JFP 8/15: Norquist hits Romney on military $; TPP summit; Honduras DEA killings probed
Just Foreign Policy News, August 15, 2012
Norquist hits Romney on military $; TPP summit; Honduras DEA killings probed
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Go Straight to the News Summary
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Coming to the TPP summit? You need to register!
If you think you might go to any of the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership summit (aka "intergalactic NAFTA") in Leesburg, Virginia, from September 6th to 15th, you should register as a "stakeholder." Unless you're registered as a stakeholder, you won't be able to do or say boo. The registration deadline is COB Wednesday.
Even if you're not sure you'll go, register anyway. It's free and takes about 17 seconds. It's like registering to vote. If you want to have a say, you have to tell someone in advance.
The registration form, and information on citizen participation events, can be found here (item #4 below):
*Action: Arming human rights abusers in Bahrain? There oughta be a law!
Under current U.S. law as interpreted by the Obama Administration, the U.S. can arm a brutal dictatorship if it can be argued that the particular weapons won't be used for human rights abuses and the units being armed don't have a history of documented human rights abuse. Rep. Grijalva's bill would change that, and raise the bar for arming rights abusers. Urge your Rep. to support the Grijalva bill.
National Priorities Project: Ryan Pick Solidifies Competing Visions in Federal Budget Debate
The Ryan budget spends $599 billion more on the Pentagon than the Obama budget over the next decade. The Ryan budget cuts non-defense discretionary spending – including funding for veterans, the environment and social safety net programs – by $1.28 trillion below the Obama budget's projections over the same ten years. For example, the education sector would see a 31 percent decline in funding for programs such as Title I and Head Start. These cuts would come on top of those imposed by sequestration through the Budget Control Act. Ryan's budget would cut non-defense discretionary spending more than twice as much as the automatic spending cuts imposed by sequestration over the same period.
669 days of cholera in Haiti
669 days, 7,562 dead, 595,972 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) Grover Norquist, the influential president of Americans for Tax Reform, says Romney, Paul Ryan, and defense hawks in Congress are wrong that savings can't be found in the U.S. defense budget, Foreign Policy reports. Norquist said that he will fight using any new revenues to keep military spending high.
Norquist predicted that the defense hawks will lose the battle inside the GOP, Foreign Policy says. The ultimate decision-makers, he said, would be the heads of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, not the respective Armed Services Committees. [The premise of much press speculation about a lame duck deal on the budget has been precisely that revenues would be raised to protect the military from cuts; Norquist is saying that he rejects this premise. If Norquist is right about the GOP, then press indications that military cuts are off the table in the budget deal are wrong - JFP.]
2) A report from CEPR and Rights Action has found glaring inconsistencies in accounts of what occurred on May 11 when four people were shot and killed in a DEA counternarcotics operation in the Moskitia region of Honduras, CEPR reports. State Department officials have claimed the DEA played only a "supportive role," but eyewitness accounts describe North Americans engaging in a central role in the operation, and U.S. Embassy officials have admitted that the Hondurans engaging in such joint operations report directly to the DEA. The report also describes in detail the legitimate reasons each of the shooting victims and survivors had to be in the vicinity of the operation – in contrast to U.S. officials' statements implying they were likely involved in drug trafficking.
The report, "Collateral Damage of a Drug War," recommends suspension of U.S. assistance to the Honduras Tactical Response Team based on the human rights stipulation for U.S. assistance to foreign security forces set forth under the Leahy Law.
3) The U.S. government is withholding funds to Honduran law enforcement units directly supervised by their new national police chief until the U.S. can investigate allegations that he ran a death squad a decade ago, AP reports. A report says the State Department "is aware of allegations of human rights violations related to Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla's service" and that the U.S. government has established a working group to investigate. Earlier this year, AP reported that Bonilla, nicknamed "The Tiger," had been widely accused of killings and human rights violations in a decade-old internal Honduran police report. The report named Bonilla in at least three killings or forced disappearances between 1998 and 2002 and said he was among several officers suspected in 11 other cases.
4) Trade negotiators and corporate lobbyists from the US and throughout the Pacific Rim will be meeting in Leesburg VA from September 6 to 15 to advance the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement - an international corporate power grab that would affect the economy, the environment, public health and democracy for decades, the Citizens Trade Campaign reports. U.S. negotiators have granted 600 corporate lobbyists access to the negotiating texts, but have refused to tell the public what they have been proposing. corporate interests want to use the TPP to undercut working conditions, attack environmental standards, expand banking deregulation, and institute longer patents that restrict access to affordable, generic medications, CTC notes.
5) Six US soldiers were shot dead on Friday by Afghans, including police, in southern Helmand province, the Guardian reports. So far this year 37 soldiers and military contractors have been killed in 27 "green on blue" attacks by Afghan soldiers and police, far outpacing the toll in 2011, the Guardian says.
6) Rep. Kucinich has introduced legislation to prevent future presidents from using NATO to circumvent Congress' constitutional authority to declare war. H.R. 6290 would prohibit the deployment of a unit or individual of the U.S. Armed Forces or an element of the intelligence community in support of a NATO mission absent prior statutory authorization for such deployment from Congress, as enshrined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
7) In an editorial, the New York Times slams Israeli leaders for "loose talk of war" with Iran. Military action is no quick fix, and diplomacy and sanctions have just begun, and should be given a chance, the NYT says.
8) Iran said Tuesday it welcomes foreign aid for victims of the deadly twin earthquakes that hit the country's northwest over the weekend, AP reports. Iran had earlier said it needed no foreign assistance. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said despite U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, Americans wishing to provide food and medicine to victims of the disaster could do so without obtaining a special license.
9) Egypt's military signaled its acquiescence to the president's decision to retire the defense minister and chief of staff and seize back powers that the nation's top generals grabbed from his office, AP reports. On Sunday, he ordered the retirement of Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Annan. But he appointed them as presidential advisers and awarded them some of the nation's highest honors - something that suggested they agreed, perhaps grudgingly, in advance, AP says.
10) Mexico's Supreme Court ruled that an army colonel accused of covering up the army killing of a civilian should be tried in courts, the New York Times reports. Human rights groups hailed the decision, hoping it would help set a precedent.
1) Norquist: Ryan, Romney wrong on defense budgets
Josh Rogin, The Cable/Foreign Policy, Monday, August 13, 2012 - 6:53 PM
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, his would-be vice president Paul Ryan, and defense hawks in Congress are wrong that savings can't be found in the U.S. defense budget, according to Grover Norquist, the influential president of Americans for Tax Reform, who said that he will fight using any new revenues to keep military spending high.
"We can afford to have an adequate national defense which keeps us free and safe and keeps everybody afraid to throw a punch at us, as long as we don't make some of the decisions that previous administrations have, which is to over extend ourselves overseas and think we can run foreign governments," Norquist said Monday at an event at the Center for the National Interest, formerly the Nixon Center.
But Ryan's views are at odds with those of Norquist and other budget hawks, who argue that defense budgets can be trimmed. Ryan's budget plan provides for increasing military spending and doesn't suggest any tradeoff or specific defense reforms.
"Other people need to lead the argument on how can conservatives lead a fight to have a serious national defense without wasting money," Norquist said. "I wouldn't ask Ryan to be the reformer of the defense establishment."
Avoiding $54 billion of arbitrary defense cuts next year as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, in what's known as "sequestration," has been a focus of Romney's campaign and one of his main points of contrast with President Obama. Romney's views align him with defense hawks who are leading that effort on the Hill, such as House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who support closing tax loopholes and deductions to avoid sequestration.
"You will get serious conversation from the advocates of Pentagon spending when they understand 'here's the dollar amount, now make decisions," Norquist said. "They want to argue you have to raise taxes -- you can't solve the problem."
Norquist vowed to fight any effort to use the money saved by tax reform to pay for military spending or to avoid the sequester.
"You have guys saying 'can we steal all your deductions and credits and give it to the appropriators,' and then when we get tax reform there will be no tax reform," Norquist said, referring to defense hawks. "The idea is that you are going to raise taxes on people to not think through defense priorities."
But Norquist predicted that the defense hawks will lose the battle inside the GOP. The ultimate decision-makers, he said, would be the heads of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, not the respective Armed Services Committees.
"Here's the good news. There's a very small number of them," Norquist said about the defense hawks. "The handful of [Republicans] that support that are either not coming back or they don't know yet that they are not coming back."
The Pentagon wastes money on bloated weapons systems, bases, and programs that are protected by politicians for parochial reasons, he said. Norquist said the defense hawks were not serious about saving money or reforming the Pentagon.
"If you're not looking like you're trying, nobody wants to help you, starting with me... There's a lack of seriousness," he said. "The guys who are saying 'we're not going to cut Pentagon spending but we want to raise taxes,' they aren't making a sale... They are saying it's not a tax increase. It is, it is, it is."
Norquist said he believes in a non-interventionist foreign policy that eschews nation-building, much like the one former president George W. Bush campaigned on before he decided to invade Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Bush decided to be the mayor of Baghdad rather than the president of the United States. He decided to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan rather than reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That had tremendous consequences," he said. "Rather than doing Doha [the trade round], we did Kabul."
Romney has promised to keep defense spending at 4 percent of U.S. GDP, but Norquist doesn't believe that defense spending should be pegged to the size of the U.S. economy or any other arbitrary number. He argued that the Republican Party needs to reexamine the actual defense needs and then work from there to determine how much to spend.
"Richard Nixon said that America's national defense needs are set in Moscow, meaning that we wouldn't have to spend so much if they weren't shooting at us," he said. "The guys who followed didn't notice that the Soviet Union disappeared."
2) New Investigative Report into DEA-Related Killings in Honduras Finds Inconsistencies Between U.S. and Honduran Officials' Statements, Survivor Accounts
Researchers Conducted Extensive Interviews With Survivors, Eyewitnesses, and Honduran and U.S. Government Officials
Center for Economic and Policy Research, August 15, 2012
Washington, D.C.- A new, in-depth report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and Rights Action has found glaring inconsistencies in the accounts of what occurred on May 11, 2012, when four people were shot and killed in a DEA-related counternarcotics operation in the Moskitia region of Honduras. The report notes that while U.S. State Department officials have stated that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) played only a "supportive role," numerous eyewitness accounts describe North Americans in U.S. Army-style uniforms engaging in a central role in the operation, and that U.S. Embassy officials have admitted that the Honduran partners engaging in such joint operations report directly to the DEA. The report also describes in detail the legitimate reasons that each of the shooting victims and survivors had to be in the vicinity of the operation in the early morning hours – in contrast to U.S. officials' statements implying that they were likely involved in drug trafficking.
"What emerges in this report is a deeply disturbing depiction of Miskitu families from the region violently attacked in a military-style ambush," CEPR's Alexander Main, co-author of the report, said. "The government operatives involved seemed to have had a 'shoot first, ask questions later' approach, and children and women, at least one of whom was pregnant, were killed as a result."
The report, "Collateral Damage of a Drug War," concludes with a series of recommendations to the U.S. government, including a suspension of U.S. assistance to the Honduras Tactical Response Team (TRT) based on the human rights stipulation for U.S. assistance to foreign security forces set forth under the Leahy Law. While the U.S. decided last week to suspend assistance to the Honduran National Police while it investigated Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla Valladares' past ties to death squads, it is not clear that the TRT is included in the suspension as it receives "training, guidance, and advice directly from U.S. law enforcement." Yet it is the TRT that was involved in the May 11 incident, and which, according to Honduran and U.S. officials, was responsible for the shooting deaths.
The report is based primarily on extensive in-person interviews with survivors of the shootings, and many eyewitnesses in a nearby community who say they experienced beatings, humiliation, threats, and rough treatment by uniformed Americans in the hours following the shooting. Family members of shooting victims say the Americans prevented them from assisting their loved ones who had been shot. Other locals in the community say the soldiers stole gasoline and other items from them, and one man described being forced, at gunpoint, to ferry cocaine to a helicopter while his mother lay bleeding on a log in the river.
"The U.S. must find a way to deal with its drug problem that does not involve turning indigenous communities into combat zones," commented the report's co-author, Annie Bird of Rights Action.
The report notes that the investigation of the incident by Honduran authorities appears to be severely delayed and important investigative measures such as the interviewing of key witnesses have not been carried out, even though a former U.S. police detective employed by the U.S. Embassy provides technical support to the investigative team. DEA agents that participated in the May 11 operation have not been questioned, nor have ballistics tests been performed on their weapons.
The report also analyzes the impact of U.S. drug policy in the Moskitia region, and concludes that the "militarization and military-style tactics applied to drug interdiction efforts are negatively impacting Miskitu communities and are not yielding effective results."
Researchers Alexander Main, Senior Associate for International Policy at CEPR, and Annie Bird, Co-Director of Rights Action, a human rights monitoring organization with decades of experience working in Central America, wrote the report based on interviews conducted last month, and other research. In addition to providing detailed eyewitness testimony, the accounts provided by U.S. officials, and a description of key evidence, the report also provides a summary of the Honduran authorities' investigation into the incidents so far, and the legal measures being pursued by the survivors and their families.
3) US cites human rights concerns, withholds funds to Honduran National Police
Associated Press, August 11
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - The U.S. government is withholding funds to Honduran law enforcement units directly supervised by their new national police chief until the U.S. can investigate allegations that he ran a death squad a decade ago, according to a State Department report released this week.
The report says the State Department "is aware of allegations of human rights violations related to Police Chief Juan Carlos Bonilla's service" and that the U.S. government has established a working group to investigate.
The U.S. had pledged $56 million in bilateral security and development assistance for 2012 in Honduras, where tons of drugs pass through each year on their way to the United States. Under the new guidelines, the U.S. is limiting assistance so that it only goes to special Honduran law enforcement units, staffed by Honduran personnel "who receive training, guidance, and advice directly from U.S. law enforcement and are not under Bonilla's direct supervision," according to the report.
Foreign operations law requires that 20 percent of assistance to Honduras be withheld until the Secretary of State certifies that Honduras is taking steps to improve human rights conditions and investigate allegations of abuses. In an unusual twist, the report certifies the Honduran government is meeting human rights requirements, but nonetheless says the U.S. government is withholding aid to agents working under Bonilla.
State Department officials reached late Friday and Saturday could not confirm how much funding was being withheld nor how they determined the conditions were met.
Earlier this year, The Associated Press reported that Bonilla, nicknamed "The Tiger," had been widely accused of killings and human rights violations in a decade-old internal Honduran police report. The report named Bonilla in at least three killings or forced disappearances between 1998 and 2002 and said he was among several officers suspected in 11 other cases.
Only one of the allegations against the now-46-year-old Bonilla led to murder charges, however, and he was acquitted in 2004. The verdict was upheld by Honduras' Supreme Court in 2009. Bonilla took office in May.
Human rights abuses have persisted under a series of law enforcement leaders. In a 2012 human rights report issued in June, the State Department said Honduran law enforcement agents have murdered and tortured people, though it did not mention Bonilla.
"Among the most serious human rights problems were corruption within the national police force," the report added.
This week's decision came after a series of letters from Honduran and U.S. academics, activists and members of Congress were sent to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asking her to reconsider security aid to Honduras because of alleged human rights violations. In recent years there have been reports of kidnappings and killings by law enforcement, more than 65 people killed during farmland conflicts and dozens of deaths of gay and lesbian activists.
"Combatting drug trafficking is not a legitimate justification for the U.S. to fund and train security forces that usurp democratic governments and violently repress our people," said the June 7, 2012, letter signed by hundreds of academics.
The U.S. suspended $31 million in assistance to Honduras in 2009 after a coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya. Clinton resumed aid in 2010 after Lobo was elected.
4) Help Drag the TPP Out of the Shadows
No Back-Room Deals For The 1%!
Registration Deadline: Wednesday, August 15
Trade negotiators and corporate lobbyists from the United States and throughout the Pacific Rim will be meeting at a fancy resort outside of Washington, DC from September 6 to 15 to advance the secretive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Free Trade Agreement - an international corporate power grab that would affect the economy, the environment, public health and democracy itself for decades to come.
U.S. negotiators have granted approximately 600 corporate lobbyists access to the negotiating texts, but have flatly refused to tell the public what they have been proposing in our names. In fact, they don't intend to tell us what they've been working on after the deal is signed and completed - at which point it is virtually impossible to make any substantive changes.
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world have already called on our trade representatives to release the texts through emails, letters and petitions. We need your help on Sunday, September 9 in Leesburg, Virginia to bring our demands to them in person.
How to Get Involved
We need you to join us for a rally in Leesburg, Virginia on Sunday, September 9 at 3:00 pm - and we're asking you and your friends to please pre-register as an "official stakeholder" with the U.S. Trade Representative so that you can gain legal access to the building where the negotiations are taking place. That way, in addition to attending our rally outside, you can also go inside the building to personally deliver our message to TPP officials. Registration is a simple two-step process:
(1) Register with the U.S. Trade Representative online right now. The registration form is very short and only takes a minute. (Feel free to put "private citizen" in the lines for title, organization and employer if you're not representing a group, and to answer "no" regarding tabling and presenting.) The final deadline for registering is 5:00pm on Wednesday, August 15 - so please register now, even if you're unsure whether you can ultimately participate.
(2) Let us know you've registered through this online form. We'll use the information you provide to help with carpooling, printing up t-shirts and sending you reminder messages and other action items. (You won't be added to any long-term lists.)
Labor, environmental, consumer, family farm and other social justice organizations will be holding a rally outside of the negotiations on Sunday, September 9 at 3:00pm. Registering with USTR will get you credentials that allow you legally join us inside and present our demands to TPP negotiators face-to-face. This is crucial to making sure we are heard. Please register now!
Background: What Is the TPP?
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is poised to become the largest Free Trade Agreement in U.S. history. The massive trade and investment pact is currently being negotiated behind-closed-doors between the United States and countries throughout the Pacific Rim. TPP countries currently include the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, but the TPP is also intended as a "docking agreement" that all Pacific Rim nations will join over time. Powerful corporate interests want to use the TPP to:
Offshore good-paying jobs to low-wage nations and undercut working conditions globally
Create new tools for attacking environmental and consumer safety standards
Expand the deregulation of banks, hedge funds and insurance companies
Further concentrate global food supplies, displacing family farmers and subjecting consumers to wild price fluctuations
Institute longer patents that restrict access to affordable, generic medications
Instead of being debated out in the open, the TPP has thus far been negotiated in the shadows. Approximately 600 corporate lobbyists have been given access to the TPP negotiating texts. A handful of civil society groups also have access to the texts, but they are vastly outnumbered and are legally prevented from sharing what they've read.
Meanwhile, the people whose lives will be affected by the TPP have been barred from even reviewing what negotiators have proposed in our names.
The fourteenth major round of TPP negotiations - and perhaps one of the last - is taking place in Leesburg, Virginia from September 6 to 15. We cannot afford to let this massive pact to continue moving forward in the shadows.
Please register as an "official stakeholder" with the U.S. Trade Representative now at:
And let us know you've done so at:
5) Six US soldiers killed by Afghans
Troops were shot dead by locals including a police chief and his men as attacks on Nato troops by 'allies' increase
Emma Graham-Harrison, Guardian, Saturday 11 August 2012 09.17 EDT
Kabul - Six US soldiers were shot dead on Friday by Afghans, including police, in southern Helmand province – a grim reminder of the growing threat foreign forces face not just from the Taliban but also from their supposed allies.
It was the bloodiest single day for foreign troops in the province since six British soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in early March.
Three US Marine Corps special operations troops were shot dead in the early hours of Friday morning in Sangin district, a northern corner of the province that has seen heavy fighting. The killers were an Afghan police commander and some of his men, who had invited the US officers to join them for a meal and to discuss security, Afghan officials said.
Then in the evening, an Afghan man shot dead three other foreign soldiers who worked on a joint base with him, the Nato-led coalition said. It does not reveal nationalities of soldiers killed during operations, but Afghan officials said the men were from the US.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. "Last night after prayer time around 9pm, they were just coming out of the mosque, and a policeman opened fire on the Americans outside the district police headquarters," said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi.
The shooter has been arrested, Nato said, but added that he was not wearing a uniform at the time of the attack, leaving open the possibility he was a civilian employee on the base. But Farid Farhang, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said the man was from a much-criticised auxiliary police unit, usually trained by special forces. "All I know is that he was from the Afghan local police," Farhang said, adding that an investigation was underway. The attacks were the third and fourth times in less than a week that Afghans have turned on their mentors or colleagues.
On Tuesday, two Afghan soldiers killed a US soldier and injured two others in eastern Paktia province, and on Thursday two other Afghan soldiers opened fire on a group outside another base in the east, although the only person killed was one of the shooters.
So far this year 37 soldiers and military contractors have been killed in 27 such attacks, far outpacing the toll in 2011. They have become such a commonplace threat that some foreign units are watched by armed "guardian angels" from their own ranks.
6) Kucinich Legislation Reins in NATO, Reclaims Constitutional War Powers of Congress
Office of Rep. Dennis Kucinich, August 13
Washington - Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is today urging Members of Congress to support legislation, H.R. 6290, to prevent future presidents from using the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to circumvent Congress' constitutional authority to declare war.
"NATO has become a sock puppet to conduct military operations abroad absent congressional authorization, as required by Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution. This practice undermines our Constitution and global security as it allows the president to perpetrate violence without congressional oversight. Congress must fight to regain its basic constitutional right to declare war," said Kucinich.
H.R. 6290 would prohibit the deployment of a unit or individual of the U.S. Armed Forces or an element of the intelligence community in support of a NATO mission absent prior statutory authorization for such deployment from Congress, as enshrined in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.
"The North Atlantic Treaty Organization must be reined in. Its actions have moved beyond taking measures in defense of countries to offensive military operations that have threatened to destabilize Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Asia and other regions around the world. Congress must act to ensure that NATO doesn't further erode the authority of the United States Congress to determine when and where the use of military force, or when and where the United States military or intelligence services are utilized," said Kucinich.
7) Israel and Iran
Editorial, New York Times, August 13, 2012
Israeli leaders are again talking about possible military action against Iran. This is, at best, mischievous and, at worst, irresponsible, especially when diplomacy has time to run.
Iran's nuclear ambitions are clearly dangerous to the region. Iranian leaders operated a nuclear program in secret for two decades and continued to invest in it even after its discovery in 2002. The government is outspoken in its hatred of Israel. It supports President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and extremist groups like Hezbollah. If Iran gets a weapon, other countries in the region may want one, too.
But while Israel's defense minster, Ehud Barak, suggested on Israel Radio Thursday that Iran had made significant progress toward acquiring weapons capability - citing what he said was a new American intelligence report - there is no proof that Iran is at the point of producing a weapon. Obama administration officials would not confirm the existence of such a report, and, in any case, continue to insist strongly that Iran is not on the verge of achieving a weapon.
It is impossible to know what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning or why he has ignored American entreaties to give diplomacy a reasonable chance. There is, however, persistent speculation in Israel that Mr. Netanyahu wants to attack in the coming weeks in the belief that President Obama will be forced to support the decision because of his political needs in his re-election campaign. Such a move would be outrageously cynical.
Military action is no quick fix. Even a sustained air campaign would likely set Iran's nuclear program back only by a few years and would rally tremendous sympathy for Iran both at home and abroad. The current international consensus for sanctions, and the punishments, would evaporate. It would shift international outrage against Mr. Assad's brutality in Syria to Israel. Many former Israeli intelligence and military officials have spoken out against a military attack. And polls show that many ordinary Israelis oppose unilateral action.
Even so, Mr. Netanyahu's hard-line government has never liked the idea of negotiating with Iran on the nuclear issue, and, at times, seems in a rush to end them altogether. On Sunday, the deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, told Israel Radio that the United States and the other major powers should simply "declare today that the talks have failed."
Of course, it is disappointing that the negotiations have made so little progress. No one can be sure that any mix of diplomacy and sanctions will persuade Iran to give up its ambitions. But the talks have been under way only since April, and the toughest sanctions just took effect in July.
There is still time for intensified diplomacy. It would be best served if the major powers stay united and Israeli leaders temper loose talk of war.
8) In change of heart, Iran says foreign help for victims in quake-stricken area is now welcome
Associated Press, August 14
Tehran, Iran - In a change of heart, Iran said Tuesday it now welcomes foreign aid for victims of the deadly twin earthquakes that hit the country's northwest over the weekend.
The remarks indicated authorities were struggling to cope with the quakes' aftermath. Critics charged they failed to react quickly enough to help the region along the borders with Azerbaijan and Armenia, where the 6.4 and 6.3 magnitude quakes Saturday killed 306 people and injured more than 3,000.
"We would welcome help by any country," said Iran's parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, during his visit to the earthquake-stricken area on Tuesday.
Iran's government said it has provided shelter for about 50,000 people who lost their homes during the quakes, which have been followed by scores of aftershocks.
A magnitude 5.3 aftershock on Tuesday afternoon jolted the town of Varzaqan again, the semioffical Fars news agency reported. Varzaqan was one of the weekend epicenters.
The Tuesday aftershock quake also rocked Tabriz, the provincial capital, where frightened people poured into streets. No further casualties were reported. Many Tabriz residents have stayed outdoors, some in public parks, since the first tremors.
The weekend quakes hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in the Iranian province of East Azerbaijan. At least 12 villages were destroyed, and 425 others sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 percent of their buildings, state TV and news agencies reported. The stricken region has a population of about 300,000.
Many roads and other infrastructure were heavily damaged. State TV showed relief workers distributing tents and helping survivors, mainly in rural areas. Authorities said the quake caused some $600 million in damage.
In Tehran and other major cities, people stood in long lines to donate blood for the injured.
For two days after the quakes, Tehran insisted it needed no foreign assistance to handle the situation, but on Tuesday, Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi said Iran is now welcoming assistance from abroad for the quake victims.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Monday that the U.S. had not had "any pickup" from Iran on Washington's offer of assistance, and noted Iranian public statements that it did not need outside aid. "Nonetheless, our offer stands on the table," she said.
Nuland said despite U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, Americans wishing to provide food and medicine to victims of the disaster could do so without obtaining a special license, and certain noncommercial financial transactions were also possible.
9) Egypt's military acquiesces to president's order to retire top generals
Associated Press, August 13
Cairo - Egypt's military signaled its acquiescence Monday to the president's surprise decision to retire the defense minister and chief of staff and seize back powers that the nation's top generals grabbed from his office.
President Mohammed Morsi's shake-up of the military on Sunday took the nation by surprise. It transformed his image overnight from a weak leader to a savvy politician who carefully timed his move against the military brass who stripped him of significant powers days before he took office on June 30.
A posting on a Facebook page known to be close to the country's former military rulers said the changes amounted to the "natural" handing over of leadership to a younger generation.
"A greeting from the heart filled with love, appreciation and respect to our leaders who passed on the banner. They will be in our eyes and hearts," said the posting. "The armed forces is a prestigious institution with a doctrine of full discipline and commitment to legitimacy."
Egypt's official news agency quoted an unnamed military official late Sunday as saying there has been no "negative reaction" from within the military. And a day after the orders, no unusual military movements were detected anywhere across the nation.
If Morsi's decisions go unchallenged, it should end the power struggle that pitted him against the powerful military. That could mean the ushering out of six decades of de facto military rule since army officers seized power in a coup in 1952. But removing the defense minister and chief of staff does not necessarily mean that the military, Egypt's most powerful institution, has been defeated or that it would give up decades of perks and prestige without a fight.
Morsi has been locked in a power struggle with the military since he took office on June 30. But after militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers a week ago at a border post with Israel in Sinai, he has sought more aggressively to assert his authority over the top generals.
He fired the nation's intelligence chief a few days after the Sinai attack and made two highly publicized visits to Sinai in the company of top commanders. He also chaired several meetings with the military brass and made a point of calling himself the supreme commander of the armed forces in televised speeches.
On Sunday, he ordered the retirement of Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Annan. But he appointed them as presidential advisers and awarded them some of the nation's highest honors - something that suggested they agreed, perhaps grudgingly, in advance.
The two men appointed to replace the top military commanders were also members of the SCAF - something that could indicate either the military's agreement to the shuffle or splits at the highest level of the armed forces. Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi replaced Tantawi and Lt. Gen. Sidki Sayed Ahmed replaced Annan.
Morsi may have tapped into divisions and the generation gap within the top echelons of the military. Tantawi is 76 and he was in that job for more than 20 years. His replacement, former military intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah El-Sissi, is 58.
Egypt's first civilian president acted at a moment when the military was humiliated over a major security failure in Sinai, the deadliest internal attack on soldiers in modern history. Several days before the killings, Israel warned that an attack was imminent. The intelligence chief was sacked after it emerged in Egyptian media that he knew of the Israeli warning but did not act.
Sinai has been plunged into lawlessness and the rest of the country has seen a sharp deterioration in security while the military ruled.
The military has a vast economic empire that accounts for about 25 percent of GDP. But the military was tainted in the 17 months they ran the country after Mubarak's ouster, with the SCAF accused of mismanaging the transitional period and committing human rights violations.
10) Colonel in Cover-up Case to Be Tried in Mexico Civilian Court
Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, August 10, 2012
Mexico City - In May 2011, Jethro Sánchez, a 27-year-old engineer, was detained by the Mexican Army, and found tortured and killed. An army colonel was accused of ordering soldiers to hide the body to cover up the crime, and the case vanished in the country's maze of military justice.
But Mexico's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the colonel should be tried in civilian courts, a decision that human rights groups say could upend the way Mexico deals with rights abuses committed by the military in the course of fighting the country's pervasive drug war.
Since President Felipe Calderón dispatched the army to take on drug violence in Mexico, allegations of abuses committed by soldiers against civilians have increased significantly.
The military, which has traditionally acted under its own rules, has argued that abuse cases in which soldiers or officers are defendants must be tried in military courts.
But in practice, those cases go nowhere. From 2007 to April 2012, military prosecutors opened almost 5,000 investigations, according to Human Rights Watch, but only 38 military personnel were sentenced during that time.
The Supreme Court's 8-to-2 ruling in the case of the colonel, José Guadalupe Arias Agredano, was the first of 28 similar cases the court is to consider in the coming days.
If it rules the same way in at least five cases, it will set a precedent under Mexican law, clearing the way for soldiers to face civilian prosecution.
The decision "has the potential to resolve what has been the greatest source of impunity for miliary abuses," said Nik Steinberg, a Mexico researcher for Human Rights Watch who has reported on the failure of the military justice system to punish its own soldiers and officers.
In discussing the case as they declared their votes, several judges were unequivocal.
"A soldier should never be judged by a military tribunal when the victim of a crime is a civilian and human rights have been violated as a consequence of that crime," said Justice Arturo Zaldívar. The victims, he said, "have a right to an impartial tribunal."
The Defense Ministry had no comment on Friday about the ruling, but it has consistently appealed efforts by civilian judges to try cases involving the military.
Human rights groups had hoped that a Supreme Court ruling in July 2011 would move military cases to civilian courts. The justices agreed then that Mexico was required to comply with a 2009 ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights barring military trials for human rights abuses.
But last year's ruling was not strong enough in practice to counter the military's resistance.
Even efforts by Mr. Calderón to crack open the military judicial system have failed. A 2010 bill to move some crimes to civilian courts languished in Mexico's Congress, and the president's attorney general, Marisela Morales, has been reluctant to open her own prosecutions.
If the justices set a precedent by issuing rulings similar to Thursday's, Mr. Steinberg said, "it could mark a seismic shift in the way such military abuses are investigated and prosecuted, pulling off what neither Calderón nor the Congress could achieve."
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