JFP 5/22: IAEA chief sees deal on Parchin; South Africa to label settlement products

Just Foreign Policy News, May 22, 2012
IAEA chief sees deal on Parchin; South Africa to label settlement products


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Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

Would It Make a Difference to Progressives if Norman Solomon Goes to Congress?
If Norman Solomon goes to Congress, he would have a powerful national platform to oppose wars of choice, and his staff would be helping anti-war initiatives move through Congress.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/would-it-make-a-differenc_b_1536625.html

Center for Constitutional Rights: Tell Congress: End Military and Police Aid to Honduras
The US is supporting repression through direct financing of Honduras' police and military. A group of Congress members have initiated a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, urging the State Department to denounce the human rights violations in Honduras and to end aid to Honduras' police and military. Contact your representative before May 25, and ask that they sign on to this Congressional letter.
http://ccrjustice.org/get-involved/action/tell-congress%3A-end-military-and-police-aid-honduras

Chris Hellman and Mattea Kramer: The Nearly $1 Trillion National Security Budget
The "base Pentagon budget" is a little over half of the whole story.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175545/tomgram%3A_hellman_and_kramer%2C_how_much_does_washington_spend_on_%22defense%22/

In Chicago, Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans Put NATO's Endless War on Trial
At the intersection of Cermak and Michigan streets in Chicago Sunday, veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq told their stories when they threw back their service medals in protest at NATO leaders, echoing a famous protest against the Vietnam War. More than two million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. CNN and Fox can focus on what they want, but you can't hide the life experiences of two million people indefinitely.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/nato-summit-protests_b_1532837.html

Democracy Now: "No NATO, No War": U.S. Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan Return War Medals at NATO Summit
http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/21/no_nato_no_war_us_veterans

ABC News Video: Veterans return medals during NATO protest
http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local&id=8669859

II) Summary:

U.S./Top News
1) Only in the post-coup context can we understand the very real crisis of drug trafficking in Honduras, writes Dana Frank in the Nation. A vicious drug culture already existed before the coup, along with gangs and corrupt officials. But the thoroughgoing criminality of the coup regime opened the door for it to flourish on an unprecedented scale. Drug trafficking is now embedded in the state itself. Prominent critics and even government officials talk of "narco-judges" who block prosecutions and "narco-congressmen" who run cartels. The administration argues that it is helping Honduras clean up its police by providing additional funding for "training." But as former President Zelaya said, "The police are the drug traffickers. If you fund the police, you're funding the drug traffickers."

The propriety of a US alliance with the brutal and undemocratic government is finally being challenged in Washington, Frank writes. On November 28, Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking whether the U.S. was arming a dangerous regime. Ninety-four members of the House, including many in the Democratic leadership, signed a March 9 letter sponsored by Representative Schakowsky calling for the suspension of police and military aid.

2) On the eve of talks in Baghdad over Iran's nuclear program, Yukiya Amano, head of the IAEA, said he expected a deal "quite soon" with Iran on arrangements for an investigation into potential military applications of its nuclear program, the New York Times reports. The IAEA and world powers are involved in separate talks with Iran: the IAEA is seeking access to Iran's Parchin military site, which the nuclear agency suspects has been used for tests on triggering mechanisms, while the Baghdad talks are to focus on limiting Iran's enrichment of uranium. Iran is seeking reciprocal concessions like an easing of broad economic sanctions - including an embargo on oil deals starting July 1 and broad banking restrictions - at the Baghdad talks.

3) White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone strikes, AP reports. The effort concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House. One senior official argued that Brennan's move adds another layer of review. But other officials expressed concern that power to order drone strikes was being concentrated in a small number of people. Some officials carrying out the policy are leery of "how easy it has become to kill someone," one said. "We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the (drone) program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous," the ACLU said.

4) Rep. Dennis Kucinich slammed the claim that NATO leaders were agreeing to "end the war in Afghanistan," according to a statement from his office. "The war in Afghanistan is not ending," Kucinich said. "These talks are simply about financing the next phase of the war."

5) The South African government has announced plans to label all products made in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, The National (UAE) reports. The South African move would be the first time that any country forces companies to inform consumers about which goods were produced in the settlements. Denmark said it may take a similar step and analysts said other European Union countries may also follow suit.

"Israel's placing of a label 'made in Israel' on products made in the West Bank is fraud," said Neve Gordon, an Israeli political scientist and author of the book Israel's Occupation. "The South African decision would force Israel to expose its lie."

6) Israeli settlers apparently opening fire with live ammunition on Palestinian villagers in the West Bank under the gaze of Israeli soldiers has been captured in a series of films posted on YouTube, The Telegraph reports. "The video footage raises grave suspicions that the soldiers present did not act to prevent the settlers from throwing stones and firing live ammunition at the Palestinians," explained Sarit Mitchell, director of the human rights group B'Tselem. "The [settler attack] itself is not unusual but it is rare for settlers to open fire. They have no authority to use live ammunition but in any case, you can see this was not a life threatening situation. And most severe of all, several soldiers are standing by and letting this happen." According to the UN, the number of settler attacks on Palestinians and their properties has increased by 144 per cent since 2009.

7) The U.S. and its negotiating partners have agreed on a detailed confidence-building proposal to present to Iran, Laura Rozen reports for Al Monitor. The proposed package is an updated version of a 2009 uranium fuel swap plan. Western officials said the package does not include sanctions relief at this stage. [This particularly appears to refer to the relief of pending oil and banking sanctions that Iran is looking for; the plan does apparently propose to lift the embargo on civilian aircraft parts - JFP.]

Iran
8) The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a package of new economic sanctions on Iran's oil sector, Reuters reports. The House passed its version of the bill in December and now the Senate and House must work out their differences. Paul Pillar, a former CIA analyst for the Near East and Persian Gulf region, said the sanctions could be counterproductive ahead of the Baghdad talks by making Iran think the West is less interested in a deal than in undermining the regime. "The biggest requirement now for getting an agreement is not to pile on still more sanctions, but instead to persuade the Iranians that if they make concessions the sanctions will be eased," said Pillar. The bill includes language from Senator Rand Paul that it does not authorize force against Iran [setting a good precedent for limiting future anti-Iran legislation - JFP.]

Israel/Palestine
9) An Israeli military court on Sunday convicted Palestinian protest leader Bassem al-Tamimi of urging youths to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, ruling in a case that sparked international criticism of Israeli practices in the West Bank, AP reports. Al-Tamimi was convicted largely because of a confession by a 15-year-old interrogated without a lawyer. Amnesty International has called Tamimi a "prisoner of conscience."

10) The EU says it is "concerned" over Israel's conviction of prominent Palestinian protest leader Bassem al-Tamimi, AP reports. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement Tuesday that the 15-year-old whose confession was used to convict Tamimi was interrogated "in violation of his rights." Ashton said Israel should allow people to protest peacefully. The EU considers al-Tamimi a human rights defender.

Bahrain
11) Activists say that because of a heavy security presence at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, protesters - or people fearful of being associated with Bahrain's opposition - have been afraid to venture there for more than a year, the New York Times reports. That reluctance, officials and activists say, may be responsible for several deaths. A report released by Physicians for Human Rights says people who arrive at the hospital with suspected protest injuries are subjected to interrogation.

Honduras
12) Honduras namesk new national police chief amid controversy over journalist's death, abuseshttp://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/honduras-names-new-police-chief-amid-controversy-over-journalists-death/2012/05/22/gIQAIU7MiU_story.html

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Honduras: Which Side Is the US On?
Dana Frank, The Nation, May 21, 2012
http://www.thenation.com/article/167994/honduras-which-side-us

In some ways, it was just one more bloody episode in a blood-soaked country. In the early hours of the morning on May 11, a group of indigenous people traveling by canoe on a river in the northeast Mosquitia region of Honduras came under helicopter fire. When the shooting was over, at least four persons lay dead, including, by some accounts, two pregnant women. In Honduras, such grisly violence is no longer out of the ordinary. But what this incident threw into stark relief was the powerful role the United States is playing in a Honduran war.

US officials maintain that the Drug Enforcement Administration commandos on board the helicopters did not fire their weapons that morning; Honduran policemen pulled the triggers. But no one disputes that US forces were heavily involved in the raid, and that the helicopters were owned by the US State Department.

The United States has, in fact, been quietly escalating its military presence in Honduras, pouring police and military funding into the regime of President Porfirio Lobo in the name of fighting drugs. The DEA is using counterinsurgency methods developed in Iraq against drug traffickers in Honduras, deploying squads of commandos with US military Special Forces backgrounds to work closely with the Honduran police and military. The US ambassador to Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, recently said, "We have an opportunity now, because the military is no longer at war in Iraq. Using the military funding that won't be spent, we should be able to have resources to be able to work here."

Missing from the official story-never mentioned by US officials, and left out of mainstream news coverage-is that the US government's ally in this campaign, the Lobo regime, is the illegitimate progeny of the military coup that deposed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28, 2009. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at first criticized the coup government, led initially by Roberto Micheletti, but then legitimated it. After almost all the opposition candidates (as well as international observers) boycotted the post-coup election that brought Lobo to power, heads of state throughout the region refused to recognize his presidency; but the United States hailed him for "restoring democracy" and promoting "national reconciliation." The State Department and Clinton continue to repeat both fictions, as did President Obama when he welcomed Lobo to the White House in October.

Meanwhile, US officials blame drug trafficking for almost all the country's problems. "It may be gratifying to attribute Honduras's problems to generals with sunglasses or to rigged elections," former US ambassador to Honduras James Creagan insisted in a February 5 letter to the New York Times. "But it is not true. This is not the 1970s with Central American coups, contras and revolutionaries." Rather, he asserted, the violence in Honduras "is caused by drugs, gangs and corruption…all driven by the market for coca leaf products."

Only in the post-coup context, however, can we understand the very real crisis of drug trafficking in Honduras. A vicious drug culture already existed before the coup, along with gangs and corrupt officials. But the thoroughgoing criminality of the coup regime opened the door for it to flourish on an unprecedented scale. Drug trafficking is now embedded in the state itself-from the cop in the neighborhood all the way up to the very top of the government, according to high-level sources. Prominent critics and even government officials, including Marlon Pascua, the defense minister, talk of "narco-judges" who block prosecutions and "narco-congressmen" who run cartels. Alfredo Landaverde, a former congressman and police commissioner in charge of drug investigations, declared that one out of every ten members of Congress is a drug trafficker and that he had evidence proving "major national and political figures" were involved in drug trafficking. He was assassinated on December 7.

Far more than criminal gangs in the streets and drug traffickers acting independently, it is the Honduran state itself that has made Honduras, according to the Associated Press, "among the most dangerous places on earth."

The administration argues that it is helping Honduras clean up its police by providing additional funding for "training." But as former President Zelaya underscored in a conversation with me on May Day, "The police are the drug traffickers. If you fund the police, you're funding the drug traffickers."
[...]
What difference does a coup make? Add up the rampant corruption of the Honduran state, the crime it unleashed and perpetrates, and its ruthless repression of the opposition, and it's impossible to blame the crisis merely on drug trafficking and gangs; nor can organized crime and drug trafficking be separated from the criminal regime of Porfirio Lobo and the Honduran oligarchs.

The propriety of a US alliance with such a brutal and undemocratic government is finally being challenged in Washington. On November 28, Howard Berman, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, sent a letter to Secretary Clinton asking whether the United States was in fact arming a dangerous regime. Ninety-four members of the House, including many in the Democratic leadership, signed a March 9 letter sponsored by Representative Jan Schakowsky calling for the suspension of police and military aid, especially in light of the situation in the Aguán Valley. On March 5, seven senators signed a letter sponsored by Barbara Mikulski expressing concern over "the increasing number of human rights violations" in Honduras.
[...]

2) Iran Nears Deal on Inspecting Atomic Site, U.N. Chief Says
Alan Cowell, Thomas Erdbrink and Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, May 22, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/23/world/middleeast/un-nuclear-monitor-strikes-deal-with-iran-reports-say.html?ref=world

Paris - On the eve of international talks in Baghdad over Iran's disputed nuclear program, the leader of the United Nations nuclear monitoring arm announced what appeared to be a significant concession from Tehran, saying that, despite unspecified differences, he expected a deal "quite soon" on arrangements for an investigation into potential military applications of the program.

The comments by Yukiya Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, came after his first visit to Iran since his appointment in 2009. Iran's invitation to Mr. Amano, announced unexpectedly on Friday, and the apparent shift by Tehran he announced on Tuesday, offered significant signals of Iranian flexibility.

The flurry of diplomacy reinforced the shift of focus to talks from the possibility of military action by Israel, but mixed messages from Iran - including sharp statements from political figures and a planned Wednesday satellite launch using a large missile - kept uncertainty high.

The I.A.E.A. and world powers are involved in separate talks with Iran: the nuclear agency is seeking access to Iran's Parchin military site, which the nuclear agency suspects has been used for secret tests for potential triggering mechanisms for nuclear weapons, while the Baghdad talks are to focus on limiting Iran's enrichment of uranium. For its part, Tehran is seeking reciprocal concessions like an easing of broad economic sanctions - including an embargo on oil deals starting July 1 and broad banking restrictions - at the Baghdad talks. In Iran's Parliament on Tuesday, the speaker, Ali Larijani, urged the global powers "to change their behavior and stop the shell game they have played on Iran," according to state-controlled Press TV. He also said it would be "improper" for the powers to adopt a cooperative stance during the Baghdad talks while imposing ever tighter sanctions.
[...]

3) Who will drones target? Who in the US will decide?
Kimberly Dozier, AP, May 21, 2012
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2012/05/21/who_will_drones_target_who_in_the_us_will_decide/

Washington - White House counterterror chief John Brennan has seized the lead in choosing which terrorists will be targeted for drone attacks or raids, establishing a new procedure for both military and CIA targets.

The effort concentrates power over the use of lethal U.S. force outside war zones within one small team at the White House.

The process, which is about a month old, means Brennan's staff consults with the State Department and other agencies as to who should go on the target list, making the Pentagon's role less relevant, according to two current and three former U.S. officials aware of the evolution in how the government goes after terrorists.

In describing Brennan's arrangement to The Associated Press, the officials provided the first detailed description of the military's previous review process that set a schedule for killing or capturing terror leaders around the Arab world and beyond. They spoke on condition of anonymity because U.S. officials are not allowed to publicly describe the classified targeting program.

One senior administration official argues that Brennan's move adds another layer of review that augments rather than detracts from the Pentagon's role. The Pentagon can still carry out its own internal procedures to make recommendations to the secretary of defense, the official said.
[...]
Brennan's effort gives him greater input earlier in the process, before making final recommendation to President Barack Obama. Officials outside the White House expressed concern that drawing more of the decision-making process to Brennan's office could turn it into a pseudo military headquarters, entrusting the fate of al-Qaida targets to a small number of senior officials.
[...]
Some of the officials carrying out the policy are equally leery of "how easy it has become to kill someone," one said. The U.S. is targeting al-Qaida operatives for reasons such as being heard in an intercepted conversation plotting to attack a U.S. ambassador overseas, the official said. Stateside, that conversation could trigger an investigation by the Secret Service or FBI.
[...]
Human rights and civil liberties groups have argued for the White House to make public the legal process by which names end up on the targeting lists.

"We continue to believe, based on the information available, that the (drone) program itself is not just unlawful but dangerous," said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU National Security Project. "It is dangerous to characterize the entire planet as a battlefield."

Shrinking the pool of people deciding who goes on the capture/kill list means fewer people to hold accountable, said Mieke Eoyang from Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. "As a general principle, if people think someone is checking their work, they are more careful," Eoyang said. "Small groups can fall victim to group-think."
[...]

4) Kucinich: "NATO Talks a Sham: War in Afghanistan is Not Ending"
Office of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, May 21
http://kucinich.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=296347

Washington - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today released the following statement as world leaders meet in Chicago for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit.

"The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is not a benevolent organization. NATO is not about the North Atlantic and it's not about our collective defense.

"NATO is a cost-sharing organization that finances aggressive military action. By hiding behind the claim that the organization provides for 'common defense,' NATO allows us to wage wars of choice under the guise of international peacekeeping. The most recent example was the unconstitutional war in Libya where NATO, operating under a United Nations mandate to protect civilians, instead backed one side in a civil war and pursued a policy of regime change.

"Today, NATO leaders are meeting in Chicago to discuss the future of Afghanistan. The talks are being billed as discussions of plans to end the war. The war in Afghanistan is not ending. These talks are simply about financing the next phase of the war.

"The Strategic Partnership Agreement between the U.S. and Afghanistan commits us to the country for at least another decade, despite public support for the war being at an all time low. The United States will pay for half of the estimated $4.1 billion per year cost of supporting 352,000 Afghan army and police officers. Afghanistan's contribution will be $500,000. The rest will be financed by our 'NATO partners.' It is not surprising that support for the war among NATO members is waning, with France threatening to pull out its troops by the end of this year.

"Our participation in NATO comes at a great financial cost to the U.S. We contribute the majority of funds for NATO's common budget, including 25% of the military budget. Between fiscal years 2010 and 2012 alone, we contributed more than $1.3 billion to NATO's military budget. We also incur significant costs through the deployment of our forces in support of NATO missions. According to The Atlantic, the war in Libya cost the United States $1.1 billion.

"NATO was originally founded to provide a strategic counterbalance to the Soviet Union. Its founding purpose no longer exists, but NATO continues to circumvent the authority of the United Nations and to provoke other nations. NATO is an anachronism. Instead of trying to bolster the organization, we should begin serious discussions to dismantle it."

5) Israeli anger over S Africa bid to label West Bank settlement goods
Vita Bekker, The National (UAE), May 21, 2012
http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/israeli-anger-over-s-africa-bid-to-label-west-bank-settlement-goods

Tel Aviv - The Israeli government lambasted an unprecedented move by South Africa to label all products made in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank before selling them.

The South African decision, should it be implemented, would hand a considerable victory to a campaign by Palestinians and their supporters to boycott products made in Jewish settlements.

The South African move would be the first time that any country forces companies to inform consumers about which goods were produced in the settlements.

Denmark said on Saturday that it may take a similar step and analysts said other European Union countries may also follow suit, possibly hurting Israel's diplomatic ties with western allies and staining Israel's image among consumers in other countries.

Economic damage, according to analysts, is negligible since settlements' exports account for less than 2 per cent of Israel's total.

Experts say Israel is violating international law by not separately labelling products made within the country's internationally recognised borders and those produced in West Bank settlements. "Israel's placing of a label 'made in Israel' on products made in the West Bank is fraud," said Neve Gordon, an Israeli political scientist and author of the book Israel's Occupation. "The South African decision would force Israel to expose its lie."

Last week, the South African government published a statement by Trade Minister Rob Davies saying the state would require merchants "not to incorrectly label products that originate from the Occupied Palestinian Territory as products of Israel."

The statement, which did not detail what would be written on labels of settlement-made products, said the goods include some cosmetic brands, technology products and soft drinks.

The decision is subject to objections from the public until the end of June.

Palestinian officials welcomed South Africa's move. Ghassan Khatib, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, said: "This is based on a proper understanding of the illegality of settlements and their products. We hope that this will be followed by other countries."
[...]
On Saturday, the Danish foreign minister, Villy Sovndal, told the Danish Politiken newspaper that the country would stop labelling products from settlements as ones made in Israel.

He said: "This is a step that clearly shows consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government but also European governments do not approve of."

6) Israeli soldiers seen standing by as settlers use live fire against Palestinians
Phoebe Greenwood, Telegraph (UK), 11:50AM BST 21 May 2012
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/9279499/Israeli-soldiers-seen-standing-by-as-settlers-use-live-fire-against-Palestinians.html
[video at link.]

Jerusalem - A violent series of events that culminated in Israeli settlers apparently opening fire with live ammunition on Palestinian villagers in the West Bank under the gaze of Israeli soldiers has been captured in a series of films posted on YouTube.

The footage, filmed by local Palestinian women hiding in their homes on the outskirts of Asira village, shows an alarming and rapid escalation in violence, captured from the moment a group of settlers, some masked and armed with guns, descended from their hilltop settlement. The Yitzhar settlers claim Palestinians had lit fires around their outposts.

The amateur footage appears to show the settlers gathered on the outskirts of the village throwing rocks, quickly met with a shower of stones from Palestinian youths who rushed from their homes to confront the mob. A few minutes later, Israeli border police are seen arriving at the fray.

In the scenes that follow, several of the Jewish settlers armed with M4 rifles - one wearing what appears to be a police cap - are seen to point their guns at the group of Palestinian men and open fire. The Israeli soldiers present appear to do nothing to stop them from shooting.

In this moment, Fathi Asayira, 24, is shot in the head. The urgent yells of Mr Asayira's neighbours rushing to help him are captured in the footage, which has been collected and posted online by Israeli human rights group B'Tselem. Mr Asayira is currently in a stable condition in a hospital in Nablus. Five other Palestinians were injured by stones thrown during the incident.

"The video footage raises grave suspicions that the soldiers present did not act to prevent the settlers from throwing stones and firing live ammunition at the Palestinians," explains Sarit Mitchell, director of B'Tselem, a group that is closely monitoring an alleged increase in violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers against Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

"The [settler attack] itself is not unusual but it is rare for settlers to open fire. They have no authority to use live ammunition but in any case, you can see this was not a life threatening situation. And most severe of all, several soldiers are standing by and letting this happen."

According to the United Nations office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs in occupied Palestinian territory, the number of settler attacks on Palestinians and their properties has increased by 144 per cent since 2009. More than 90 per cent of complaints filed by Palestinians about settler violence have been closed by the Israeli police in recent years without indictment.
[...]

7) International negotiators to offer detailed confidence-building proposal to Iran
Laura Rozen/Barbara Slavin, The Back Channel/Al Monitor, May 22, 2012
http://backchannel.al-monitor.com/index.php/2012/05/p51-proposal-to-iran-does-not-include-sanctions-relief-at-this-stage/
.
Amman/Washington - The United States and its negotiating partners have agreed on a detailed confidence-building proposal to present to Iran at nuclear negotiations due to get underway in Baghdad Wednesday.

The proposed package is an updated version of a 2009 uranium fuel swap plan that takes into account Iran's progress in enriching uranium, American and European diplomats said.

While the details of the proposed package have not been made public, Western officials told Al Monitor that the package does not include sanctions relief at this stage.

Instead, the United States and its P5+1 partners will offer fuel for Tehran's Research Reactor (TRR) plus safety upgrades to the plant, which is of 1960s vintage. Also potentially on the table: new research reactors that use lower level 3.5 percent enriched uranium, safety upgrades for Iran's one functioning nuclear power plant at Bushehr and spare parts for its accident-plagued fleet of civilian airliners.

In return, Iran must stop producing uranium enriched to 20 percent and halt activities at Fordow, an enrichment facility built into a mountain near Qom. It is not clear whether Iran would also have to send out its stockpile of more than 100 kg of the fuel.
[...]
"Just hope the Iranians are not deluding themselves they are going to get sanctions relief now-that's not going to happen at this stage," he added.

European and American diplomats have indicated that if the Baghdad talks prove constructive, they would like to meet far more regularly with Iran in a single location– possibly Geneva–to try to hammer out the complex technical issues for the confidence building measure.
[...]
"Better to under-promise and over-deliver!" a European diplomat said. "The big picture is to get a process going where the big players and Iran meet regularly, ideally every month, and work step-by-step towards a common goal."
[...]

Iran
8) U.S. Senate approves tougher Iran sanctions
Roberta Rampton and Susan Cornwell, Reuters, May 21, 2012
http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/21/us-senate-iran-sanctions-idUSBRE84K19520120521

Washington - The U.S. Senate unanimously approved on Monday a package of new economic sanctions on Iran's oil sector just days ahead of a meeting in Baghdad between major world powers and Tehran.
[...]
The House of Representatives passed its version of the bill in December and now the Senate and House must work out their differences in the legislation.
[...]
The new sanctions build on penalties signed into law by President Barack Obama in December against foreign institutions trading with Iran's central bank. Those sanctions already have cut deeply into Iran's oil trade.

The new package would extend sanctions to cover dealings with the National Iranian Oil Co and National Iranian Tanker Co, aiming to close a potential loophole that could have allowed Tehran, the world's third-largest petroleum exporter, to continue selling some of its oil.
[...]
But a former CIA analyst for the Near East and Persian Gulf region said the sanctions could be counterproductive ahead of the Baghdad talks on Iran's nuclear program by making Tehran think that the West is less interested in a deal than in undermining the regime.

"The biggest requirement now for getting an agreement is not to pile on still more sanctions, but instead to persuade the Iranians that if they make concessions the sanctions will be eased," said Paul Pillar, now a security studies professor at Georgetown University.

The Senate bill was brought up on Thursday but was blocked by Republicans who wanted some parts toughened up. Senator John McCain said the revised bill shows "we need a comprehensive policy" to include economic sanctions, diplomacy, military planning capabilities and options.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said the revisions show Iran "that all options are on the table, in order to prevent any contrary perception that silence on the use of force would have created."

The bill also includes language from Senator Rand Paul that it does not authorize force against Iran, a Paul spokeswoman said.

Israel/Palestine
9) Israel military court convicts Palestinian protest leader of urging youths to hurl rocks
Associated Press, May 20
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-army-court-convicts-palestinian-protest-leader-of-urging-youths-to-hurl-rocks/2012/05/20/gIQA3QxEdU_story.html

Ofer Military Base, West Bank - An Israeli military court on Sunday convicted a Palestinian protest leader of urging youths to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers, ruling in a case that sparked international criticism of Israeli practices in the West Bank.

Bassem al-Tamimi - a symbol of Palestinian opposition to Israeli military rule praised by the European Union as a human rights defender - was convicted largely because of a confession by a 15-year-old interrogated without a lawyer.

The veteran activist has led weekly marches in his West Bank village of Nabi Saleh to protest Jewish settlers seizing a nearby well for their own use, mirroring other protests in rural Palestinian villages against similar practices. Many of those protests turn into clashes between stone-throwing youths and Israeli soldiers firing tear gas and rubber bullets.

During Sunday's session, two dozen European diplomats crowded into a trailer-like court room at the Ofer military detention center. Al-Tamimi was released on bail last month, after 13 months in detention, and sat close to his wife, 35-year-old Nariman. She frequently rested her head on his shoulder.

"I believe in the legitimacy of what I do," al-Tamimi said after the verdict. "I lead peaceful protests," he said.

The London-based Amnesty International has called Tamimi a "prisoner of conscience."

Tamimi is among several Palestinian protest leaders arrested in recent years on charges of organizing what Israel defines as illegal demonstrations. Rights groups criticize the arrests as an attempt to stifle expression. Those cases have also relied on confessions extracted from minor; rights groups say the interrogations are unlawful.

Israeli officials say the interrogations are necessary to quell violence. They say Palestinians are offered fair trials.

In al-Tamimi's case, evidence for his conviction was chiefly taken from a confession by a relative, then-15-year-old Muatassim al-Tamimi. He was arrested in January 2011, after being caught throwing stones.

Two men interrogated him for about three hours. He was not allowed to see a lawyer. His interrogator, speaking in broken, heavily accented Arabic, shouts at the sleepy minor, according to an edited version of the videotaped interrogation given to The Associated Press by activists. Several times, an interrogator tells the minor he was throwing stones at the behest of protest leaders, including al-Tamimi, and urges him to agree.

The military judge in al-Tamimi's case said Sunday she dropped more serious charges of incitement and support for a hostile organization that were based from the confessions of a 14-year-old, saying it was riddled with inconsistencies.
[...]

10) EU 'concerned' over conviction of Palestinian protest leader in Israel military court
Associated Press, Tuesday, May 22, 11:59 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/eu-concerned-over-conviction-of-palestinian-protest-leader-in-israel-military-court/2012/05/22/gIQANwUMiU_story.html

Jerusalem - The European Union says it is "concerned" over Israel's conviction of a prominent Palestinian protest leader.

An Israeli military court on Sunday convicted Bassem al-Tamimi, 45, of urging youths to throw rocks at security forces and of leading illegal demonstrations, based on the testimony of a 15-year-old.
[...]
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement Tuesday that the minor was interrogated "in violation of his rights."

The EU considers al-Tamimi a human rights defender. Ashton said Israel should allow people to protest peacefully.

Bahrain
11) Secret Clinics Tend to Bahrain's Wounded
Kareem Fahim, New York Times, May 21, 2012
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/22/world/middleeast/secret-clinics-tend-to-bahrains-wounded.html

Manama, Bahrain - Three young men were slumped on a living room mat, groaning with pain from nuggets of birdshot lodged in a cheek, a forehead and under the lid of an eye. Bahrain's nightly protests had exacted their reliable toll.

Friends dragged the men away from the clashes and the riot police, to a safe house nearby. Soon, it was time to go, but not to a hospital: the police were there, too. "No one goes to the hospital," one protester said.

Instead, the men traveled to one of dozens of houses that are scattered throughout this island nation, where a secret and growing network of caregivers - doctors, first-aid medics or people with no medical experience at all - wait daily for the casualties from the protests. The houses are not really field hospitals, but rather sitting rooms, often equipped with nothing more than bandages and gauze.

For the injured protesters, the houses have replaced the country's largest public hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex, which has been a crucial site in the conflict between Bahrain's ruling monarchy and its opponents since the beginning of a popular uprising in February 2011. Activists say that because of a heavy security presence at the hospital, protesters - or people fearful of being associated with Bahrain's opposition - have been afraid to venture there for more than a year. That reluctance, officials and activists say, may be responsible for several deaths.

Last spring, the hospital became a symbol of the state's repression, as the government arrested - and in some cases tortured - protesters, doctors and nurses for their involvement with the uprising. As its problems persist, Salmaniya has come to represent Bahrain's dangerous impasse, marked by a growing rift between the country's Shiite majority, which has long complained of official discrimination, and the Sunni political elite.

The authorities continue to prosecute Shiite doctors who worked at the hospital on charges including plotting to overthrow the government. Some of the doctors say their arrests represented a purge of Shiites, allowing the government to replace them with Sunni loyalists.

A report released Monday by Physicians for Human Rights says some of the current problems at Salmaniya stem from the conduct of security forces in the hospital and at its gates. People interviewed by the group said guards stopped arriving cars and questioned the passengers. They asked what village they were from, a way of telling whether someone was Shiite or Sunni.

People with physical injuries, including those possibly related to the impact of tear-gas canisters, are brought inside for additional interrogation. The report said that the hospital's chief executive, Dr. Waleed Khalifa al-Manea, had urged the Interior Ministry, which oversees security at Salmaniya, to stop the practice
[...]
In January, the government sent a directive to private hospitals and clinics that requires them to report not only suspected criminal activity but also "accidents irrespective of causes," according to the report by Physicians for Human Rights. One doctor told the group that some private hospitals had simply stopped treating protesters and that he had stopped noting the cause of injury in some patients' medical records.

The law, the report noted, "not only subordinates the needs of the patient to that of the state, it propagates fear among the population."
[...]

Honduras
12) Honduras names new national police chief amid controversy over journalist's death, abuses
Associated Press, Tuesday, May 22, 5:27 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/honduras-names-new-police-chief-amid-controversy-over-journalists-death/2012/05/22/gIQAIU7MiU_story.html

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - The newest top cop who President Porfirio Lobo is giving the responsibility of cleaning up the national police force has faced questions in the past about his record on human rights.

Lobo swore in Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares, a veteran law enforcement official known as "El Tigre" or "The Tiger," late Monday to replace Ricardo Ramirez del Cid, who held the job for little more than six months.
[...]
The national police chief position has become a revolving door under recurring allegations of police officers being involved in drug trafficking, murder and kidnapping in this small Central American country, which has one of the world's highest murder rates. Drug trafficking has spiked in recent years in remote, lightly patrolled regions along the Caribbean, where planeloads of cocaine from South America land on clandestine airstrips.

Ramirez was appointed in November during a scandal over alleged police involvement in the murder of the son of Honduras National Autonomous University President Julieta Castellanos.

His replacement by Bonilla comes amid current controversy over possible police involvement in the May 9 kidnapping and murder of one of Honduras' best-known journalists, Alfredo Villatoro, a close adviser to Lobo. Villatoro's body was found six days after he was abducted.
[...]
A 2007 U.S. State Department report on human rights said Bonilla was suspected but never charged in a series of killings when he was the nation's jails inspector
[...]
The country of 8 million people is also reeling from a fatal shooting by an anti-drug police helicopter attack that killed innocent riverboat passengers May during a U.S.-backed mission tracking a cocaine shipment in Honduras' northern region that is home to the Miskito Indians. The police, who were operating in U.S. helicopters with DEA advisers on board, said they were shot at first and their return fire killed four civilians and wounded four others.
[...]
Former Security Minister Oscar Alvarez called the national police "air traffic controllers" for the drug traffickers before he resigned last fall and said he tried to clean up the force but didn't have support. He has since left the country.

---
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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