JFP 8/6: Romney pressed on Bachmann; concerns on Syria rebels; Abbas to push UN bid
Just Foreign Policy News, August 6, 2012
Romney pressed on Bachmann; concerns on Syria rebels; Abbas to push UN bid
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: UK: Don't Allow US Extradition of Assange
Under extradition law, Sweden couldn't extradite Julian Assange to the United States without the permission of the UK government. Urge UK Home Secretary Theresa May to publicly state that she would not permit the extradition of Julian Assange from Sweden to the United States.
*Action: JFP at Avaaz: Boot Rep. Bachmann from House Intelligence Committee!
In an effort to reach a broader group of Americans, JFP is hosting a petition at Avaaz calling for Michele Bachmann to be removed from the House Intelligence Committee for refusing to cease her promotion of anti-Muslim conspiracy theories. If you sign petitions at Avaaz, please sign and share this one. http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/No_Intelligence_for_fools_Boot_Rep_Bachmann_from_House_Intelligence_Committee/
Former U.S. officials call for Bachmann to be replaced on Intelligence Committee
By promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, Rep. Michele Bachmann is undermining U.S. policy in the Middle East. That's why former U.S. officials are calling for her removal from the House Intelligence Committee.
660 days of cholera in Haiti
660 days, 7,522 dead, 590,714 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still there has been no apology, no compensation, no implementation of an effective plan to eradicate the disease. Now the UN is considering renewing the mandate for UN troops in Haiti. Shouldn't addressing the cholera crisis caused by the UN be a condition for renewing the mandate for UN troops?
1) Mitt Romney refused to condemn Rep. Michele Bachmann and four other Republicans who have alleged that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Clinton, is part of a Muslim Brotherhood campaign to infiltrate the US government, Think Progress reports. During an event in Reno, Nevada Romney dodged a question about the allegations.
2) Syrian insurgents fighting to unseat President Assad face a growing list of accusations that they've carried out executions and torture, muddying the Western narrative of a heroic resistance force struggling against a vicious regime, McClatchy reports. The issue of rebel conduct has come to the forefront this month largely because of a video posted online showing the aftermath of apparent executions of pro-Assad militiamen during the rebels' capture of an intelligence center in Aleppo. More than a dozen men were captured alive and then summarily executed in what Human Rights Watch called an apparent "war crime." The incident doesn't appear to be isolated, McClatchy says.
3) As Syria's civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government's Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey's Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority, the New York Times reports. The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. The Syrian rebels hardly conceal a vicious sectarian antipathy, the Times says.
4) The Palestinian foreign minister said Palestinian President Abbas will take a first procedural step toward seeking U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine when he addresses the General Assembly in late September, AP reports. Abbas will address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 27.
5) Israel barred the delegations of five countries from attending a diplomatic conference in Ramallah, upending plans by the Palestinian president to announce his intention to renew the Palestinians' bid this September for enhanced status in the UN, the New York Times reports. Palestinian officials said the decision symbolized the problem with Israel's occupation of the West Bank territories it seized in 1967. "Israel is really trying to not just lay a physical siege but also a political siege," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the PLO.
The General Assembly is virtually guaranteed to support the Palestinians' request, with perhaps 130 of its 193 members voting in favor of it, the Times says. Observer-state status would allow Palestinians access to institutions like the International Criminal Court, where they could pursue legal cases against Israeli settlers and officials for actions in the West Bank. A senior Palestinian official said a leading possibility was to ask for a vote on Nov. 29, the 65th anniversary of the UN vote to partition the territory of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. A Ramallah pollster said public support among Palestinians for a UN bid had dropped to 73 percent in June from 83 percent last September, but that it still significantly outweighed enthusiasm for other options, like a unilateral declaration of statehood; nonviolent or violent resistance; and a dissolution of the Palestinian Authority.
6) The Egyptian government requested that the US release the sole Egyptian detained at Guantanamo, the Washington Post reports. "He was not charged with any crime until now," said a spokesman for Egypt's Foreign Ministry. "He is an Egyptian citizen detained in an illegal manner."
7) A top Pakistani diplomat says CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas are weakening democracy and risk pushing people towards extremist groups, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports. "What has been the whole outcome of these drone attacks is, that you have rather directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government," said Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner to London. "Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament, and nothing happens. The Americans don't listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory."
"Even those who were supporting us in the border areas have now become our enemies. They say that we are partners in these crimes against the people…By and large you will hardly find anybody who will say a word in support for the United States, because of these drone attacks," the High Commissioner said.
8) Israel is offering to release some prisoners and allow the Palestinians to exploit the gas fields off Gaza if the Palestinians abandon their bid for statehood at the UN, the Times of Israel reports. PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said he was unaware of any such offer. Maariv reported that Netanyahu has doubled to 50 the number of Palestinian prisoners he is willing to release - on two conditions: if the Palestinians abandon their efforts to seek statehood at the UN, and if Abbas agrees to meet Netanyahu for renewed peace talks.
9) Cuban officials are highlighting earlier traffic violations by a Spaniard involved in a car crash that killed prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya, saying he was notified recently that his driver's license was being revoked, AP reports. Details of Angel Carromero's driving record were first reported by Spanish media. Carromero was behind the wheel of the car when it crashed July 22, killing Paya and a second dissident who were riding in the back and not wearing seatbelts. Cuban authorities have released testimony from Carromero and Swede Jens Aron Modig that Carromero braked abruptly after entering an unpaved section of road under repair, lost control and spun into a tree. Investigators say he was likely driving more than 75 mph, double the 37 mph limit for roadwork zones.
10) The US Senate has passed a resolution urging an independent probe into the death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, AFP reports. Both Carromero and the Swede, political activist Jens Aron Modig, said the crash was accidental and that no other vehicles were involved. [Both survivors of the crash, including the driver, are right-wing political activists; both say it was an accident; but the US Senate demands an investigation. It's not just about Iran that the Senate is captive to know-nothing political forces - JFP.]
11) Ecuador pushed back on a challenge by Senator Lugar to Ecuador's participation in the Andean Trade Preferences Act because of the judgment against Chevron, The Hill reports. Ecuador says the $18 billion pollution settlement against Chevron does not fall under the purview of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty tribunal, which has ordered Ecuador to prevent enforcement of the settlement, because the plaintiffs are third-party indigenous Ecuadorian citizens.
1) Romney Refuses To Condemn Bachmann's Islamophobic Witch Hunt
Igor Volsky, ThinkProgress, Aug 3, 2012
Mitt Romney refused to condemn Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and four other Republicans who have alleged that Huma Abedin, a top aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is part of a Muslim Brotherhood campaign to infiltrate the American government. During an event in Reno, Nevada Romney dodged a question about the allegations, saying simply, "I'm not going to tell other people what things to talk about. Those are not things that are part of my campaign." A growing number of Republicans, including House Speaker John Beohner (R-OH) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) have condemned Bachmann.
[The video is here:
Romney's foreign policy adviser John Bolton, however, has defended Bachmann's call for the government to investigate the alleged Muslim Brotherhood plot.
[That video is here:
2) Accounts of Syria rebels executing prisoners raise new human rights concerns
Hannah Allam and Austin Tice, McClatchy Newspapers, Fri, Aug. 03, 2012
Washington -- Syrian insurgents fighting to unseat President Bashar Assad face a growing list of accusations that they've carried out executions and torture, muddying the Western narrative of a heroic resistance force struggling against a vicious regime.
The issue of rebel conduct has come to the forefront this month largely because of a video posted online showing the aftermath of apparent executions of pro-Assad militiamen during the rebels' capture of an intelligence center in Aleppo, Syria's largest city.
A reporter for the Turkish newspaper Milliyet witnessed the incident Tuesday and confirmed in a first-person account the circumstances of the killings: More than a dozen men were captured alive and then summarily executed in what advocacy group Human Rights Watch called an apparent "war crime."
The men "were forced into a building, then brought before a court of the Free Syrian Army on the back of a pickup truck, after which they were lined up and shot at lightning speed," the Milliyet reporter wrote.
The incident doesn't appear to be isolated, either. A McClatchy reporter traveling with a unit of the Free Syrian Army was told that rebels had captured about 45 Assad loyalists in fighting in Al Tal, north of Damascus. Asked later what had become of the prisoners, a rebel said eight had been executed, 25 had been released and the rest were being held in hopes of a future prisoner exchange.
This week, a rebel commander in Damascus said that over the months his unit had executed perhaps 150 people it had detained on suspicion of being pro-Assad informants.
The Agence France-Presse news service, meanwhile, cited a top Iraqi security official in a report July 19 describing the rebels' takeover of a border outpost. According to the official in the report, "they executed 22 soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers."
Meanwhile, the so-called Daoud Battalion, a rebel force that operates in Jebel al Zawiyah in northern Syria, used its captives and suspected spies in an "ingenious" form of vehicle bombings against regime targets, according to a July 25 report on rebel groups by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think-tank that has made a specialty of studying the Syrian rebel movement.
The rebels put the prisoners in cars rigged with explosives and then remotely detonated the bombs when the vehicles approached government checkpoints.
Taken as a whole, such incidents show the depth of the uprising's evolution in 17 months from a protest movement against dictatorship to an all-out civil war, with both sides committing what ultimately may be viewed as war crimes.
Even the rebels' U.S. supporters appear to be more cautious in their statements after a series of hits to the opposition forces' credibility: purported videos of regime crimes that were revealed as fakes, exaggerations in reports of mass killing by government forces, the spread of militant Islamists in rebel ranks, U.N. claims of cease-fire violations and, now, potential atrocities such as prisoner executions.
"We strongly condemn summary executions by either side in Syria. We condemn actions like that," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters this week. He quickly added, however, that it was Assad's forces "that have perpetrated the overwhelming amount of violence in Syria."
Earlier this week, fighters in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus stopped and interrogated three men driving through the area on suspicion that they were government informants. After being held for several hours, the men were released, having proved their identity to the rebels' satisfaction.
Other suspects haven't been so lucky, explained a rebel commander in Damascus who uses the nom de guerre Abu Abdullah. "We have had a big problem here with informers," he said. "If a man is accused of being an informer, he is judged by the military council. Then he is either executed or released. In general, about two out of three are executed."
Abu Abdullah said that the council had ordered the executions of some 150 men since the beginning of the conflict, but that the rate had declined as the rebels feel the neighborhood is "cleaned" of pro-regime elements. "In the beginning, we would execute 10 or 15 men a week," he said. "Now it's closer to one every 10 or 20 days."
At least some rebel elements appear keenly aware that their moral high ground is in danger of being challenged and have issued statements in recent days vowing to abide by international conventions governing battlefield conduct. However, the Free Syrian Army remains only loosely organized, with no true central command, and it's impossible to tell which – if any – units are enforcing such orders.
In one video, posted Monday on YouTube, a self-proclaimed representative of the Free Syrian Army read a statement announcing that, in response to international concerns, units would adhere to the Geneva Convention's guidelines for the treatment of prisoners and would guarantee its captives food, medical attention and holding areas away from active combat zones. The rebel spokesman also invited Red Cross workers to inspect their detention facilities.
"We tell everyone that we are revolting against a barbarous regime that always tortured and treated detainees and arrestees in brutal ways that led to the deaths of many," the rebel says in the video. "That's why we can never adopt the behavior of that very entity that we are revolting against."
International humanitarian organizations and conflict monitoring agencies have become more vocal in criticizing rebel forces for battlefield transgressions, warning them against tit-for-tat violence that would only fuel the civil strife.
One, the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit monitor of global conflicts, called on the rebels to assume responsibility for halting revenge killings.
"The regime almost certainly will not change its ways, so the burden must fall on the opposition to do what – given the immensity of its suffering – must seem an improbable undertaking: seriously address the phenomena of retaliatory violence, sectarian killings and creeping fundamentalism within its ranks," the group in a report released Wednesday titled "Syria's Mutating Conflict."
The group also recommended that the opposition rethink the goal of total regime change and focus on rehabilitating current institutions. To reassure Assad's minority Alawite sect, so far the backbone of his support, and other regime loyalists, the opposition should "come up with forward-looking proposals on transitional justice, accountability and amnesty," the report said.
3) As Syria War Roils, Unrest Among Sects Hits Turkey
Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times, August 4, 2012
Antakya, Turkey - At 1 a.m. last Sunday, in the farming town of Surgu, about six hours away from here, a mob formed at the Evli family's door.
The ill will had been brewing for days, ever since the Evli family chased away a drummer who had been trying to rouse people to a predawn Ramadan feast. The Evlis are Alawite, a historically persecuted minority sect of Islam, and also the sect of Syria's embattled leaders, and many Alawites do not follow Islamic traditions like fasting for Ramadan.
The mob began to hurl insults. Then rocks. "Death to Alawites!" they shouted. "We're going to burn you all down!" Then someone fired a gun.
"They were there to kill us," said Servet Evli, who was hiding in his bedroom with his pregnant wife and terrified daughter, both so afraid that they urinated through their clothes.
As Syria's civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the government's Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions are increasing across the border between Turkey's Alawite minority and the Sunni Muslim majority here.
Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria's embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey's government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.
The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already, the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings. "If any come here, we're going to kill them," said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat. He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of exacting revenge against Alawites.
Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point. The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule. Alawites here find it deeply unsettling, and a bit hypocritical, that Turkey has teamed up with Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, and Qatar, a religious monarchy, both Sunni, to bring democracy to Syria.
The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en route to fight a holy war on Syria's battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on turning Syria, which under the Assad family's rule has been one of the most secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state.
"Do you really believe these guys are going to build a democracy?" asked Refik Eryilmaz, an Alawite member of the Turkish Parliament. "The Americans are making a huge mistake. They're helping Turkey fight Assad, but they're creating another Taliban."
American officials recently disclosed that a small group of C.I.A. agents were working along the Turkey-Syria border with their Turkish counterparts, vetting which rebels receive weapons. American officials have acknowledged concerns about Syria turning into a magnet for jihadists, but they believe that foreign fighters still make up only a small slice of the Syrian resistance.
Ali Carkoglu, a professor of international relations with Koc University in Istanbul, said Turkey's government was increasingly using sectarian language and trying to play the role of "the Sunni elder brother" in the region. Like Syria, Turkey's population is predominantly Sunni.
The Alawites here are worried they could become easy targets. Historically, they have been viewed with suspicion across the Middle East by mainstream Muslims and often scorned as infidels. The Alawite sect was born in the ninth century and braids together religious beliefs, including reincarnation, from different faiths.
Many Alawites do not ever go to a mosque; they tend to worship at home or in Alawite temples that have been denied the same state support in Turkey that Sunni mosques get. Many Alawite women do not veil their faces or even cover their heads. The towns they dominate in eastern Turkey, where young women sport tank tops and tight jeans, feel totally different than religious Sunni towns just a few hours away, where it can be difficult even to find a woman in public.
Not far away in the Alawite-dominated town of Harbiye, there is a new best-selling item that cannot seem to stay on the shelves: cheap tapestries bearing Mr. Assad's portrait. "Everybody wants them," said Selahattin Eroglu, a vendor, who had just sold his last one. "People here love Assad."
Part of this sentiment may be self-protective. The Syrian rebels hardly conceal a vicious sectarian antipathy. Khaldoun al-Rajab, an officer with the rebel Free Syrian Army, said he witnessed two Alawites in a car take a wrong turn in Homs and end up in a Sunni neighborhood. "Of course they were arrested and killed by rebels," he said.
Few in Turkey expect such bedlam to break out anytime soon in this country, which is tightly controlled and has escaped violent sectarianism, for the most part.
But the threatening mob at the Evli family's home in Surgu reminded many Alawites of the killing of more than 30 Alawites in 1993 who were burned alive by a group of Islamists in the Turkish town of Sivas.
It was only after police officers reassured the mob that the Evli family was moving out of the neighborhood, which was news to the Evlis, that the mob dissipated.
Though the Evlis are also Kurdish, another minority group in Turkey, which may have contributed to the nasty feelings against them, Songul Canpolat, a director of an Alawite foundation in Turkey, said, "The idea that Turkish Alawites should be eliminated is gaining ground."
4) Abbas to move on UN membership bid in September
Mohammed Daraghmeh Associated Press, 08/04/2012 03:28:27 AM PDT
Ramallah, West Bank-Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will take a first procedural step toward seeking U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine when he addresses the General Assembly in late September, but has not decided when to ask for a vote on his request, the Palestinian foreign minister said Saturday.
Timing is seen as crucial in the Palestinian bid to be recognized as a non-member observer state by the U.N. General Assembly, an upgrade they hope will firmly establish the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in 1967, as Palestinian territories in the eyes of the world.
Some Abbas aides are pushing for quick action, while Abbas is said to be leaning toward waiting until after the U.S. presidential election in November. An earlier Palestinian U.N. bid could add unwelcome complications to President Barack Obama's re-election efforts.
Palestinian officials have not taken sides publicly in the U.S. presidential race. Although they have expressed disappointment over what they perceive as Obama's failure to pressure Israel, they hope that-if re-elected-he will be more decisive in seeking a Mideast deal and freed from some of the domestic political shackles that hinder first-term presidents. The United States and Israel oppose the Palestinian bid and could take possible punitive steps.
Abbas will address the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 27, and then file the application for observer state recognition with the world body, said Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki. "The application will be deposited and then we will be in touch with the members of the General Assembly, consulting with them on the proper timing for applying," the minister added.
Such a two-step approach gives Abbas flexibility, including the option of playing for time, while satisfying those at home who are eager for a diplomatic initiative.
A Palestinian bid last year for full U.N. membership ran aground in the U.N. Security Council because of lack of support. However, the Palestinians expect an overwhelming majority at the General Assembly, which can grant a lesser status of non-member observer state.
5) Israel Bars Foreign Envoys From West Bank Meeting
Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, August 5, 2012
Jerusalem - Israel on Sunday barred the delegations of five countries from attending a diplomatic conference in Ramallah, in the West Bank, upending plans by the Palestinian president to announce his intention to renew the Palestinians' bid this September for enhanced status in the United Nations.
A senior Israeli official said the delegations - from Algeria, Bangladesh, Cuba, Indonesia and Malaysia - were denied permission to use Israeli border crossings because their governments do not recognize the state of Israel. Palestinian officials said the delegations had planned to enter on a helicopter from Jordan, and called the decision "childish," "crude," "irresponsible" and "blackmail," saying it symbolized the larger problem with Israel's occupation of the West Bank territories it seized in 1967.
"Israel is really trying to not just lay a physical siege but also a political siege," said Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization. "We need to be able to move, to breathe, to act as a member of the community of nations. We cannot constantly be under the boot."
The 5 countries were among 12 so-called nonaligned nations sending delegations to Ramallah for an emergency conference on the Palestinian issue. The other seven - Colombia, Egypt, India, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe - declined to attend without their comrades. The 12 were expected to approve a "Ramallah Declaration," which condemns Jewish settlement in the West Bank and supports the Palestinians' bid to upgrade their status at the United Nations.
Riad al-Malki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said Saturday that President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority would use his Sept. 27 speech at the United Nations to make his case for observer-state status, but would not ask the General Assembly to vote on the matter until late November. Last year, the United States vowed to veto Mr. Abbas's statehood bid in the United Nations Security Council, and it has pressured Palestinian officials not to force the issue again before the American presidential election.
Unlike the Security Council, where the issue died in a deadlocked committee vote last year, the General Assembly is virtually guaranteed to support the Palestinians' request, with perhaps 130 of its 193 members voting in favor of it. Observer-state status, akin to the Vatican's status, is less than what the Palestinians requested from the Security Council, but would allow them access to institutions like the International Criminal Court, where they could, for example, pursue legal cases against Israeli settlers and officials for actions in the West Bank.
A senior Palestinian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the internal deliberations, said that the timing of the request would not be decided until after a Sept. 5 meeting of Arab nations, but that one leading possibility was to ask for a vote on Nov. 29, the 65th anniversary of the United Nations vote to partition the territory of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. "Many diplomats have said it would be very difficult for their country on the 29th of November not to vote in favor," the official said.
Khalil Shikaki, a Ramallah pollster and political analyst, said that public support among Palestinians for a United Nations bid had dropped to 73 percent in June from 83 percent last September, but that it still significantly outweighed enthusiasm for other options, like a unilateral declaration of statehood; nonviolent or violent resistance; and a dissolution of the Palestinian Authority.
6) Egypt demands release of Guantanamo detainee
Ernesto Londoño and Ingy Hassieb, Washington Post, August 3
Cairo - The Egyptian government requested this week that the United States release the sole Egyptian detained at the Guantanamo Bay military prison, language that amounts to a stark demand by a country that has been among Washington's most reliable counterterrorism allies in the Middle East.
The case of Tariq Mahmoud Ahmed al-Sawah, 54, whom the United States accuses of belonging to al-Qaeda, has the potential to become the first thorn in the relationship between the two governments since the election of Egypt's new Islamist president.
Amr Roushdy, a spokesman for Egypt's Foreign Ministry, said Friday that the country's embassy in Washington had formally made the request to the State Department on Tuesday. "He was not charged with any crime until now," Roushdy said. "He is an Egyptian citizen detained in an illegal manner."
The Defense Department charged Sawah in 2008 with providing material support for terrorism and conspiracy, alleging that he was a member of al-Qaeda who specialized in explosives. His case is also significant because he has become one of the most valuable informants detained at the U.S. military camp in Cuba. The charges were dropped in March and no new ones have been filed.
Roushdy did not comment on the allegations against Sawah, who has been confined for 11 years, but said that Egypt is worried about what he called the inmate's declining health. "He's an old man," the spokesman added. "We are excited that the country of Egypt has asked for Sawah to be repatriated there," said Sawah's military attorney, Maj. Sean Gleason. "He has a strong extended family network in Alexandria. It would be the ideal place for him."
U.S. officials have said that Sawah is among Guantanamo's most cooperative detainees, a distinction that has earned him a few perks in custody, such as secluded housing and the right to garden, write and paint.
Nabil Fahmy, dean of the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the American University in Cairo, said the country's new president is probably making a statement that his administration will not be as malleable as the last one. "Irrespective of the merits of this case, I think Egypt will be more insistent that normal legal procedures are applied on Egyptians accused of any criminal offenses abroad and this will be the new policy," he said. "We will respect the laws of other countries when normal legal procedures are being applied."
7) 'US drone strikes undermine Pakistani democracy' says top diplomat
Chris Woods, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, August 3rd, 2012
One of Islamabad's most senior diplomats has told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that ongoing CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas are weakening democracy, and risk pushing people towards extremist groups.
He also claims that some factions of the US government still prefer to work with 'just one man' rather than a democratically-elected government, and accuses the US of 'talking in miles' when it comes to democracy but of 'moving in inches.' As High Commissioner to London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan is one of Pakistan’s top ambassadors.
In an extended interview with the Bureau, Ambassador Hasan argues that US drone strikes risk significantly weakening Pakistan's democratic institutions:
'What has been the whole outcome of these drone attacks is, that you have rather directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government. Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament, and nothing happens. The Americans don't listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory.'
The army too risks being seen as impotent, he warns the United States.
'Please don't embarrass us by violating our territory because people question why the hell we have such a huge standing army, where we spend so much on our national defence budget, when we can't defend ourselves?'
But he accepts that Pakistan has little power to stop the strikes other than through public opinion: 'We cannot take on the only superpower, which is all-powerful in the world at the moment. You can't take them on. We are a small country, we are ill-equipped.'
The High Commissioner's comments appear part of a major public relations offensive by a Pakistani government keen to see an end to the unpopular drone strikes.
On Friday Sherry Rehman, Islamabad's ambassador to the United States, said that 'We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.' The heads of Pakistan's army and ISI spy service are also lobbying Washington to allow Pakistani forces to carry out any actual strikes against terrorists based on US intelligence.
The reason, according to Ambassador Hasan, is that anti-US sentiment is reaching dangerously high levels in Pakistan because of the drones:
'Even those who were supporting us in the border areas have now become our enemies. They say that we are partners in these crimes against the people. So they hate us as well. They hate the Americans more. If you look at the Pakistan-US relationship, we have received a lot of money from the Americans, and yet they're the most hated country in Pakistan among the people. By and large you will hardly find anybody who will say a word in support for the United States, because of these drone attacks.'
The High Commissioner insists that his country remains committed to the war against al Qaeda and extremism, noting the thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers who have died in terrorist attacks since 9/11.
'We're not opposed to eliminating these al Qaeda chaps. We were not opposed to eliminating Osama bin Laden, because he was declared an international terrorist. If I were there I would have killed him myself.'
The issue, he insists, is the continued violation of Pakistan's national sovereignty by US drones: 'This is a violation of the UN Charter, it is a clear violation of our territorial sovereignty and national integrity. These drone violations have been taking place since 2004. And the attacks have killed 2,500 to 3,000 people.'
Those numbers chime with the Bureau's own published findings, although the High Commissioner believes that a low count of at least 482 civilians killed by the CIA is likely a conservative figure. And he rejects US claims that it has killed few civilians at all in recent years:
'What if my neighbour got killed in a drone attack, who had nothing to do with the Taliban or al Qaeda? You can imagine how angry I must be. Because it could be me next time. So that's the sort of reaction we have. We have got everybody, irrespective of who they are – whether liberal, progressive, secular or religious extremists or radical people – they feel like this when civilians are killed.'
8) Israel says it will free prisoners, let Palestinians exploit Gaza gas field, if Abbas abandons UN statehood bid
We know nothing about this, says Erekat; PA said set to seek non-member status at General Assembly
Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, August 5, 2012, 6:29 pm
While seeking to discourage the Palestinians from seeking statehood at the United Nations, and uttering vague threats if they persist, Israel is also offering incentives to the PA to drop the unilateral statehood gambit, officials said.
The carrots include a release of prisoners and support to help the Palestinians exploit the gas fields off Gaza, an official in the Prime Minister's Office said Sunday.
PA chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said he was unaware of any such offer.
"Over the last five weeks, Israel has initiated a whole series of confidence-building measures in order to create an atmosphere that will encourage the Palestinians to return to direct talks," a government official in Jerusalem told The Times of Israel on Sunday. "However, if the Palestinians do follow through on their threat and unilaterally seek statehood at the UN," the official added, "that would be a move in the wrong direction and would necessitate an Israeli response."
Maariv reported on Sunday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has doubled to 50 the number of Palestinian prisoners, some of them jailed since before the start of the Oslo process, he is willing to release - on two conditions: if the Palestinians abandon their efforts to seek statehood at the UN, and if Abbas agrees to meet Netanyahu for renewed peace talks. Abbas currently refuses to meet Netanyahu, demanding Israel first freeze West Bank settlement building and release more than 100 Palestinian prisoners.
Erekat told The Times of Israel on Sunday he knew nothing of these ideas.
The PMO had no comment on Maariv's report. An official there did say, however, that Israel has made several "gestures of good will" aimed at reinvigorating the stalled peace process. Such steps included asking the International Monetary Fund for a $100 million loan to the PA last month – which was rejected, ironically, because the PA is not a state - and an agreement signed by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad regulating the taxation and the transfer of goods between Israel and the PA last week.
Israel is also ready to allow the PA to exploit the natural gas field off the Gaza coast, which hitherto has been laying barren, if the Palestinians abort their UN statehood mission. "Israel is ready to start talks about cooperating with the Palestinians in this area, so that they could utilize and exploit the gas field," the official said.
9) Cuba says Spaniard has lead foot, highlights history of speeding before crash that killed Paya
Associated Press, August 3
Havana - Cuban officials are highlighting earlier traffic violations by a Spaniard involved in a car crash that killed prominent dissident Oswaldo Paya, saying he was notified recently that his driver's license was being revoked.
State-run website Cubadebate published Spanish government documents late Thursday saying that Angel Carromero received the maximum fine of 520 euros ($640) and was docked six points for a 2010 infraction in the city of Cuenca, a penalty applied when a motorist is caught driving at double the speed limit or greater.
It said Spanish authorities began the process of pulling his license in May of this year, presumably for an accumulation of violations.
Details of Carromero's driving record were first reported by Spanish media.
Cubadebate did not say whether it could affect Carromero's court case in Cuba, where he faces vehicular manslaughter charges punishable by one to 10 years in prison.
Carromero was behind the wheel of the subcompact car when it crashed July 22 in the eastern province of Granma, killing Paya and a second dissident who were riding in the back and not wearing seatbelts.
Cuban authorities have released testimony from Carromero and Swedish citizen Jens Aron Modig that he braked abruptly after entering an unpaved section of road under repair, lost control and spun into a tree. Investigators say he was likely driving more than 75 mph (120 kilometers), double the 37 mph (60 kph) limit for roadwork zones.
10) US Senate urges Cuba dissident death probe
AFP, August 1, 2012
Washington - The US Senate has passed a resolution urging an independent probe into the death of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, who died in what witnesses and government officials in Havana insist was an accident.
Paya, 60, a former winner of the European Parliament's prestigious Sakharov Prize, which is awarded for defending human rights and freedom of thought, did not survive the July 22 car crash near the city of Bayamo, in southeastern Cuba.
A Spanish political activist, who was behind the wheel at the time, has been charged with causing Paya's death by reckless driving, but many Cuban dissidents remain skeptical of the official government account of the incident.
The Senate resolution "calls on the government of Cuba to allow an impartial, third-party investigation into the circumstances surrounding the death of Oswaldo Paya."
Both Carromero and the Swede, political activist Jens Aron Modig, said on Monday that the crash was accidental and that no other vehicles were involved.
11) Lugar, Ecuador tussle over alleged trade pact violations
Julian Pecquet, The Hill, 08/01/12 11:35 AM ET
The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is suggesting trade preferences to Ecuador should not be renewed, prompting strong push-back from the Ecuadorian embassy.
In a recent letter to the U.S. Trade Representative, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) wrote that Ecuador's decision to ignore a bilateral tribunal's ruling in favor of Chevron appears to violate the Andean Trade Preferences Act, which expires next year. The program aims to fight drug trafficking by providing duty-free access to the U.S. market for thousands of rural products, such as flowers.
"Had Ecuador engaged in such conduct prior to its designation as an ATPA beneficiary country, it would not have been eligible for that designation," Lugar wrote to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. "Now that it has engaged in such conduct, please explain what the implications are for Ecuador to maintain its status as an ATPA beneficiary country."
Ecuador says the $18 billion pollution settlement against Chevron does not fall under the purview of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty tribunal, which has ordered Ecuador to prevent enforcement of the settlement, because the plaintiffs are third-party indigenous Ecuadorian citizens.
"Under domestic Ecuadorian law, the Government cannot interfere with a private party litigation," Nathalie Cely, Ecuador's ambassador to the United States, told The Hill in a statement. "Instead, the parties in that domestic litigation are afforded due process under law. The Ecuadorian government can no more interfere in that case than the U.S. government can interfere in this country with respect to private party litigation. Instead, the judicial system must be allowed to reach a final result, including affording all parties the right to appeal."
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