JFP News, 7/2: AFL-CIO Demands "Every Effort" to Restore President Zelaya
Just Foreign Policy News
July 2, 2009
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1) The AFL-CIO called on the U.S. government to "make every effort" to reinstate democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya in Honduras, the AFL-CIO reports. Three major public-sector unions in Honduras announced plans to strike in support of Zelaya's return.
2) Honduran lawmakers passed an emergency decree that limits public gatherings, the Washington Post reports. The decree allows for suspects to be detained for 24 hours and continues a nighttime curfew. Media outlets complained the coup government was ordering them not to report any news or opinion that could "incite" the public. The Inter-American Development Bank suspended aid, after a similar move by the World Bank. U.S. officials said they would hold off formally designating the Honduran military action a "coup" until OAS chief Insulza reports back to the OAS on Monday. The designation would lead to the cutoff of millions of dollars in US military and development aid.
3) US soldiers in Afghanistan will be under orders to back down when they're chasing Taliban fighters whenever they think civilians might be at risk, McClatchy reports. Instead of calling in air support or firing into civilian homes where Taliban fighters have sought refuge, commanders will be instructed to reach out to tribal elders or undertake other efforts to dislodge the fighters; or simply let them go. Earlier this year, the Afghan parliament passed a resolution condemning the US use of airstrikes.
4) If an Iraqi referendum on the security agreement with the US is held by July 30 as scheduled and the referendum is voted down, the US would be required to withdraw from Iraq within a year, reports Maya Schenwar for Truthout. US diplomats are reported to be lobbying the Iraqi government not to hold the referendum, even though it was required by the Iraqi parliament as part of passage of the agreement.
5) In an op-ed in the Washington Post, former UN Ambassador John Bolton argues that the outcome of the Iranian elections justifies an Israeli military attack on Iran. Bolton accuses the Obama Administration of being willing to countenance a "peaceful" [sic] Iranian nuclear program. He also accuses some Obama advisers of believing that Iran, if it had nuclear weapons, could be "contained."
6) U.S. Marines launched an operation in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province with the goal of driving the Taliban out of the country's major opium-producing area, McClatchy reports. A military statement announcing the offensive claimed that, unlike the past, "where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces."
7) Islamist charities are beating the United States in the competition to win allegiance by aiding two million people displaced by the fight against the Taliban, the New York Times reports.
8) Most Pakistanis now see the Pakistani Taliban as well as al Qaeda as a critical threat to the country, WorldPublicOpinion.org reports. But a large majority continues to have an unfavorable view of the US government. The US Predator drone attacks aimed at militant camps within the Pakistani border are rejected by 82 percent as unjustified.
9) The violent death toll in June among Iraqis was the highest in 11 months, the Los Angeles Times reports, suggesting this might be a harbinger of things to come. But the report also argues that one-month statistics are a poor indicator of trends. In the first six months of 2008, 4,514 Iraqis died violently; in the first half of this year, that figure fell to 1,657, the paper says.
10) Amnesty International said Israel inflicted "wanton destruction" in Gaza in attacks that often targeted civilians during its offensive in December and January, Reuters reports. Amnesty said some 1,400 Palestinians were killed, including 300 children and hundreds of innocent civilians, a figure broadly in line with those from the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza and the independent Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
11) Of the 500,000 maternal deaths that occur annually worldwide, more than half occur in Africa, Inter Press Service reports, citing the UN. On average, a woman somewhere on the planet dies in childbirth every minute. Three quarters of these deaths are preventable. From 1990 to 2005, maternal mortality declined by 26 percent in Latin America; in Asia the decline was 20 percent. In Africa, the decline was less than one percent.
1) AFL-CIO: Honduras Coup Is 'Unconscionable'
James Parks, AFL-CIO, June 30, 2009
The AFL-CIO today called on the U.S. government and the international community, particularly the Organization of American States and the United Nations, to "make every effort" to restore constitutional order in Honduras and reinstate democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a military coup Sunday.
In a statement, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney called the coup "an unconscionable attack on the fundamental rights and liberties of the Honduran people." He urged governments to condemn the coup and withhold recognition of the current government. Zelaya was ousted after pushing for a referendum on proposed changes that would allow the president to run for re-election and create new procedures for amending the constitution. "The recent internal conflict relating to the proposed constitutional referendum cannot in any way justify the extra-constitutional measures undertaken by the armed forces. These measures are a flagrant violation of the most basic democratic principles and of the rule of law."
Sweeney said eyewitness reports are coming in that thousands of people, including trade union members, were tear-gassed by the military simply for assembling to demand the return to democratic order and the reinstating of Zelaya. "We call on the United States government to also take all measures within its diplomatic powers to ensure that all Honduran civilians, and particularly trade unionists and social activists denouncing the coup, are safe and secure and will not be victimized by violence and repression."
Sweeney said the federation stands in solidarity with our sister organizations of Honduras, the national trade union centrals - the Unitary Central of Honduran Workers (CUTH), the Confederation of Honduran Workers (CTH) and the General Workers Central (CGT) - as well as with the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), representing more than 45 million workers of this hemisphere, in condemning the coup.
Meanwhile, three major public-sector unions in Honduras announced plans for a general strike today in support of Zelaya, according to CNN. "It will be an indefinite strike," Oscar Garcia, vice president of the Honduran water workers union told CNN. "We don't recognize this new government imposed by the oligarchy and we will mount our campaign of resistance until President Manuel Zelaya is restored to power."
Garcia estimated that 30,000 public-sector workers, as well as some private-sector workers and peasant farmers, might join the strike.
2) Honduras Targets Protesters With Emergency Decree
Media in Country Also Feel Pressure
William Booth and Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, Thursday, July 2, 2009
Tegucigalpa, Honduras, July 1 - The new Honduran government clamped down on street protests and news organizations Wednesday as lawmakers passed an emergency decree that limits public gatherings following the military-led coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from office.
The decree also allows for suspects to be detained for 24 hours and continues a nighttime curfew. Media outlets complained that the government was ordering them not to report any news or opinion that could "incite" the public.
A dozen former ministers from the Zelaya government remain in hiding, some hunkered down in foreign embassies, fearing arrest. News organizations here remain polarized. Journalists working for small independent media - or for those loyal to Zelaya - have reported being harassed by officials.
Before emergency measures were tightened, thousands of protesters rallied Wednesday to urge Zelaya's return. They were answered by counterdemonstrations in support of the new government. Local radio reported that several bombs were found but safely defused.
Zelaya vowed that he would come back to Honduras over the weekend, while the newly appointed interim president, Roberto Micheletti, repeated in a news conference Wednesday "that when he comes into the country, he will be arrested."
Asked whether Honduras could withstand international isolation and risk losing the foreign aid that keeps the impoverished nation running, Micheletti said, "You know that the Europeans are not going to cut the aid to our country, nor will the Americans."
But on Wednesday, the Inter-American Development Bank did suspend aid, after a similar move by the World Bank.
Honduras is finding itself increasingly isolated. France, Spain, Italy, Chile and Colombia began recalling their ambassadors Wednesday. The Pentagon suspended joint military operations with Honduras.
"What provoked an enormous indignation among Latin Americans, above all, was the military coup," said one diplomat involved in the planning at the OAS, referring to the way soldiers seized Zelaya at dawn and bundled him onto a plane bound for Costa Rica.
U.S. officials said Wednesday that they would hold off formally designating the Honduran military action a "coup" until Insulza reports back to the OAS on Monday. Such a move is significant, because it would lead to the cutoff of millions of dollars in military and development aid.
3) Troops Told To Stop Taliban Pursuit If Civilians Are At Risk
Nancy A. Youssef , McClatchy Newspapers, July 02, 2009 06:01:50 AM
Kabul - Beginning Thursday, American soldiers in Afghanistan will be under orders to back down when they're chasing Taliban fighters whenever they think that civilians might be at risk.
Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, will issue the directive as part of an effort to cut down on civilian casualties, which have enraged the Afghan government and residents. Instead of calling in air support or firing into civilian homes where Taliban fighters have sought refuge, commanders will be instructed to reach out to tribal elders or undertake other efforts to dislodge the fighters.
The order is consistent with what National Security Adviser James L. Jones told McClatchy in Washington Wednesday was President Barack Obama's concern about civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
"General McChrystal has been given instructions when he left here that, in all military operations, that we redouble our efforts to make sure that innocent loss of life is minimized, with zero being the goal," Jones said, noting that, "In one mishap you can create thousands more terrorists than you had before the mishap."
Airstrikes, which Afghans charge kill innocent people, won't be eliminated, Smith said. "Air power will be as valuable after this directive is issued as it ever was," he said.
The new order, however, will require troops to assume that civilians are present and back off when Taliban fighters escape into villagers' houses, Smith said. "The assumption must be there are civilians in those residences, and in those instances, he is asking commanders to think of other options in front of them," Smith said.
Those options might include gathering intelligence and regrouping to fight another day; reaching out to a tribal leader or encouraging villagers to help coalition forces track down Taliban forces. In some cases, it could mean letting Taliban escape.
Civilian casualties have become a major source of tension between Afghans and U.S. and other coalition forces here. Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks out frequently against coalition forces and their use of airstrikes on campaign stops as he seeks re-election, and earlier this year, the parliament passed a resolution condemning the use of airstrikes.
"One mistake is OK. But every day there is a mistake. You start to lose sympathy," said Khalid Pashtun, an Afghan-American member of parliament who represents Kandahar province, a Taliban stronghold. "Now, I am an American, and I feel this way. Imagine how the normal Afghan feels. He feels Afghan blood has become very cheap."
4) Iraq Vote Could Oust US Troops Early
Maya Schenwar, Truthout, Thursday 02 July 2009
As US combat troops retreated from Iraqi urban centers on Tuesday, signs of an incomplete withdrawal abounded. Some soldiers remained in cities, their labels changed from "combat troops" to "trainers" or "advisers," while others relocated to bases close outside city borders. However, the US-Iraq security pact approved last December requires that every single US troop withdraw from the country by December 31, 2011, and an upcoming referendum vote in Iraq may demand an even quicker deadline.
In less than a month, the Iraqi people may vote on the validity of the security pact, which permits the continuing US presence in Iraq. If Iraqis reject the pact, the US would be required to withdraw from the country within a year, speeding the deadline to July 30, 2010, unless a new deal is negotiated before then. And according to Kate Gould, legislative program assistant for foreign policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), the negotiation of a new bilateral agreement seems unlikely.
"A 'no vote' would be a resounding anti-occupation mandate from the public that would make negotiating a new agreement with the occupying government excruciatingly politically painful, so the pressure would be on the US to withdraw in one year from the popular vote," Gould said.
Although a deadline to hold the upcoming referendum - July 30 - was built into the security pact, and the Iraqi Parliament remains firmly committed to that date, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is now attempting to push back the vote. His cabinet issued a statement in June urging that the vote be delayed for six months. Maliki said a postponement would save money and time, since the referendum vote could be combined with the January parliamentary elections.
American pressure may well be behind Maliki's attempt to delay - or perhaps even cancel - the vote, according to Raed Jarrar, Iraq consultant to the American Friends Service Committee. In fact, a mid-June New York Times article notes, "American diplomats are quietly lobbying the government not to hold the referendum."
5) Time for an Israeli Strike?
John R. Bolton, Washington Post, Thursday, July 2, 2009
[Bolton was U.S. ambassador to the UN from August 2005 to December 2006.]
With Iran's hard-line mullahs and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps unmistakably back in control, Israel's decision of whether to use military force against Tehran's nuclear weapons program is more urgent than ever.
Iran's nuclear threat was never in doubt during its presidential campaign, but the post-election resistance raised the possibility of some sort of regime change. That prospect seems lost for the near future or for at least as long as it will take Iran to finalize a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.
Accordingly, with no other timely option, the already compelling logic for an Israeli strike is nearly inexorable. Israel is undoubtedly ratcheting forward its decision-making process. President Obama is almost certainly not.
He still wants "engagement" (a particularly evocative term now) with Iran's current regime. Last Thursday, the State Department confirmed that Secretary Hillary Clinton spoke to her Russian and Chinese counterparts about "getting Iran back to negotiating on some of these concerns that the international community has." This is precisely the view of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, reflected in the Group of Eight communique the next day. Sen. John Kerry thinks the recent election unpleasantness in Tehran will delay negotiations for only a few weeks.
Only those most theologically committed to negotiation still believe Iran will fully renounce its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has a "Plan B," which would allow Iran to have a "peaceful" civil nuclear power program while publicly "renouncing" the objective of nuclear weapons. Obama would define such an outcome as "success," even though in reality it would hardly be different from what Iran is doing and saying now. A "peaceful" uranium enrichment program, "peaceful" reactors such as Bushehr and "peaceful" heavy-water projects like that under construction at Arak leave Iran with an enormous breakout capability to produce nuclear weapons in very short order. And anyone who believes the Revolutionary Guard Corps will abandon its weaponization and ballistic missile programs probably believes that there was no fraud in Iran's June 12 election. See "huge credibility gap," supra.
In short, the stolen election and its tumultuous aftermath have dramatically highlighted the strategic and tactical flaws in Obama's game plan. With regime change off the table for the coming critical period in Iran's nuclear program, Israel's decision on using force is both easier and more urgent. Since there is no likelihood that diplomacy will start or finish in time, or even progress far enough to make any real difference, there is no point waiting for negotiations to play out. In fact, given the near certainty of Obama changing his definition of "success," negotiations represent an even more dangerous trap for Israel.
Those who oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons are left in the near term with only the option of targeted military force against its weapons facilities. Significantly, the uprising in Iran also makes it more likely that an effective public diplomacy campaign could be waged in the country to explain to Iranians that such an attack is directed against the regime, not against the Iranian people. This was always true, but it has become even more important to make this case emphatically, when the gulf between the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the citizens of Iran has never been clearer or wider. Military action against Iran's nuclear program and the ultimate goal of regime change can be worked together consistently.
Otherwise, be prepared for an Iran with nuclear weapons, which some, including Obama advisers, believe could be contained and deterred. That is not a hypothesis we should seek to test in the real world.
6) U.S. Marines launch offensive on Taliban in Afghan province
Nancy A. Youssef , McClatchy Newspapers, Thu, Jul. 02, 2009
Kabul, Afghanistan - U.S. Marines early Thursday launched an operation in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province with the goal of driving the Taliban out of the country's major opium-producing area.
The offensive, called Operation Khanjar, or "Strike of the Sword," includes roughly 4,000 Marines and 650 Afghan security forces.
Afghanistan, however, typically hasn't had enough troops to conduct operations such as Khanjar. The Marines are part of the additional 21,000 troops and trainers the Obama administration ordered to Afghanistan. Once all the additional forces arrive, there will be 68,000 U.S. troops and another 32,000 from NATO countries.
The Marines began the offensive in the Helmand River valley, in the southern part of the province.
"What makes Operation Khanjar different from those that have occurred before is the massive size of the force introduced, the speed at which it will insert, and the fact that where we go we will stay, and where we stay, we will hold, build and work toward transition of all security responsibilities to Afghan forces," said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the commanding general of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, said in a statement announcing the offensive.
7) In Pakistani Relief Camps, Charities Press Anti-U.S. View
Jane Perlez and Pir Zubair Shah, New York Times, July 2, 2009
Qasim Pula, Pakistan - Islamist charities and the United States are competing for the allegiance of the two million people displaced by the fight against the Taliban in Swat and other parts of Pakistan - and so far, the Islamists are in the lead.
Although the United States is the largest contributor to a United Nations relief effort, Pakistani authorities have refused to allow American officials or planes to deliver the aid in the camps for displaced people. The Pakistanis do not want to be associated with their unpopular ally.
Meanwhile, in the absence of effective aid from the government, hard-line Islamist charities are using the refugee crisis to push their anti-Western agenda and to sour public opinion against the war and America.
Last week, a crowd of men, the heads of households uprooted from Swat, gathered in this village in northwestern Pakistan for handouts for their desperate families. But before they could even get a can of cooking oil, the aid director for a staunchly anti-Western Islamic charity took full advantage of having a captive audience, exhorting the men to jihad.
"The Western organizations have spent millions and billions on family planning to destroy the Muslim family system," said the aid director, Mehmood ul-Hassan, who represented Al Khidmat, a powerful charity of the strongly anti-American political party Jamaat-e-Islami.
Signs of the organizational strength and robust coffers of Islamist charities were easy to see around the camps, often in contrast to the lack of services offered by the government.
For example, Al Khidmat, Mr. Hassan's group, arranged to bring in eye surgeons from Punjab to staff a free eye clinic for the displaced, offering cataract operations and eyeglasses. "Government hospitals are nonexistent here, and we are able to treat not only the displaced but the whole community," said one of the surgeons, Dr. Khalid Jamal.
Meanwhile, Mr. Hassan was busy checking new temporary schools, health clinics and four ambulances on 24-hour service that Al Khidmat had set up.
Every day, he said, he personally supervised the distribution of food at three different places - sometimes at a home, sometimes in a camp. So far, he said, he had covered 400 of 450 villages near the city of Swabi. Always, he said, before the food is distributed, he delivers his exhortation to jihad.
By contrast, although much American aid gets through, it is not branded as American, and Pakistani authorities insist that it be delivered in a "subtle" manner, General Ahmad said.
The general said he had told American officials there would be an "extremely negative" reaction if Americans were seen to be distributing aid. "I said they couldn't fly in Chinooks, no way," General Ahmad said, referring to American military helicopters. The United States, he said, was seen as "part of the problem."
That is not what American officials had hoped for. At first, the exodus of people from Swat, many of whom had suffered from the brutality of the Taliban, seemed to present a chance for Washington to improve its image in Pakistan.
"There is an opportunity actually to provide services, much as we did with the earthquake relief, which had a profound impact on the perception of America," Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said at a hearing attended by the Obama administration's special envoy, Richard C. Holbrooke, at the start of the exodus.
8) Pakistani Public Turns Against Taliban, But Still Negative on US
WorldPublicOpinion.org, Thursday July 02nd, 2009
Most Pakistanis now see the Pakistani Taliban as well as al Qaeda as a critical threat to the country-a major shift from 18 months ago-and support the government and army in their fight in the Swat Valley against the Pakistani Taliban. An overwhelming majority think that Taliban groups who seek to overthrow the Afghan government should not be allowed to have bases in Pakistan.
However, this does not bring with it a shift in attitudes toward the US. A large majority continue to have an unfavorable view of the US government. Almost two-thirds say they do not have confidence in Obama. An overwhelming majority opposes US drone attacks in Pakistan.
These are some of the results of a new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll conducted May 17-28, 2009. The nationwide random sample included 1000 Pakistani adults, selected using multi-stage probability sampling, who responded in face-to-face interviews. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percent.
This striking new public willingness to see the government directly oppose Taliban groups and al Qaeda owes little or nothing to an "Obama effect." A 62 percent majority expresses low confidence in President Obama to do the right thing in world affairs (none at all, 41%). Only one in three (32%) think his policies will be better for Pakistan; 62 percent think they will be about the same (26%) or worse (36%).
Views of the US remain overwhelmingly negative. Sixty-nine percent have an unfavorable view of the current US government (58% very unfavorable)-essentially the same as in 2008. Eighty-eight percent think it is a US goal to weaken and divide the Islamic world (78% definitely a goal). The US Predator drone attacks aimed at militant camps within the Pakistani border are rejected by 82 percent as unjustified. On the war in Afghanistan, 72 percent disapprove of the NATO mission and 79 percent want it ended now; 86 percent think most Afghans want the mission ended as well.
Asked about the nation's leaders, a large majority-68 percent-views President Zardari unfavorably (very, 50%), but-unlike the recent past-there are multiple national leaders whom most do view favorably. Prime Minister Gilani is seems untarred by negative views of Zardari and gets favorable ratings from 80 percent of Pakistanis. The restored Chief Justice Chaudry is very popular (82%), and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is extremely popular (87%). The leader most associated with the Pakistani Taliban, Maulana Sufi Mohammad, is viewed positively by only 18 percent of Pakistanis.
9) June Death Toll Of Iraqis Is Highest In 11 Months
The 438 Iraqis who died in violence last month include 68 members of the security forces. The sharp rise in deaths could indicate what's to come now that U.S. troops have pulled back from cities.
Liz Sly, Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2009
Baghdad - Offering a possible harbinger of what is to come now that U.S. troops have withdrawn from Iraq's cities, the death toll in June among Iraqis was the highest in 11 months, the nation's Health Ministry reported Wednesday.
A total of 438 Iraqis died in June in shootings, bombings and assassinations, 68 of them members of the security forces. That's the highest number since July 2008, when 465 Iraqis died violently, and includes the tolls from a series of deadly bombings such as the one near Kirkuk last week that killed more than 70 people. It's also 2 2/3 times the figure for May, when 165 people died, the lowest monthly toll of the war.
Iraqis have this week been celebrating the departure of U.S. troops from their cities, but in fact the withdrawal has been taking place for months. By June, most American military personnel had vacated the bases they had been designated to leave. So the jump in fatalities could raise concerns as to what Iraqis might face now that U.S. forces are no longer patrolling their cities.
But the violence in Iraq has a habit of waxing and waning, and monthly tolls don't give a good idea of where trends are heading.
The U.S. military says insurgents are no longer capable of sustaining prolonged assaults and instead focus on generating bursts of bloodshed. A comparison between the half-yearly figures for this year and last makes it clear that the level of violence is in steep decline. In the first six months of 2008, 4,514 Iraqis died violently; in the first half of this year, that figure fell to 1,657.
10) Amnesty says Israel "wantonly" destroyed Gaza
Reuters, Tue Jun 2, 2009 10:56am EDT
Jerusalem - Amnesty International said on Thursday Israel inflicted "wanton destruction" in the Gaza Strip in attacks that often targeted Palestinian civilians during an offensive in December and January in the Hamas-run enclave.
The London-based rights group, in a 117-page report on the 22 days of fighting, also criticized the Islamist movement Hamas for rocket attacks on Israel, which it called "war crimes."
Among other conclusions, Amnesty said it found no evidence to support Israeli claims that Gaza guerrillas deliberately used civilians as "human shields," but it did, however, cite evidence that Israeli troops put children and other civilians in harm's way by forcing them to remain in homes taken over by soldiers.
Amnesty International said some 1,400 Palestinians were killed in Israel's Operation Cast Lead, including 300 children and hundreds of innocent civilians, a figure broadly in line with those from the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza and the independent Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
11) Maternal Mortality, a Human Rights Catastrophe
Rosemary Okello and Terna Gyuse, Inter Press Service, Jun 30
"Of the 500,000 maternal deaths that occur annually worldwide, more than 250,000 occur in Africa. Pregnant women in Africa are at grave risk," [U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of women in Africa] Soyata Maiga told the 11th Session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. "Additionally, there are many countries at war in Africa, which compounds pregnant women's risk, with hundreds of thousands of women dying every year."
On average, a woman somewhere on the planet dies in childbirth every minute. Three quarters of these deaths are preventable.
The most recent global estimates of deaths in childbirth - 2005 figures released jointly by the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund and the World Bank - show limited progress.
From 1990 to 2005, maternal mortality declined by 26 percent in Latin America; in Asia the decline was 20 percent over the same period. In Africa, the decline was less than one percent, from 830 per 100,000 live births to 820 - an estimated 276,000 African women died from pregnancy-related complications in 2005.
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