JFP News 7/7: Clinton Meets with President Zelaya
Just Foreign Policy News
July 7, 2009
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1) Secretary of State Clinton met today with deposed Honduran president Zelaya, the Washington Post reports. Clinton announced that Costa Rican President Arias will serve as an international mediator in the political standoff in Honduras; she said both President Zelaya and the leader of the coup government had agreed to the mediation. President Obama said the US supports the restoration of President Zelaya, even though Zelaya has opposed U.S. policies.
2) Critics have accused the US of speaking ambiguously about what it is prepared to do to restore democratic order in Honduras, the New York Times reports. Critics point to the US deliberations over whether Zelaya's ouster meets the legal definition of a coup.
3) Obama strongly denied the US had given Israel approval to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, the Jerusalem Post reports. Asked by CNN whether Washington had given Israel a green light for such an attack, Obama answered: "Absolutely not."
4) Administration officials insisted Biden's comments that Israel could "determine for itself" how to deal with threats from Iran were not a signal of any change in policy, Foreign Policy reports. Some analysts suggested the remarks were not good news for the Israeli government, which wants to shape what the U.S. does, not have permission to act alone, which many doubt it has the technical capacity to do.
5) Netanyahu has not asked for U.S. aid or permission for possible military strikes on Iran's nuclear program, fearing the White House would not approve, the Washington Times reports. Israel is unlikely to attack Iran without at least tacit U.S. approval, in part because that would require cooperation from the US, the paper says.
6) Seven U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan were killed on Monday, the Washington Post reports. This was the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in nearly a year, the paper says.
7) There's very little truth to US reporting about the coup in Honduras, argues Ken Silverstein of Harpers. President Zelaya is no radical. He approved a big minimum wage increase, but otherwise has been a cautious reformer. The intensity of the reaction against him by the Honduran elite reflects the feudal mentality of the traditional leadership. Zelaya was not seeking to stay in power by unconstitutional means; even if his political reforms had succeeded, he would have been out of power within the year.
8) The incoming head of the IAEA said he did not see any hard evidence Iran was trying to gain the ability to develop nuclear arms, Reuters reports.
9) The conservative National Action Party of President Calderon has admitted defeat in mid-term congressional elections, Mercopress reports. The party acknowledged that the Institutional Revolutionary Party will dominate the Lower House. If the PRI is able to form a parliamentary majority, it could block the president's efforts to give more powers to the 45,000 soldiers deployed to root out the country's powerful drug cartels, AP says.
1) Clinton: Costa Rican President to Mediate Honduran Standoff
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Tuesday, July 7, 2009 3:48 PM
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias will serve as an international mediator in the political standoff in Honduras, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced this afternoon after meeting with deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya.
Clinton, noting that Arias won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987, said he was the "natural person to assume this role." She said that both Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti, the caretaker president in Honduras, had agreed to his appointment.
Clinton said that Arias would "begin immediately," working from Costa Rica, and that "the parties from Honduras, including President Zelaya, will be in Costa Rica for the mediation."
Though the left-leaning Zelaya is a frequent critic of the United States, the Obama administration has said his political views are irrelevant to the fact that he was removed from office in an undemocratic manner.
"America cannot and should not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country," President Obama said in a speech today in Moscow. "And we haven't always done what we should have on that front.
"Even as we meet here today, America supports now the restoration of the democratically elected president of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies," he said.
2) Both Sides in Honduras Reach Out to the U.S.
Ginger Thompson and Marc Lacey, New York Times, July 7, 2009
The spotlight on Honduras's political crisis began to shift away from Latin America's leaders and onto the United States on Monday, as both sides in the face-off over Honduras's deposed president turned to the Obama administration to take charge of broad diplomatic efforts that have so far failed to resolve the situation.
A delegation of Honduran lawmakers and backers of the new government arrived here on Monday to make their case with members of the administration and the United States Congress, while Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton planned her first meeting since the start of the crisis with Manuel Zelaya, the deposed Honduran president.
The new battleground could make it hard for the administration to maintain its current strategy on Honduras. Up until now, the United States has largely tried to stay behind the scenes while letting the Organization of American States take the lead in pressing for Zelaya's reinstatement, as part of an effort by the Obama administration to end American dominance in the hemisphere and to demonstrate greater collaboration with its neighbors.
"I don't want to pretend we're without influence," said a senior administration official. "But we're talking about the development of democracy here, and our goal is to help Honduran actors resolve their own problems. Intervention short circuits that goal, and allows the people who created the problems to walk away from them."
But while the O.A.S. took the rare step of suspending Honduras over the weekend, its members do not agree on the best course for resolving the crisis.
Some countries, led primarily by Nicaragua and Venezuela, have pushed for a hard line against the new Honduran government, including trade embargoes and the use of military force. Another group, led by Canada and the United States, has urged negotiations with those responsible for Zelaya's ouster.
The mixed messages have emboldened Honduras' de facto government, which estimated that it could withstand the diplomatic pressure for at least six months and hold a new presidential election as called for in its Constitution. But then Sunday's volatile scene at the airport - when the airplane carrying Zelaya back to Honduras was denied permission to land - suggested that the crisis could get significantly worse before it gets better.
Many nations in the hemisphere have praised the more cooperative stance that the United States has taken since the Honduran military took Zelaya from his home on June 28 and put him on a plane to Costa Rica. However, critics have accused the United States of speaking ambiguously about what it is prepared to do to restore democratic order in Honduras.
Those critics point, for example, to the American deliberations over whether Zelaya's ouster meets the legal definition of a coup, a decision that would set off an automatic suspension of aid from the United States. A senior administration official said that, for now, most aid to Honduras was "on pause."
While all of the countries in the European Union and most of the nations in the hemisphere have recalled their ambassadors from Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, the United States has kept its envoy in place, saying it wanted to keep open channels of communication with Honduran civil society.
Presidents and foreign ministers of many countries have taken leading roles in the diplomatic efforts to restore President Zelaya to power, with the presidents of Argentina, Paraguay and Ecuador riding in a plane behind Zelaya's aircraft over Honduras on Sunday. But neither President Obama nor Secretary Clinton has met with Zelaya or other Latin American leaders on the matter.
3) Obama: 'Absolutely' No Green Light for Israel to Attack Iran
The Jerusalem Post, Jul 7, 2009
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday strongly denied that the United States had given Israel an approval to strike Iran's nuclear facilities. Asked by CNN whether Washington had given Israel a green light for such an attack, Obama answered: "Absolutely not."
In the interview, which was broadcast from Russia, where Obama is on an official visit, he added: "We can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are. "What is also true is, it is the policy of the United States to try to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities," Obama said. This would be achieved "through diplomatic channels," he added.
4) No change in Iran policy, White House insists
The Cable, Foreign Policy, Mon, 07/06/2009 - 6:48pm
As White House and Office of the Vice President aides formed a united front against widespread media speculation about a change in policy signaled by Vice President Joseph Biden's statement on a Sunday news show that Israel is a "sovereign nation" that could "determine for itself" how to deal with threats from Iran, analysts said that Israel may be wary of any such green light in any case.
In e-mails and phone calls today, administration officials insisted that Biden's comments were neither a signal of any change in policy, nor any sort of freelancing. Asked if Biden's remarks might have been part of an intentional messaging campaign to step up pressure on Iran to negotiate over its nuclear program, officials gave an emphatic "no." But for all that, the remarks were widely seen both in Washington and abroad as a message intended less for Jerusalem than for Tehran.
Israel's "biggest nightmare" is that one day the U.S. government "'would call it and say 'OK guys, take care of it,'" said Tel Aviv University Iran expert David Menashri in a call Monday arranged by the Israeli Policy Forum, a U.S. nonprofit organization that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"Some in the [Israeli] media are portraying [Biden's comments] as a 180-degree switch and as an indication that the administration is beginning to realize that 'engagement' may not work," said former Israeli Consul General to the United Nations Alon Pinkas. "That it is absolutely NOT a change, and if anything, it should be interpreted as a bad sign rather than a positive encouragement."
Biden's message "is the absolute worst-case scenario from Israel's policy-planning perspective," Pinkas elaborated. "'We will not prevent' means the U.S. will neither support nor encourage [Israeli attacks on Iran] or in other words, 'Do what you think is appropriate, but bear the consequences.'"
Although Israeli officials have expressed unending skepticism about the Obama administration's intentions to try to engage with Iran, and are often seen as chafing against Washington, Israel has conducted an intensive campaign over the past several years to make Iran's nuclear program an international rather than just an Israeli problem.
The reason, explains Georgetown University's Daniel Byman, is that Israel doesn't want to take on Iran by itself. "Militarily, this is a difficult operation," Byman said Monday, noting that Iran's nuclear program is widely dispersed, compared with Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor, which Israel struck in 1981. "This is much farther geographically, and that means planes can't loiter as long. They would [presumably] be flying over air space [in Iraq] controlled by the United States. You have to put together a strike package that's much more difficult. It also requires superb intelligence that may be lacking."
5) Israel Declines to Ask US to OK Iran Attack
Eli Lake, Washington Times, July 7, 2009
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top deputies have not formally asked for U.S. aid or permission for possible military strikes on Iran's nuclear program, fearing the White House would not approve, two Israeli officials said.
One senior Israeli official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, told The Washington Times that Netanyahu determined that "it made no sense" to press the matter after the negative response President Bush gave Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, when he asked early last year for U.S. aid for possible military strikes on Iran.
Israel is increasingly nervous that Iran is developing the capability to build a nuclear weapon, an intention Iran denies. However, Israel is unlikely to attack Iran without at least tacit U.S. approval, in part because that would require cooperation from the United States. At the very least, Israel likely would have to fly over Iraqi airspace, which is still effectively controlled by the U.S. Air Force.
A senior Israeli official said that Israel has not asked for U.S. aid or permission because the Netanyahu government doesn't want to risk being told "no."
"There was a decision not to press this because it was probably inadequate for the engagement policy and what we know about Obama's approach to Iran," he said.
Netanyahu's private diplomatic posture differs from his public stance during his campaign. He ran for office earlier this year on a promise to do whatever was necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In March, Netanyahu told the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg that stopping Iran from gaining nuclear weapons was one of two great challenges facing the Obama presidency. He also implied in the interview that Israel would act if the United States did not.
Kenneth Pollack, acting director for the Saban Center for Middle East policy at the Brookings Institution, said "the Israelis have made it clear that they are going to allow this diplomatic process to work out, and even if they conclude that it has failed, they don't want to attack Iran. But the problem is they may feel they have no other choice but to do so."
Pollack added that "Israel has a real problem with the distance from Israeli air bases to Iranian targets. And the shortest route from Israel to Iran is over Jordan and Iraq. And the United States is responsible for Iraqi airspace."
6) 7 U.S. Troops Killed in Attacks In Afghanistan
Death Toll Is Military's Highest in Year
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Nawa, Afghanistan, July 6 - Roadside bombings and a gun attack killed seven U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan on Monday, providing a grim reminder of the insurgency's resilience even as Marines moved to consolidate gains in their operation against the Taliban in the southern province of Helmand.
Four members of a U.S. military team training Afghan security forces died after a bomb struck their convoy near the northern city of Kunduz, according to American military officials. Northern Afghanistan has been relatively stable compared with other parts of the country, in part because much of the territory is under the control of anti-Taliban warlords. But violence has been increasing in recent months around Kunduz and other northern cities as Taliban fighters seek to exploit a thin presence of NATO forces in the area.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed in a bombing in the southern province of Zabul, the officials said. Another American soldier died after a firefight with insurgents in eastern Afghanistan. This was the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in nearly a year.
7) A Few Facts About the Honduran Military Coup
Ken Silverstein, Harpers, July 6, 2009
1. There's very little truth to anything you've read about the coup in American newspapers.
2. President Manuel Zelaya is no radical. He approved a big minimum wage increase, which was desperately needed in a country where so many workers are poor, but he otherwise has been a very cautious, ineffectual reformer. The intensity of the reaction against him by the Honduran elite - as seen in the coup - reflects the feudal mentality of the traditional economic and political leadership, not Zelaya's politics.
3. Zelaya was not seeking to stay in power by unconstitutional means; even if his political reforms had succeeded, he would have been out of power within the year. The only side guilty of unconstitutional action is the coup plotters.
4.Based on his response to events in Honduras, Barack Obama may as well be Ronald Reagan or George Bush when it comes to coups in Latin America. The Obama administration initially managed to muster "concern" about the coup, and has been acting in a cowardly fashion ever since. The only reason it has moved at all was that it was forced by the united front by Latin governments of left and right. If Zelaya is returned to power, it won't be because of anything Obama did.
5. The American media does not believe in democracy, as seen in the routine portrayal of a moral equivalence between the elected government and the coup plotters. The Washington Post is the worst of the pack. For its editorial page, "democracy" is strictly utilitarian; it's OK when our side wins; otherwise, we will justify vote-rigging or military action by the other side, even while pretending we support constitutional order.
8) No sign Iran seeks nuclear arms: new IAEA head
Sylvia Westall, Reuters, Fri Jul 3, 2009 2:23pm EDT
Vienna - The incoming head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said on Friday he did not see any hard evidence Iran was trying to gain the ability to develop nuclear arms.
"I don't see any evidence in IAEA official documents about this," Yukiya Amano told Reuters in his first direct comment on Iran's atomic program since his election, when asked whether he believed Tehran was seeking nuclear weapons capability.
Amano got the strongest backing from Western states keen for the IAEA to toughen steps against the spread of nuclear arms. But his rise has worried developing nations who see the non-proliferation maxim being used as an excuse to deny them a fair share of nuclear know-how.
Iran has exploited such tensions, winning sympathy in the developing world, by arguing that to stop uranium enrichment as major world powers demand would violate its sovereignty, stunt its energy development and perpetuate inequality.
To produce a nuclear weapon Iran would have to adjust its enrichment plant to yield bomb-ready nuclear fuel and miniaturize the material to fit into a warhead - steps that could take from six months to a year or more, analysts say. It would also have to kick out IAEA inspectors and leave the NPT.
9) Mexican ruling party battered in mid term election
Mercopress, Monday, July 6th 2009
The conservative National Action Party (PAN) of Mexican President Felipe Calderon has admitted defeat in mid-term congressional elections. It acknowledged that the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) will dominate the Lower House. The PRI dominated Mexican politics for seven decades until 1997.
The campaign was overshadowed by a collapsing economy, and the government's drive against drug gangs.
Mr Calderon won a bitterly fought presidential election three years ago promising reforms to restore economic growth.
Mexico has been badly hit this year by the global recession and a drop in the amount of money sent home by migrant workers. The outbreak of the A/H1N1 virus flu in April has also scared off tourists, which the government has warned may cost the economy more than 2 billion US dollars.
If the PRI is able to form a parliamentary majority, it could block the president's efforts to give more powers to the 45,000 soldiers deployed to root out the country's powerful drug cartels, AP reports.
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