JFP 6/12: Karzai: zero airstrikes on homes; Parsi: crucial to delay Iran oil embargo
Just Foreign Policy News, June 12, 2012
Karzai: zero airstrikes on homes; Parsi: crucial to delay Iran oil embargo
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Katrina vanden Heuvel: Obama's 'kill list' is unchecked presidential power
The leak isn't the scandal, the policy is the scandal. Over twenty legislators led by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) have written formally to the president asking that he explain openly "the process by which signature strikes are authorized and executed; the mechanisms used to ensure such killings are legal; and the mechanisms to track civilian casualties."
Video: Annexation Wall: 10 Years Too Long
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the route of the "separation barrier," which cuts through the West Bank, was illegal. On July 9, the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of the wall, the Palestinian human rights group Al-Haq is launching a one-month campaign calling for the wall to be dismantled, in line with the World Court opinion.
Conyers: Help Alleviate the Haitian Cholera Crisis
Members of Congress urge UN Ambassador Rice to press the UN to take responsibility for the cholera crisis it caused. Signatories: Conyers, Cohen, Clarke (NY), Moran, Towns, Grijalva, Rush, Lee, Kucinich, Edwards, Stark, Rangel, Brown, Maloney, Schakowsky, Clarke (MI), Waters, Honda, Clay, Lewis (GA), McCollum, Wilson (FL), Capuano, Blumenauer, McDermott, Ellison, Johnson (GA), Gutierrez, Jackson, Deutch, Olver, Moran, Alcee Hastings, Filner, McGovern, Keating, Norton, Farr, Cummings, Woolsey, Fattah, Bass, Sires, Tierney, Hirono, Richardson, Larsen, Hinchey, Welch, Thompson (MS), Hahn, Moore, Al Green, Watt, Frank, Markey, Christensen, Faleomavaega, Delauro, Polis, Davis (IL), Lynch, Castor, Michaud, Gene Green, Wasserman-Shultz. Urge your Rep. to sign.
Post and share Just Foreign Policy's Haiti cholera counter:
Tracks deaths, cases, and the number of days that have passed since the UN brought cholera to Haiti.
Kucinich/Conyers: Ensure Transparency and Accountability In The U.S. Combat Drone Program
Twenty-five Members of Congress are pressing the Administration to come clean with Congress and the American people about civilian deaths resulting from drone strikes and about so-called "signature strikes" that target unknown people.
Signers of the Congressional letter include: Dennis Kucinich, John Conyers, Rush Holt, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Maurice Hinchey, Charlie Rangel, Pete Stark, Mike Honda, Raul Grijalva, Bob Filner, Barbara Lee, Jim McGovern, Lynn Woolsey, Hank Johnson, Luis Gutierrez, Ron Paul, John Lewis, George Miller, Jim McDermott, Yvette Clarke, Peter DeFazio, Peter Welch, Donna Edwards, Jerrold Nadler, Keith Ellison.
Uwe-Jürgen Ness - No second Libya: Syria – What Russia and China have learned from the last NATO war
Why Russia and China have good reason to oppose efforts to apply the "Libya model" to Syria. Translated from German by Kumars Salehi.
1) Afghan President Karzai took a defiant stand Tuesday against NATO on airstrikes, saying the military coalition can no longer fire on homes from aircraft in any circumstance - even in defense of Afghan and foreign forces, AP reports. Karzai said that's what he and the U.S.-led coalition agreed following last week's airstrike in eastern Afghanistan's Logar province that killed 18 civilians. NATO says it agreed to restrict airstrikes against houses, but that it would still use air-delivered munitions against civilian dwellings in self-defense of troops on the ground.
Commanders previously could order airstrikes against insurgents on houses, as long as they were confident that there were no civilians present. NATO says that the new restrictions mean commanders will not be able to call in a strike unless it is necessary to save the lives of their troops. This applies even if it is clear there are no civilians in the house.
2) Time is running out for the Iran nuclear talks, write Trita Parsi and Reza Marashi at the Huffington Post. By July 1, the West plans to escalate with an embargo on oil and sanctions on Iran's Central Bank. The good news is that Europe can stop this, and Europe doesn't have to answer to the domestic U.S. political pressures against making meaningful concrete concessions in exchange for Iranian meaningful, concrete concessions.
By delaying -- not lifting -- its impending embargo on Iranian oil for six months, Europe will give decisive breathing space to an otherwise constricted negotiation process, Parsi and Marashi argue. The Iranians should, in turn, freeze the enrichment of 20 percent uranium for that same period.
3) EU officials said Monday Iran has agreed to discuss a proposal from six world powers to curb its production of high-grade uranium at a meeting in Moscow next week in an apparent de-escalation of tensions ahead of the talks, Reuters reports.
4) The Obama administration announced Monday it would exempt seven major importers of Iranian oil - but not China - from upcoming stringent US sanctions intended to reduce Iran's oil exports because these countries had "significantly reduced" their oil purchases from Iran, the New York Times reports.
5) At a time when the US should be reducing its nuclear arsenal, the House has approved a defense authorization bill for 2013 that threatens to freeze the number of weapons at current levels and, over time, waste billions of dollars on unnecessary purchases and programs, writes the New York Times in an editorial. At $642 billion, the House Pentagon authorization is $4 billion above President Obama's request and $8 billion above the 2011 Budget Control Act agreement that the Republicans demanded and are now trying to overturn. More than $1 billion of that increase is nuclear-related.
6) Pentagon criminal investigators have launched a full probe into the military's top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan regarding taxes paid by its owners and treatment of its Afghan employees, USA Today reports. Rep. Hank Johnson said the probe should be expanded to consider the company's links to a smear campaign against USA Today journalists investigating Pentagon contracting.
7) Human Rights Watch urged Israel to repeal or amend a law that allows migrants to be detained without charge for up to three years, calling it a violation of "basic rights," AFP reports. "Subjecting irregular border-crossers to potential indefinite detention without charge or access to legal representation would violate the prohibition against arbitrary detention under international human rights law," HRW said.
8) Iranians interpret U.S. policy regarding Iran's nuclear program in the light of past U.S. policies towards Iran, writes Walter Pincus in the Washington Post. That includes not just the 1953 CIA-sponsored coup that overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Mosaddeq, but also U.S. support for Saddam Hussein's Iraq following the Iraqi invasion of Iran in the 1980s, and French halting of cooperation with Iran on enrichment under U.S. pressure in the 1990s.
9) A study carried out by the World Happiness Report 2012 places Venezuela as the happiest country in South America, notes Stephanie Kennedy at Huffington Post UK. Venezuelans feel good, she argues, because their basic needs are being met. The country currently boasts the highest minimum wage in Latin America. Domestic workers, voluntary full time carers of family relatives and housekeepers now have a state pension. There are local clinics where people had never seen a doctor before, new brick-layered houses for people who had been living in cardboard slums, and subsidized food products and medicines.
1) Afghan leader says no NATO airstrikes on homes at all; NATO says it will still defend troops
Associated Press, Tuesday, June 12, 8:21 AM
Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai took a defiant stand on Tuesday against NATO on airstrikes, saying the military coalition can no longer fire on homes from aircraft in any circumstance - even in defense of Afghan and foreign forces.
Karzai said that's what he and the U.S.-led coalition agreed following last week's airstrike in eastern Afghanistan's Logar province that killed 18 civilians.
NATO's interpretation of the agreement is significantly different than Karzai's. The coalition says it agreed to restrict airstrikes against houses, but that it would still use air-delivered munitions against civilian dwellings in self-defense of troops on the ground.
The dispute highlights ongoing tension between the international force and Karzai, who has denounced coalition tactics that he says have caused civilian deaths on countless occasions. The international force operates under a U.N. mandate, and while Afghan forces partner with coalition troops on night raids, coalition commanders are the ones who authorize airstrikes.
Though airstrikes on homes are a small part of the international operations in Afghanistan, they have brewed resentment among Afghans - even when there are no casualties - who feel they violate what ought to be safe areas and put civilians at risk.
"An agreement has been reached clearly with NATO that no bombardment of civilian homes for any reason is allowed," Karzai said at a news conference at the presidential palace in Kabul. "This is an absolute disproportionate use of force."
"Even when they are under attack, they cannot use an airplane to bomb Afghan homes - even when they are under attack," he said to underscore his point.
Karzai said that at a meeting after the incident in Logar province, he asked U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan: "Do you do this in the United States? There is police action every day in the United States. ... They don't call in airplanes to bomb the place."
The international military coalition did say that airstrikes were being severely curtailed. Such airstrikes are now being designated a weapon of last resort to rescue soldiers, cutting back their use.
"What we have agreed is that we would not use aviation ordnance on civilian dwellings," Gen. Allen said on Monday during a visit to Zabul province in southern Afghanistan. "Now that doesn't obviate our inherent right to self-defense and we will always use our requirements for self-defense to do whatever we have to, to protect the force."
"But because of civilian casualties, we won't use aviation ordnance on those civilian dwellings unless it's a matter of self-defense and protecting the force."
"We will continue to conduct combat operations against insurgents who use civilian dwellings, but we will not use air-delivered munitions against civilian dwellings unless it is a question of self-defense for our troops on the ground," coalition spokesman Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings said earlier this week.
Commanders previously could order airstrikes against insurgents on houses, as long as they were confident that there were no civilians present. Cummings says that the new restrictions mean commanders will not be able to call in a strike unless it is necessary to save the lives of their troops. This applies even if it is clear there are no civilians in the house.
2) Europe's Unique Opportunity to Act
Trita Parsi & Reza Marashi, Huffington Post, 6/12/2012
The nuclear talks in Baghdad between Iran and the Permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) failed to produce a breakthrough. The bad news is that time is running out. By July 1, the West will escalate with an embargo on oil and sanctions on Iran's Central Bank. Iran will respond in kind and the situation may get out of control. The good news is that the ball is in Europe's court and -- unlike America -- the EU has the ability to make diplomacy succeed in the short term.
After more than a decade of coercive policies, the track record is clear: Iran is paying an increasingly hefty price for its nuclear program. Crippling, indiscriminate sanctions are derailing the Iranian economy and civil society. Even if sanctions are lifted, it may take years before Iran recuperates from the damage it has absorbed.
At the same time, none of this pain has impacted Iran's nuclear calculus in a meaningful way. In fact, Iran's program has progressed and reached several milestones during this period. In 2002, it had less than a few dozen centrifuges, no stockpile of enriched uranium and limited knowledge about the process. Today, it has around 10,000 centrifuges, a stockpile of several thousand kg of enriched uranium, and knowledge of the nuclear fuel cycle that simply cannot be untaught. Any hope to eliminate Iran's enrichment program was lost years ago.
In short, the coercive approach is not the success it is touted to be.
Yet, Iran does not have a nuclear weapon and it is still years from being able to build one. If the coercive approach remains in place, however, the track record indicates Iran will reach a point in which the intensified confrontation with the West will remove any hesitation in Tehran to pursue nuclear deterrence.
If the approach agreed upon in Istanbul in April 2012 is pursued, however, a solution is within reach. There, the two sides agreed to negotiate based on a reciprocal, step-by-step approach within the framework of the Non-Proliferating Treaty. In this concessions-for-concessions approach, both sides would give rather than take, help rather than harm.
But when the rubber hit the road in Baghdad, it turned out that giving wasn't as easy as it sounded. Particularly if you are the President of the United States and you face a hostile U.S. Congress, an obstinate Israeli Prime Minister and an uncertain election in six months.
The U.S. and its allies rightfully demanded that Iran cease enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, ship out its stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium and freeze activities at the Fordo plant. These would be very valuable concessions from the Western perspective.
In return, however, no concessions were offered that were considered valuable by Tehran. Reciprocity faltered, primarily because of the president's limited political maneuverability in an election year. All Obama needs is a limited give-and-take to keep the diplomatic process alive till after the U.S. elections, at which point more sincere negotiations can begin.
This is where Europe comes in. It has a unique opportunity to act. Unlike America, the European political landscape is void of the intractable political interests that have a stake in keeping the conflict alive.
By delaying -- not lifting -- its impending embargo on Iranian oil for six months, Europe will give decisive breathing space to an otherwise constricted negotiation process. The Iranians should, in turn, freeze the enrichment of 20 percent uranium for that same period.
Delaying the sanctions will not ease pressure on Iran. According to renowned Iranian economist Bijan Khajehpour, 85 percent of the embargo is already in effect. Delaying its formal imposition will not cause buyers to return to the Iranian market. All it will do is to provide the West with an ability to use the oil embargo as the bargaining tool it was supposed to be -- and exchange it for tangible, verifiable Iranian nuclear concessions.
If the embargo is formally imposed, however, it will become more difficult and costly to lift it and it will serve as naked escalation that will beget Iranian escalation rather than concessions. The risk of war will increase and the threat of an Israeli strike may materialize.
Between sanctions and peace, the choice for Europe should be obvious. Europe must take the step towards peace that America cannot.
3) Iran agrees to discuss nuclear proposal in Moscow: EU officials
Justyna Pawlak, Reuters, Mon, Jun 11 2012
Brussels - European Union officials said on Monday that Iran has agreed to discuss a proposal from six world powers to curb its production of high-grade uranium at a meeting in Moscow next week in an apparent de-escalation of tensions ahead of the talks.
The development follows more than two weeks of wrangling between Iranian diplomats and Western negotiators over preparations for the closely-watched round of nuclear talks which had cast some doubts over what can be achieved in Moscow.
A tense exchange of letters between EU diplomats, who deal with Iran on behalf of the six powers, and Iranian officials had earlier appeared to suggest Tehran may be backtracking on its expressed willingness to discuss their most pressing concern - high-grade uranium enrichment even in broad terms.
But on Monday, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili agreed to focus on the six powers' demands at the Moscow meeting, during a one-hour phone conversation with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. "The Iranians agreed on the need for Iran to engage on the (six powers') proposals, which address its concerns on the exclusively peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear program," a spokesman for Ashton said.
Ashton heads talks with Iran on behalf of the six powers: United States, China, Russia, Germany, France and Britain.
In the immediate term, they want Tehran to stop enriching uranium to 20 percent fissile purity, because production of such material represents a major technological advance en route to making weapons-grade material.
They put forth a proposal on how to achieve this at a round of talks in Baghdad in May, in which Tehran would stop production, close an underground facility where such work is done and ship any stockpile out of the country. In return, they offered to supply it with fuel for a reactor in Tehran, which requires 20-percent uranium, and to ease sanctions against the sale of parts for commercial aircraft to Iran.
No agreement was reached in Baghdad but the seven countries agreed to continue discussions on June 18 and 19 in Moscow.
4) China Is Excluded From Waivers for Oil Trade With Iran
Mark Landler, New York Times, June 11, 2012
Washington - Less than three weeks before stringent American sanctions intended to reduce Iran's oil exports take effect, the Obama administration announced on Monday that it would exempt seven major importers of Iranian oil - but not China - from the measures because these countries had "significantly reduced" their oil purchases from Iran.
Administration officials said the United States was continuing to negotiate with China, the world's No. 1 buyer of Iranian oil, after a confusing period in which Chinese purchases dropped sharply during a price dispute with Tehran but later rebounded.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the administration had issued waivers to India, Malaysia, South Korea, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Taiwan. They joined Japan and 10 European countries that the United States had previously said would be exempt from sanctions for six months.
Still, the absence of China from the waiver list indicates the hurdles the administration faces in persuading Iran's largest customer to curtail its purchases. And it sets up a potential collision with China, which along with the United States is a member of the group of major powers that is negotiating with Iran over the future of its nuclear program.
Under legislation that President Obama signed in December, the United States must take action against countries that continue buying large volumes of crude oil through Iran's central bank by cutting off from the American banking system the financial institutions engaged in those transactions in those countries.
The sanctions law gives Mr. Obama two other escape hatches: he can delay the enforcement of the measures if he concludes they are disrupting the oil market, or he can issue China a waiver based on national security considerations.
On Monday, however, the White House issued a statement saying the global oil supply had loosened somewhat in April and May, after a tight period early in the year. That clears the way for full implementation of the sanctions at the end of June.
In the statement, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said, "There currently appears to be sufficient supply of non-Iranian oil to permit foreign countries to significantly reduce their imports of Iranian oil." He noted that many of Iran's customers had cut back their purchases and tried to find alternative suppliers.
5) Nuclear Time Warp
Editorial, New York Times, June 10, 2012
Did House Republicans somehow miss the end of the cold war? At a time when, for the sake of both security and fiscal responsibility, the country should be reducing its nuclear arsenal, the House has approved a defense authorization bill for 2013 that threatens to freeze the number of weapons at current levels and, over time, waste billions of dollars on unnecessary purchases and programs.
Thankfully, the bill isn't likely to become law. But it is worth taking a closer look, both for what it says about Republicans' misplaced strategic priorities - and about how far President Obama has already gone to appease them.
The United States and Russia each have more than 1,500 nuclear weapons deployed and many thousands more as backup or awaiting dismantlement. Gen. James Cartwright, the retired vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former commander of nuclear forces, recently said that deterrence could be guaranteed with 900 warheads, with only half deployed at any time.
At $642 billion, the House Pentagon authorization is $4 billion above President Obama's request and $8 billion above the 2011 Budget Control Act agreement that the Republicans demanded and are now trying to overturn. More than $1 billion of that increase is nuclear-related. Here are some of the worst parts of the bill:
- The 2010 New Start pact commits Washington and Moscow to cut their deployed strategic weapons from 2,200 to 1,550 by 2018. One provision in the bill would halt reductions if the president, or any successor, failed to meet Mr. Obama's promise to spend $88 billion to upgrade the nuclear labs and $125 billion over 10 years to replace aging bombers, submarines and land-based missiles. Mr. Obama made those overly generous commitments to win ratification of New Start. Most outrageously, the bill says the country can't keep reducing weapons if the defense cuts in the Budget Control Act are not overturned.
- The bill would bar reduction, consolidation or withdrawal of tactical weapons in Europe - we can't imagine a more unnecessary weapon - unless several onerous conditions are met. It mandates a report on possibly reintroducing tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea.
- It contains $160 million to build a new plutonium plant in New Mexico to make new cores for weapons. The Energy Department has said its needs can be met for now with existing facilities. The projected cost has ballooned to nearly $6 billion. It adds nearly $500 million next year to develop a ballistic missile submarine that the administration wants to delay and we believe is unnecessary.
The White House has threatened to veto the authorization unless the worst provisions are deleted. The Senate bill has only made it through committee, but it has some troubling aspects, including keeping the plutonium plant project alive.
General Cartwright is only the latest heavyweight to endorse significant nuclear reductions. Former Ambassador Thomas Pickering and former Senator Chuck Hagel joined him in a report by Global Zero, a policy group urging major changes, including the 900 target. Separately, Henry Kissinger, James Baker, George Shultz and Sam Nunn have endorsed the eventual goal of a world without nuclear weapons. So has President Obama.
6) Pentagon probes Leonie's taxes, treatment of Afghan workers
Tom Vanden Brook, USA Today, 13h 41m ago
Washington – Pentagon criminal investigators have launched a full probe into the military's top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan regarding taxes paid by its owners and treatment of its Afghan employees, according to a letter obtained by USA TODAY.
The paper revealed in February that the owners of Leonie Industries had owed more than $4 million in back taxes to the federal government. That debt was settled in March, federal records show. The company has received at least $120 million in Pentagon contracts since 2009.
Rep. John Tierney, a Massachusetts Democrat and a senior member of the oversight committee, requested the Pentagon Inspector General investigation of Leonie in March. He praised the Defense Criminal Investigative Service's decision to move beyond its initial inquiry and to launch a more formal investigation.
The inspector general's criminal investigative unit "has initiated an investigation regarding allegations concerning the company's failure to provide services to its employees and the tax issues associated with the contracts awarded to Leonie Industries," the office wrote Tierney on June 7.
In May, one of Leonie's co-owners, Camille Chidiac, acknowledged launching websites in the names of the two USA TODAY journalists reporting the story. The Pentagon admonished Leonie for the "smear campaign," and Chidiac said he was selling his share of the firm.
Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat and member of the Armed Services Committee, said Monday that he will ask the inspector general to investigate the online campaign as well.
"The scope of this criminal investigation should be broadened to include the online dirty tricks campaign that smeared journalists investigating Leonie Industries, as well as any attempt to cover up responsibility by employees or shareholders," Johnson said in a statement. "Leonie has acknowledged that at least one major figure associated with the firm was personally involved."
7) Human Rights Watch slams Israel migrant law
AFP, Sun, Jun 10, 2012
Human Rights Watch on Sunday urged Israel to repeal or amend a law that allows migrants to be detained without charge for up to three years, calling it a violation of "basic rights."
The New York-based group said the new law "punishes asylum seekers for irregularly crossing into Israel, in violation of their basic rights."
"Subjecting irregular border-crossers to potential indefinite detention without charge or access to legal representation would violate the prohibition against arbitrary detention under international human rights law," it said.
Israel announced on June 3 that officials would be able to detain migrants who crossed into the Jewish state illegally for up to three years, as part of a bid to stem the flow of African migrants into the country.
But Human Rights Watch said the law stood to stoke anger against migrants, which erupted last month when a protest by around 1,000 people against the rising number of Africans in Israel turned violent.
"Israeli officials are not only adding rhetorical fuel to the xenophobic fire, but they now have a new law that punishes refugees in violation of international law," said Human Rights Watch's refugee programme director Bill Frelick in a statement. "The law should be amended immediately, and not enforced until necessary revisions are made."
8) Iranians' past with U.S. colors how they see standoff over nuclear program
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, June 11
Know your adversary, goes the adage, and that is good advice when it comes to thinking about Iran and its nuclear program. But it is just as important to remember the United States' own history in dealing with Tehran. Iranians do.
"The majority, including the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, they doubt the real intention of the U.S. Specifically, the leader maintains that the real, the core policy of the U.S. is regime change."
That's Seyed Hossein Mousavian, discussing his new book, "The Iranian Nuclear Crisis: A Memoir," last Tuesday at the Brookings Institution. Iran's former nuclear spokesman and a member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team from 2003 to 2005, Mousavian was later arrested and tried for espionage by the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Today, Mousavian is a research scholar at Princeton University's Program on Science and Global Security.
Everyone recalls that regime change was the stated U.S. policy for most of the eight years of President George W. Bush's administration, but few Americans realize that the younger Bush was a latecomer to American attempts to control Iran's government.
Recall the August 1953 military coup that overthrew the elected government of Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq, an event that led to the 25-year autocratic rule of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
That coup was largely the result of a joint covert operation run by the CIA and its British equivalent, MI6. Within the United States, the overthrow was hailed the end of a potential pro-communist regime; for Iranians it ended the country's drive to assert sovereign control over its own resources, primarily oil. It also smothered the country's nascent nationalist movement and restored to power a monarch reliant on the West.
The 1953 coup "changed the course of democracy [in Iran] and led to dictatorships," Mousavian said Monday in a telephone interview. But even more present in the minds of today's Iranians, according to Mousavian, was Washington's bias in the 1980s toward Saddam Hussein's Iraq after it invaded Iran.
Mousavian said that some 300,000 Iranians were killed or injured in the eight years of war that ensued and that U.S. policies in that era have had a profound impact on "the families of those who died or were wounded."
There is another bit of history that Iranians remember and Americans don't. In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed a directive allowing the shah's government in Tehran to buy and operate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from used nuclear reactor fuel as part of a multibillion-dollar deal to purchase American nuclear power plants. After 1979, according to Mousavian, the Khomeini revolutionary government decided against many power plants and the enrichment facility. The Bushehr nuclear power plant, which was begun in 1975 with German help, was halted in 1979, but restarted with the Russians in 1995 despite U.S. objections.
It was at this time, Mousavian said, that Iran, now under Khamenei, decided "to go for self-sufficiency for fuel." The reason, he said at Brookings, was that the French halted a prior enrichment agreement. Under that plan, Iran paid $1.2 billion for a joint facility inside France. But technical issues, delays in restarting Bushehr and U.S. pressure helped end the joint project, according to Mousavian.
Against that background, consider these other factors on the Iranian side as the current struggle over Iran's nuclear program plays out.
Iranians in general support their right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium. As Mousavian put it: "Regardless of who is ruling Iran . . . no one would make concession on the rights of Iran for enrichment."
On sanctions, Mousavian said, "I'm 100 percent sure if even they [the United States and others] go for further crippling sanctions, Iranians, they would not change their nuclear policy. When I say nuclear policy, the core issue is the rights under NPT. This is the core issue. They would not give it up."
9) Happiness, X,Y and Z
Stephanie Kennedy, Huffington Post UK, 07/06/2012
A study carried out by the World Happiness Report 2012 and presented by Columbia University of the United States places Venezuela as the happiest country in South America, the second in Latin America, and nineteenth worldwide. It is an unlikely survey, principally because we are accustomed to facts and figures that map the accumulation of capital rather than degrees of contentment. Nonetheless the sentiment has been traced. Who would have thought happiness could also be reduced to a bar chart?
Undoubtedly, at first, it seems difficult to measure. Yet, without needing to consult philosophers or physicists, it is possible to approach the concept in a no-frills back to basics manner, testing the concept from as simple a question as "how are you?". Happiness may be uncountable but it must be indicative of something. Surely no one is happy if they are hungry, sick or homeless?
For a country as polemic as Venezuela due in large part to the presence of its left wing president Hugo Chavez, the happiness survey brings to the table a curious insight amidst the avalanche of international discontent that so far has been rating the politics of the South American country. But if happy is to not be hungry, sick or homeless, then Venezuela isn't doing too badly in the worldwide charts.
Causes for the joyous results aren't merely superficial. Certainly, Venezuela has many of the physical and geographical traits of a typical postcard-like resort of tropical carefreeness and a "no worries" approach to most things. It enjoys good weather and prides itself on its far stretching Caribbean beaches. Coast-side, everyone is wearing shorts and flips flops, has long lazy lunches and many rum-soaked evenings. Time is a helpful tool of orientation rather than a strict measurement and rain is a clear indication to stay at home rather than to go out and work. The stereotypes of Latin behaviour extend sometimes to even the most serious of contexts. The other day I attended a presentation for the council of Caracas´ annual report on its Budget spending. The politician leading the event came out into the high-ceilinged hall, only to burst out into dance, grab an elderly lady from the public and proceed to sway through an entire salsa song whilst the rest of the audience laughed and clapped. I had difficulties imagining the same scenario occurring with our solemn hold-up-the-red-briefcase Budget report photo back in the UK.
Yet attitude towards life can't be the only reason why a nation is happy, as if the larger issues at stake are simply ignored or downplayed in favour of a good ol´boogie. Venezuelans feel good, I believe, because their basic needs are being met. The country currently boasts the highest minimum wage in Latin America and its latest bill for workers rights hails in a new era of legal protection and social security to a large part of the population who had up until recently been labouring within informal and vulnerable frameworks. Domestic workers, voluntary full time carers of family relatives and housekeepers now too have rights and a state pension, whilst peasants, fisherman and others practicing the more traditional trades, who have always been omitted from formal registers, will now enjoy the same rights as their urban peers. There are local clinics where people had never seen a doctor before, new brick-layered houses for people who had been living in cardboard slums, and subsidized food products and medicines. Of course, there is still a fair way to go before things are just right, but till then, I can see why most Venezuelans already feel like a song and a dance.
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