JFP 7/17: Indian fisherman: US Navy didn't warn before shooting near Iran
Just Foreign Policy News, July 17, 2012
Indian fisherman: US Navy didn't warn before shooting near Iran
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Action: A Great Week to Cut the Pentagon Budget and End the War!
The 2013 "Defense" Appropriations Bill is expected to be voted on in the House this week. Members of Congress will be introducing amendments to cut the military budget and to end the war in Afghanistan. Urge your Rep. to support these amendments.
It's a Great Day to Act to Cut the Pentagon Budget
What happens in these votes will have a big influence on the expected negotiations over replacing the impending "sequester" automatic cuts of the Budget Control Act with a package of revenue increases and spending cuts. If you want cuts in military spending to be on the table, now is the time to speak up.
640 days of cholera in Haiti
640 days, 7454 dead, 583,876 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still the UN refuses to apologize or take responsibility.
1) India's ambassador to the UAE said an Indian fisherman aboard a boat shot at by the U.S. Navy off Dubai's coast has told officials the crew received no warning before being fired upon, AP reports. One Indian was killed in the incident, and three of his countrymen were seriously wounded. The account differs from that provided by the Navy, which said it resorted to lethal force only after issuing a series of warnings. Dubai's police chief said an initial investigation suggests "the boat was in its right course and did not pose any danger," according to comments published by Abu Dhabi-based daily The National. He told the government-backed newspaper that the shooting appeared to be a mistake.
The U.S. ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, has expressed regret for the loss of life and assured Indian officials that the U.S. government will conduct a full investigation.
[Notes: 1) this shows the danger of the state of confrontation in the Persian Gulf between the U.S. and Iran, even if U.S. and Iranian officials don't want war - what if the boat had been Iranian, the Navy claimed warning and the Iranians denied it, how would that turn out? Would the U.S. "express regret for the loss of life" and "assure Iranian officials that the U.S. would conduct a full investigation"?
2) in the case of the four Honduran civilians - including two pregnant women - killed in a DEA raid in Ahuas on May 11, the U.S. has neither "expressed regret for the loss of life" nor "assured Honduran officials" (or Members of Congress) that the U.S. will "conduct a full investigation" - JFP.]
2) A study by the Stimson Center found the average American would cut the military budget by 18%, or $103.5 billion, the Washington Post noted. [By contrast, the most ambitious of the three House amendments expected this week to try to cut the military budget, that offered by Barbara Lee, would cut the military budget by $19 billion - JFP.]
3) Contrary to some press reports, Julian Assange has not been charged with any crime in Sweden, notes Mark Weisbrot in Folha de São Paulo. He is only wanted for questioning by a Swedish prosecutor. Most journalists have failed to ask why Assange can't simply be questioned in the UK where he is, Weisbrot notes.
4) Most Americans say they believe temperatures around the world are going up and that weather patterns have become more unstable, according to a poll from The Washington Post and Stanford University. They also see future warming as something that can be addressed, and majorities want government action across a range of policies to curb energy consumption, with more support for tax breaks than government mandates.
5) America's drug problem is shifting from illicit substances like cocaine to abuse of prescription painkillers, forcing policy makers to re-examine the long and expensive strategy of trying to stop illegal drugs from entering the US, the New York Times reports. With the drug wars in Mexico inflaming violence, some argue that the money now used for interdiction could be better spent building up the institutions - especially courts and prosecutors' offices - that would lead to long-term stability in Mexico and elsewhere. Last week Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a former federal prosecutor, declared the war on drugs "a failure" that imprisons people who really need treatment.
The US response in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala so far has mostly involved a familiar escalation of force, the NYT notes, including a recent DEA raid in Honduras that left four people dead, including two pregnant women. Meanwhile the US is designating about 60 percent of the federal antidrug budget of roughly $25 billion a year to supply-side efforts, with 40 percent to demand, as the government has for decades.
6) A Senate report says the global bank HSBC has been used by Mexican drug cartels looking to get cash back into the US, the New York Times reports. The bank is accused of shipping $7 billion in cash from Mexico to the US in 2007 and 2008 despite several warnings that the money was coming from cartels. Senator Levin said that wrongdoing in the financial world has been exacerbated by the relatively light touch of government regulators.
7) There remains strong public support in the US for sanctions against Iran, but widespread opposition to the use of military force, the Atlantic reports. A majority of Americans support engagement with Iran; most Americans do not favor an Israeli strike. Americans can envision a nuclear deal with Iran, supporting the idea of allowing Iran to produce nuclear fuel on the condition that the Iranian government accepts intrusive UN inspections.
8) Oil prices rose Tuesday amid tensions over major crude producer Iran, which insisted that US military deployment in the Gulf is "a source of insecurity," AFP reports.
9) Parliamentarians of the ruling Likud party are growing more bold in openly calling for formal Israeli annexation of the West Bank, regardless of world opinion, the Times of Israel reports.
10) According to the US ambassador in Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, a preliminary investigation by the Honduran authorities of a May 11 DEA raid that killed four Hondurans" suggests there was no wrongdoing" by security officials, the Guardian reports. That proposition may be tested in the Honduran courts: the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared (Cofadeh), has filed a legal complaint against the Honduran and US governments citing violations of human rights. A survivor wounded in the raid dismissed US claims of a thorough investigation, saying US officials had not contacted the victims of the raid.
11) Uruguayan president Jose Mujica has back stepped on his initiative to legalize marihuana conditioning it to an "ample support from public opinion", at least 60%, Mercopress reports.
12) President Funes said the "truce" among street gangs that took effect last March "has had results," since homicides have dropped 52 percent since then, EFE reports. The OAS said it would watch over and act as guarantor of the truce.
1) Indian fisherman tells embassy his boat wasn't warned before being shot by US Navy off Dubai
Associated Press, Tuesday, July 17, 10:44 AM
Dubai, United Arab Emirates - An Indian fisherman aboard a boat shot at by the U.S. Navy off Dubai's coast has told officials the crew received no warning before being fired upon, India's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said Tuesday.
One Indian was killed in the incident, and three of his countrymen were seriously wounded.
The account differs from that provided by the Navy, which said it resorted to lethal force only after issuing a series of warnings.
The shooting happened Monday afternoon when a small boat rapidly approached the refueling ship USNS Rappahannock about 10 miles (16 kilometers) off Dubai's Jebel Ali port, according to the Navy.
The Navy said the boat's crew disregarded warnings from the U.S. vessel, and only then did gunners fire on it with a .50-caliber machine gun.
The white-hulled boat appeared to be a civilian vessel about 30 feet (9 meters) long and powered by three outboard motors. It had no obvious military markings. Similar boats are used for fishing in the region, though Iran's Revolutionary Guard also employs relatively small, fast-moving craft in the Gulf.
Indian consular officials have met with the wounded fishermen. Indian Ambassador M.K. Lokesh told The Associated Press on Tuesday that one of the survivors reported that the men were returning from fishing when they encountered the American ship.
"He says there was no warning" before the shooting occurred, Lokesh said, though he noted that authorities are still working to determine what happened. "We are waiting for the investigation to be complete. We are waiting to see what happened."
Dubai's police chief, Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, said an initial investigation suggests "the boat was in its right course and did not pose any danger," according to comments published by Abu Dhabi-based daily The National. He told the government-backed newspaper that the shooting appeared to be a mistake.
The U.S. ambassador to India, Nancy Powell, has expressed regret for the loss of life and assured Indian officials that the U.S. government will conduct a full investigation.
India has separately asked the United Arab Emirates to investigate the incident, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said Tuesday.
Tariq Ahmed al-Haidan, political affairs assistant to the UAE Foreign Minister, has said relevant UAE authorities are working to determine what happened.
The incident comes during a period of heightened tensions in the Gulf between the United States and Iran, which lies just across the Gulf from the UAE.
Tensions are high in the Gulf after Iran last week renewed threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz - the route for one-fifth of the world's oil - in retaliation for tighter sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
2) Americans want to slash defense spending, but Washington isn't listening
Suzy Khimm, Washington Post, 09:46 AM ET, 05/11/2012
Ask your average American whether the defense budget should go up or down in 2013, and by how much, and they'll tell you to cut spending by a whopping 18 percent. Ask your average member of Congress the same question, and no matter which party they're from, you'll likely hear that defense spending should barely budge from where it is right now.
"It's a sizable gap-perhaps even a missile-sized gap," suggested R. Jeffrey Smith, an editor at the Center for Public Integrity and former Washington Post reporter, unveiling the findings Thursday morning at the Stimson Center. On average, Smith and his co-authors found the public wants $103.5 billion in defense budget cuts, or 18 percent of the current budget; Republicans want $74 billion cut, on average, Democrats want a $124.4 billion cut, and independents want a $112.2 billion reduction. Participants evaluated 87 percent of defense discretionary spending, so their cuts might even be higher if the entire defense budget were covered.
But Smith and his co-authors stress that they designed the study to make participants-who they said were a representative sample-as well informed as possible: they provided context, information and detailed, opposing viewpoints for each part of the budget, replicating budget deliberations as they actually happen in Congress and the White House. Participants considered type of spending-for each divisions of the armed forces, weapons programs, military health care, etc.-and decided whether it was worth, say, spending more money on special ops (yes!) or a new $1 trillion fighter jet (no way).
It's two things, Kull explains. First, survey participants were given more background: for example, they were shown how defense spending compared to all other kinds of government spending, and how current spending compares historically. Then, they had the ability to specify exactly how they'd treat different types of spending. He explains: "If they can offer a specific amount, it gets away from the blank check problem"--the fear that legislators will slash programs without much rhyme or reason.
The problem, they acknowledge, is that the average American doesn't typically get the inside look at the budget, and there isn't much public pressure on policymakers, who've gotten an earful from the Pentagon when it comes to defense spending. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, for instance, "is talking about catastrophe and devastation if cuts go further," said Leatherman. As a result, Smith add later, the "noisy minorities" dominate, and the public is left in the dark.
3) Ecuador Should Grant Political Asylum to Wikileaks Founder
Mark Weisbrot, Folha de São Paulo (Brazil), July 13, 2012
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London, where according to Ecuadorian authorities he government's decision is "under the protection of the Ecuadorian state," as he awaits the on his application for political asylum. If you have been relying on the mass media for information about why he is there or what he is being protected from, you may have no idea what is going on.
Much of the media has reported or given the impression that Assange is facing "charges" in Sweden and is therefore avoiding extradition from the UK to that country. In fact, Julian Assange has not been charged with any crime.
Instead, he is only wanted for questioning by a Swedish prosecutor. Now, why can't he simply be questioned in the UK where he is? Try to find the answer to that question in all the "news" reporting on the case. Former Stockholm Chief District prosecutor Sven-Erik Alhem testified that the decision of the Swedish government to extradite Assange is "unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate," because he can be easily questioned in the UK. These simple facts make it clear that the Swedish attempt to extradite Assange has nothing to do with any criminal investigation.
But it gets worse. Once in Sweden, Assange would be put in prison and have limited access to the media. Pre-trial procedures would be conducted in secret. And perhaps most importantly, he could be more easily extradited to the United States, where there are investigations to see if he can be tried under the Espionage Act. This carries a potential death penalty, and powerful U.S. officials such as Diane Feinstein, Democrat and chair of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, have called for his prosecution under that law.
People of conscience in Sweden should oppose their government's policy of collaborating in the persecution of a journalist who is not charged with any crime. This persecution is a threat to freedom of expression and information everywhere.
Wikileaks has helped to disseminate important information about serious crimes committed by the U.S. government, such as the video footage of a 2007 incident in which the U.S. military appears to have deliberately killed civilians from a helicopter. It is for that reason that the U.S. government seeks to punish Assange and others associated with the group.
4) Temperatures climbing, weather more unstable, a majority says in poll
Juliet Eilperin and Peyton M. Craighill, Washington Post, July 12
Most Americans say they believe temperatures around the world are going up and that weather patterns have become more unstable in the past few years, according to a new poll from The Washington Post and Stanford University.
But they also see future warming as something that can be addressed, and majorities want government action across a range of policies to curb energy consumption, with more support for tax breaks than government mandates.
The findings come as the federal government released a report Tuesday suggesting the connection between last year's severe weather and climate change. According to the study issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, changes fueled by the burning of fossil fuels made the 2011 heat wave in Texas 20 times more likely to occur compared with conditions in the 1960s.
In the report, the scientists compared the phenomenon to a baseball or cricket player's improved performance after taking steroids.
"For any one of his home runs (sixes) during the years the player was taking steroids, you would not know for sure whether it was caused by steroids or not," they wrote in the report, which will be published in a forthcoming Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. "But you might be able to attribute his increased number to the steroids."
Americans polled by The Post and Stanford do see climate change as occurring: Six in 10 say weather patterns around the world have been more unstable in the past three years than previously, a perception that's changed little since 2006. Nearly as many also say average temperatures were higher during the past three years than before that.
In terms of what can be done about it, about 55 percent say a "great deal" or "good amount" can be done to reduce future global warming. At the same time, 60 percent of those polled say it will be extremely or very difficult for people to stop it.
Americans are leery of broad-based tax increases to address the problem. More than 70 percent oppose policies that would rely on tax increases on electricity or gas to change individual behavior, while 66 percent favor tax breaks to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Fewer, 20 percent, want the government to stay out of regulating greenhouse gases altogether.
About two-thirds want the United States to be a world leader addressing the problem, even if other major industrial countries do not pitch in. But being a world leader doesn't translate into direct help for poor countries that may suffer from global warming: Just 24 percent think the U.S. government should provide a great deal or a lot of help to such countries.
Americans make a clear distinction between the two main presidential candidates this year on the issue. Nearly half perceive that President Obama wants a "great deal" or "quite a bit" of government action on global warming. Far fewer - 11 percent - say the same of Republican Mitt Romney.
People don't see a lot of downside for taking action to stop global warming. Only 12 percent say that the things people would do to help stop it would make their own lives worse.
5) U.S. Priorities in Drug War Debated as Pill Abuse Rises
Damien Cave and Michael S. Schmidt, July 16, 2012
Mexico City - America's drug problem is shifting from illicit substances like cocaine to abuse of prescription painkillers, a change that is forcing policy makers to re-examine the long and expensive strategy of trying to stop illegal drugs from entering the United States.
This rethinking extends beyond the United States, where policy makers are debating how to better reduce demand for painkillers. The effects would also be felt here and in Central America: With the drug wars in Mexico inflaming violence, some argue that the money now used for interdiction could be better spent building up the institutions - especially courts and prosecutors' offices - that would lead to long-term stability in Mexico and elsewhere.
"The policies the United States has had for the last 41 years have become irrelevant," said Morris Panner, a former counternarcotics prosecutor in New York and at the American Embassy in Colombia, who is now an adviser at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "The United States was worried about shipments of cocaine and heroin for years, but whether those policies worked or not doesn't matter because they are now worried about Americans using prescription drugs."
The same sense that there is a need for a new approach was expressed last week by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a former federal prosecutor, who declared the war on drugs "a failure" that imprisons people who really need treatment.
While a major change in policy is not imminent - "It's all aircraft carriers, none of it moves on a dime," as one senior Obama administration official put it - the election of a new president in Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, is very likely to have an immediate impact on the debate. Mr. Peña Nieto has promised to focus not on drugs but rather on reducing the violent crimes that most affect Mexicans.
Mexico and other countries nearby, especially Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, are withering under a metastasizing threat: violence caused by drug traffickers battling for power, to move drugs, extort businesses, and kidnap and kill for ransom. The American response so far has mostly involved a familiar escalation of force, characterized by the addition of law enforcement and military equipment and personnel to help governments too weak to combat trafficking on their own.
But in Mexico, a focus of American antidrug efforts in recent years, a shift in priorities is already apparent. Since 2010, programs for building the rule of law and stronger communities have become the largest items in the State Department's antidrug budget, with the bulk of the money assigned to Mexico. That amounts to a reversal from 2008 and 2009, when 70 percent was allocated to border security and heavy equipment like helicopters.
Even some officials with the Drug Enforcement Administration and Justice Department say they now recognize that arresting kingpins and seizing large drug shipments have failed to make Mexico more stable, largely because of corruption and other flaws in the Mexican justice system.
American officials say they are now focused on training Mexican prison guards, prosecutors and judges, while supporting Mexican programs aimed at keeping at-risk youths from joining gangs.
Still, law enforcement remains a major element of the government's strategy, as the deployment of a commando-style squad of D.E.A. agents in Honduras has demonstrated. And the Obama administration has ruled out drug legalization, despite expanding support for the idea in Latin America, while designating about 60 percent of the federal antidrug budget of roughly $25 billion a year to supply-side efforts, with 40 percent to demand, as the government has for decades.
Eric L. Olson, a security analyst with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said the growing debate had, so far, mostly led to confusion. "Some U.S. officials favor building institutions; others think it's hopeless," he said.
Other experts are more critical of the Obama administration, pointing to the continued focus on cocaine interdiction, especially in Honduras, where the D.E.A. squad has been involved in a series of recent raids. One left four people dead, including two pregnant women, and in another one, last week, two people who were said to be smugglers were killed.
"It just hasn't worked," said Mark L. Schneider, a special adviser on Latin America at the International Crisis Group. "All interdiction and law enforcement did was shift cultivation from Colombia to Peru, and the increase in interdiction in the Caribbean drove trafficking to Mexico, and now with the increase in violence there it has driven trafficking to Central America as the first stop. So it is all virtually unchanged."
What has changed is Americans' use of cocaine.
The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that an estimated 1.5 million people had used cocaine in the previous month, down from 2 million in 2002 and, according to an earlier government survey, 5.8 million in the mid-1980s. (Methamphetamine use has also fallen in recent years, while heroin use was up somewhat, to 239,000 users in 2010 from 213,000 in 2008.)
Some officials argue the cocaine decline shows that supply-side efforts have worked, but experts note that prices in the United States have held mostly steady since the late 1980s, suggesting the prominent role of a decrease in demand. Mark A. R. Kleiman, a professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, said that in the United States, cocaine had simply run its course among aging addicts. "What you're recording," he said, "is the rate at which they are dying or quitting."
Now the drugs most likely to land Americans in emergency rooms cannot be interdicted. Studies show that prescription painkillers, and stimulants to a lesser extent, are the nation's biggest drug problem. The same survey that identified 1.5 million cocaine users in 2010 found 7 million users of "psychotherapeutics." Of the 36,450 overdose deaths in the United States in 2008, 20,044 involved a prescription drug, more than all illicit drugs combined.
And whereas cocaine and heroin have been concentrated in big cities, prescription drug abuse has spread nearly everywhere. "Today there is drug use in every county in Ohio, and the problem is worse in rural areas," said Mike DeWine, the attorney general of Ohio.
"This is an urgent, urgent issue that needs to be addressed promptly," said Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. So far, she said, the response from government and the health care industry has been inadequate.
But momentum for a broader change in domestic drug policy - as in foreign policy - appears to be building. D.E.A. officials say they have recently created 37 "tactical diversion squads" focusing on prescription drug investigations, with 26 more to be added over the next few years.
6) Regulators and HSBC Faulted in Report on Money Laundering
Nathaniel Popper, New York Times, July 16, 2012
The global bank HSBC has been used by Mexican drug cartels looking to get cash back into the United States, by Saudi Arabian banks that needed access to dollars despite their terrorist ties and by Iranians who wanted to circumvent United States sanctions, a Senate report says.
The 335-page report released Monday also says that executives at HSBC and regulators at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ignored warning signs and failed to stop the illegal behavior at many points between 2001 and 2010.
The report is the product of a yearlong investigation by a Senate subcommittee, the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. It points to the problems at HSBC, Europe's largest financial institution, as indicators of a broader problem of illegal money flowing through international financial institutions into the United States.
"Banks that ignore money laundering rules are a big problem for our country," said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who leads the subcommittee. "Also troubling is a bank regulator that does not adequately do its job." He called HSBC's compliance culture "pervasively polluted for a long time."
Mr. Levin said that wrongdoing in the financial world has been exacerbated by the relatively light touch of government regulators. "As long as a bank just sees that it is going to be dealt with kid gloves, I think we are going to continue to see these shortfalls that have been so endemic," Mr. Levin said.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has come under particularly harsh criticism for showing too much deference to the banks it regulates. The new leader of the agency, Thomas J. Curry, has promised a stricter approach since he took over in April.
The subcommittee also found evidence of widespread wrongdoing in HSBC's failure to stop money laundering through accounts tied to drug trafficking in Mexico. The bank is accused of shipping $7 billion in cash from Mexico to the United States in 2007 and 2008 despite several warnings that the money was coming from cartels that needed a way to return their profits to the United States.
In many of the cases detailed in the report, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is said to have spotted the problematic behavior. But in nearly every case, the subcommittee found that the agency gave HSBC only a warning or mild punishment and did not push the bank to make large-scale changes.
The agency ultimately issued a cease-and-desist order against HSBC in 2010 after other law enforcement agencies began looking into the problems. Mr. Levin, though, said that his subcommittee found that some of the problems had not been fixed by the time the subcommittee began looking into them over the last year.
7) Americans Favor Diplomacy Over Military Action on Iran by Almost 4 to 1
Opinion polls also find that only 8 percent of Americans are willing to accept a nuclear Iran.
Stewart M. Patrick, The Atlantic, Jul 17 2012, 10:07 AM ET 6
Amidst the heightened cacophony of policymakers and pundits, there remains strong public support in the United States--and in many countries abroad--for sanctions, but widespread opposition to the use of military force. A new analysis of U.S. and global opinion on nuclear proliferation, produced by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), reveals some insights on the most imminent threat to international peace and security.
- Americans are deeply concerned about Iranian acquisition of the bomb. An overwhelming majority of U.S. citizens believe that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and poses a serious threat to U.S. national security. They doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran could be deterred from attacking Israel by the prospect of nuclear retaliation--in other words, they do not believe that Tehran can be expected to behave rationally. Such anxieties are also shared among European publics, albeit by smaller majorities. Surprisingly, levels of concern about an Iranian nuclear weapon vary across the Muslim world. In Iran's regional rival, Saudi Arabia, 45 percent of respondents consider the prospect of an Iranian bomb to be a negative development, compared to 70 percent in Jordan.
- Americans favor sanctions over military force by wide margins. When presented with a menu of five policy options to deal with Iran's nuclear program in 2011, one third of U.S. respondents favored imposing sanctions to stop Iran from producing nuclear fuel, whereas only 13 percent endorsed military action. A slim 8 percent of respondents were willing to accept a nuclear Iran.
- American support for military force rises if depicted as a last resort. In 2011, the German Marshall Fund (GMF) presented U.S. and European citizens with two options: take "military action against Iran" or "simply accept that Iran could acquire nuclear weapons." Faced with this scenario, 49 percent of Americans and 42 percent of Europeans favored the use of military force. (This question assumed, somewhat problematically, that military force would necessarily achieve the goal of dismantling the Iranian nuclear program.)
- A majority of Americans support engagement with Iran. By a wide margin, U.S. citizens in a November 2011 poll agreed that "Iran is a threat that can be handled with diplomacy now" (55 percent), rather than with immediate military action (15 percent). That's a ratio of about 3.7 to one. Reluctance to contemplate military options may reflect public pessimism about its likely consequences. A 2010 survey by Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey found that four-fifths of Americans believed that military strikes alone would fail to stop Iran's nuclear program. Huge majorities also thought attacks would increase support for the Iranian regime and potentially lead to retaliatory strikes against U.S. regional allies and the U.S. homeland.
- Most Americans do not favor an Israeli strike. If support is low for U.S. military action, should the Israelis take care of the problem instead? In a poll released in March 2012, 24 percent of Americans advocated an Israeli strike, while 69 percent favored the continued pursuit of negotiations with Iran by the United States and other major powers. Only 14 percent believed the U.S. government should encourage an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities; instead, 80 percent believed the United States should either remain neutral (46 percent) or actively discourage (34 percent) such a unilateral attack. (To be sure, the desire to remain "neutral" could encompass a range of motivations--including a desire to have Israel do the dirty work, without embroiling the United States).
- Three quarters of Americans prefer that the United States deal with the Iranian nuclear issue through the UN Security Council. In a March 2012 poll by the Sadat Chair/PIPA, 74 percent of U.S. respondents preferred the UN Security Council to lead the charge against Iran, whereas only 20 percent thought the United States should act primarily by itself.
- Americans can envision a nuclear deal with Iran. Under Article 6 of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, all countries possess the right to peaceful nuclear energy. Given the proliferation risks and Iran's of reneging on international agreements, many U.S. officials and experts argue that Iran should only be allowed to import fuel from abroad, rather than produce domestically. American citizens, however, support the idea of allowing Iran to produce nuclear fuel on the condition that the regime accepts intrusive UN inspections.
8) Oil prices rise amid Iran tensions
AFP, July 17, 2012
London - Oil prices rose on Tuesday amid tensions over major crude producer Iran, which insisted that US military deployment in the Gulf is "a source of insecurity," dealers said. Brent North Sea crude for delivery in September climbed 62 cents to $103.99 a barrel in London midday deals.
New York's main contract, light sweet crude for August gained 11 cents to $88.54.
Iran on Tuesday said that US military deployment in the Gulf was "a source of insecurity," after the fatal shooting of an Indian fisherman by a US navy ship in waters off Dubai.
"When the Islamic republic says that the presence of foreign forces is a source of insecurity, this is a perfect example" of what Iran means, foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters. "We advise these forces to avoid any provocative action ... and we hope that such incidents will not occur again," Mehmanparast added.
An Indian fisherman was killed and three others wounded on Monday when a US navy ship opened fire on their vessel near the United Arab Emirates port of Jebel Ali in the tense waters of the southern Gulf.
Analysts at JBC Energy consultants said "it is still likely that such incidents will strengthen the position of those in Iran who are pleading for a more hawkish stance against the West."
9) The newly confident Israeli proponents of a one-state solution
Demanding a Greater Israel used to be exclusively for the far right. Now even coalition chairman Ze'ev Elkin is insisting Israel annex the West Bank, 'regardless of the world's opposition'
Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, July 16, 2012, 12:57 pm
MK Tzipi Hotovely knew her audience well. The last of nearly a dozen speakers at a conference advocating Israel's annexation of the West Bank and the end of the two-state solution, the young Likud lawmaker described for the crowd a scenario very familiar to right-wing pundits in Israel: being challenged by the media about their views on the Israeli-Palestinian impasse.
"After having proven with signs and miracles that a Palestinian state would be a catastrophe and would just increase terrorism, the question that scares right-wingers interviewed by the media the most is this - the ultimate left-wing question: 'So what is your solution? What's your plan?'" Hotovely said. Raising her voice, she continued: "Friends, everybody here today knows that there is a solution - applying sovereignty [over the West Bank]. One state for the Jewish people with an Arab minority, lest any right-winger say there's no solution!"
To the raucous applause of more than 500 conference-goers squeezed into the visitors' center of the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron on Thursday, Hotovely warned against advocating merely the annexation of the West Bank's Area C, which is under Israeli control and where most settlers live, an idea recently spread by some on the right. "We need to demand sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria, and nothing less than that," she declared.
There's nothing new about far-right groups holding events in which speakers fantasize about "Greater Israel." But Thursday's conference was different: It indicated that the idea of the one-state solution has become respectable within a larger segment of society, including the ranks of Israel's ruling party.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on record saying that he does not want to rule over the Palestinians and is ready to accept a Palestinian state. But that no longer prevents some members of his party from openly demanding a one-state solution. MK Miri Regev, speaking on a recorded video clip, boasted that she recently founded the Knesset Lobby for the Application of Israeli Sovereignty over Judean and Samarian Communities. The Likud constitution requires the application of sovereignty over the settlements, she said.
"It's time to change the discourse in the State of Israel about Judea and Samaria," said MK Ze'ev Elkin, the chairman of the coalition, also in a prerecorded statement. "For 20 years, we talked about what to give and why. Now the time has come for an entirely different discourse. This is our land, and it's our right to apply sovereignty over it. Regardless of the world's opposition, it's time to do in Judea and Samaria what we did in [East] Jerusalem and the Golan. It's time to end this system in which the Palestinians take and take and we give and give."
10) Honduras counts the human rights cost of America's war on drugs
American agents accused of illegal acts in new front line against the narco-traffickers
Stephen Sackur, Guardian, Sunday 15 July 2012 13.21 EDT
Ahuas - The deep bullet wound in Hilda Lezama's thigh is a livid pointer to Honduras's unwanted status as the latest front line in America's war on drugs.
For all of her 53 years Lezama has lived in Ahuas, a village of wooden homes built on stilts, close to the fast-flowing Patuca river in the remote Mosquitia region of eastern Honduras. For 25 years, her family have run a business ferrying locals up and down the waterways that link the isolated jungle settlements.
On such a trip two months ago, she was shot from an American helicopter in a counter-narcotics raid involving US drug enforcement agents and Honduran troops. Four other local people, including two women, were killed.
"We were returning from a trip downriver with the fishermen," she remembered. "We were travelling at night to avoid the heat. We heard the helicopters above us, but we couldn't see them. They could have let us dock and then searched the boat, but instead they shot us. Maybe they were thinking we were someone else."
US officials say Lezama's boat had picked up a stash of drugs flown into an airstrip close to the river, a charge she categorically denies. "If we were criminals we could not complain, but we are innocent working people," she insisted.
The Americans say none of their agents opened fire. According to the US ambassador in Honduras, Lisa Kubiske, a preliminary investigation by the Honduran authorities "suggests there was no wrongdoing" by the security officials. That proposition may be tested in the Honduran courts. A human rights group, the Committee of the Relatives of the Disappeared (Cofadeh), has filed a legal complaint against the Honduran and US governments citing violations of human rights.
That is of little comfort to Lezama. She was sent home from hospital when she ran out of money. Heavily bandaged and unable to walk, she scoffs at the US ambassador's talk of a thorough investigation of the Ahuas raid. US officials have not contacted the victims, she said. "My son-in-law was killed, two of my neighbours were killed, and I was wounded, so where are the Americans? Don't you think they should talk to me?"
11) Mujica back steps: cannabis legal only "if 60% of public opinion supports idea"
Mercopress, Monday, July 16th 2012 - 03:15 UTC
Uruguayan president Jose Mujica has back stepped on his initiative to legalize marihuana conditioning it to an "ample support from public opinion", at least 60%. The initiative was announced a few weeks ago during the Rio+20 summit and sent shockwaves in the region and worldwide.
"If 60% of the country does not support us, we're abandoning the initiative" said Mujica quoted in the Executive web page, adding that when it was first announced "the purpose was for the whole country to discus and debate the issue as widely as possible".
In Uruguay production and trading of cannabis is a serious crime but not consumption.
However the original bill on crime and drugs only had three lines referred to legalizing marihuana but immediately was a global headline. This was backed up by several government officials who went even further admitting they had consumed it or even suggesting how to grow it at home.
The Executive Secretary Alberto Breccia admitted to have smoked it at some moment, and made him feel "in peace, free, serene and joyful". He later asked the media "not to trivialize the issue".
Likewise the minister of Social Development, Daniel Olesker, even promised to supply a "users' guide" to teach people to plant marihuana at home and in gardens while others went further speculating the government would set land aside to plant cannabis and would have a sales monopoly. However consumers would be compulsorily sent to recovery clinics pointed out other officials.
But the debate also showed great divisions inside the ruling coalition (as with abortion) and as more questions were asked and the level of improvised replies increased it was finally President Mujica who downplayed the initiative conditioning it to "his 60% public opinion support".
12) Funes: Gang Truce Cut Murders 52% in El Salvador Since March
EFE, July 16, 2012
San Salvador – El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes said Saturday that the "truce" among street gangs that took effect last March "has had results," since homicides have dropped 52 percent since then.
During the debut of his radio program "Talking with the President," he said that with the truce in force between March and June there were 694 homicides, 52 percent less than the 1,448 racked up in the same period last year.
He said that before the truce there were 14 homicides a day around the country but that the daily average has now dropped to "four deaths."
The Salvadoran government launched a national dialogue on May 2 aimed at reaching agreement with the different sectors of the country on how to allay insecurity.
The Organization of American States, or OAS, made a commitment recently to keep watch on adherence to the truce.
"The OAS is committed to this process," which began last March with the truce and for which this organization will be the "guarantor," the secretary general of that organization, Jose Miguel Insulza, said on a two-day visit to this Central American country on July 12-13.
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