoned debate, not the one that, as described by Likud member Benny Begin, is "... a crazy free-for-all ... simply disgusting."
In this charged environment, it's now clear that the Israeli generals feel obligated to speak up. Their courage may have just helped to create a public debate in Israel about the limits of military action against Iran, as well as the real state of the Iranian nuclear program.
4) Science advisory group doubts European missile shield can protect United States from attack
AP, May 4, 2012, 10:26 AM
Washington - The National Academy of Sciences is casting more doubt on whether the Obama administration's European-based missile defense shield can protect the United States and recommends scrapping key parts of the system.
The academy's assessment could complicate White House efforts to persuade Congress to fund the still-developing program. Though the academy says the plans would protect Europe effectively, some lawmakers already are asking why the U.S., at a time of tight budgets, should spend billions of dollars on a system that provides limited homeland defense.
The conclusions from the academy, which advises the government on science and technology, are contained in a letter to lawmakers obtained by The Associated Press.
The academy's letter bolsters two earlier reports by Defense Department advisers and congressional investigators that said the European system faced significant delays, cost overruns and technology problems.
The letter is dated April 30 and addressed to the chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, and the panel's top Democrat, California Rep. Loretta Sanchez. It is based on unclassified parts of a broad academy report on U.S. missile defense capabilities not yet released.
The defense shield is one of Obama's top military programs. Soon after he took office in 2009, he revamped a Bush administration missile defense plan that had been a chief source of tension with Russia. The Russian government believed the program is aimed at its missiles, while the U.S. said the system was designed to counter any Iranian missile threat.
While Russia initially welcomed the Obama administration's changes, it since has ramped up its criticism. On Thursday, Russia's top military officer went so far as to threaten pre-emptive military action on missile defense facilities in Eastern Europe if the U.S. goes ahead with its plans.
The academy says the proposed system could effectively defend Europe and U.S. troops based there against short- and medium-range missiles from Iran if the system uses an interceptor that is fast enough. But it dismisses the administration's claims that the system eventually will offer protection to the United States as well. It says the system is "at best less than optimal for homeland defense."
It recommends eliminating the last phase of the Obama plan because it says the interceptors planned for that phase will not be fast enough to take down intercontinental missiles launched from Iran. It says the Bush administration plan would have faced the same problem.
It also recommends abandoning a satellite tracking system now in development that the administration has argued could solve weaknesses in the system's radars. A report by the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory group, argued that the radars planned for the shield were too weak to track missiles effectively. The administration has denied that and said its satellite system would bolster the missile shield's capabilities.
But in blunt language, the academy rejects that claim, saying the satellites would be too far away from the threat to provide useful data. It also says the system would cost up to three times the administration's estimates.
According to a congressional aide who has seen the academy's study, it estimates the satellite system would cost $27.7 billion.
The report recommends "terminating all effort" on the satellite project.
5) Orwell Comes to the Guantanamo Tribunal
Steve Gosset, ACLU, May 4, 2012, 1:07pm
The hundreds of lawyers, reporters and observers headed to Guantanamo Bay for Saturday's arraignment of five defendants at the 9/11 military commission better check their calendars: Suddenly, it feels a lot like 1984.
The government wants to censor any statements the defendants have made about how they've been treated while in U.S. custody. If they were tortured or abused by CIA or Department of Defense personnel, that's information the government wants to keep classified.
If it sounds Orwellian for a government to claim it can classify statements made by a defendant about their own experiences with illegal government conduct such as torture, that's because it is. Such a move also has no basis in law, which is why the ACLU filed a motion yesterday with the military commission that asks it to deny the government's request to suppress the defendants' statements.
6) Documents show tense al Qaeda-Iran relationship
Mark Hosenball, Reuters, May 3, 2012
Washington - Al Qaeda's relationship with Iran's government has been fractious at best and openly antagonistic at worst, according to documents confiscated from Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan and made public on Thursday.
In the years since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, high-ranking al Qaeda leaders, lower level militants and members of bin Laden's family were held in custody by Iranian authorities, though U.S. officials say precise conditions of their confinement are unclear.
On occasion, Iranian authorities promised to release, and may have actually released, al Qaeda figures and family members. But at other times, the documents suggest, Iran and al Qaeda were engaged in what could almost be characterized as tit-for-tat hostage taking.
"The documents suggest that the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran was antagonistic, dominated by indirect negotiations over the release of jihadis and their families detained in Iran," said Lieutenant Colonel Liam Collins, director of the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a co-author of an analysis of the confiscated documents published by the center on Thursday.
Some U.S. critics of Iran have suggested that Iran's relationship with al Qaeda was less hostile, or even cooperative at times.
Some American conservatives claimed that Iran was complicit in the September 11 attacks, and that, afterward Iran had provided a comfortable safe haven and base of operations for al Qaeda personnel fleeing U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
Iran's Shi'ite Muslim rulers deny cooperating with al Qaeda, which has its roots in the Wahhabi sect of Sunni Islam dominant in the Arabian Peninsula. In their public statements, Iranian officials call al Qaeda a terrorist group, and Iranian security forces periodically report the arrest of al Qaeda members.
Documents seized by the Navy SEAL team that killed bin Laden a year ago provide more recent insights into Iran-al Qaeda dealings. In a letter to bin Laden dated June 2009, one of his lieutenants reported that the Iranians had released "a group of brothers in several batches last month," and were planning more releases, including possibly bin Laden family members, "within a week."
According to the analysis by West Point's experts, the Iranians likely were not doing this out of sympathy for al Qaeda. Rather, the analysis suggests, the letter to bin Laden indicates that Tehran freed some al Qaeda detainees in response to threats from al Qaeda and the November 2008 kidnapping of an Iranian diplomat stationed at Iran's consulate in Peshawar, Pakistan. The diplomat was released in March 2010.
However, the release of bin Laden relatives mentioned in the letter to the al Qaeda leader did not fully materialize on schedule. Instead, one of bin Laden's sons who had been held in Iran, Saad, reportedly was killed later in 2009.
This led his father, in a documents seized from his hideout, to advise an associate that he wanted a letter from Saad to be included in al Qaeda's archives "in view of the important information it reveals about the truth of the Iranian regime."
The West Point report notes that the Iranians continued to hold one of bin Laden's daughters and her husband even after the diplomat was set free.
The West Point analysis of bin Laden's correspondence says that while it is clear that the al Qaeda-Iran relationship was antagonistic, the rationale behind Iran's detention of al Qaeda militants for years "without due process" is unclear.
The study says one reason the Iranians may have held al Qaeda personnel for so long was to deter the militant group from attacking Iran. Another reason, the report suggests, might be that Iran was holding al Qaeda detainees as bargaining chips for future dealings with Washington.
7) Army Orders Farmers To Uproot 1400 Olive Trees In Salfit
Israeli soldiers order Palestinian farmers to uproot 1400 olive trees in Wadi Qana area, near Dir Istiya, in the West Bank district of Salfit. On Wednesday, the army tried to uproot the trees but was repulsed by Palestinian, Israeli and International peace activists.
William Temple, IMEMC News, Wednesday May 02, 2012 16:00
The International Womens Peace Service (IWPS) reported on April 25 that nine farmers of Deir Istiya village, in the central West Bank District of Salfit District, had been given orders by the army to uproot 1400 olive trees in the Wadi Qana agricultural area by May 1, 2012.
This is the largest number of trees that the farmers of Wadi Qana have ever been ordered to uproot. Most of the trees were planted about 5 years ago on privately owned Palestinian lands.
The Orders were placed on retaining terraces, rocks and fences in the vicinity of the trees, and stated that if the farmers did not uproot their trees they would face punishment which could, according to Deir Istiya Mayor, Nathmi Salman, include large fines and imprisonment.
On May 2nd, the IWPS reported that the farmers stated that it is not only 1,400 trees, but over 2,000 trees that are at risk.
The Israeli army went there yesterday, May 1st, the deadline date for the farmers to uproot their own trees.
The soldiers came prepared to start the work but were met by a large number of Palestinians, Israelis and international peace activists who protested against the order.
About 100 armed settlers, including children, also descended from the many surrounding hill-top settlements. There was a tense confrontation but eventually the stand-off came to an end peacefully and everyone withdrew.
The residents stated that they have no doubt that the army will be back to uproot their trees, the main source of their livelihood.
8) New Doubts Over Reform as Jordan Shifts Cabinet
Ranya Kadri and Isabel Kershner, New York Times, May 3, 2012
Amman, Jordan - King Abdullah II of Jordan swore in a new cabinet this week assigned to make progress on laws allowing for more government posts to be filled by elections, but political activists and analysts here said on Thursday that the quick succession of governments over the past year and a half did not bode well for the prospect of genuine reform.
Since protests inspired by the Arab Spring rocked Jordan 15 months ago, the king has replaced three prime ministers, none of whose governments effected significant change.
The governments "proved a definite truth: that the mechanism of appointing the government is no longer feasible," said Khaled Kalaldeh, secretary general of the Social Leftist Movement and a member of a national dialogue on the reform process.
When Jordanians took to the streets early last year, demanding an end to corruption and more democracy and subsidies, it was the first serious challenge to the rule of King Abdullah, a crucial American ally who inherited the throne in 1999. Within a month, the king fired the sitting government and pledged to open a political reform process. The demonstrations have rumbled on, but at a lower level of intensity.
The change in government "just reveals the absence of political will to accomplish reform in Jordan," said Zaki Saad, who leads the political bureau of the Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, Jordan's largest opposition force. He said that it was the first time in his political career that he had seen such a lack of interest among the public.
Hassan Barari, a professor at the University of Jordan, said that the rapid cabinet changes had widened the gap between the state and society. "Reform is the victim each time," he said. "Each time we go back to square one."
9) Aguilas Negras neo-paramilitaries 'terrorize' Colombia's journalists: NGO
Lindsay Mathieson, Colombia Reports, Thursday, 03 May 2012 12:12
Neo-paramilitaries known as "Aguilas Negras" (Black Eagles) are imposing a "reign of terror" over Colombian journalists, according to press freedom group Reporters Without Borders.
The "extreme right-wing militia" was added to the NGO's global list of journalist "predators," released Thursday to coincide with World Press Freedom Day 2012. The organization dedicated its commemorations to missing French journalist Romeo Langlois, believed to have been kidnapped by the FARC Saturday.
Though the AUC had technically disbanded, various right-wing paramilitary successor groups remained a major threat to Colombian journalists, said Reporters Without Borders.
"The most feared of these armed groups, the 'Black Eagles,' continues to impose a reign of terror, killing journalists or forcing them to censor themselves or flee the country," said the report. "They target journalists who criticize the so-called "democratic security" policies launched by President Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), which are still in force. Their victims also include local and community journalists working in areas where clashes continue."
Colombian filmmaker Juan Lozano told Reporters Without Borders that an improvement in safety conditions for journalists in Colombia's major cities had been accompanied by a worsening situation in remote towns. Community and regional radio journalists, he said, faced the greatest risk.
Reporters Without Borders noted the report was issued before the FARC allegedly kidnapped French journalist Romeo Langlois last week.
The Committee to Protect Journalists 2012 Impunity Index named Colombia the fifth worst country in the world for unsolved journalists' murders.
According to the group, 43 journalists have been killed in Colombia since 1992. The country's Foundation for Press Freedom said in its annual report February that 131 journalists had fallen victim to some form of aggression in 2011.
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