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JFP 3/19: 10 Years Later, Peace Groups Tell Congress: Don't Iraq Iran!
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 19 March 2013 - 9:11am
Just Foreign Policy News, March 19, 2013
10 Years Later, Peace Groups Tell Congress: Don't Iraq Iran!
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
*Action: 10 Years later, Don't Iraq Iran!
Together with Win Without War, Peace Action West, the National Iranian American Council, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation, we're calling Congress today, urging them not to repeat their disastrous Iraq war with Iran. Urge your Senators and Representative not to cosponsor AIPAC's bills for war with Iran, and to insist that these bills go through committee markup so that (at least!) their most egregious features can be removed - like trying to pre-approve US participation in an Israeli attack on Iran. FCNL has offered the use of its toll free number, 1-855-68-NO WAR. More information, and a place to report your call, here:
Introducing "Gaza's Ark"
Gaza's Ark will try to break the Gaza blockade from the other side: the blockade on Gaza's exports. A boat will sail out from Gaza carrying Palestinian goods. The campaign will also attack the blockade more broadly. There are many ways to support the campaign, and they can be found here:
New York Times Magazine: Is This Where the Third Intifada Will Start?
A sympathetic portrait by Ben Ehrenreich of the Palestinian village of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank, which has become known internationally for its protests against Israeli land confiscation.
1) A new generation of Republicans like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is questioning the Republican Party's attachment to the aggressive use of American power abroad, and signaling a willingness to pare back the military budgets that made it possible, the New York Times reports. Members of the Republican national security establishment said they fear returning to a minimalist foreign policy, as articulated in different ways by Mr. Paul, Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Representative Justin Amash of Michigan. The foreign policy hawks fear it would lead to a diminished role for America.
Some Republicans are so nervous about the positions championed by Mr. Paul and his supporters that they have begun talking about organizing to beat back primary challenges from what Dan Senor, a veteran of the younger Mr. Bush's team of foreign policy advisers, described as a push to reorient the party toward a "neo-isolationist" foreign policy, the Times says. But other party leaders are rushing to embrace Mr. Paul and Tea Party Republicans as they build coalitions of young voters who dislike the foreign wars and the cost of fighting them.
2) Surveys suggest Americans believe the foreign aid bureaucracy is bloated and doesn't work, writes Charles Kenny of the Center for Global Development in Business Week. But that's a misperception. The foreign aid system and USAID in particular work very well in accomplishing what Washington politicians want them to do. But that includes a range of purposes that have little to do with helping the world's poor. When it comes to buying friends at the United Nations, or buying crops in the Midwest, or creating jobs around the Capital Beltway, the U.S. foreign aid system is a paragon of effectiveness.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is working to spend less money on big US contractors and more money on companies in developing countries, Kenny says. The Obama administration is also considering overhauling the food aid program so it delivers cash to hungry people or local food buyers rather than shipping grain halfway around the world. [The Bush Administration tried to push the same reform, supported by Oxfam and JFP, among others.] But USAID's current contractors are fighting back. They've hired lobbyists from the Podesta Group to combat procurement reform, and an alliance of domestic agricultural groups, shipping interests, and U.S. nongovernmental organizations that implement the food aid program are also resisting change.
3) An opinion piece in The Economist attacks the EU/IMF bailout of Cyprus as unjust for imposing a tax on the insured deposits of small savers to help finance the bailout. "There is no moral imperative for whacking Cypriot widows and leaving senior bank bondholders untouched," the piece argues.
4) While Americans are debating the president's power to order assassination by drone, powerful momentum is propelling us toward the day when we cede the same lethal authority to software, argues Bill Keller in the New York Times. Next month, several human rights and arms control organizations are meeting in London to introduce a campaign to ban killer robots before they leap from the drawing boards. Some robotics experts doubt that a computer will ever be able to reliably distinguish between an enemy and an innocent, let alone judge whether a load of explosives is the right, or proportional, response.
5) Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, the discrepancy that existed between the media description of the Iraqi threat and the non-manipulated assessment of the U.S. intelligence community is being seen again on Iran, argues Trita Parsi in the Huffington Post. The Worldwide Threat Assessment report Director of National Intelligence James Clapper presented to the Senate shows why efforts by the Israeli Prime Minister and Congress to draw a red line for war at the point where Iran would have the "capability" to build nuclear weapons is unwise. Clapper indicates that Iran already is there: "Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons." Drawing this red line would mean war.
6) The head of a U.N. team investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty, AP reports. Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes. The U.N. investigation into civilian casualties from drone strikes was launched in January and is expected to deliver its conclusions in October.
Emmerson met with tribal leaders from the North Waziristan tribal area - the main target for U.S. drones in the country. The tribal leaders said innocent tribesmen were often mistakenly targeted by drones because they were indistinguishable from Taliban militants, said Emmerson. Both groups wear the same traditional tribal clothing and normally carry a gun at all times, he said.
7) Afghan opposition parties have opened their own channel to militant groups in hopes of putting their imprint on a deal to end 11 years of war and position themselves for next year's elections, AP reports. The Taliban wants to talk with the U.S., AP says, but shut down all talks with the US after it refused to release their colleagues from Guantanamo Bay.
8) Many say Israeli settlement construction in Arab East Jerusalem fundamentally undermines the idea that the area could ever serve as the capital of a Palestinian state, the New York Times reports. While most experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have long imagined Jerusalem as ultimately being divided, with Jewish neighborhoods remaining part of Israel and Arab ones joining Palestine, these new buildings make such a plan more complicated if not impossible - which may be exactly the point, the Times notes.
9) The aid group Doctors Without Borders says the cholera crisis in Haiti was getting worse, for the most unnecessary and appalling of reasons: a lack of money and basic medical supplies, notes the New York Times in an editorial.
Doctors Without Borders says people are dying now, needlessly, because attention and money are running out. Staff members at some treatment centers haven't been paid in months, equipment is wearing out, and sanitary precautions are being abandoned. The death rate has reached an intolerably high 4 percent in some places.
The dreadful backdrop to this emergency is an abdication of responsibility by organizations that have pledged to help Haiti, particularly the United Nations, the Times says. The U.N. said it would not pay financial compensation for the epidemic's victims, claiming immunity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that the U.N. introduced the disease.
The U.N.'s handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco, the Times says. While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.
1) Republicans Are Divided on Proper Role for U.S. Abroad
Michael D. Shear, New York Times, March 14, 2013
Washington - For more than three decades, the Republican Party brand has been deeply tied to a worldview in which the aggressive use of American power abroad is both a policy imperative and a political advantage.
Now, a new generation of Republicans like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is turning inward, questioning the approach that reached its fullest expression after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and signaling a willingness to pare back the military budgets that made it all possible.
That holds the potential to threaten two wings of a Republican national security establishment that have been warring for decades: the internationalists who held sway under the elder President George Bush and the neoconservatives who led the country to long and costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under President George W. Bush.
Members of both camps said this week that they fear returning to a minimalist foreign policy, as articulated in different ways by Mr. Paul, Senator Mike Lee of Utah and Representative Justin Amash of Michigan. The foreign policy hawks fear it would lead to a diminished role for America in an increasingly unstable world. And they worry about their party losing its firm grasp of what has traditionally been a winning issue.
"A real challenge for the Republicans as they approach 2016 is what will be their brand?" said Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former aide to the first President Bush. "The reason Rand Paul is gaining traction is overreaching in Iraq. What he is articulating represents an alternative to both."
The split in the party was on display in muted terms here on Thursday at the opening session of the Conservative Political Action Conference when Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a possible presidential candidate in 2016, expressed concern about a return to isolationism. Without mentioning Mr. Paul directly, Mr. Rubio said that the United States "can't solve every war" but added that "we also can't be retreating from the world."
Moments later, Mr. Paul told the conference that the filibuster he conducted last week over the Obama administration's drone policy was aimed at the limits on presidential power and American power abroad. "No one person gets to decide the law," he said.
Some Republicans are so nervous about the positions championed by Mr. Paul and his supporters that they have begun talking about organizing to beat back primary challenges from what Dan Senor, a veteran of the younger Mr. Bush's team of foreign policy advisers, described as a push to reorient the party toward a "neo-isolationist" foreign policy. That policy, Mr. Senor said, "is sparking discussions among conservative donors, activists and policy wonks about creating a political network to support internationalist Republicans."
But in Mr. Paul and the Tea Party, Republicans face a philosophical disagreement from within their ranks. Senator John McCain of Arizona, who is his party's most prominent spokesman for an aggressive foreign policy, recently dismissed Mr. Paul and those who agree with him as "wacko birds."
But other party leaders are rushing to embrace Mr. Paul and Tea Party Republicans as they build coalitions of young voters who dislike the foreign wars and the cost of fighting them. Those voters may be a key to winning back the White House in 2016.
After Mr. Paul's 13-hour filibuster last week, leading Republican figures heaped praise on the freshman senator. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Mr. Lee joined the filibuster, offering their ideological support for his cause. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican Party, said Mr. Paul "was able to capture some national attention in standing up to the president. My view is that he is an important voice in our party."
Mr. Haass said Republican leaders are beginning to recognize the electoral power appeal among some voters to Mr. Paul's foreign policy views.
Senator Paul, who is mulling a presidential bid in 2016, is less strident and more subtle than his father. In a speech at the Heritage Foundation last month, he insisted he is not against all foreign intervention, but pledged to fight for "a saner, more balanced approach to foreign policy."
2) It's Time to Reform USAID
Charles Kenny, Business Week, March 18, 2013
[Kenny is a fellow at the Center for Global Development and the New America Foundation.]
Although as much as $1.7 billion might be slashed from the U.S. foreign assistance budget because of sequester cuts, little outcry has emerged. Foreign aid has never been popular: In opinion polls, it's often the first expenditure suggested for the chopping block. Surveys suggest Americans feel a moral responsibility to help the world's worst off, but they believe the aid bureaucracy is bloated and doesn't work.
That, however, is a misperception. In practice, the foreign aid system, and in particular, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), work very well in accomplishing what Washington politicians want them to do. But that includes a range of purposes that have little to do with helping the world's poor.
When it comes to buying friends at the United Nations, or buying crops in the Midwest, or creating jobs around the Capital Beltway, the U.S. foreign aid system is a paragon of effectiveness. Take the goal of buying friends. Eric Werker, a Harvard Business School associate professor, and Ilyana Kuziemko, now a Columbia Business School associate professor and Harvard Ph.D., estimated in a 2006 Harvard paper that countries rotating onto the UN Security Council were likely to see their U.S. aid increase by 59 percent. The aid then fell as the countries finished their terms. In a 1999 study, Illinois State University's T.Y. Wang found that U.S. aid successfully affects UN voting patterns on issues vital to America's national interests.
The foreign aid budget is also a prime vehicle for pork barrel spending. The U.S. food aid program, for instance, purchases about $1 billion worth of American crops a year. It spends roughly an additional $1 billion transporting the crops overseas, in most cases using U.S.-flagged ships. A study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research looked at contracts issued by USAID for the relief effort in Haiti. It found that while only 0.02 percent of these contracts went to Haitian firms, more than 75 percent were handed to firms in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. Washington-based contractor Chemonics, with more than 3,000 employees, received worldwide USAID program funds of nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars in 2011.
It's perhaps unsurprising that aid designed to maximize friends, crop purchases, and U.S. contractors isn't the most effective at supporting development. Take food aid: Economics professors Nathan Nunn of Harvard and Nancy Qian of Yale demonstrated in a 2010 paper that what determines the size of U.S. food aid shipments isn't recipient need, but the size of the U.S. crop. And about half the funding is used on shipping. That same money could buy supplies in local markets and help farmers in developing countries. Many U.S. contractors bring years of technical experience and a real commitment to development. Yet the considerable majority of U.S. aid doesn't appear anywhere on recipient country budget plans, suggesting the money is buying what American suppliers want to sell—not what recipients need to get.
So who's to blame for the poor record of U.S. foreign aid as a tool of development? It's not the fault of the long-suffering staff of U.S. aid agencies, who can deliver very effective programs if given the chance. A global initiative backed by the U.S. and other donors supported delivery of 225 million measles vaccine doses in 2011 alone—part of a campaign that has reduced measles deaths worldwide from 2.6 million in 1980 to 139,000 in 2010. The blame, instead, lies largely with members of Congress who complain that aid is wasted because it doesn't lead to development, and then turn around and ensure hardly any assistance is designed or delivered with development as the primary goal.
There's pressure for change. USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is trying to fix at least two of the problems that prevent aid from working better to promote development. "This agency is no longer satisfied with writing big checks to big contractors and calling it development," said Shah in 2011. He has followed through with reforms designed to ensure more companies in recipient countries can win some USAID contracts. The Obama administration is also considering overhauling the food aid program so it delivers cash to hungry people or local food buyers rather than shipping grain halfway around the world.
USAID's current contractors have hired lobbyists from the Podesta Group to combat procurement reform, and an alliance of domestic agricultural groups, shipping interests, and U.S. nongovernmental organizations that implement the food aid program are also resisting change. The food aid lobby isn't shy about defending the idea that combating malnutrition overseas should benefit American businesses at home: "Growing, manufacturing, bagging, shipping, and transporting nutritious U.S. food creates jobs and economic activity here at home, provides support for our U.S. Merchant Marine, essential to our national defense sealift capability, and sustains a robust domestic constituency for these programs not easily replicated in alternative foreign aid programs," they note.
If all we want is friends, jobs, and crops, we already have the aid program we need. But for those who want our support to foster development and help the world's poor, perhaps it's time to overhaul the way we provide foreign aid. Otherwise, we'll continue to funnel aid dollars down Beltway and Cornbelt ratholes.
3) The Cyprus bail-out
Unfair, short-sighted and self-defeating
Economist, Mar 16th 2013
It is not a fudge, but it is still a failure. The euro zone's bail-out of Cyprus, which was sealed in the early hours of Saturday, did get the bill for creditor countries down from €17 billion to €10 billion, as had been rumoured. But the way it did so was somewhat unexpected.
Almost €6 billion of the savings for taxpayers in euro-zone countries came from losses imposed on depositors in Cyprus's outsize banks. A one-off 9.9% levy will be imposed on all deposits over the insurance threshold of €100,000 before banks reopen after a bank holiday on Monday. That idea had been in the air for a while, not least because a lot of those uninsured deposits came from outside Cyprus, and from Russia in particular. The politics of saving wealthy Russians with money loaned by thrifty Germans were always going to be tricky.
What had not been anticipated was a 6.75% loss for savers with deposits in Cypriot banks below the insurance ceiling. Cypriots woke up this morning to find bank branches closed to them. By the time they will be able to get at their money, it will be too late. The offer of equity in banks to replace the value of their savings is meant to be a balm but it's not a choice they would have made. Why this decision was taken is not yet clear. The most plausible explanation is that the Cypriot government itself preferred to spread the pain rather than wipe out non-resident depositors and jeopardise its long-term prospects as an offshore financial centre for Russian and other money.
Whatever the rationale, it is a mistake for three reasons. The first error is to reawaken contagion risk elsewhere in the euro zone. Depositors have come through the financial crisis largely unscathed. Now they have been bailed in, some of them in breach of an explicit promise that they can be sure of getting their money back even if a bank goes belly-up.
Euro-zone leaders will spin the deal as reflecting the unique circumstances surrounding Cyprus, just as they did the Greek debt restructuring last year. But if you were a depositor in a peripheral country that looked like it needed more money from the euro zone, what would your calculation be? That you would never be treated like the people in Cyprus, or that a precedent had been set which reflected the consistent demands of creditor countries for burden-sharing? The chances of big, destabilising movements of money (into cash, if not into other banks) have just shot up.
The second error is one of equity. There is an argument to be made over the principles of bailing in uninsured depositors. And there is a case for hitting everyone in Cypriot banks before any taxpayer in another country. But there is no moral imperative for whacking Cypriot widows and leaving senior bank bondholders untouched, as appears to be the case here; or not imposing any losses on sovereign-debt investors in Cyprus; or protecting depositors in the Greek operations of Cypriot banks, as has also happened. The euro zone may cloak this bail-out in the language of fairness but it is a highly selective treatment. Indeed, the euro zone's insistence that this is a one-off makes that perfectly plain: with enough foreigners at risk and a small enough country to push around, you get an outcome like Cyprus.
4) Smart Drones
Bill Keller, New York Times, March 16, 2013
If you find the use of remotely piloted warrior drones troubling, imagine that the decision to kill a suspected enemy is not made by an operator in a distant control room, but by the machine itself. Imagine that an aerial robot studies the landscape below, recognizes hostile activity, calculates that there is minimal risk of collateral damage, and then, with no human in the loop, pulls the trigger.
Welcome to the future of warfare. While Americans are debating the president's power to order assassination by drone, powerful momentum - scientific, military and commercial - is propelling us toward the day when we cede the same lethal authority to software.
Next month, several human rights and arms control organizations are meeting in London to introduce a campaign to ban killer robots before they leap from the drawing boards. Proponents of a ban include many of the same people who succeeded in building a civilized-world consensus against the use of crippling and indiscriminate land mines. This time they are taking on what may be the trickiest problem arms control has ever faced.
The arguments against developing fully autonomous weapons, as they are called, range from moral ("they are evil") to technical ("they will never be that smart") to visceral ("they are creepy").
"This is something people seem to feel at a very gut level is wrong," says Stephen Goose, director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch, which has assumed a leading role in challenging the dehumanizing of warfare. "The ugh factor comes through really strong."
Some robotics experts doubt that a computer will ever be able to reliably distinguish between an enemy and an innocent, let alone judge whether a load of explosives is the right, or proportional, response. What if the potential target is already wounded, or trying to surrender? And even if artificial intelligence achieves or surpasses a human level of competence, the critics point out, it will never be able to summon compassion.
Noel Sharkey, a computer scientist at the University of Sheffield and chairman of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, tells the story of an American patrol in Iraq that came upon a group of insurgents, leveled their rifles, then realized the men were carrying a coffin off to a funeral. Killing mourners could turn a whole village against the United States. The Americans lowered their weapons. Could a robot ever make that kind of situational judgment?
Then there is the matter of accountability. If a robot bombs a school, who gets the blame: the soldier who sent the machine into the field? His commander? The manufacturer? The inventor?
At senior levels of the military there are misgivings about weapons with minds of their own. Last November the Defense Department issued what amounts to a 10-year moratorium on developing them while it discusses the ethical implications and possible safeguards. It's a squishy directive, likely to be cast aside in a minute if we learn that China has sold autonomous weapons to Iran, but it is reassuring that the military is not roaring down this road without giving it some serious thought.
Compared with earlier heroic efforts to outlaw land mines and curb nuclear proliferation, the campaign against licensed-to-kill robots faces some altogether new obstacles.
For one thing, it's not at all clear where to draw the line. While the Terminator scenario of cyborg soldiers is decades in the future, if not a complete fantasy, the militaries of the world are already moving along a spectrum of autonomy, increasing, bit by bit, the authority of machines in combat.
The military already lets machines make critical decisions when things are moving too fast for deliberate human intervention. The United States has long had Aegis-class warships with automated antimissile defenses that can identify, track and shoot down incoming threats in seconds. And the role of machinery is expanding toward the point where that final human decision to kill will be largely predetermined by machine-generated intelligence.
"Is it the finger on the trigger that's the problem?" asks Peter W. Singer, a specialist in the future of war at the Brookings Institution. "Or is it the part that tells me 'that's a bad guy'?"
Israel is the first country to make and deploy (and sell, to China, India, South Korea and others) a weapon that can attack pre-emptively without a human in charge. The hovering drone called the Harpy is programmed to recognize and automatically divebomb any radar signal that is not in its database of "friendlies." No reported misfires so far, but suppose an adversary installs its antiaircraft radar on the roof of a hospital?
Professor Sharkey points to the Harpy as a weapon that has already crossed a worrisome threshold and probably can't be called back. Other systems are close, like the Navy's X-47B, a pilotless, semi-independent, carrier-based combat plane that is in the testing stage. For now, it is unarmed but it is built with two weapons bays. We are already ankle-deep in the future.
5) 3 Facts to Note in 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment Report
Trita Parsi, Huffington Post, 3/12/2013
Almost ten years to the day of the foolish invasion of Iraq, the discrepancy that existed between the media description of the Iraqi threat and the non-manipulated assessment of the U.S. intelligence community is being seen again -- but this time on Iran.
Iran is often described in the media as irrational, suicidal and hell-bent on getting a nuclear weapon and destroying Israel. These themes are so oft repeated that they are almost treated as self-evident truths.
That's why it's so fascinating to read Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's Worldwide Threat Assessment report that was presented to the U.S. Senate today.
As Director of National Intelligence, Clapper has more access to confidential intelligence reports than anyone else in the U.S.. He not only sees all of the U.S.'s intelligence, but also much of what the Israelis, Europeans and even Russians and others share with the U.S.
There are three key judgments Clapper makes on Iran that must be given due attention.
First, Clapper indirectly explains why efforts by the Israeli Prime Minister and the U.S. Congress to draw a red line for war at the point where Iran would have the "capability" to build nuclear weapons is unwise. In short, Clapper indicates that Iran already is there. Drawing this red line would mean war. The Director of National Intelligence writes:
"Tehran has developed technical expertise in a number of areas -- including uranium enrichment, nuclear reactors, and ballistic missiles -- from which it could draw if it decided to build missile-deliverable nuclear weapons. These technical advancements strengthen our assessment that Iran has the scientific, technical, and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons."
He then adds two critical points: "This makes the central issue its political will to do so," while pointing out that "Iran could not divert safeguarded material and produce a weapon-worth of [Weapons Grade Uranium] before this activity is discovered."
In short, this means that efforts to prevent Iran from the capacity are futile, but we still have the ability to catch Tehran and take action if it were to attempt to rapidly construct a nuclear weapon.
What we have to focus on is to influence Tehran's presumed desire or sense of need for nuclear weapons. As the intelligence report states, "Iran is developing nuclear capabilities to enhance its security, prestige, and regional influence..."
That's a very different situation than the one typically described in the media. It is a situation in which issuing threats and pressures towards that end arguably increase Iran's desire for a nuclear deterrence. The greater Tehran's sense of threat from the U.S. -- whether military or economic -- the greater the lure of nuclear deterrence will be. Indeed, Clapper adds that "Iran's nuclear decision-making is guided by a cost-benefit approach, which offers the international community opportunities to influence Tehran."
6) UN says US drones violate Pakistan's sovereignty
Sebastian Abbot, Associated Press, March 15
Islamabad - The head of a U.N. team investigating casualties from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan declared after a secret research trip to the country that the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty.
Ben Emmerson, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, said the Pakistani government made clear to him that it does not consent to the strikes - a position that has been disputed by U.S. officials.
According to a U.N. statement that Emmerson emailed to The Associated Press on Friday, the Pakistani government told him it has confirmed at least 400 civilian deaths by U.S. drones on its territory. The statement was initially released on Thursday, following the investigator's three-day visit to Pakistan, which ended Wednesday. The visit was kept secret until Emmerson left.
Imtiaz Gul, an expert on Pakistani militancy who is helping Emmerson's team, said Friday that the organization he runs, the Centre for Research and Security Studies, gave the U.N. investigator during his visit case studies on 25 strikes that allegedly killed around 200 civilians.
The U.N. investigation into civilian casualties from drone strikes and other targeted killings in Pakistan and several other countries was launched in January and is expected to deliver its conclusions in October.
Pakistani officials regularly criticize the attacks in public as a violation of the country's sovereignty, a popular position in a country where anti-American sentiment runs high.
But the reality has been more complicated in the past.
For many years, Pakistan allowed U.S. drones to take off from bases within the country. Documents released by WikiLeaks in 2010 showed that senior Pakistani officials consented to the strikes in private to U.S. diplomats, while at the same time condemning them in public.
Cooperation has certainly waned since then as the relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. has deteriorated. In 2011, Pakistan kicked the U.S. out of an air base used by American drones in the country's southwest, in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
But U.S. officials have insisted that cooperation has not ended altogether and key Pakistani military officers and civilian politicians continue to consent to the strikes. The officials have spoken on condition of anonymity because of the covert nature of the drone program.
However, Emmerson, the U.N. investigator, came away with a black and white view after his meetings with Pakistani officials.
"The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear," said Emmerson. "It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The drone campaign "involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," he said.
Pakistan claimed the drone strikes were radicalizing a new generation of militants and said it was capable of fighting the war against Islamist extremism in the country by itself, said Emmerson.
Emmerson met with a variety of Pakistani officials during his visit, as well as tribal leaders from the North Waziristan tribal area - the main target for U.S. drones in the country - and locals who claimed they were injured by the attacks or had lost loved ones.
The tribal leaders said innocent tribesmen were often mistakenly targeted by drones because they were indistinguishable from Taliban militants, said Emmerson. Both groups wear the same traditional tribal clothing and normally carry a gun at all times, he said.
"It is time for the international community to heed the concerns of Pakistan, and give the next democratically elected government of Pakistan the space, support and assistance it needs to deliver a lasting peace on its own territory without forcible military interference by other states," said Emmerson.
7) Karzai opponents talk to Taliban
Kathy Gannon, Associated Press, March 18, 2013
Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghan opposition parties, taking advantage of the government's lack of progress in making peace with the Taliban, have opened their own channel to militant groups in hopes of putting their imprint on a deal to end 11 years of war and position themselves for next year's elections.
Taliban and opposition leaders confirmed to The Associated Press for the first time that the parties opposed to President Hamid Karzai have been talking since the beginning of the year to the Taliban as well as the militant group headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a U.S.-declared terrorist.
They are trying to find a political resolution to the Afghan war ahead of two key events in 2014 - the presidential race that will determine Karzai's successor and the final stage of withdrawal of international combat troops from the country. The Afghan constitution bans Karzai from running for a third term, and there are fears that the troop withdrawal plus a new leader in the palace could usher in a new era of instability in Afghanistan.
"We want a solution for Afghanistan ... but every step should be a soft one," said Hamid Gailani, a founding member of the united opposition. "We have to start somewhere."
Two senior Taliban officials, who spoke to the AP, indicated that the group is willing to pursue talks to move the political track forward. One sign of this was that they said they were contemplating replacing their top negotiator because he isn't getting the desired results.
The Taliban wants to talk with the U.S., but it broke off formal discussions with the Americans last year. The Taliban have steadfastly rejected negotiations with the Karzai government, which they view as a puppet of foreign powers.
Taliban interlocutors have had back-channel discussions and private meetings with representatives from various countries. A senior U.S. official said the Taliban are talking to representatives of more than 30 countries, and indirectly with the U.S.
Talks with the U.S. were temporarily scuttled in early 2011 by Afghan officials who were worried that the secret, independent talks would undercut Karzai. They quietly resumed with each side seeking small signs of cooperation, but the Taliban shut down all talks with the United States after it refused to release their colleagues from Guantanamo Bay.
8) New Apartments Will Complicate Jerusalem Issue
Jodi Rudoren, New York Times, March 16, 2013
Jerusalem - The Muslim call to prayer resounds through the traffic circle in the Palestinian enclave of Ras al-Amud, through the taxi stand where waiting drivers sip sweet coffee and the vegetable market where boys help their fathers after school. It can also be heard down the street in Maalot David, where a few Jewish families have quietly taken up residence in newly renovated apartments with prime views of Jerusalem's Old City.
Maalot David is not a typical Israeli settlement, a planned community in the hills, surrounded by gates and guards, where Jews live separate and apart from nearby Palestinian villages. It is a new apartment block sandwiched into the very fabric of Arab East Jerusalem, a construction many say fundamentally undermines the idea that the area could ever serve as the capital of a Palestinian state.
Israel's building of Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and West Bank territories seized during the 1967 war has been a longstanding friction point between Jerusalem and Washington.
With President Obama scheduled to visit this week, the government has postponed action on several East Jerusalem projects, to make sure there are no awkward events like when Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. arrived in 2010 and was greeted by an announcement of 1,600 new units.
Those more traditional, government-financed settlements may be delayed, but The Jerusalem Post has for weeks been running advertisements promoting Maalot David and another new apartment block, Beit Orot - both privately owned and developed - as a "dream come true" for their proximity to the Old City and the 3,000-year-old Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives.
While most experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have long imagined Jerusalem as ultimately being divided, with Jewish neighborhoods remaining part of Israel and Arab ones joining Palestine, these new buildings make such a plan more complicated if not impossible - which may be exactly the point.
"The world is talking about dividing Jerusalem - it's in many ways churning water," said Daniel Luria, executive director of Ateret Cohanim, an organization that is not involved in these two projects but that has led many other efforts to establish Jewish beachheads in the area. "What has happened since 1967 in the Old City and around the Old City has made any discussion of dividing Jerusalem the way the Arabs see it irrelevant, because on the ground it ain't going to happen."
Palestinian leaders say that Maalot David and Beit Orot are part of an insidious ring of Israeli activity around the so-called Holy Basin of sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, which includes a vast national park and a planned military academy.
"It is all part of the plan, part of the scheme, to undermine the two-state solution and East Jerusalem being the capital," said Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, on Thursday during a tour for foreign diplomats intended to highlight the issue ahead of Mr. Obama's visit.
On a similar outing last month, the Palestinian Authority's governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Husseini, declared, "This phase of colonization is very dangerous, because it disintegrates inside the Palestinian neighborhoods - now they want to disfigure the core itself."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and most of the leaders in his new coalition, as well as the mayor of Jerusalem, have steadfastly maintained Israel's right to build anywhere in the city, though its 1967 annexation of the Arab areas has not gained international acceptance.
Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer and settlement opponent who documents Israeli building in East Jerusalem, estimates there are 196,000 Jews living in such areas. The vast majority are in large, established neighborhoods like French Hill, near Hebrew University, or Har Homa, at the city's southern edge, and are not seen by most Israelis as settlers.
9) A Worsening Haitian Tragedy
Editorial, New York Times, March 17, 2013
The aid group Doctors Without Borders said last Tuesday that the cholera crisis in Haiti was getting worse, for the most unnecessary and appalling of reasons: a lack of money and basic medical supplies.
The disease has killed 8,000 people and sickened 649,000 since October 2010. International efforts to defeat the epidemic include a 10-year, $2.2 billion plan for major investments in clean water, sanitation and medical infrastructure. But that is a project for the future, one that isn't even funded yet. Doctors Without Borders says people are dying now, needlessly, because attention and money are running out. Aid groups are leaving. Staff members at some treatment centers haven't been paid in months, equipment is wearing out, and sanitary precautions are being abandoned. The death rate has reached an intolerably high 4 percent in some places, the group said. And the rainy season is about to make things much more difficult.
The dreadful backdrop to this emergency is an abdication of responsibility by organizations that have pledged to help Haiti, particularly the United Nations. The U.N. said last month that it would not pay financial compensation for the epidemic's victims, claiming immunity. This is despite overwhelming evidence that the U.N. introduced the disease, which was unknown in Haiti until it suddenly appeared near a base where U.N. peacekeepers had let sewage spill into a river.
Though the U.N. has done much good in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake, its handling of cholera is looking like a fiasco. While it insists that it has no legal liability for cholera victims, it must not duck its moral obligations. That means mobilizing doctors and money to save lives now, and making sure the eradication plan gets all the money and support it needs.
Its record so far is dubious. A U.N. appeal last year for $24 million for cholera programs ended the year only 32 percent financed, and in December, the U.N. said it would contribute $23.5 million to the new 10-year plan - about 1 percent of what is needed.
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