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JFP 10/1: 2000 dead; JFP News ed. in Pakistan; Obama, US military 1 hand on no Iran war
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 1 October 2012 - 7:46pm
Just Foreign Policy News, October 1, 2012
2000 dead; JFP News ed. in Pakistan; Obama, US military 1 hand on no Iran war
JFP News hiatus
The editor of the JFP News is in Pakistan, joining the US peace delegation in opposition to the US drone strike policy. As a result, the JFP News will be mostly or entirely on hiatus until October 15. You can follow the editor on Twitter at @naiman. You can follow updates from JFP on Twitter at @justfp. You can follow other news on the delegation on Twitter at #stopdrones or at droneswatch.org.
*Action: Sign our petition against the drone strike policy in Pakistan
JFP will hand-deliver it to the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan on Wednesday.
Why I'm Going to Pakistan: Under Scrutiny, the Drone Strike Policy Will Fall
When Americans found out what the war in Afghanistan was, they turned against it. When Americans find out what the drone strike policy in Pakistan is, they will turn against that too.
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Go Straight to the News Summary
I) Actions and Featured Articles
Glenn Greenwald: Iraqi-American is imprisoned by US for saving his family from US sanctions
Iraqi-American Dr. Shakir Hamoodi is serving a three year prison sentence for sending money to his family to Iraq, including his blind mother. Admitting that the sanctions are long gone and that Dr. Hamoodi only helped Iraqi civilians, the judge and prosecutor invoked the need to uphold the "rule of law" - a principle yet to be applied to those who carried out the crime of the Iraq invasion. Hamoodi's family is petitioning President Obama to commute Hamoodi's sentence.
1) A new report says striking Iran's nuclear facilities, where the IAEA has verified an inventory of 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride, could have devastating effects on tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of Iranians, who would be exposed to highly toxic chemical plumes and even radioactive fallout, Foreign Policy reports. Khosrow Semnani estimates that a minimum of 5,000 people and as many as 80,000 people could be killed or die over time as a result of strikes on these facilities holding the material.
2) U.S. military deaths in the Afghan war have reached 2,000, AP reports. [AP is just counting deaths in the Afghanistan war, not the larger "Operation Enduring Freedom," sometimes conflated with the Afghan war by other news outlets. Our counter (http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/obamavsbush), based on the data from icasualties.org, currently stands at 2033, of whom 1458 died after Barack Obama became President - JFP.]
3) Amnesty International said the Swedish authorities should issue assurances to Julian Assange that if he leaves Ecuador's London embassy and agrees to go to Sweden to face sexual assault claims, he will not be extradited to the USA in connection with Wikileaks. Amnesty International says the forced transfer of Assange to the USA in the present circumstances would expose him to a real risk of serious human rights violations, possibly including violation of his right to freedom of expression and the risk that he may be held in detention in conditions which violate the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
4) The US military has designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as enemies of the United States - the same legal category as the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents, released under US freedom-of-information laws, reveal that military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters may be at risk of being charged with "communicating with the enemy", a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death.
5) A new report corroborated the Bureau's findings that rescuers have been deliberately targeted by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas, writes Chris Woods for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Psychiatrists and doctors report a deeply stressed population in parts of the tribal areas. One psychiatrist told researchers that many of his patients experience 'anticipatory anxiety,' a constant fear that they might come under attack. The report notes that: "Interviewees described emotional breakdowns, running indoors or hiding when drones appear above, fainting, nightmares and other intrusive thoughts, hyper startled reactions to loud noises, outbursts of anger or irritability, and loss of appetite and other physical symptoms. Interviewees also reported suffering from insomnia and other sleep disturbances, which medical health professionals in Pakistan stated were prevalent.'" Pakistani MP Akhunzada Chitan reported that when he visits Waziristan to see his family, people 'often complain that they wake up in the middle of the night screaming' because of the drones.
6) The Obama Administration deliberately uses the word "surgical" to describe its drone strikes, writes Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic. Use of the term is a triumph of propaganda, Friedersdorf writes. Drone pilots are "flying a plane from a screen with a narrow field of vision," Mark Mazzetti reported in the New York Times. "Then there is the fact that the movement shown on a drone pilot's video screen has ... been seconds behind what the drone sees." In "signature strikes," the CIA doesn't even know the identity of the people it is killing; it presumes without evidence that all military-aged males killed in drone strikes are "militants." Retired Brigadier General Craig Nixon said" "A drone or another intelligence device is sorta like being at a football game sitting on the 50-yard line and looking through a soda straw. I mean you see what you see. But there's a lot of other context that you don't see."
7) The presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala called at the UN for a vigorous global debate of the U.S.-led "war on drugs," Reuters reports. Obama has ruled out any major changes to U.S. drug laws, but some U.S. diplomats privately concede that the consensus around Latin America is clearly swinging against the status quo, and that some degree of change is imminent, Reuters says.
8) Pakistan's Foreign Ministry bluntly rejected claims by the Obama administration it tacitly approves CIA drone strikes, saying 'drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports. The remarks came after the Wall Street Journal reported US claims of legality appear built on a monthly fax from the CIA to its ISI counterpart which goes unanswered, and on Pakistan's apparent acceptance of 'no fly zones' over the tribal areas which enable the drones to operate.
According to the Journal, the tenuous basis for the claim of Pakistani approval is causing concern among some senior Obama administration officials about the legality of the attacks. One described US policy as 'cowboy behavior.' No Pakistani officials have any input into the CIA bombing campaign, the Journal says. Instead, once a month the CIA sends a fax to Pakistan's spy agency the ISI outlining 'the boundaries of the airspace the drones would use.
US officials say they have 'permission' from Islamabad to carry out the drone strikes because 'Pakistan continues to clear airspace in the targeted areas,' the Journal reports. But a western defense analyst warned that consent should not simply be assumed. 'They [Pakistan] know full well that they would have something set on them if they tried to enter these boxes.'
9) The U.S. military currently has no interest in a preventive strike on Iran, reports Mark Perry in Foreign Policy. When it comes to Iran, Obama and the military are speaking with one voice: They don't want Iran to get a nuclear weapon, they don't want Israel to start a war over it, and they don't believe an Israeli attack should automatically trigger U.S. intervention.
The war talk in Israel has already eroded the views of many senior U.S. military officers who were once strongly committed to Israel, but who now resent Netanyahu's attempt to pressure the US into a war it doesn't want, Perry writes. "Our commitment to Israel has been as solid as with any ally we've ever had," retired Lt. General Robert Gard said. "But we've done it so that they can defend themselves. Not so they can start World War III." There is no question that Gen. Dempsey was speaking for the U.S. government as a whole when he said any Israeli attack on Iran would not have the approval or the help of the U.S. "It's clear to me that President Obama will do everything he can to stop Iran from getting a bomb," Gard said. "But no president will allow another country to decide when to shed American blood."
"If Israel starts a war," one retired officer said, "America's first option will be to stop it. To call for a ceasefire. And, by the way, that's also our second and third option. We'll do everything we can to keep the war from escalating. We'll have 72 hours to do that. After that, all bets are off."
1) What 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride could mean to Iranians
Gordon.Lubold, Situation Report, Foreign Policy, September 27, 2012
Lost in the debate on Iran is the human cost of a strike against the country's nuclear sites, according to a new report published by an Iranian-American with a background in industrial nuclear waste and chemicals. Khosrow Semnani argues in "The Ayatollah's Nuclear Gamble," that striking Iran's nuclear facilities, where the IAEA has verified an inventory of 371 metric tons of uranium hexafluoride, could have devastating effects on tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands of Iranians, who would be exposed to highly toxic chemical plumes and even radioactive fallout.
Such plumes, created by strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities, could "destroy their lungs, blind them, severely burn their skin and damage other tissues and vital organs," Semnani says in his report. Unlike traditional explosions, the risks to civilians would extend "well beyond those killed from exposure to the thermal and blast injuries at the nuclear sites," Semnani writes.
This could have obvious policy implications, making a possible military strike significantly less palatable. "This material is very, very toxic in both the short-term and the long-term," Semnani tells Situation Report. "Someone has to talk about this." Semnani estimates that a minimum of 5,000 people and as many as 80,000 people could be killed or die over time as a result of strikes on these facilities holding the material, and he hopes policymakers take into account the "human dimension" when considering military action.
"The analogy for this is, you can either build a fence in front of the cliff, or hospitals at the bottom of the cliff."
Semnani is not well known in Washington. But we're told by an independent expert on Iran that Semnani, a scientist, went to "considerable lengths" to make his model as realistic as the available data allows. He funded his own research but the report was published by the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics and Semnani's Omid for Iran.
2) US military deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 after 11 years of war
Associated Press, Sunday, September 30, 2:40 AM
Kabul, Afghanistan - U.S. military deaths in the Afghan war have reached 2,000, a cold reminder of the human cost of an 11-year-old conflict that garners little public interest at home as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014.
The toll has climbed steadily in recent months with a spate of attacks by Afghan army and police against American and NATO troops, and questions about whether allied countries will achieve their aim of helping the Afghan government and its forces stand on their own after most foreign troops depart in little more than two years.
A U.S. official confirmed the latest death Sunday, saying that an international service member killed in an apparent insider attack by Afghan forces in the east of the country late Saturday was American. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the nationality of those killed had not been formally released.
A civilian contractor with NATO and at least two Afghan soldiers also died in the attack, according to a coalition statement and Afghan provincial officials. The nationality of the civilian was not disclosed.
At least 1,190 more coalition troops have also died in the Afghanistan war, according to iCasualties.org, an independent organization.
According to the Afghanistan index kept by the Brookings Institution, 40.2 percent of the deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices, with the majority of those after 2009 when President Barack Obama ordered a surge of 33,000 troops to combat heightened Taliban activity. According to the Washington-based research center, the second highest cause, 30.6 percent, was hostile fire
Tracking civilian deaths is much more difficult. According to the U.N., 13,431 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began keeping statistics, and the end of August. Going back to the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, most estimates put the number of Afghan deaths in the war at more than 20,000.
The number of American dead reflects an Associated Press count of those members of the armed services killed inside Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion on Oct. 7, 2001. Some other news organizations use a count that also includes those killed outside Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, the global anti-terror campaign led by then-President George W. Bush.
3) Sweden should issue assurance it won't extradite Assange to USA
Amnesty International, 27 September 2012
The Swedish authorities should issue assurances to the UK and to Julian Assange that if he leaves Ecuador's London embassy and agrees to go to Sweden to face sexual assault claims, he will not be extradited to the USA in connection with Wikileaks, Amnesty International said.
In the wake of the Wikileaks co-founder addressing the UN and with talks due between British Foreign Secretary William Hague and Ecuadorian officials, Amnesty International added that it was time to break the impasse.
"If the Swedish authorities are able to confirm publicly that Assange will not eventually find himself on a plane to the USA if he submits himself to the authority of the Swedish courts then this will hopefully achieve two things," said Nicola Duckworth, Senior Director for Research at Amnesty International.
"First, it will break the current impasse and second it will mean the women who have levelled accusations of sexual assault are not denied justice.
"It is vital that states show they are serious about dealing with allegations of sexual violence and that they respect both the rights of the women who made the complaints and the person accused."
While Amnesty International has no evidence that Sweden plans to extradite Assange to the USA it seems evident that fears about such an outcome have played no small part in the current stand-off.
Amnesty International believes that the forced transfer of Julian Assange to the USA in the present circumstances would expose him to a real risk of serious human rights violations, possibly including violation of his right to freedom of expression and the risk that he may be held in detention in conditions which violate the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
4) US calls Assange 'enemy of state'
Philip Dorling, Sydney Morning Herald, September 27, 2012 - 12:14PM
The US military has designated Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as enemies of the United States - the same legal category as the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency.
Declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents, released under US freedom-of-information laws, reveal that military personnel who contact WikiLeaks or WikiLeaks supporters may be at risk of being charged with "communicating with the enemy", a military crime that carries a maximum sentence of death.
The documents, some originally classified "Secret/NoForn" - not releasable to non-US nationals - record a probe by the air force's Office of Special Investigations into a cyber systems analyst based in Britain who allegedly expressed support for WikiLeaks and attended pro-Assange demonstrations in London.
The counter-intelligence investigation focused on whether the analyst, who had a top-secret security clearance and access to the US military's Secret Internet Protocol Router network, had disclosed classified or sensitive information to WikiLeaks supporters, described as an "anti-US and/or anti-military group".
The suspected offence was "communicating with the enemy, 104-D", an article in the US Uniform Code of Military Justice that prohibits military personnel from "communicating, corresponding or holding intercourse with the enemy".
The analyst's access to classified information was suspended. However, the investigators closed the case without laying charges. The analyst denied leaking information.
Mr Assange's US attorney, Michael Ratner, said the designation of WikiLeaks as an "enemy" had serious implications for the WikiLeaks publisher if he were to be extradited to the US, including possible military detention.
US Army private Bradley Manning faces a court martial charged with aiding the enemy - identified as al-Qaeda - by transmitting information that, published by WikiLeaks, became available to the enemy.
Mr Ratner said that under US law it would most likely have been considered criminal for the US Air Force analyst to communicate classified material to journalists and publishers, but those journalists and publishers would not have been considered the enemy or prosecuted.
"However, in the FOI documents there is no allegation of any actual communication for publication that would aid an enemy of the United States such as al-Qaeda, nor are there allegations that WikiLeaks published such information," he said.
"Almost the entire set of documents is concerned with the analyst's communications with people close to and supporters of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, with the worry that she would disclose classified documents to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.
"It appears that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks are the 'enemy'. An enemy is dealt with under the laws of war, which could include killing, capturing, detaining without trial, etc."
The Australian government has repeatedly denied knowledge of any US intention to charge Mr Assange or seek his extradition.
However, Australian diplomatic cables released to Fairfax Media under freedom-of-information laws over the past 18 months have confirmed the continuation of an "unprecedented" US Justice Department espionage investigation targeting Mr Assange and WikiLeaks.
The Australian diplomatic reports canvassed the possibility that the US may eventually seek Mr Assange's extradition on conspiracy or information-theft-related offences to avoid extradition problems arising from the nature of espionage as a political offence and the free-speech protections in the US constitution.
In a separate FOI decision yesterday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that the release of Australian diplomatic cables about WikiLeaks and Mr Assange had been the subject of extensive consultation with the US.
5) 'Drones causing mass trauma among civilians,' major study finds
Chris Woods, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, September 25th, 2012
The near constant presence of CIA drones 'terrorises' much of the civilian population of Pakistan's tribal areas according to a new report.
Men, women and children are subjected to almost constant trauma – including fear of attack, severe anxiety, powerlessness, insomnia and high levels of stress – says a nine month investigation into CIA drone strikes in Pakistan by two top US university law schools. More than 130 'victims, witnesses and experts' were interviewed in Pakistan for the study.
A number of those eyewitnesses corroborated the Bureau's own recent findings – that rescuers have been deliberately targeted by the CIA in the tribal areas.
The new study heavily challenges US government claims that few civilians have died in CIA drone strikes, saying that there is 'significant evidence' to the contrary.
As the report notes in its executive summary: 'In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling "targeted killing" of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.'
The joint report, Living Under Drones, is by Stanford University's International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, and New York University School of Law's Global Justice Clinic. The 165-page study looks at key aspects of the CIA's drone programme – its legal basis, how strikes are reported, their strategic implications – and how civilians are affected.
Psychiatrists and doctors report a deeply stressed population in parts of the tribal areas. In their ninth year of bombing, US drones now fly almost constantly over towns such as Mir Ali and Miranshah.
One psychiatrist told researchers that many of his patients experience 'anticipatory anxiety,' a constant fear that they might come under attack. The report goes on to note that:
"Interviewees described emotional breakdowns, running indoors or hiding when drones appear above, fainting, nightmares and other intrusive thoughts, hyper startled reactions to loud noises, outbursts of anger or irritability, and loss of appetite and other physical symptoms. Interviewees also reported suffering from insomnia and other sleep disturbances, which medical health professionals in Pakistan stated were prevalent.'"
Pakistani MP Akhunzada Chitan reported that when he visits Waziristan to see his family, people 'often complain that they wake up in the middle of the night screaming' because of the drones.
The Stanford/ NYU report also examines in detail three Obama administration drone strikes. Multiple eye-witness reports of civilian deaths are accompanied by 'corroborating evidence from other independent investigations, media accounts, and submissions to the United Nations, and courts in the UK and Pakistan.'
In total, more than 50 civilians are likely to have died in these three strikes alone, the report concludes. Anonymous US officials were still claiming recently that civilian deaths have only been in 'single digits' during Obama's entire four years in office.
The NYU/ Stanford report also independently corroborates a major Bureau investigation with the Sunday Times, which found that multiple CIA strikes between 2009 and summer 2011 had deliberately targeted rescuers and funeral-goers. Citing a number of eyewitness accounts, the study notes:
"Secondary strikes have discouraged average civilians from coming to one another's rescue, and even inhibited the provision of emergency medical assistance from humanitarian workers.' "
Hayatullah Ayoub Khan was driving in North Waziristan when the car ahead of him was damaged in a drone strike. The report says that as Khan approached on foot to see if he could help 'someone inside yelled that he should leave immediately because another missile would likely strike.' As he returned to his car, a second missile killed whoever had been inside.
A second anonymised man told researchers of an attack on the home of his in-laws: 'Other people came to check what had happened, they were looking for the children in the beds and then a second drone strike hit those people.'
People now avoid assisting victims of drone strikes, researchers were told. One 'leading humanitarian organization' said that it insists on a six-hour mandatory delay before its workers are allowed to assist, meaning it is 'only the locals, the poor, [who] will pick up the bodies of loved ones.'
When seven of Faheem Qureshi's family and friends died in Obama's first ever drone strike, he believes he only survived because he was able to walk out of the smoking rubble of the house unaided.
6) Calling U.S. Drone Strikes 'Surgical' Is Orwellian Propaganda
A moment's reflection is enough to understand why intellectually honest people should shun the loaded metaphor.
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic, Sep 27 2012, 7:00 AM ET
The Obama Administration deliberately uses the word "surgical" to describe its drone strikes. Official White House spokesman Jay Carney marshaled the medical metaphor here, saying that "a hallmark of our counterterrorism efforts has been our ability to be exceptionally precise, exceptionally surgical and exceptionally targeted." White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan attributed "surgical precision" and "laser-like focus" to the drone program. He also spoke of "delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us." And a "senior administration official" told The Washington Post that "there is still a very firm emphasis on being surgical and targeting only those who have a direct interest in attacking the United States."
They've successfully transplanted the term into public discourse about drones.
I've been told American drone strikes are "surgical" while attending Aspen Ideas Festival panels, interviewing delegates at the Democratic National Convention, and perusing reader emails after every time I write about the innocents killed and maimed in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere.
It is a triumph of propaganda.
So no, drone strikes aren't like surgery at all.
"As much as the military has tried to make drone pilots feel as if they are sitting in a cockpit, they are still flying a plane from a screen with a narrow field of vision," Mark Mazzetti reports. "Then there is the fact that the movement shown on a drone pilot's video screen has over the years been seconds behind what the drone sees -- a delay caused by the time it takes to bounce a signal off a satellite in space. This problem, called 'latency,' has long bedeviled drone pilots, making it difficult to hit a moving target." That's one more way drones strikes are unlike surgery.
Are they "surgical" compared to an H-bomb?
Er, no, they're less destructive and more precise. To conjure a surgeon with a knife is to lead the listener astray. And it is a downright dishonest metaphor when invoked by an administration that could make their strikes more like surgery but doesn't. For example, the Obama Administration could make certain of the identity of the people it is "operating on." Instead it sometimes uses "signature strikes," wherein the CIA doesn't even know the identity of the people it is killing. It could also attempt autopsies, literal or figurative, when things go wrong. Instead, it presumes sans evidence that all military-aged males killed in drone strikes are "militants."
The phrase "surgical drone strike" is handy for naming U.S. actions without calling up images of dead, limb-torn innocents with flesh scorched from the missile that destroyed the home where they slept or burned up the car in which they rode. The New America Foundation, which systematically undercounts these innocents, says there have been at least 152 and many as 192 killed since 2004. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts the civilian death figure at between 474 and 881 killed. Either way, would "surgical" strikes kill innocents on that scale in a region with just 2 percent of Pakistan's population? Using data that undercounts innocents killed, The New America Foundation reports that 85 percent of Pakistanis killed in drone strikes are "militants," while 15 percent are civilians or unknown. What do you think would happen to a surgeon that accidentally killed 15 in 100 patients? Would colleagues would call him "surgical" in his precision?
Unlike the Democratic politicians and former Obama Administration officials I heard speak in Aspen, retired Brigadier General Craig Nixon didn't say that American drone strikes were surgical.
He was asked to explain how a farmer was accidentally killed.
And he used a different metaphor when recounting his field experience:
"A drone or another intelligence device is sorta like being at a football game sitting on the 50-yard line and looking through a soda straw. I mean you see what you see. But there's a lot of other context that you don't see."
As technology improves, he said, it's a little better, like looking through multiple straws, but there's still a lot of missing context.
It's a very different image than a "surgical drone strike," isn't it?
7) U.S.-led "war on drugs" questioned at U.N.
Brian Winter, Reuters, Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:02pm EDT
United Nations - The presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala all called for a vigorous global debate of anti-narcotics laws at the United Nations on Wednesday, raising new questions about the wisdom of the four-decade-old, U.S.-led "war on drugs."
Although none of the leaders explicitly called for narcotics to be legalized, they suggested at the U.N. General Assembly that they would welcome wholesale changes to policies that have shown scant evidence of limiting drug flows while contributing to massive violence throughout Latin America.
"It is our duty to determine - on an objective scientific basis - if we are doing the best we can or if there are better options to combat this scourge," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who leaves office on December 1 after spending much of his presidency locked in a bloody battle with drug-smuggling gangs, called on the United Nations to lead a global debate over a less "prohibitionist" approach to drugs.
Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina echoed Calderon's call and went even further, saying that "the basic premise of our war against drugs has proved to have serious shortcomings."
The speeches, which were a few hours apart, constituted some of the most public challenges to date of anti-drug policies that have been mostly unchanged since the 1970s.
Mexico and Colombia are two of Washington's firmest allies in Latin America and both work closely with U.S. anti-drug efforts. While the subject of legalization was discussed at an Americas-wide summit in Colombia attended by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year, raising the once-taboo subject at the 193-nation meeting in New York amounts to an escalation of the debate.
Obama has ruled out any major changes to drug laws, but some U.S. diplomats privately concede that the consensus around Latin America is clearly swinging against the status quo, and that some degree of change is imminent.
8) Pakistan 'categorically rejects' claim that it tacitly allows US drone strikes
Chris Woods, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, September 28th, 2012
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry has bluntly rejected claims by the Obama administration that it tacitly approves CIA drone strikes on its territory, saying that 'drone attacks are illegal, counterproductive, in contravention of international law and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.'
The remarks came after the Wall Street Journal revealed that US claims of legality appear built on a monthly fax from the CIA to its ISI counterpart which goes unanswered, and on Pakistan's apparent acceptance of 'no fly zones' over the tribal areas which enable the drones to operate.
Islamabad's foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar also waded into the fray, telling an audience in New York that 'What the drones are trying to achieve, we may not disagree… If they're going for terrorists - we do not disagree. But we have to find ways which are lawful, which are legal. The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal.'
According to the Bureau's data, at least 2,570 people have died since 2004 in 346 US drone strikes. Senior Pakistani officials have labelled the attacks 'illegal' on more than a dozen occasions this year. Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK recently told the Guardian that CIA strikes were 'a violation of the UN charter.' And on September 24 President Asif Ali Zardari, speaking at the UN General Assembly said that 'drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds through this epic struggle.'
Despite these public protests, US officials still hint that they have Pakistan's tacit permission to carry out the attacks. Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan insisted recently that 'We do not use force whenever we want, wherever we want… The United States of America respects national sovereignty and international law.'
According to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal, that 'respect' rests on tenuous grounds, and it is causing concern among some senior Obama administration officials about the legality of the attacks. One described US policy as 'cowboy behaviour'.
No Pakistani officials have any input or say into the CIA bombing campaign, the paper reports. Instead, once a month the CIA sends a fax to Pakistan's spy agency the ISI outlining 'the boundaries of the airspace the drones would use—large areas along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border referred to as flight "boxes" because they are shaped like three-dimensional rectangles in the sky.'
For at least 17 months nobody at the ISI has acknowledged or answered the faxes.
Those 'flight boxes' are better known as Restricted Operating Zones, precise military jargon for a three-dimensional air exclusion or 'kill zone'. These enable other air traffic to go safely over or around ongoing combat or surveillance operations. Pakistan and the US may never have signed a formal agreement on the drone strikes – but in order to avoid collision between aircraft such zones have been in place over the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), for some years.
Their existence is confirmed in a secret US diplomatic cable dated March 24 2008. Admiral Mike Mullen, US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, was in Islamabad to meet with Pakistan's chief of the army staff (and now head of the army) General Ashfaq Kayani. Mullen secretly 'asked Kayani for his help in approving a third Restricted Operating Zone for US aircraft over the FATA,' the US embassy noted at the time.
The zones are not connected to the US and NATO air traffic corridor above Pakistan. Another secret cable dated December 14 2007 identifies that route as The Boulevard, noting that up to 150 Coalition aircraft were then using it daily.
All but two CIA strikes have taken place inside FATA, suggesting that the CIA restricts itself to defined 'kill boxes.' US officials believe they have 'permission' from Islamabad to carry out the drone strikes because 'Pakistan continues to clear airspace in the targeted areas,' the Wall Street Journal reports.
However a western defence analyst – who asked to remain anonymous because of his links to the Pakistan military – warned that consent should not simply be assumed. 'They [Pakistan] know full well that they would have something set on them if they tried to enter these boxes. It's more likely the Pakistan air force and army are instead turning a blind eye.'
Former president Pervez Musharraf recently said that regardless of what it wanted, Pakistan was too weak militarily to oppose US attacks, and certainly could not shoot down the CIA's drones as some proposed: 'You cannot do it… If the air force does it, let's see how they confront the joint might of the coalition forces.'
There is concern too in some parts of Washington. US congressman Dennis Kucinich told the Bureau that he and others in Congress questioned the legality of US strikes: 'If in fact Pakistan has made this request and asked us to stop and we continue this bombing, then we are at war with Pakistan.'
A Foreign Ministry spokesperson later said that Islamabad 'categorically rejected the insinuation made in the [Wall Street Journal] report' and that 'there can be no question of Pakistan's agreement to such attacks.'
9) The Entebbe Option
How the U.S. military thinks Israel might strike Iran.
Mark Perry, Foreign Policy, September 27, 2012
But it's not clear that Israel, even with its vaunted military, can pull off a successful strike: Netanyahu may not simply want the United States on board politically; he may need the United States to join militarily. "All this stuff about 'red lines' and deadlines is just Israel's way of trying to get us to say that when they start shooting, we'll start shooting," retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman told me. "Bottom line? We can do this and they can't, because we have what the Israelis don't have," retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner said.
One thing is clear: the U.S. military, according to my sources, currently has no interest in a preventive strike. "The idea that we'll attack with Israel is remote, so you can take that off your list of options," former Centcom commander Joe Hoar told me. Nor will the United States join an Israeli attack once it starts, the senior U.S. planner said. "We know there are senior Iranians egging for a fight with us, particularly in their Navy," a retired Centcom officer added. "And we'll give them one if they want one, but we're not going to go piling in simply because the Israelis want us to."
That puts the military shoulder to shoulder with the president. Obama and the military may have clashed on other issues, like the Afghan surge, but when it comes to Iran, they are speaking with one voice: They don't want Iran to get a nuclear weapon, they don't want Israel to start a war over it, and they don't believe an Israeli attack should automatically trigger U.S. intervention. But, if they are to avoid becoming part of Israel's plans, they first need to know what those plans are.
Even with that, and even with the best of luck (good weather, accurate targeting, sophisticated refueling, near total surprise, precise air-to-air interdiction, a minimum of accidents, and the successful destruction of Iran's anti-aircraft capabilities), senior U.S. military officers say that Israel would only set back Iran's nuclear capability by one to two years at best -- not end it.
Which could be why Netanyahu is so anxious for the Obama administration to say when or if it would join an attack. As Hoar, the former Centcom commander, bluntly put it: "Compared to the United States, Israel doesn't have a military."
Included in the U.S. arsenal is the recently developed Massive Ordnance Penetrator, the GBU-57, which can punch through 200 feet of hardened concrete before detonating its 5,300-pound warhead. The United States, which recently developed the GBU-57, is rumored to have only about 20 in its inventory -- but the Israelis have zero. "There's a good reason for that," Gardiner said. "Only a B-2 bomber can carry the 57." He paused for effect: "You might know this, but it's worth mentioning," he said. "Israel doesn't have any B-2s."
A third operation is less exotic, but perhaps most dangerous of all: regime decapitation. "The Israelis could just take out the Iranian leadership," the senior Pentagon war planner said. "But they would only do that as a part of an air strike or a commando raid." The downside of a decapitation strike is that it would not end Iran's nuclear program; the upside is that it would almost certainly trigger an Iranian response targeting U.S. military assets in the region, as it would leave the Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces in charge of the country. It would be the one sure way, U.S. officers with whom I spoke believe, for Israel to get the United States involved in its anti-Iran offensive, with the U.S. mounting operations in a conflict it didn't start.
How would the U.S. military respond to an Iranian attack? "It depends," the Pentagon planner said. "If the Iranians harass us, we can deal with it, but if they go after one of our capital ships, then all bets are off." Even so, a U.S. response would not involve a full-scale, costly land war against the Tehran regime, but rather a long-term air interdiction campaign to erode Iranian military capabilities, including its nuclear program, the planner said.
But a decapitation campaign would deepen the rift between the Obama administration and the Netanyahu government. The war talk in Jerusalem has already eroded the views of many senior U.S. military officers who were once strongly committed to Israel, but who now quietly resent Netanyahu's attempt to pressure the United States into a war that it doesn't want. "Our commitment to Israel has been as solid as with any ally we've ever had, and a lot of officers are proud of that," Lt. General Robert Gard, a retired Army officer, said. "But we've done it so that they can defend themselves. Not so they can start World War III."
This U.S. distaste for involvement in an Israeli strike has been percolating for some time. In March, the New York Times detailed a Centcom war game dubbed "Internal Look," in which the United States was "pulled into" a regional conflict in the wake of an Israeli attack. The results "were particularly troubling" to Gen. James Mattis, the Centcom commander. Among its other conclusions, "Internal Look" found that Iranian retaliation against U.S. military assets could result in "hundreds of U.S. deaths," probably as the result of an Iranian missile attack on a U.S. naval vessel. The simulation, as well as Iranian threats to close the Straits of Hormuz, suggest why Mattis requested that the White House approve the deployment of a third aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf.
According to another senior Pentagon official, Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey "have discussed in detail" the likelihood of an Israeli attack. As early as the autumn of 2011, when Dempsey became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Obama told him that the United States would "neither help nor hinder" an Israeli strike, this official said. While Obama's closely guarded formulation hasn't made it into the American press, his words are common knowledge among Israeli officials and had appeared just six months after Obama took office, in July 2009, in a prominent editorial in the pro-Netanyahu daily Israel Hayom.
Obama, the editorial stated, "will try to have a dialogue with Iran" while knowing that such an effort will probably not succeed. Obama "would prefer that there be no Israeli attack but is unprepared to accept responsibility for Israel's security if he fails [in a diplomatic dialogue] and the U.S. prevents Israel from attacking," the editorial added. "Thus it arises that while Israel has no green light to attack Iran, it does not have a red light either. The decision is Israel's. The U.S. will neither help nor hinder."
Nevertheless, the U.S. military fears that Iran will assume the United States has approved an Israeli strike, even if it hasn't -- and will target U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf. That may be why Dempsey told a roundtable of London reporters in August that he did not want to appear "complicit" in an Israeli attack. The remark touched off speculation that the United States was softening its stance toward Tehran or pressuring Israel to back away from using military force. In fact, nothing had changed: Dempsey was explicitly telling Iran that any Israeli attack would not have the approval or the help of the United States. So while Israel waited for Obama to explain or correct Dempsey's statement, no clarification was forthcoming. "Dempsey knew exactly what he was saying," the highly placed military officer said, "and he wouldn't have said it without White House approval." After a moment, he added: "Everything the military says has to be cleared, and I mean everything."
Gard, the retired Army officer, agreed: "It's clear to me that President Obama will do everything he can to stop Iran from getting a bomb," he said. "But no president will allow another country to decide when to shed American blood. Not even Israel." Gard has a reputation as a military intellectual, has led several initiatives of retired military officers on defense issues, and is a useful barometer of serving officers' views on sensitive political controversies. "There is a general disdain in our military for the idea of a preventive war," he said, "which is what the Israelis call their proposed war on Iran."
Still, according to a respected retired military officer who consults with the Pentagon -- and who speaks regularly with senior Israeli military officers -- Israel's political elite is likely to be surprised by Obama and the U.S. military's response should Israel launch a preventive attack on Iranian nuclear sites. "If Israel starts a war," this retired officer said, "America's first option will be to stop it. To call for a ceasefire. And, by the way, that's also our second and third option. We'll do everything we can to keep the war from escalating. We'll have 72 hours to do that. After that, all bets are off."
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