JFP News, 6/2: Newsweek's Zakaria Supports International Uranium Enrichment in Iran
Just Foreign Policy News
June 2, 2009
In Cairo, Obama Can Win With Changed U.S. Policies Towards Palestine and Iran
President Obama has the opportunity to make history in Cairo on Thursday, the kind of history Eisenhower made when he rebuked the 1956 invasion of Egypt by Britain, France and Israel. Eisenhower's stand won tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab world. If Obama stands firm on his policy differences with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, he can win tremendous goodwill for the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world. If Obama highlights his strong opposition to Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, his support for Palestinian statehood in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, his sustained diplomatic engagement with Iran, and his willingness to work with whoever wins the upcoming Lebanese and Iranian elections, he can change perceptions of the United States in the region.
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1) Iran wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program, argues Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek. The Iranians insist they must be able to enrich uranium on their own soil, he notes. Zakaria argues that the U.S. should consider supporting an international consortium to control enrichment in Iran, noting that it would effectively mean a permanent inspections regime in Iran. [Iran has formally indicated its willingness to negotiate on such a proposal; former US Ambassador Tom Pickering explains his proposal here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGZFrFxVg8A.]
2) Top House and Senate Democrats reached a tentative agreement on an almost $100 billion war funding bill Monday, including new money for the IMF, AP reports. [AP notes the CBO estimate of $5 billion for the actual cost of a $100 billion loan to the IMF, but CEPR estimates the cost to the U.S. Treasury would be in the range of $16.6 to $26.3 billion. See "Estimating the Cost of Contributions to the IMF," http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/estimating-the-cost-of-contributions-to-the-imf/ - JFP.] The IMF funding is sure to whip up opposition from conservative House Republicans and introduces at least some doubt about the final vote in the House since about 50 liberal Democrats oppose the war funding measure, AP says.
3) During his confirmation hearings for his current position, lawmakers probed Gen. McChrystal's knowledge of alleged abuse of detainees by Special Operations task force members in Iraq, the Washington Post reports. A former Senate staff member said investigators were unable to find anything conclusive about McChrystal's knowledge.
4) President Obama told NPR he will continue to push the Israeli government to accept an independent Palestinian state, the Washington Post reports. Obama called the status quo "unsustainable."
5) Complaints that Voice of America interviewed a top Pakistani Taliban leader have sparked an investigation into VOA's Pashto language service, the Washington Times reports. The probe was spurred by concerns first raised by Rep. Mark Kirk. VOA Director Danforth Austin said Deewa Radio was simply seeking to report the news in a way that was credible to listeners from the same ethnic Pashtun group as the Taliban. The professional staff of VOA consider the operation akin to the BBC and other Western news outlets, Austin said. Hence, the correspondents from time to time interview Taliban leaders in the process of covering news.
6) As civilians continue to flee the US-encouraged Pakistani government offensive, aid groups and government officials are concerned communities hosting the refugees could become destabilized as they run out of money and resources trying to help their guests, the Washington Post reports. "The local infrastructure just can't cope," said Graham Strong of World Vision. "People are selling their assets just to continue hosting." A U.N. appeal for $543 million in international assistance has elicited a sluggish response.
7) The International Crisis Group publishes a briefing on US-Iran engagement, based on interviews in Iran. Their findings include: Iran will regard U.S. handling of the nuclear file as a litmus test, and its red line is the right to enrich on its soil; anything less will be viewed as unacceptable. Sanctions are taking their toll, but this is highly unlikely to produce meaningful policy shifts; Iran's decision-making on core strategic issues is only marginally affected by economic considerations.
8) The State Department has sent a cable to its embassies and consulates around the world notifying them that "they may invite representatives from the government of Iran" to their July 4 celebrations, the New York Times reports. Iran's diplomats have not been formally invited to American events since 1979. An official said the ban no longer made sense, when the US was actively engaging with Iranian officials elsewhere. [This is consistent with the policy of authorizing routine contact with Iranian diplomats - JFP.]
9) US officials say Obama reversed his decision to release detainee abuse photos from Iraq and Afghanistan after Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki warned Iraq would erupt into violence, McClatchy reports. Iraq is scheduled to hold a referendum by July 30 on the security accord which calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. If the accord were rejected, the U.S. would have to withdraw from Iraq within a year of the vote or by the summer of 2010.
10) John Prendergast told U.S. Senators on May 13 that Congo would only have a chance at peace when something is done about the conflict-inducing mineral demands of North America, Asia and Europe, Womensenews reports. Prendergast asked senators to support the Congo Conflict Minerals Act, introduced by Sens. Brownback, Durbin and Feingold. The bill would require companies trading minerals with Congo or neighboring states to disclose mine locations and monitor the financing of armed groups in eastern Congo's mineral-rich areas. UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of girls have been raped in the last decade in the two eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.
11) OAS Secretary General Insulza said the Colombian internal conflict should move towards a negotiated political solution, and offered to contribute to the peace efforts, Mercopress reports. "As has happened with all armed conflicts in Latinamerica, there should also be a political, negotiated understanding in Colombia", said Insulza on the eve of the OAS Foreign Affairs ministers summit.
1) They May Not Want The Bomb
And other unexpected truths.
Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, June 1, 2009
Everything you know about Iran is wrong, or at least more complicated than you think. Take the bomb. The regime wants to be a nuclear power but could well be happy with a peaceful civilian program (which could make the challenge it poses more complex). What's the evidence? Well, over the last five years, senior Iranian officials at every level have repeatedly asserted that they do not intend to build nuclear weapons. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has quoted the regime's founding father, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who asserted that such weapons were "un-Islamic." The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa in 2004 describing the use of nuclear weapons as immoral. In a subsequent sermon, he declared that "developing, producing or stockpiling nuclear weapons is forbidden under Islam." Last year Khamenei reiterated all these points after meeting with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei. Now, of course, they could all be lying. But it seems odd for a regime that derives its legitimacy from its fidelity to Islam to declare constantly that these weapons are un-Islamic if it intends to develop them. It would be far shrewder to stop reminding people of Khomeini's statements and stop issuing new fatwas against nukes.
Following a civilian nuclear strategy has big benefits. The country would remain within international law, simply asserting its rights under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position that has much support across the world. That would make comprehensive sanctions against Iran impossible. And if Tehran's aim is to expand its regional influence, it doesn't need a bomb to do so. Simply having a clear "breakout" capacity - the ability to weaponize within a few monthsr - would allow it to operate with much greater latitude and impunity in the Middle East and Central Asia.
Iran might be ready to deal. We can't know if a deal is possible since we've never tried to negotiate one, not directly. While the regime appears united in its belief that Iran has the right to a civilian nuclear program - a position with broad popular support - some leaders seem sensitive to the costs of the current approach. It is conceivable that these "moderates" would appreciate the potential benefits of limiting their nuclear program, including trade, technology and recognition by the United States. The Iranians insist they must be able to enrich uranium on their own soil. One proposal is for this to take place in Iran but only under the control of an international consortium. It's not a perfect solution because the Iranians could - if they were very creative and dedicated - cheat. But neither is it perfect from the Iranian point of view because it would effectively mean a permanent inspections regime in their country. But both sides might get enough of what they consider crucial for it to work. Why not try this before launching the next Mideast war?
2) AP source: Tentative deal struck for funding war
Andrew Taylor, Associated Press, Mon Jun 1, 9:19 pm ET
Top House and Senate Democrats reached a tentative agreement on an almost $100 billion war funding bill Monday, including a generous new line of credit for the International Monetary Fund.
At the core of the measure is President Barack Obama's war funding request, which included $76 billion for Pentagon operations. But the IMF funding is a top priority of Obama, who pledged the $100 billion line of credit at April's G-20 summit in London to help developing countries deal with the troubled global economy.
The actual U.S. costs for the IMF contribution are far less - $5 billion is the Congressional Budget Office estimate - since the U.S. government is given interest-bearing assets in return. [This is almost surely an underestimate: CEPR estimates the cost to the U.S. Treasury would be in the range of $16.6 to $26.3 billion. See "Estimating the Cost of Contributions to the IMF," http://www.cepr.net/index.php/publications/reports/estimating-the-cost-of-contributions-to-the-imf/ - JFP.]
The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill last month. The official IMF request came too late for the House to act on it, but Obey said he opposed the money anyway despite a long history of supporting prior U.S. infusions to the fund. He said western European countries such as Germany should enact economic stimulus measures.
The IMF funding is sure to whip up opposition from conservative House Republicans and introduces at least some doubt about the final vote in the House since about 50 liberal Democrats oppose the war funding measure.
"Controversial, non-defense related issues - such as billions in IMF funding - should not be part of the final conference report," said Rep. Jerry Lewis of California, top Republican on the House Appropriations Committee.
Other details of the agreement between House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., and his Senate counterpart, Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, remain sketchy. The agreement was discussed briefly during a conference call of House Democratic leaders, a senior House Democratic aide said. The aide requested anonymity because the details were not yet released.
3) McChrystal To Face Questions On Plans For Afghanistan
Karen DeYoung and Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal will appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee today to answer questions about the future - including his plans for reshaping U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan - and a past marked by both acclaim and controversy.
McChrystal, who serves as director of the Pentagon's Joint Staff, led the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) from 2003 until last year, overseeing the military's elite counterinsurgency units in their search for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders. Although most of the command's activities remain cloaked in secrecy, JSOC forces were publicly praised by President George W. Bush in 2006 for tracking down and killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq.
At the time of McChrystal's nomination for the Afghanistan command, Gates praised his "unique skill set in counterinsurgency," and his appointment marks what Gates has outlined as a shift away from conventional military doctrine toward counterinsurgency tactics.
Although the committee's concentration in questioning McChrystal will focus largely on the new Afghanistan strategy, Senate aides said members are likely to raise questions about his earlier command of JSOC in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During his confirmation hearings for his current position, lawmakers probed McChrystal's knowledge of alleged abuse of detainees by Special Operations task force members at a secret facility in Iraq known as Camp Nama and at other locations. According to a report released this spring by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), the Special Operations task force preparing to go to Iraq in February 2003 obtained a copy of interrogation procedures approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald M. Rumsfeld for Afghanistan - where McChrystal had served as head of military operations between 2001 and 2003 - and "adopted [the procedures] verbatim."
The procedures included stress positions, sleep deprivation and use of dogs and were the rule until October 2003. In May 2003, CIA general counsel Scott W. Muller told Pentagon general counsel William J. Haynes II that techniques used by the Special Operations unit interrogating detainees in Iraq were "more aggressive" than those used by the CIA on the same prisoners, according to Levin.
"There were concerns," said one former Senate staff member familiar with last year's McChrystal confirmation, adding that the committee "looked very closely at what he might have known about abuses that were occurring." In the end, however, investigators were unable to find anything conclusive about McChrystal's knowledge. "There was no trail leading back to him, but you couldn't tell whether he knew something or not," the former staff member said.
Ultimately, such concerns were overridden because McChrystal had an outstanding military record and was viewed as highly professional. "We felt confident he was not willy-nilly running around getting caught up in advocating these tactics" as some other officers had, the staff member said.
4) Obama: US Must Be More "Honest" with Israel
Michael D. Shear, Washington Post, June 1, 2009
On the eve of his trip to the Middle East, President Obama promised today a dose of tough love for a new Israeli government that has signaled significant disagreement with his administration's policy for the region.
Obama described the U.S.-Israeli relationship as a special one in which Americans are "deeply sympathetic" toward what he called a "stalwart ally," but he made it clear that he will continue to push the country's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, toward acceptance of a Palestinian state.
"Part of being a good friend is being honest," Obama told National Public Radio in an interview taped this afternoon. "And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that's part of a new dialogue that I'd like to see encouraged in the region."
Obama called the status quo "unsustainable when it comes to Israeli security," and he promised to use his trip to make clear that the United States will follow through on its commitment to peace in the region.
"It is important for us to be clear about what we believe will lead to peace," Obama said. "That there is not equivocation and there is not a sense that we expect only compromise on one side. It's going to have to be two-sided."
The president plans a speech in Cairo this week with which he intends to reach out to Muslims and the Arab world. In the interview, he said he plans to project "what our ideals are," but said the United States will not lecture other nations when they fall short on human rights and democracy.
5) Voice Of Taliban On VOA Probed
Eli Lake, Washington Times, Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Complaints that the U.S. government's Voice of America (VOA) interviewed a top Pakistani Taliban leader have sparked an investigation into VOA's Pashto language service to determine if it has allowed itself to become a platform for terrorist propaganda.
In a letter obtained by The Washington Times, the State Department's acting inspector general, Harold Geisel, said his office will conduct a review "to determine the effectiveness of their broadcast and editorial practices and policies." The service broadcasts into the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region that serves as a refuge for al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The probe was spurred by concerns first raised by Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, an Illinois Republican who in the past had championed the Pashto-language service known as Deewa Radio. Mr. Kirk said he became concerned that American taxpayers were providing the Taliban a megaphone after he learned that Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud had been interviewed by the service - and claimed responsibility for terrorist bombings in the Pakistani city of Lahore in March.
VOA Director Danforth Austin said Deewa Radio was simply seeking to report the news in a way that was credible to listeners from the same ethnic Pashtun group as the Taliban.
He told The Times that the Taliban has threatened the families of his reporters and broadcasters and declared Deewa Radio "haram" - forbidden by Islamic law. "We wouldn't be threatened by the Taliban if we weren't showing them up for what they were and in a way that is credible," Mr. Austin said.
The investigation of VOA's Pashto service is another example of the long-standing tension about the role of American-funded broadcasting.
The professional staff of VOA consider the operation akin to the British Broadcasting Corp. and other Western news outlets, Mr. Austin said. Hence, the correspondents from time to time interview Taliban leaders in the process of covering news from the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan and Pashtun areas in neighboring Afghanistan.
Deewa Radio broadcasts 6 hours a day between 6 p.m. and midnight. The mix of programming on the VOA station ranges from political call-in shows, news digests and poetry, a popular oral tradition among the Pashtun.
The Pashto service is overseen by Spozhmai Maiwandi, VOA division director for South Asia. Ms. Maiwandi helped get an interview with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. That interview, broadcast by VOA's English language service, sparked controversy and calls from some lawmakers for the VOA leadership to scrutinize more closely the Pashto service.
Ms. Maiwandi defended her decision, noting that she asked Mullah Omar at the time whether he was willing to let all Afghans suffer by continuing to harbor al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. "That is VOA's job," she said. "We are here to give the news. We are here to give balanced, accurate, objective news. It is the only way to get credibility."
Mr. Austin said that Deewa Radio should not be confused with what the military calls psychological operations or strategic communications. "I was in Army Psyops in the Vietnam War," he said. "I have some idea of what those capabilities are. But that is not VOA's job. We believe that by being credible we can have an impact on our audiences."
6) Pakistani Villagers Come To The Aid Of Refugees
But Pashtun Code Of Hospitality Also Strains Resources
Griff Witte, Washington Post, Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Madhey Baba, Pakistan - When Khalil ul-Rahman's houseguests arrived in this northwestern Pakistani village, they brought with them the clothes on their backs, two cows and little else.
That was a month ago. Since then, Rahman, a 43-year-old donkey-cart driver, has been solely responsible for sheltering and feeding the 22 distant relatives who have chosen his home as their haven from the fighting that rages between the army and the Taliban in their native district of Dir.
"Yes, it's a burden," said Rahman, who earns a little more than $50 a month hauling crates of produce and bundles of wood. "But they came to my home. There was no other option. As a Pashtun, I couldn't say no."
Approximately 3 million people have fled the fighting in Dir, Buner and the Swat Valley over the past month, marking the largest migration in Pakistan since the country's partition from India in 1947. With room for only a small fraction of them in government-run camps, the vast majority have had to turn to charities or private individuals.
Because of the culture of extreme hospitality that prevails here, few have lacked for a place to stay. Pashtuns, who predominate in Pakistan's northwest, live by an ancient, unwritten honor code known as Pashtunwali, which dictates that a host must provide shelter, food and water for his guests, no matter how many there are or how long they stay.
In many ways, Pashtunwali has been the refugees' salvation. But it has also become a curse for their hosts, who are silently buckling under the strain.
As civilians continue to flee the scenes of the fighting, aid groups and government officials are concerned that the host communities could also become destabilized as they run out of money and resources trying to help their guests.
"We're basically seeing host community populations more than double in some of these areas. The local infrastructure just can't cope," said Graham Strong, country director for World Vision, an international aid group trying to alleviate the strain.
The areas where the displaced families have congregated are generally poor and rural, with families needing robust wheat and tobacco harvests just to get by. Now, some are giving up their animals or their land to avoid committing what would be, under Pashtunwali, a grave offense. "It's extremely shameful for host families or communities to start asking people to leave," Strong added. "So people are selling their assets just to continue hosting."
That could create an opening for the Taliban, which already has a nascent presence in this area and tends to do best in areas where economic conditions are worst.
Khalid Khan Umerzai, commissioner for Mardan and Swabi, two districts where displaced families nearly outnumber residents, said the tide of refugees has forced authorities to shutter schools so they can be turned into makeshift camps. It has pushed hospitals to the breaking point, as refugees demand care for diarrhea-stricken children and elderly parents whose hearts failed on their arduous journeys.
Already, the fighting in Swat, Buner and Dir has come with a heavy price for civilians. Analysts say that unless the government does a better job meeting the needs of displaced families and their hosts, it may be creating a new generation of militants.
Cash-strapped government agencies, working with aid groups, have been able to provide camps for only about 200,000 of the roughly 3 million refugees, according to government figures. A U.N. appeal for $543 million in international assistance, meanwhile, has elicited a sluggish response.
7) U.S.-Iranian Engagement: The View from Tehran
International Crisis Group, 2 June 2009
For perhaps the first time since Iran and the U.S. broke ties in 1980, there are real prospects for fundamental change. The new U.S. president, Barack Obama, stated willingness to talk unconditionally. Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, implicitly blessed dialogue, and presidential candidates are vying to prove they would be the most effective interlocutor. Yet, while U.S. objectives and tactics are relatively familiar, little is known of Iran's thinking, even as much is assumed. Western interaction with its opaque political system and decision-making has both shrivelled and been narrowly focused on the nuclear file. Understanding Iran's perspective is critical if engagement is to succeed. This briefing, based on meetings with officials and analysts, seeks to shed light on what Tehran thinks about dialogue, its goals and visions of a future relationship. It concludes that while full normalisation might be out of reach for now, there is a chance to achieve a more realistic objective: the start of a long-term dialogue that minimises risks of confrontation and advances areas of mutual interest.
That said, during the course of several weeks of interviews in Tehran, Crisis Group found remarkable consistency of views regarding how the regime contemplates renewed dialogue, what it fears and how far it believes an improved relationship can go.
- Tehran's most oft-repeated demand also is its most abstract and thus the most readily (albeit misguidedly) dismissed: that the U.S. change the way it sees and treats Iran, its regional role and aspirations. It is central to the thinking of a leadership convinced that Washington has variously sought to topple, weaken or contain it. It has practical implications: insistence that the U.S. forsake any effort to change Iran's regime; respect for its territorial integrity; and acknowledgment of the necessity and legitimacy of its regional role.
- Tehran will be highly suspicious of an approach imposing preliminary "tests" - progress on the nuclear file; cooperation in Iraq and Afghanistan - rather than first seeking to redefine the relationship and its parameters as a whole. A policy predicated on marrying engagement with pressure - while understandable from a U.S. perspective - risks triggering a negative Iranian reaction. U.S. officials present diplomatic efforts to build an Arab-Israeli coalition against Iran or forge an international alliance willing to tighten sanctions as creating leverage needed for successful negotiations. Iranians perceive them as a disingenuous ploy to produce a broad consensus for toughened containment measures under the expectation negotiations will fail.
-Tehran will regard U.S. handling of the nuclear file as a litmus test. Its red line is the right to enrich on its soil; anything less will be viewed as unacceptable.
-Officials contemplate dialogue occurring against the backdrop of enduring regional rivalry, particularly regarding Israel. Iran at this point does not intend to stop backing Hamas or Hizbollah or opposing Israel. Its conception of a future U.S. relationship comprises three distinct levels: wide-ranging dialogue covering both bilateral and regional issues; targeted cooperation on specific regional files, especially Iraq and Afghanistan; and the persistent reality of deep-seated differences and an overall strategic competition.
- Sanctions are taking their toll, and Iran faces a serious economic predicament. But this is highly unlikely to produce meaningful policy shifts. Iran's decision-making on core strategic issues is only marginally affected by economic considerations.
8) A New Iran Overture, With Hot Dogs
Mark Landler, New York Times, June 2, 2009
San Salvador - Having sent the Iranian people a video greeting on their New Year, President Obama is now inviting them to help celebrate a quintessentially American holiday, the Fourth of July.
Last Friday, the State Department sent a cable to its embassies and consulates around the world notifying them that "they may invite representatives from the government of Iran" to their Independence Day celebrations - annual receptions that typically feature hot dogs, red-white-and-blue bunting and some perfunctory remarks about the founding fathers.
Administration officials characterized the move as another in a series of American overtures to Iran. The United States has not had relations with Iran since the American Embassy in Tehran was seized by protesters in 1979; the country's diplomats have not been formally invited to American events since then.
"It is another way of saying we are not putting barriers in the way of communicating," said one administration official. "It is another way of signaling that there is an opportunity that should not be wasted."
A second official said the ban no longer made sense, at a time when the United States was actively engaging with Iranian officials elsewhere. In March, the administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, chatted with Iran's deputy foreign minister, Mohammad Mehdi Akhondzadeh, at a conference in The Hague.
9) Why'd Obama Switch on Detainee Photos? Maliki Went Ballistic
Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers, Jun. 01, 2009
President Barack Obama reversed his decision to release detainee abuse photos from Iraq and Afghanistan after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki warned that Iraq would erupt into violence and that Iraqis would demand that U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq a year earlier than planned, two U.S. military officers, a senior defense official and a State Department official have told McClatchy.
In the days leading up to a May 28 deadline to release the photos in response to an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit, U.S. officials, led by Christopher Hill, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told Maliki that the administration was preparing to release photos of suspected detainee abuse taken from 2003 to 2006.
When U.S. officials told Maliki, "he went pale in the face," said a U.S. military official, who along with others requested anonymity because of the matter's sensitivity.
The official said Maliki warned that releasing the photos would lead to more violence that could delay the scheduled U.S. withdrawal from cities by June 30 and that Iraqis wouldn't make a distinction between old and new photos. The public outrage and increase in violence could lead Iraqis to demand a referendum on the security agreement and refuse to permit U.S. forces to stay until the end of 2011.
Maliki said, "Baghdad will burn" if the photos are released, said a second U.S. military official.
A U.S. official who's knowledgeable about the photographs told McClatchy that at least two of them depict nudity; one is of a woman suggestively holding a broomstick; one shows a detainee with bruises but offered no explanation how he got them; and another is of hooded detainees with weapons pointed at their heads.
Iraq is scheduled to hold a referendum by July 30 on the accord, which calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011. If the accord were rejected, the U.S. would have to withdraw from Iraq within a year of the vote or by the summer of 2010.
10) Rape Crisis in Congo Tied to Mining Activity
The acute crisis of sexual violence in eastern Congo is being tied to illegal mining interests in the region, which help finance the warring and competing factions that are perpetrating a worsening rape epidemic.
Activists concerned by this year's escalation of sexual violence in eastern Congo are trying to turn up the heat on those benefitting-directly or indirectly-from illicit mineral extractions.
"Conflict minerals power our entire electronic industry," John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, told U.S. senators at a May 13 hearing on sexual violence in eastern Congo and Sudan. The Enough Project is a Washington-based organization campaigning against genocide and crimes against humanity, including rape in eastern Congo.
Prendergast said that Congo would only have a chance at peace when something is done about the conflict-inducing demands of North America, Asia and Europe.
Together with UNICEF, Eve Ensler, author of "The Vagina Monologues," and V-Day launched an international awareness raising campaign-Stop Raping Our Greatest Resource: Power to Women and Girls in the DRC-in 2007 to end sexual violence in eastern Congo. UNICEF estimates that hundreds of thousands of girls have been raped in the last decade in the two eastern provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu.
Prendergast asked senators to support the Congo Conflict Minerals Act, which was introduced by Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold in April of this year.
The bill aims to break the link between resource exploitation and armed conflict in eastern Congo by requiring companies trading minerals with Congo or neighboring states to disclose mine locations and monitor the financing of armed groups in eastern Congo's mineral-rich areas. "The sooner the illicit conflict minerals trade is eliminated, the sooner the people of Congo will benefit from their own resources," said Prendergrast.
U.S. consumers, Prendergrast said, can also help by pressuring major electronic companies-from Apple to Sony-to certify that cell phones, computers and other products contain "conflict-free minerals," a campaign tactic popularized by the Sierra Leone-based film "Blood Diamonds."
11) OAS calls for a political solution to Colombian internal conflict
Mercopress, Monday, June 1st 2009
The Organization of American States Secretary General said the Colombian internal conflict should move towards a negotiated political solution, and offered to contribute to the peace efforts.
"As has happened with all armed conflicts in Latinamerica, there should also be a political, negotiated understanding in Colombia", said Jose Miguel Insulza during a meeting in Honduras on the eve of the OAS Foreign Affairs ministers summit which officially begins Tuesday.
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