JFP 1/24: Mali Army Accused of Executions; Palestine Friday; "Toy" Drones

Just Foreign Policy News, January 24, 2013
Mali Army Accused of Executions; Palestine Friday; "Toy" Drones

Go Straight to the News Summary

I) Actions and Featured Articles

**Action: What will happen in Palestine on Friday?
The last two Fridays, nonviolent Palestinian activists against the Israeli occupation have established protest villages on Palestinian land that is threatened by Israeli land confiscation. What do you suppose will happen in Palestine this Friday? Sign our pledge to take action Friday to spread the news around; we'll send you suggestions for easy action.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/palestine-pledge

**Action: Predator Drones Are No "Toy"
Tell Maisto to end production and sale of its Predator drone strike "toy." Children's toys shouldn't be glorifying a CIA assassination program that kills children.
http://signon.org/sign/maisto-withdraw-predator?source=c.url&r_by=1135580

** Action: No drone strikes in Mali without Congressional authorization
The Pentagon has pushed for drone strikes in Mali. So far, the White House has resisted. Extension of the drone war to Mali, especially without Congressional authorization, would set a terrible precedent and move the drone strike policy in the wrong direction, further away from the rule of law and accountability. Urge your Representative and Senators to speak up.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/mali-drones

**Action: Urge Senators to Challenge Brennan on Drone Strikes

President Obama has nominated John Brennan to lead the CIA. Human Rights Watch - and the Washington Post editorial board have called for the CIA to stop conducting drone strikes, because of the CIA's lack of transparency and accountability to international law. Urge your Senators to question Brennan on drone strike policy and the demand that the CIA get out of drone strikes.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/cia-head-drones

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Mali's army has sealed off a central town, amid allegations that some of its soldiers had summarily executed dozens of people allegedly connected to rebel fighters, Al Jazeera reports.

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said on Thursday that in the central town of Sevare at least 11 people were executed in a military camp near a bus station and the town's hospital, citing evidence gathered by local researchers. Credible reports also pointed to around 20 other people having been executed in the same area and the bodies having been dumped in wells or otherwise disposed of, the organisation said.

Human Rights Watch said its investigators had spoken to witnesses who saw the executions of two Tuareg men in the village of Siribala, near Niono. The group also said witnesses had reported "credible information" of soldiers sexually abusing women in a village near Sevare, and called on the government to urgently investigate these incidents, AFP reported.

2) The Israeli election result was a "humbling rebuke" for Netanyahu, the New York Times reports. "Israelis are asking for a moderate coalition," said Marcus Sheff, executive director of the Israel Project, an advocacy group that conducts research on public opinion.

3) A UN investigation into the legality and casualties of U.S. drone strikes has been formally launched, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports. Ben Emmerson, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said he will lead a group of international specialists who will examine CIA and Pentagon covert drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Emmerson's said Susan Rice, the US's ambassador to the UN, had indicated that Washington 'has not ruled out full co-operation.' The ACLU welcomed the investigation and called on the US to fully cooperate.

One area the inquiry is expected to examine is the deliberate targeting of rescuers and funeral-goers by the CIA in Pakistan.

4) Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, whose report "Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies" is shaping much of current debate, criticized the anticipated exclusion of Pakistan from an Administration "playbook" governing drone strikes, Jim Lobe reports for Inter Press Service. "(I)f the United States decides not to apply the, quote, playbook to Pakistan, it's essentially meaningless, because 85 percent of all the targeted killings that the U.S. has conducted in non-battlefield settings since 9/11 have occurred in Pakistan," Zenko said. "So the vast majority of targeted killings and drone strikes will not be covered under the playbook."

Both Zenko and former Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair called for for the playbook to be made public when it is completed. "A classified playbook does not reassure the American people who I think are the primary ones that need to be convinced that their government is doing the right thing," said Blair.

Mali
5) Ansar Dine, one of the main Islamic militant groups fighting to control Mali, split in two Thursday when one of its leaders said he would form his own group to seek negotiations to settle the country's crisis, the New York Times reports. The new group, which is led by a prominent leader of the Tuareg ethnic group, becomes at least the sixth group to be fighting in an increasingly complex battle to control northern Mali. He was said to have been among Tuareg representatives who met with Malian diplomats late last year. The talks were an attempt to resolve long-standing Tuareg complaints and lure them away from Islamists from other countries, notably Algeria, who are operating in northern Mali.

Iran
6) The IAEA's insistence to get into Parchin to verify long-ago non-nuclear issues is poisoning the atmosphere of the much more important upcoming talks between the P5+1 and Iran, writes Yousaf Butt for Foreign Policy. These latter talks should focus on the most important issue: curtailing Iran's 20 percent uranium enrichment, Butt writes. Iran has signaled that it is willing to strike such a deal, given some reciprocation in the form of sanctions relief.

Limiting Iran's 20 percent enrichment is sufficiently important that the P5+1 should put sanctions relief on the table in order to obtain this major concession from Iran, Butt writes. As Suzanne Maloney of Brookings suggests, "The incentives must be more persuasive than the paltry offers the United States has made to date." In the past, the P5+1 have indicated that there would be "consideration" of easing sanctions "later," after Iran made concessions. This is obviously not a recipe for success: reciprocity should be simultaneous.

The problem with the impasse over the Iranian nuclear program is not that there aren't enough sanctions already in place, but that there is no clear roadmap of what Iran needs to do with its nuclear program in order to have even the existing sanctions removed, Butt writes. As Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, and Anthony Zinni suggest, "the time is ripe for a deal and wrong for more sanctions."

Afghanistan
7) A UN report says efforts to halt torture and other harsh coercive methods that are used in a number of Afghan intelligence and police detention centers have failed to produce any appreciable improvement in the treatment of detainees, the New York Times reports. The international Convention Against Torture, which the US has signed, prohibits the transfer of a detainee "to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture," the Times notes.

8) Taliban leaders slammed Prince Harry over comments that piloting a helicopter in Afghanistan is like playing a video game, Yahoo News reports. "It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox," Harry said. A member of the Afghan parliament told the Telegraph that such comments would hasten Western withdrawal by convincing more Afghans that foreign troops need to leave.

Jordan
9) Officials said 56 percent of registered voters turned out for elections despite a boycott by the main opposition Islamic Action Front, the New York Times reports. The group's leaders have argued that the election law is flawed and underrepresents cities, where most Jordanians live, including Jordanians of Palestinian descent, a majority of the nation's population.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Mali army accused of 'summary executions'
Mali's army seals off central town amid allegations that some of its soldiers had been involved in revenge killings.
Al Jazeera, 24 Jan 2013 11:55
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/01/201312455318869614.html

Mali's army has sealed off a central town, and joined by other soldiers from the West African bloc, amid allegations that some of its soldiers had summarily executed dozens of people allegedly connected to rebel fighters.

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues said on Thursday that in the central town of Sevare at least 11 people were executed in a military camp near a bus station and the town's hospital, citing evidence gathered by local researchers.

Credible reports also pointed to around 20 other people having been executed in the same area and the bodies having been dumped in wells or otherwise disposed of, the organisation said.

At Niono, also in the centre of the country, two Malian Tuaregs were executed by Malian soldiers, according to the FIDH.

The rights group, Human Rights Watch, said its investigators had spoken to witnesses who saw the executions of two Tuareg men in the village of Siribala, near Niono.

The group also said witnesses had reported "credible information" of soldiers sexually abusing women in a village near Sevare, and called on the government to urgently investigate these incidents, AFP news agency reported.

The majority of the al-Qaeda-linked rebels being hunted by the armies are either Tuaregs or Arabs, reports say.
[...]

2) Tepid Vote for Netanyahu in Israel Is Seen as Rebuke
Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, January 22, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/23/world/middleeast/israel-votes-in-election-likely-to-retain-netanyahu.html

Tel Aviv - A weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emerged Wednesday from Israel's national election likely to serve a third term, after voters on Tuesday gave a surprising second place to a new centrist party founded by a television celebrity who emphasized kitchen-table issues like class size and apartment prices.

For Mr. Netanyahu, who entered the race an overwhelming favorite with no obvious challenger, the outcome was a humbling rebuke as his ticket lost seats in the new Parliament. Over all, his conservative team came in first, but it was the center, led by the political novice Yair Lapid, 49, that emerged newly invigorated, suggesting that at the very least Israel's rightward tilt may be stalled.

Mr. Lapid, a telegenic celebrity whose father made a splash with his own short-lived centrist party a decade ago, ran a campaign that resonated with the middle class. His signature issue is a call to integrate the ultra-Orthodox into the army and the work force.

Perhaps as important, he also avoided antagonizing the right, having not emphasized traditional issues of the left, like the peace process. Like a large majority of the Israeli public, he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but is skeptical of the Palestinian leadership's willingness to negotiate seriously; he has called for a return to peace talks but has not made it a priority.

Sensing his message of strength was not penetrating, Mr. Netanyahu posted a panicky message on Facebook before the polls closed, saying, "The Likud government is in danger, go vote for us for the sake of the country's future." Tuesday ended with Mr. Netanyahu reaching out again - this time to Mr. Lapid, Israel's newest kingmaker, offering to work with him as part of the "broadest coalition possible."

Israel's political hierarchy is only partly determined during an election. The next stage, when factions try to build a majority coalition, decides who will govern, how they will govern and for how long. While Mr. Lapid has signaled a willingness to work with Mr. Netanyahu, the ultimate coalition may bring together parties with such different ideologies and agendas that the result is paralysis.

Still, for the center, it was a time of celebration. "The citizens of Israel today said no to politics of fear and hatred," Mr. Lapid told an upscale crowd of supporters who had welcomed him with drums, dancing and popping Champagne corks. "They said no to the possibility that we might splinter off into sectors, and groups and tribes and narrow interest groups. They said no to extremists, and they said no to antidemocratic behavior."
[...]
The results were a blow to the prime minister, whose aggressive push to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank has led to international condemnation and strained relations with Washington. The support for Mr. Lapid and Labor showed voters responded strongly to an emphasis on domestic, socioeconomic issues that brought 500,000 people to the streets of Tel Aviv in the summer of 2011.

"Israelis are asking for a moderate coalition," said Marcus Sheff, executive director of the Israel Project, an advocacy group that conducts research on public opinion. "Israel's middle class wasn't asleep as people assumed. The embers of the social protest are still strong."

Erel Margalit, a venture capitalist and first-time candidate who was elected to Parliament on Labor's list, described the high turnout as a "protest vote" and "a clear demonstration of how many Israelis feel like something needs to be done and something needs to change."

"It was not a fringe phenomenon; it was a mainstream phenomenon," he said of the 2011 movement.

After the center-left failed to field a credible alternative to Mr. Netanyahu and much attention focused on the hawkish Jewish Home, which wants Israel to annex large parts of the West Bank, the results shocked many analysts and even candidates. Turnout was nearly 67 percent, higher than the 65 percent in 2009 and the 63 percent in 2003.

Meretz, the left-wing pro-peace party, was set to double its three Parliament seats, with six.
[...]

3) UN launches major investigation into civilian drone deaths
Chris Woods and Alice K Ross, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, January 24th, 2013
http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2013/01/24/un-launches-major-investigation-into-civilian-drone-deaths/

A UN investigation into the legality and casualties of drone strikes has been formally launched, with a leading human rights lawyer revealing the team that will carry out the inquiry.

The announcement came as the latest reported US drone strike in Yemen was said to have mistakenly killed two children.

Ben Emmerson QC, the UN's special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, told a London press conference that he will lead a group of international specialists who will examine CIA and Pentagon covert drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The team will also look at drone strikes by US and UK forces in Afghanistan, and by Israel in the Occupied Territories. In total some 25 strikes are expected to be examined in detail.

The senior British barrister will work alongside international criminal lawyers, a senior Pakistani judge and one of the UK's leading forensic pathologists, as well as experts from Pakistan and Yemen. Also joining the team is a serving judge-advocate with the US military 'who is assisting the inquiry in his personal capacity.'

Emmerson told reporters: 'Those states using this technology and those on whose territory it is used are under an international law obligation to establish effective independent and impartial investigations into any drone attack in which it is plausibly alleged that civilian casualties were sustained.'

But in the absence of such investigations by the US and others, the UN would carry out investigations 'in the final resort', he said.

Early signs indicate Emmerson's team may have assistance from relevant states. He told journalists that Britain's Ministry of Defence was already co-operating, and that Susan Rice, the US's ambassador to the United Nations, had indicated that Washington 'has not ruled out full co-operation.'

The UN Human Rights Council last year asked its special rapporteurs to begin an investigation after a group of nations including Russia, China and Pakistan requested action on covert drone strikes. Emmerson told the Bureau: 'It's a response to the fact that there's international concern rising exponentially, surrounding the issue of remote targeted killings through the use of unmanned vehicles.'

Emmerson said he expects to make recommendations to the UN general assembly by this autumn. His team will also call for further UN action 'if that proves to be justified by the findings of my inquiry'.

He added: 'This is not of course a substitute for effective official independent investigations by the states concerned.'

One area the inquiry is expected to examine is the deliberate targeting of rescuers and funeral-goers by the CIA in Pakistan, as revealed in an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times.

In October 2012 Emmerson said: 'The Bureau has alleged that since President Obama took office at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims and more than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. Christof Heyns [UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing] … has described such attacks, if they prove to have happened, as war crimes. I would endorse that view.'

The American Civil Liberties Union welcomed the UN inquiry, and called on the US to aid investigators. 'Whether it does or not will show whether it holds itself to the same obligation to co-operate with UN human rights investigations that it urges on other countries," said Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU's Human Rights Programme.

4) Drones Provoke Growing Controversy in U.S.
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, Jan 23 2013
http://www.ipsnews.net/2013/01/drones-provoke-growing-controversy-in-u-s/

Washington - As Barack Obama renews his lease on the White House for another four years, his administration is debating how best to respond to a growing internal and public controversy over his first term's non-battlefield counter-terrorist weapon of choice: armed drones.

For months, senior administration officials have reportedly been haggling over the terms of a so-called "playbook" for the use of drones against suspected terrorists that will provide detailed rules for who will be included on so-called "kill lists", under what circumstances drones can be used to kill them, and what agency can do the killing.

The debate has also included whether or not – and to what extent – the government should make those rules, and the legal justifications that purportedly underlie them, public.

How the debate turns out could be critical to Obama's hopes of reducing the size of Washington's military "footprint" in the Middle East, notably by withdrawing ground forces while still pursuing a counter-terrorist strategy to disrupt and destroy Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Over the past four years, drone strikes have played the pre-eminent role in that strategy.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which operates the drone programme in Pakistan and shares responsibility for drone operations with Pentagon forces in Yemen, has reportedly argued for greater leeway in carrying out strikes.

On the other hand, Obama's counter-terrorism chief and, significantly, his nominee to head the CIA, John Brennan, has reportedly called for tighter rules, greater restraint, and more transparency.

According to a Washington Post account published Monday, the haggling is now coming to an end in a series of compromises that, among other things, will permit the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to continue its controversial Afghanistan-based drone programme against targets in neighbouring Pakistan for the next one to two years under the existing rules.

That covers the period when Washington is expected to draw down its military presence in Afghanistan from the current 66,000 troops to 10,000 or less.

One prominent critic of drone warfare has already criticised the anticipated exclusion of Pakistan from the so-called playbook.

"…(I)f the United States decides not to apply the, quote, playbook to Pakistan, it's essentially meaningless, because 85 percent of all the targeted killings that the U.S. has conducted in non-battlefield settings since 9/11 have occurred in Pakistan," said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) whose recently published report, "Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies", is shaping much of the current debate.

"So the vast majority of targeted killings and drone strikes will not be covered under the playbook," he told a press teleconference convened by CFR Tuesday.

Since 9/11, U.S. forces have conducted some 425 targeted killings – all but a few through drone strikes - in at least three countries – Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Altogether, they are believed to have killed more than 3,000 people – more than the 9/11 death toll itself. How many of those killed have been actual members of terrorist organisations, as opposed to civilians, has itself been a matter of intense debate.

The resort to drone strikes evoked controversy from the outset, not only because it marked a reversal of the policy against assassinations upheld by Republican and Democratic presidents alike since CIA assassinations were first exposed in the early 1970's, but also because of the novelty of long-distance killing.

Typically, the operator of an armed drone sits before a video screen in a secure facility as far away as the state of Nevada, as much as 13,000 kms from the target.

Particularly controversial has been so-called "signature strikes." While early drone strikes targeted specific identified suspected terrorists included on a "kill list" compiled by various U.S. agencies, "signature strikes", which have been carried out to devastating effect in Pakistan, in particular, have targeted groups of suspected terrorists whose precise identity is unknown.

According to the former Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Adm. Dennis Blair, the distance between the drone operator and the target should not by itself be controversial. Drones, he told the same CFR teleconference, should be thought of as "long-range snipers, in the military sense".

Depending on the specific circumstances, he also defended signature strikes. "If we are fighting in Afghanistan, for example, and we know that across the border in Pakistan there are Taliban groups who are gathering and training, …I think we could authorise either snipers – people with rifles – or drones to shoot at armed men who we see getting into pickup trucks and heading towards the Afghanistan border."

At the same time, however, Blair expressed strong reservations about several aspects of current policy, notably the involvement of the CIA which, due to its covert nature, is precluded from speaking publicly about or defending its operations.

"I strongly believe that a great majority of the use of drones should be done under military command," he said. "The reason that we have covert action is to be able to deny it." But that pretence is not sustainable in long campaigns such as the one in Pakistan, he noted.

"The current open-secret, covert-action drone programme in Pakistan …does not nothing except to enable the Pakistanis to allow to do it (kill targets), unofficially, and then officially to attack us for it and thereby make us extremely unpopular in Pakistan and interferes with all sorts of other objectives (we have) with Pakistan."

Zenko agreed, noting that drone policy is "poorly co-ordinated with other elements of national power in the countries where it's being used," he said.

"And you can talk to the U.S. ambassadors to Pakistan or Yemen (and) …to the USAID contractors who are trying to do sort of soft-power efforts there, and they will tell you that when you go to the tribal areas of Pakistan or …southern Yemen, drones are the face of U.S. foreign policy.

"Because we don't articulate and describe our vision for how these are used very well, we essentially …allow the Taliban and …the Pakistani government to tell our story about drones, which is a tremendous strategic communications lapse."

Both men called for the playbook to be made public when it is completed. "A classified playbook does not reassure the American people who I think are the primary ones that need to be convinced that their government is doing the right thing," said Blair.

While Zenko said the playbook itself could be "useful", other critics have described it worrisome."

Paul Pillar, a former top CIA analyst for the Middle East and South Asia, also questioned its value on his blog.

"Having a playbook on assassinations sounds like it is apt to be a useful guide for making the quick decision whether to pull the trigger on a Hellfire missile when a suspected terrorist is in the sights of a drone. But it probably will not, as far as we know, be of any help in weighing larger important issues such as whether such a killing is likely to generate more future anti-U.S. terrorism because of the anger over collateral casualties than it will prevent taking a bad guy out of commission."

"By routinizing and institutionalizing a case-by-case set of criteria, there is even the hazard that officials will devote less deliberation than they otherwise would have to such larger considerations because they have the comfort and reassurance of following a manual," he wrote.

Mali
5) Faction Splits From Islamist Group in Northern Mali
Lydia Polgreen, New York Times, January 24, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/25/world/africa/faction-splits-from-islamist-group-in-northern-mali.html

Ségou, Mali - Ansar Dine, one of the main Islamic militant groups fighting to control Mali, split in two Thursday when one of its leaders said in a statement published by Radio France Internationale that he would form his own group to seek negotiations to settle the country's crisis.

The new group, which calls itself the Islamic Movement for the Azawad and is led by Alghabass Ag Intalla, a prominent leader of the Tuareg ethnic group, becomes at least the sixth group to be fighting in an increasingly complex battle to control northern Mali.

Azawad is a Tuareg term for the vast desert region.

Mr. Intalla was described on the French radio station as the heir to the traditional ruler of the remote and sparsely populated Kidal region in the northeast of the country.

He was said to have been among Tuareg representatives who met with Malian diplomats in Ouagadougou, the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso, late last year. The talks were an attempt to resolve long-standing Tuareg complaints and lure them away from Islamists from other countries, notably Algeria, who are operating in northern Mali.

According to R.F.I., the splinter group said it was prepared to fight its former allies. The split within Ansar Dine came after French airstrikes halted the southward advance of rebel groups trying to push toward the capital, Bamako.

French and Malian troops have retaken the central Malian town of Diabaly, which was briefly occupied by one of the Islamist groups. They also claim to have cleared Konna and Douentza, but have not allowed journalists to visit either town.

The main cities of the north, Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal, remain beyond government control.

The latest group to be formed is at least the sixth to join the fray in northern Mali, where Qaeda-linked groups have overrun the secular Tuareg nationalists who initially started the latest rebellion early last year.

The groups include the Algerian-dominated Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb; the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa, based in Gao, which is believed to be led by a Mauritanian; and the Malian-led Ansar Dine.

Mali has been in turmoil since early 2012, when the government's tepid response to the Tuareg uprising prompted junior army officers to topple the government just before scheduled elections. The coup made matters only worse, as the Tuareg rebels took advantage of the disarray to push farther south, capturing half of the country with the help of Islamic militants.

Iran
6) Building Blocks
The obsession that is preventing a nuclear deal with Iran.
Yousaf Butt, Foreign Policy, January 22, 2013
http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/01/22/building_blocks

[Butt, a nuclear physicist, is professor and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.]

Following two days of talks last week, officials from Iran and the IAEA threw in the towel, failing again to clinch a deal on access to sites, people, and documents of interest to the agency. The IAEA's immediate priority is to get into certain buildings at the Parchin military base near Tehran, where they suspect Iran may have conducted conventional explosives testing -- possibly relevant to nuclear weaponry -- perhaps a decade or so ago. There is no evidence of current nuclear work there (in fact, the agency has visited the site twice and found nothing of concern). But by inflating these old concerns about Parchin into a major issue, the agency risks derailing the more urgent negotiations that are due to take place between Iran and the P5+1 countries (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany). Those talks seek to, among other things, curtail Iran's 20 percent uranium enrichment.

The IAEA again wants access to the site because of secret evidence, provided by unidentified third-party intelligence agencies, implying that conventional explosives testing relevant to nuclear weaponization may have taken place a decade or so ago at Parchin. The agency has not showed Iranian officials this evidence, which has led Iran to insist that it must have been fabricated. (This could well be true, given that forged documents were also passed on to the IAEA before the 2003 Iraq war.) As Robert Kelley, an American weapons engineer and ex-IAEA inspector, has stated: "The IAEA's authority is supposed to derive from its ability to independently analyze information....At Parchin, they appear to be merely echoing the intelligence and analysis of a few member states."

Olli Heinonen, the head of the IAEA's safeguards department until 2010, is also puzzled at the way the IAEA is behaving: "Let's assume [inspectors] finally get there and they find nothing. People will say, 'Oh, it's because Iran has sanitized it....But in reality it may have not been sanitized....I don't know why [the IAEA] approach it this way, which was not a standard practice." And Hans Blix, former head of the IAEA, weighed in, stating, "Any country, I think, would be rather reluctant to let international inspectors to go anywhere in a military site. In a way, the Iranians have been more open than most other countries would be." The U.N. Security Council can encourage Iran to cooperate with the IAEA, but they cannot expand the agency's legal authority.

In any case, what is the point of going to Parchin? Even if the allegations of decade-old conventional explosives testing turn out to be true, Iran would not have violated its IAEA safeguards agreement. This is because the agreement's "exclusive purpose" is to verify that nuclear material "is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices," something the agency has verified ever since Iran's safeguards agreement came into effect in 1974. The IAEA itself has admitted that "absent some nexus to nuclear material the Agency's legal authority to pursue the verification of possible nuclear weapons related activity is limited."

The IAEA's insistence to get into Parchin to verify long-ago non-nuclear issues is nothing more than a tempest in a teapot, but by continuing to cast Iran in a negative light -- when, in fact, Iran is within its rights to refuse IAEA entry -- the agency is poisoning the atmosphere of the much more important upcoming talks between the P5+1 and Iran.

These latter talks should focus on the most important issue: curtailing Iran's 20 percent uranium enrichment. In fact, Iran has signaled that it is willing to strike such a deal, given some reciprocation in the form of sanctions relief. Limiting Iran's 20 percent enrichment is sufficiently important that the P5+1 should put sanctions relief on the table in order to obtain this major concession from Iran. As Suzanne Maloney of Brookings suggests, "The incentives must be more persuasive than the paltry offers the United States has made to date." In the past, the P5+1 have indicated that there would be "consideration" of easing sanctions "later," after Iran made concessions. This is obviously not a recipe for success: reciprocity should be simultaneous. In general, there needs to be a symmetry of compromise by both sides.
[...]
Of course, it would be better if Iran stopped stockpiling 20 percent enriched uranium -- even though such activity is legal under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The problem with the impasse over the Iranian nuclear program is not that there aren't enough sanctions already in place, but that there is no clear roadmap of what Iran needs to do with its nuclear program in order to have even the existing sanctions removed. In fact, the Iranian regime may be continuing 20 percent enrichment as a bargaining chip to exchange for getting rid of sanctions. What is needed is for the P5+1 to spell out in crystal clear terms what realistic steps Iran needs to take with its nuclear program to have the existing sanctions lifted. Some reasonable scenarios have been provided by the Arms Control Association.

As Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering, and Anthony Zinni suggest, "the time is ripe for a deal and wrong for more sanctions." The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute recently released an expert report advising the IAEA to stop obsessing over gaining access to Parchin -- it is advice worth heeding. And the P5+1 ought to adopt a more mature approach: instead of looking at what more they can do to Iran, they ought to focus on how to advance a deal by offering Iran a roadmap out of the sanctions. The "all sticks, no carrots" approach has been an abysmal failure; all that it has achieved so far is building up Iran's enriched uranium stockpile. Jim Walsh of MIT summed it up well recently: "If the nuclear [related] activities were in the past, I don't care. It's dead, and it's regretful, but let's do a deal with Iran that moves forward." After his inauguration yesterday, President Obama should launch a fresh, constructive approach to Iran that cuts through the thicket of sanctions confusion sown by Congress.

Afghanistan
7) Anti-Torture Efforts in Afghanistan Failed, U.N. Says
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, January 20, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/21/world/asia/anti-torture-efforts-in-afghanistan-havent-worked-un-says.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - Intense efforts to halt torture and other harsh coercive methods that are used in a number of Afghan intelligence and police detention centers have failed to produce any appreciable improvement in the treatment of detainees, according to a report released Sunday by the United Nations, raising questions for the international military coalition here.

The report, titled "Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees in Afghan Custody," offered a grim tour of Afghanistan's detention facilities, where even adolescents have reported abuse like beatings with hoses and pipes and threats of sodomy.

Despite concerted efforts for more than a year to train Afghan intelligence and police officials in interrogation techniques that respect human rights, the United Nations investigation found that incidences of torture by the police had risen.

In the case of the intelligence service, the United Nations reported a lower incidence of torture. But it was not clear whether that finding reflected improved behavior as much as it did a decrease in the number of detainees handed over to the intelligence service by the international military coalition. And some detainees have alluded to new secret interrogation centers.

The Afghan government rejected the report's specific allegations but said that there were some abuses, and that it had taken numerous steps to improve the treatment of detainees. The government gave United Nations officials access to those held in all but one detention facility.

Among the questions raised by the report is whether the pervasiveness of torture will make it difficult for the American military to hand over those being held in the Parwan Detention Facility, also known as Bagram Prison, as required under the agreement reached last week in Washington between President Obama and President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan.

The international Convention Against Torture, which the United States has signed, prohibits the transfer of a detainee "to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."

The United Nations did not look at the Parwan Detention Facility, in part because it is not yet wholly under Afghan control. But there could be questions about whether, given the inadequacies throughout the Afghan system, it would violate the torture convention to transfer those prisoners under American control to the Afghans. According to some estimates, 700 to 900 prisoners are still in American custody there.

The military is confident that the Afghan section of the Parwan center follows all of the human rights guidelines on the treatment of detainees, said Col. Thomas Collins, a senior spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, which is known as ISAF. And although conditions could worsen after the United States departs, or prisoners could be transferred to other facilities where there was abuse, the Americans cannot do anything about that.

"We can never completely rule out the chance of torture by the government, but in its own Constitution it prohibits torture, and it is a signatory of the torture convention," he said about Afghanistan. "What we have to have is reasonable assurances that the people will be treated well and will not be tortured."

But the report underscored just how difficult it is for ISAF to have confidence in the government's assurances, given the reality at Afghan detention facilities.

Even before the report's official publication, it had considerable impact on Gen. John R. Allen, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan. On Jan. 11, after reviewing an early copy, he ordered a halt in transfers of detainees who had been picked up on the battlefield to all of the 34 Afghan detention sites that the report cited for abuse.
[...]
Despite General Allen's requests over the past eight months that Afghan officials take action in 80 cases - and in some cases asking them to remove individuals accused of abuse - "to date Afghan officials have acted in only one instance," General Allen wrote. In that case, an intelligence official was merely moved to another province, he said.
[...]

8) Taliban responds to Prince Harry: 'It's not a game-it's very, very real'
Dylan Stableford, Yahoo! News | The Lookout, Tue, Jan 22, 2013
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/taliban-prince-harry-144857323.html

Taliban leaders have fired back at Prince Harry over the royal's comments that piloting a helicopter in Afghanistan-where he says he killed insurgents during his recent tour of duty-is like playing a video game. Harry, who co-piloted an Apache helicopter during his 20-week tour, made the comparison in an interview broadcast by the BBC Monday night.

"It's a joy for me because I'm one of those people who loves playing PlayStation and Xbox," the 28-year-old said. "So with my thumbs I like to think I'm probably quite useful."

The Taliban did not appreciate the comparison. "This statement is not even worth condemning. It is worse than that," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told London's Telegraph. "To describe the war in Afghanistan as a game demeans anyone-especially a prince, who is supposed to be made of better things." Mujahid continued: "It shows the lack of understanding, of knowledge. It shows they are unfamiliar with the situation and shows why they are losing. ... It's not a game. It's very, very real.
[...]
Sharifullah Kamawal, a member of the Afghan parliament, told the Telegraph that Harry's latest comments could disrupt relations between soldiers and locals there. "This makes the withdrawal process much faster, because for now half of the people say the foreign forces must stay for longer," Kamawal said. "But if they say these kind of things, then more people will want them to go home."

Jordan
9) Despite Boycott, More Than Half of Voters Are Said to Turn Out in Jordan Election
Kareem Fahim, New York Times, January 23, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/world/middleeast/jordanians-vote-in-first-parliament-elections-since-protests.html

Muleih, Jordan - Two years ago, Mohamed al-Snaid organized laborers to demonstrate against poor working conditions, helping to start a movement that spread throughout the country and gave voice to a festering anger that has shaken the rule of King Abdullah II.

On Wednesday, Mr. Snaid took on a very different role, as a candidate in Jordan's first parliamentary elections since the start of the unrest. He ran despite a boycott of the election by the many members of the protest movement, Hirak, who regard the vote as a public relations exercise by the king and who say that previous Parliaments were weak and unrepresentative.

Standing outside a polling station, Mr. Snaid said that after debating whether to join the boycott, he decided that the best place to fight corruption and economic inequality was from inside the system. Besides, the king asked personally. "He told us to participate to help him with reform," Mr. Snaid said.

The lines were short, especially in Amman, the capital, but officials said early results showed that 56 percent of the 2.3 million voters who registered turned out, despite the boycott. There were numerous reports of vote-buying but no immediate signs of widespread fraud, which would itself represent a change from charges of interference leveled against the Jordanian authorities in recent parliamentary elections.

In the most serious challenge to the credibility of the elections, the country's main opposition group, the Islamic Action Front, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, has joined the boycott, increasing the chances that the election will be followed by more unrest. The group's leaders have argued that the election law is flawed and underrepresents cities, where most Jordanians live - and where the Brotherhood counts on support, including among Jordanians of Palestinian descent, a majority of the nation's population.
[...]

--
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans. The archive of the Just 'Foreign Policy News is here:

http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/blog/dailynews


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