JFP 8/16: "Time to cut Egypt loose"; take action on East Jerusalem evictions
Just Foreign Policy News, August 16, 2013
"Time to cut Egypt loose"; take action on East Jerusalem evictions
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
**Action: A Story Your Reps Should Hear: House Evictions in Sheikh Jarrah
Families in Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian village in East Jerusalem, are being evicted from their homes and replaced by Jewish settlers. The al Kurd family lost half of its home to an Israeli settler family in 2008—and is currently under threat of being evicted from the rest.
There is a powerful, twenty-five minute documentary online detailing the al Kurd family's struggle to prevent a complete eviction and reclaim the other half of its home.
Urge your reps in Washington to watch this documentary and take action.
RT Video: Saudi prince defects: 'Brutality, oppression as govt scared of Arab revolts'
Saudi Prince Khaled Bin Farhan Al-Saud, confirmed reports of increased prosecution of anti-government activists and said that it's exactly what forced him to defect from his family. He accused the monarchy of corruption and silencing all voices of dissent.
1) With blood in Egypt's streets and a return to a state of emergency, it's time for Washington to admit that its efforts to promote democracy in Egypt have utterly failed, writes Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy. As long as Egypt remains on its current path, the Obama administration should suspend all aid, keep the embassy in Cairo closed, and refrain from treating the military regime as a legitimate government.
These steps won't matter very much in the short term, Lynch argues. Cairo has made it very clear that it doesn't care what Washington thinks and the Gulf states will happily replace whatever cash stops flowing from U.S. coffers. It won't affect Secretary of State Kerry's Israel-Palestine peace talks and the Camp David accords will be fine, too; Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi can't manage his own streets, and it's unlikely he wants to mess with Israel right now. Immediate impact isn't the point. Taking a (much belated) stand is the only way for the U.S. to regain any credibility -- with Cairo, with the region, and with its own tattered democratic rhetoric, Lynch says.
2) The leadership of the House intelligence committee is under growing pressure to explain whether it withheld surveillance information from members of Congress before a key vote to renew the Patriot Act, Spencer Ackerman reports in the Guardian. A Republican congressman and government ethics watchdogs are demanding that the powerful panel's chairman, Mike Rogers of Michigan, responds to charges that the panel's leadership failed to share a document prepared by the justice department and intelligence community. The document was created to inform non-committee members about bulk collection of Americans' phone records ahead of the vote in 2011.
"If the HPSCI leadership withheld a document, intended by the administration for release to non-committee members – a document that could have led to a different outcome when the Patriot Act was reauthorized in 2011 – this is tantamount to subversion of the democratic process," said Bea Edwards, executive director of the Government Accountability Project. "Americans have the right to know exactly who made this decision and who carried it out."
3) Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has been telling his American friends that the purported moderation of Iran's new president is a ploy aimed at relieving international pressure and buying the Islamic Republic more time to cross the nuclear threshold, writes Ron Kampeas for JTA. But some of those friends - among them some of Israel's closest allies in Washington - are saying that maybe Hassan Rohani is worth hearing out. That was the message delivered this week by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, while leading a tour of Israel for 36 fellow House Democrats. The divergence represents a rare public gap on a crucial security issue between pro-Israel lawmakers and Netanyahu, who in a succession of meetings this month with congressional delegations to Israel has lobbied hard to persuade American leaders to ignore Rohani's overtures, Kampeas writes.
The House letter urging Obama to test Rohani - spearheaded by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) - appears to have had an impact, Kampeas writes. Its signatories include 18 Republicans, most of them from the party's mainstream. Dent is on three subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. Also included were pro-Israel stalwarts Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).
4) News headlines that say "suspected militants" have been killed in U.S. drone strikes mislead the public, writes Rebecca Hellmich for FAIR. We don't know who is being killed. The deceptive way the Obama administration defines "militants" has already been well-established. But awareness of the Administration's doublespeak has not deterred reporters from using the term to describe drone casualties. Media generally refer to the victims as "militants," which essentially allows the government to define the victims of its attacks.
5) Writing at Alternet, Robert Greenwald enumerates five government and media myths of the drone strike policy: they only target high level terrorists; drones are much more accurate than other weapons; drone targets imminently threaten America; drones are cheap; drones are making Americans safer. In fact, only two percent of drone strikes have killed "high value targets"; a Center for Naval Analyses study found that drone strikes in Afghanistan were no more accurate than traditional air power; "signature strikes" target unknown people while "side-payment" strikes target other people's enemies; the actual cost of a Reaper drone is higher than some manned combat planes; anger at drone strikes has generated attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S.
6) The Israeli government plans to provide scholarships to hundreds of students at its universities in exchange for their making pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets to foreign audiences, The Independent reports. The students making the posts will not reveal online that they are funded by the Israeli government. Alon Liel, the former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, criticized the plan as "quite disgusting." "University students should be educated to think freely. When you buy the mind of a student, he becomes a puppet of the Israeli government grant," he said. "You can give a grant to do social work or teach but not to do propaganda on controversial issues for the government."
7) The U.S. should take a more flexible approach toward Iran to increase the chances of a successful resolution of the latter's nuclear program, according to a report by the International Crisis Group, writes Jim Lobe for Inter Press Service. The report called for Washington to be more forthcoming in the negotiations – by offering greater sanctions relief in exchange for Iranian concessions and describing an "end-state" that would include de facto recognition of Iran's "right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. It should also widen the scope of discussions between the West and Iran to include regional security issues, according to the report, which called on Washington to end its opposition to Iran's participation in any future international conference on Syria.
1) Enough Is Enough
It's time for Washington to cut Egypt loose.
Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy, August 14, 2013
With blood in Egypt's streets and a return to a state of emergency, it's time for Washington to stop pretending. Its efforts to maintain its lines of communication with the Egyptian military, quietly mediate the crisis, and help lay the groundwork for some new, democratic political process have utterly failed. Egypt's new military regime, and a sizable and vocal portion of the Egyptian population, have made it very clear that they just want the United States to leave it alone. For once, Washington should give them their wish. As long as Egypt remains on its current path, the Obama administration should suspend all aid, keep the embassy in Cairo closed, and refrain from treating the military regime as a legitimate government.
These steps won't matter very much in the short term. Cairo has made it very clear that it doesn't care what Washington thinks and the Gulf states will happily replace whatever cash stops flowing from U.S. coffers. Anti-American incitement will continue, along with the state of emergency, violence and polarization, the stripping away of the fig leaf of civilian government, and the disaster brewing in the Sinai. It won't affect Secretary of State John Kerry's Israel-Palestine peace talks and the Camp David accords will be fine, too; Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi can't manage his own streets, and it's unlikely he wants to mess with Israel right now.
The hard truth is that the United States has no real influence to lose right now anyway, and immediate impact isn't the point. Taking a (much belated) stand is the only way for the United States to regain any credibility -- with Cairo, with the region, and with its own tattered democratic rhetoric.
It's easy to understand Washington's ambivalence in the immediate aftermath of the July 3 coup. Nobody ever had any illusions that the military seizing power, suspending the constitution, and imprisoning President Mohamed Morsy quacked, as John McCain rather regrettably put it, like a duck. At the same time, the seemingly robust public support for the coup, longstanding uneasiness about the Muslim Brotherhood, the appointment of well-regarded technocrats to high-level government positions, and strong Gulf Cooperation Coucil support for the new regime stayed the Obama administration's hand. It seemed prudent to many in Washington to wait and see how things would play out, especially given the intense arguments of those defending what they considered popular revolution. It didn't help that neither the United States nor other outside actors knew quite what they wanted. Few particularly wanted to go to the mat for the Muslim Brotherhood or a Morsy restoration, and Washington quickly understood that this was not in the cards. But they also didn't want a return to military rule.
Washington's ambivalent position on the "coup" question also had the tactical purpose of keeping lines of diplomatic communication with both the new government and the Muslim Brotherhood. Washington tried to use its remaining leverage to encourage restraint and to broker some sort of acceptable compromise. Its low public profile made good sense given the torrent of irrational anti-American incitement sweeping Egypt's media. The Pentagon maintained constant quiet communications with General Sisi, but had little evident impact on his decisions.
Deputy Secretary of State William Burns spent nearly a week trying to bring the two sides together, including a very well-crafted effort backed by both the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to push imprisoned Muslim Brotherhood leader Khairat el-Shater towards compromise. These attempts at quiet diplomacy under extremely difficult conditions were worthwhile and well-intentioned at the time, even if undermined by conflicting signals from Kerry and self-appointed interlocuters such as Sens. McCain and Lindsey Graham.
But those justifications hold less weight now after the failure of mediation, the assault on the Brotherhood's sit-in, and the declaration of a state of emergency.
These efforts to broker a political deal were never likely to succeed at a time when local forces are fighting what they see as an existential battle for political survival. Neither the military nor the Brotherhood wanted a deal -- and no outside actor had the enough cards to play to encourage either side to make one. But the diplomacy was still worth trying. Even if Washington could not force a deal, its mediation efforts seemed to offer some alternative to violence and something to which the dwindling band of moderates on both sides could cling.
At a minimum, Washington hoped that its role would help to restrain the new Egyptian government from actions which would cause major bloodshed or efforts to eradicate the Muslim Brotherhood. Clearly, with corpses now piling up in Cairo's streets, this half-hearted presence has failed, horribly.
U.S. policy towards Egypt over the last two and a half years tried to quietly support a transition to democracy. This was the correct strategic vision. It's difficult to see any way to return to that path at this point, though. The bloody assault on the protester camps -- after repeated American opposition to such a move -- leaves President Obama little choice but to step away from the Egyptian regime. Washington should, and probably will, call for a return to an elected civilian government, a rapid end to the state of emergency, and restraint in the use of force. When that doesn't happen, it needs to suspend aid and relations until Cairo begins to take it seriously.
2) Intelligence committee urged to explain if they withheld crucial NSA document
Critics demand answers from chairman Mike Rogers after claims that committee failed to share document before key vote
Spencer Ackerman, Guardian, Wednesday 14 August 2013 10.30 EDT http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/14/nsa-intelligence-committee-under-pressure-document
Washington - The leadership of the House intelligence committee is under growing pressure to explain whether it withheld surveillance information from members of Congress before a key vote to renew the Patriot Act.
A Republican congressman and government ethics watchdogs are demanding that the powerful panel's chairman, Mike Rogers of Michigan, responds to charges that the panel's leadership failed to share a document prepared by the justice department and intelligence community.
The document was explicitly created to inform non-committee members about bulk collection of Americans' phone records ahead of the vote in 2011. Michigan Republican Justin Amash alleged that the committee kept it from non-committee members – the majority of the House.
Now Morgan Griffith, a Republican who represents Virginia's ninth district, is calling for answers. "I certainly think leadership needs to figure out what's going on. We're trying to get information so we can do our jobs as congressmen," he told the Guardian. "If we're not able to get that information, it's inappropriate."
"Obviously, this is of concern," he added.
Griffith has been been critical of the committee for blocking attempts by non-members to obtain information about classified programs. On August 4, the Guardian published a series of letters he had written to the committee requesting more details, all of which had gone unanswered.
The accusations broaden the focus of the surveillance controversy from the National Security Agency to one of the congressional committees charged with exercising oversight of it – and the panel's closeness to the NSA it is supposed to oversee.
Amash told the Guardian on Monday that he had confirmed with the House intelligence committee that the committee did not make non-committee members aware of the classified overview from 2011 of the bulk phone records collection program first revealed by the Guardian thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden. The document was expressly designed to be shared with legislators who did not serve on the panel; it appears that a corresponding document for the Senate in 2011 was made available to all senators. "Nobody I've spoken to in my legislative class remembers seeing any such document," Amash said.
Amash speculated that the House intelligence committee withheld the document in order to ensure the Patriot Act would win congressional reauthorization, as it ultimately did.
For the second consecutive day, the House intelligence committee's spokeswoman, Susan Phelan, did not respond to the Guardian's queries about the accuracy of Amash's allegation. Phelan, however, told The Hill newspaper that the committee held pre-vote briefings for all House members ahead of the Patriot vote. She did not deny Amash's claim.
Amash countered that members who attend classified briefings conducted by the panel, formally known as the House permanent select committee on intelligence or HPSCI, often receive fragmentary information.
"The presenters rarely volunteer the critically important information and it becomes a game of 20 Questions," Amash told the Guardian.
Government ethics experts accused the committee of betraying its oversight mandate.
"If the HPSCI leadership withheld a document, intended by the administration for release to non-committee members – a document that could have led to a different outcome when the Patriot Act was reauthorized in 2011 – this is tantamount to subversion of the democratic process," said Bea Edwards, the executive director of the Government Accountability Project. "Americans have the right to know exactly who made this decision and who carried it out."
"There is clearly a loss of confidence in HPSCI leadership among some House members, notably including members of the majority party," added Steve Aftergood, an intelligence and secrecy expert with the Federation of American Scientists.
"This can manifest itself in a reduction of trust and comity, and increased skepticism toward committee actions. It can be remedied, perhaps, by permitting greater allowance for dissenting views in the committee's deliberations."
Ever since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s, Congress has struck an institutional deal with the intelligence agencies: to balance the needs for protecting government secrets and informing the public, oversight is the responsibility of two committees, one in the House and one in the Senate, that conduct most of their business in secret.
Members who do not sit on the committees have little recourse but to rely on their colleagues on the secret panels to accurately inform them about complex and often controversial intelligence programs.
Yet over decades, the relationship between the intelligence committees and the intelligence agencies has become more often collegial than adversarial. When the House intelligence committee held its first public hearing into the ongoing NSA bulk collection of Americans' phone records, it titled the hearing 'How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids our Adversaries'.
The panel's chairman, Mike Rogers, is a former FBI agent. Its ranking Democrat, Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, received over $220,000 in campaign contributions during his past term from the defense and intelligence industries, according to David Kravets of Wired. Both are staunch advocates of the NSA bulk surveillance programs.
"The congressional committees charged with oversight of the intelligence community have long been captive to, and protective of, the intelligence agencies," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight.
"Many of the congressional staff, in fact, come from those agencies. This latest revelation demonstrates the harm caused by that conflict of interest. When the congressional oversight committee is more loyal to the agency it oversees than to the legislative chamber its members were elected to serve in, the public's interest is seriously compromised."
Aftergood made a similar institutional point.
"There is a deeper failure here by the intelligence oversight committees to accurately represent the range of opinions on intelligence policy," he said. "Even post-Snowden, HPSCI held one open hearing on surveillance policy with no witness providing a critical perspective. Over in the Senate, the [Senate intelligence committee] has held no open hearings on the subject.
"Meanwhile, both the House and Senate judiciary committees have held useful, interesting and informative hearings presenting diverse views on intelligence surveillance. The performance of those committees highlights the intelligence committees' lack of critical perspective."
Griffith has been critical of the NSA's bulk phone-records collection, voting for Amash's effort on July 24 to end it and calling the program akin to a "general warrant" in an interview. He conceded a difference in perspective with Rogers "on how you best protect America and our Constitutional freedoms, but I think he's a good guy," Griffith said.
Still, Griffith said, it is not the prerogative of the House intelligence committee to keep information about surveillance programs from other legislators ahead of important votes. "The constitution doesn't just say 12 members or 24 or whatever it is [on the House intelligence committee]: it says all of us have to protect the constitution," Griffith said. "It's one of our prime duties."
3) Despite Netanyahu's pleas, top House Dems open to testing Iran's new leader
Ron Kampeas, JTA, August 12, 2013 5:01pm
Washington - In increasingly strident tones, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been telling his American friends that the purported moderation of Iran's new president is a ploy aimed at relieving international pressure and buying the Islamic Republic more time to cross the nuclear threshold.
But in ways both subtle and direct, some of those friends - among them some of Israel's closest allies in Washington - are saying that maybe Hassan Rohani is worth hearing out.
That was the message delivered this week by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the second-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives, while leading a tour of Israel for 36 fellow House Democrats.
"We have a new [Iranian] president," Hoyer told JTA from Israel, where the stalwart supporter of the Jewish state was on his 13th tour as a congressman. "It makes sense for the [Obama] administration to test the sincerity, willingness and ability of the new president to accomplish the objective of assuring the West and Israel and the U.N. what the Iranians are not doing, and will reverse what they already have done, toward a nuclear capability."
The divergence represents a rare public gap on a crucial security issue between pro-Israel lawmakers and Netanyahu, who in a succession of meetings this month with congressional delegations to Israel has lobbied hard to persuade American leaders to ignore Rohani's overtures.
In his first news conference as president, Rohani said Iran wants to improve its relations with the United States and intimated he was prepared to increase transparency of his country's nuclear program, which he insists is peaceful but which Western intelligence agencies believe is aimed at producing weapons.
Iran "will defend its people's rights and at the same time will remove the concerns of the other party," Rohani said. "If we feel that the Americans are truly serious about resolving problems, Iran is serious in its will to resolve problems and dismiss worries."
Netanyahu dismisses such talk as a sham, but the Democratic leadership in the House doesn't appear to agree.
An official in the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the minority leader, said her thinking on Iran was consistent with Hoyer's, pointing to a floor speech July 31 when she joined the overwhelming majority of the House in voting to stiffen sanctions against Iran.
Though she backed new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, Pelosi also welcomed Rohani's openness to talks aimed at ending the nuclear standoff.
Nevertheless, the letter urging Obama to test Rohani - spearheaded by Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) - appears to have had an impact. Its signatories include 18 Republicans, most of them from the party's mainstream. Dent is on three subcommittees of the Appropriations Committee. Also included were pro-Israel stalwarts Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.).
The following week, J Street and Americans for Peace Now urged senators to join a similar letter to Obama initiated by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The letter has yet to be sent - a sign that Feinstein may be having a hard time finding signatories. [A better explanation: Feinstein didn't want release of her to be swamped by the AIPAC letter referred to in the next paragraph, so decided to hold it over the recess - JFP]
A separate and tougher letter to Obama backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and initiated by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, garnered 76 signers. The Menendez letter, sent Aug. 2, emphasized intensified sanctions and urged that Iran be threatened with military engagement.
But in a sign of how the "test Rohani" message is gaining traction, the AIPAC-backed letter notes Rohani's offer to engage and counsels "a sincere demonstration of openness to negotiations."
Obama appears to have embraced the message, although in carefully restrained tones. After Rohani's inauguration, the White House issued a statement praising Iranian voters, not Rohani. It was issued by the White House, not by Obama.
"The inauguration of President Rohani presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over Iran's nuclear program," the statement said. "Should this new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States."
4) Who Dies in Yemen Drone Strikes?
Rebecca Hellmich, FAIR, August 12, 2013
A headline is sometimes worth a thousand words, and this was definitely the case after a deadly drone strike occurred in Yemen last week.
"Drone Strike Kills Six Suspected Militants in Yemen," a Reuters headline (8/7/13) declared. "More Suspected Al-Qaeda Militants Killed as Drone Strikes Intensify in Yemen," a CNN.com headline (8/8/13) offered. Whatever the language, one message was clear: "Suspected terrorists" or "militants" had been killed.
But with several drone strikes over the past week in Yemen, how can anyone actually know who is being killed?
The deceptive way the Obama administration defines "militants" has already been well-established–as the New York Times (5/29/12) put it, the White House policy "in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants."
But awareness of this kind of doublespeak has not deterred reporters from using the term to describe drone casualties. Media generally refer to the victims as "militants" (Salon, 5/29/12)–which essentially allows the government to define the victims of its attacks.
In many cases, though, it is unclear exactly who has been killed. Reporters often rely on government officials to characterize the victims, which is reckless; not only does the U.S. government have a deceptive definition of "militant," but the government of Yemen has been known to claim that civilians killed in U.S. drone strikes were actually combatants, as the Washington Post (12/24/12) reported.
In contrast to corporate media's acceptance of a self-serving official line, an independent outlet like Democracy Now! reported in one recent segment (8/7/13) that "officials said the dead were Al-Qaeda suspects, but witnesses who arrived at the scene found only charred bodies and the wreckage of two vehicles."
Corporate media too often serve to legitimize U.S. military actions instead of scrutinizing them. Much of the recent coverage portrayed the attacks as serving the greater purpose of foiling an Al-Qaeda plot: "An American drone delivers a deadly message to Al-Qaeda," as CBS Evening News (8/7/13) put it .
The tendency to let government officials determine who is killed in drone strikes only underscores the lack of interest t when others try to put faces to collateral damage. When Yemeni journalist Farea al-Muslimi testified before Congress about the suffering that drones had inflicted upon people in his country, it was not even considered newsworthy to mainstream media (FAIR Blog, 4/24/13).
5) 5 Myths Used to Justify Death By Drone and America's Assassination Policy
Robert Greenwald, Alternet, August 12, 2013
America's never-ending war on terrorism is almost always depicted in the mainstream media as a military and intelligence agency fight on a global battlefield. But it is also a propaganda war where the public is fed inaccuracies from Washington, especially when it comes to overseas killings by U.S. military drones.
Here are five myths perpetuated by the military and its weapons makers that seek to make Americans feel good about drones and the White House's policy of targeted assassinations.
Myth #1: They Target High Level Terrorists
Only two percent of drone strikes have killed "high value targets," former counter-terror advisor to David Patreus, David Kilcullen, notoriously remarked in a New York Times column early in the Obama presidency, where he said that 50 civilians were killed for every "high-value target" assassinated. That means that 98 percent of drone-caused deaths have been a mix of low-level militants, civilians, or another dubious Pentagon classification called "unknown militants."
This spring McClatchy and later NBC reported that 25 percent of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan have been classified as "unknown militants." So by its own admission, the CIA has no idea whom they are killing about a quarter of the time. Keep in mind that if a military-aged male is killed in a strike they are automatically presumed to be militants. The implication being, there is a huge room for error, and many of these "unknown militants" are likely civilians. In one case, the CIA classified 20-22 "unknown militants" killed. This strike actually killed around 40 civilians.
Myth #2: Drones Are Accurate
The Pentagon rhetoric touting "pin point" and "laser" accuracy of drones is baseless. Dr. Larry Lewis, a principal research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, a research group with close ties to the US military, studied the record in Afghanistan and found that drone strikes were no more accurate than traditional air power. So, after all this talk about the ability to discern enemies through surveillance, they are no more accurate traditional fly-bys. This rhetoric has allowed us to kill innocent children.
Notably, this study was done in Afghanistan, where there is ample ground and human intelligence for selecting and assessing targets, as well as people who investigate the aftermath of the strikes. But that is not the case in Pakistan and Yemen, which means that the strikes have been more deadly for civilians. The implications from this reality are cynical and cavalier: Either the information on the ground is faulty, or drone operators are okay with certain levels of civilian casualties. Regardless, drones fall far short of the hyped rhetoric coming from the Obama administration.
Myth #3: Drone Targets Imminently Threaten America
The mainstream media have played into the CIA/Administration's selective leaks about drones, especially the concept of a "kill list." This military branding conjures up a process of carefully selected enemies who pose imminent threats to the U.S. However, the reality of "signature strikes" undercuts this P.R. construction.
Never officially acknowledged by the administration, signature strikes target unknown suspected militants who display "pattern of live" behavior associated with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. What the "patterns" consist of is officially a secret. What we do know is that as soon as signature strikes were implemented there was a spike in number of drone strikes and the number people killed in strikes.
Furthermore, reporting has recently revealed that the original authorization for drone strikes in Pakistan came from now deposed President Musharraf. The only way he would approve of the strikes was if the CIA killed his enemies. These "side-payments" became a characteristic of the CIA program. Instead of focusing on enemies of the U.S., the CIA played along with Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, and its military to hit targets who posed no threat to the U.S.
Myth #4 Drones Are Cheap
Setting aside the moral, legal, and efficacy arguments about drones, the mantra from the administration, lobbyists and their lackeys in Congress has been drone's low per-unit cost of $4 million to $5 million. According to Winslow Wheeler of the Project On Government Oversight, "This is quite incorrect." He states, "The actual cost for a Reaper unit is $120.8 million in 2012 dollars." This is far above the $27.2 million dollar F-16C or the $18.8 million A-10. Seemingly, this "aura of inevitability" about investing in this new revolutionizing weapon is the military-industrial-complex at its self-serving worst.
Myth #5: Drones Are Making Americans Safer
They are not, in fact. Not only are drones effectible destabilizing a nuclear power, Pakistan, in one of the most conflict-ridden regions of the world, they are inciting waves of suicide bombers to attack Pakistan. They are also directly threatening the U.S.
In a global age connectivity there is a new phenomenon of self- radicalization. People who identify with the Muslim Diaspora are seeing their kinsmen being murdered by America in a most brutal way. The Boston Marathon bombers are only the latest example of this phenomenon. The most notorious self-radicalized terrorist was Faisal Shahzad, who, in 2010, tried to blow up New York's Times-Square. When asked about his motive, he directly cited drones .
These rebels with a cause will sadly become the norm as we push and provoke more of the world's 1.3-1.4 billion Muslims into the political fringes where American violence begets more violence.
6) Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Ben Lynfield, The Independent, Tuesday 13 August 2013 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/students-offered-grants-if-they-tweet-proisraeli-propaganda-8760142.html
Jerusalem - In a campaign to improve its image abroad, the Israeli government plans to provide scholarships to hundreds of students at its seven universities in exchange for their making pro-Israel Facebook posts and tweets to foreign audiences.
The students making the posts will not reveal online that they are funded by the Israeli government, according to correspondence about the plan revealed in the Haaretz newspaper.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, which will oversee the programme, confirmed its launch and wrote that its aim was to "strengthen Israeli public diplomacy and make it fit the changes in the means of information consumption".
The government's hand is to be invisible to the foreign audiences. Daniel Seaman, the official who has been planning the effort, wrote in a letter on 5 August to a body authorising government projects that "the idea requires not making the role of the state stand out and therefore it is necessary to adhere to great involvement of the students themselves, without political linkage or affiliation".
According to the plan, students are to be organised into units at each university, with a chief co-ordinator who receives a full scholarship, three desk co-ordinators for language, graphics and research who receive lesser scholarships and students termed "activists" who will receive a "minimal scholarship".
Mr Netanyahu's aides said the main topics the units would address related to political and security issues, combating calls to boycott Israel and combating efforts to question Israel's legitimacy. The officials said the students would stress Israeli democratic values, freedom of religion and pluralism.
But Alon Liel, the doveish former director-general of the Israeli foreign ministry, criticised the plan as "quite disgusting". "University students should be educated to think freely. When you buy the mind of a student, he becomes a puppet of the Israeli government grant," he said. "You can give a grant to do social work or teach but not to do propaganda on controversial issues for the government."
7) U.S. Needs More Forthcoming Approach to Iran: Report
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, Aug 14 2013
Washington - With the inauguration of Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, the United States should take a more flexible approach toward Tehran to increase the chances of a successful resolution of the latter's nuclear programme, according to a new report by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) released Tuesday.
The report, "Great Expectations: Iran's New President and the Nuclear Talks," urged the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to take a series of measures to enhance the prospects for progress in a likely new round of negotiations between Iran and the so-called P5+1 (the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany) next month.
Specifically, the report called for Washington to engage in direct bilateral talks with Iran alongside the P5+1 and to be more forthcoming in the negotiations – by offering greater sanctions relief in exchange for Iranian concessions and describing an "end-state" that would include de facto recognition of Tehran's "right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes.
It should also widen the scope of discussions between the West and Iran to include regional security issues, according to the report, which called on Washington to end its opposition to Tehran's participation in any future international conference on Syria.
Finally, the report stressed that imposing new economic sanctions against Iran at such a delicate time is likely to prove counter-productive. "(N)ow is not the time to ramp up sanctions," the report stated. "That could well backfire, playing into the hands of those in Tehran wishing to prove that Iran's policies have no impact on the West's attitude, and thus that a more flexible position is both unwarranted and unwise."
It also noted that "heightened sanctions", such as those recently approved by a 400-20 vote in the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives, "could undermine Rouhani's domestic position even before he has a chance to test his approach."
The new report comes amidst considerable speculation here whether Rouhani, who was inaugurated just last week after pulling off a surprise first-round victory in the June elections, will prove more flexible in nuclear negotiations and, critically, could persuade Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to back him up in Iran's highly factionalised political environment.
While most U.S. officials, including Obama himself, have indicated "cautious optimism" that they can do business with Rouhani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced him as "a wolf in sheep's clothing" even before his inauguration.
The latter theme has been echoed repeatedly since Rouhani's election by lawmakers and think tanks closely associated with the Israel lobby and its most prominent flagship, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The latter has also urged Congress to quickly approve tougher sanctions – as early as next month even before the next P5+1 meeting – to increase pressure on Tehran to suspend, if not abandon its nuclear programme.
"American resolve is critical, especially in the next few months," wrote Republican Sen. Mark Kirk and Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday. "By bringing the regime to the verge of economic collapse, the U.S. can …[force] Iran to comply with all international obligations, including suspending all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities."
The two men, both of whom enjoy especially close relations with AIPAC, urged the Senate to swiftly approve the sanctions bill passed last month by the House.
Among other measures, it would impose sanctions against any foreign country or company that buys Iran's oil or that conducts business with key sectors of Iran's economy, such as its auto and petrochemical industries. It would also cut off access to most of Iran's overseas financial reserves and reduce or eliminate the president's authority to waive such sanctions.
Whether the Democrat-led Senate will do so remains unclear. The administration has indicated that it opposes new sanctions pending a new round of negotiations, but it is uncertain whether it can keep key Democrats in line in the face of a major AIPAC campaign when Congress returns from its August recess in the first days of September.
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