JFP News, 7/13: Costa Rican President says US must pressure Honduran coup leaders

Just Foreign Policy News
July 13, 2009


U.S. Newspapers Falsely Claim Honduran Plurality for Coup
Last week, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Christian Science Monitor, following the pro-coup Honduran newspaper La Prensa, inaccurately reported a CID-Gallup poll, claiming that a plurality of Hondurans supported the coup in Honduras. The true poll result, which indicated that a plurality opposed the coup, was reported correctly by the New York Times, AP, and VOA - VOA interviewed the president of CID-Gallup. Ask the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, or the Christian Science Monitor for a correction.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/258

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) President Arias of Costa Rica told Secretary of State Clinton that the US had to make clear to Honduran coup leader Micheletti that elections held by an illegitimate government would themselves not be considered legitimate, the New York Times reports. While President Zelaya indicated he was willing to accept a compromise that would return him to office with significantly limited powers, officials said, it appeared Micheletti believed he could run out the clock and hold on to the presidency until presidential elections in November. An official said the US indicated it would quietly make clear to Micheletti that the $16.5 million it has already suspended in military aid could be expanded to include $180 million in other economic development assistance that is still under review. Micheletti has embarked on a public relations offensive, with his supporters hiring high-profile lawyers with strong Washington connections to lobby against sanctions. One business council hired Lanny Davis, who has served as President Clinton's personal lawyer and who campaigned for Mrs. Clinton for president. Micheletti brought adviser Bennett Ratcliff from another firm with Clinton ties to the talks in Costa Rica. "Every proposal that Micheletti's group presented was written or approved by the American," said an official, referring to Ratcliff.

2) "The Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua," Secretary of State Clinton warned in May, the Washington Post reports. "And you can only imagine what that's for." But in Nicaragua, no one can find any super-embassy. Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce chief Ernesto Porta laughed and said: "It doesn't exist." Government officials say the U.S. Embassy complex is the only "mega-embassy" in Managua. A U.S. diplomat conceded: "There is no huge Iranian Embassy being built as far as we can tell." The story of the Iranian mega-embassy has made its way into congressional testimony, think tank reports, press accounts, and diplomatic events in the United States, the Post notes. "Iran recently established a huge embassy in Managua," Nancy Menges of the Center for Security Policy told a House committee last year. "Iran's embassy in Managua is now the largest diplomatic mission in the city," wrote Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute. Even opponents of the Sandinista government are irritated by the report. "Who told Hillary that? Someone misinformed her," said a leader of the opposition. "I never cease to be astonished that a country with such intelligence-gathering capacities could fall for such a canard."

3) Mounting deaths of NATO soldiers in Afghanistan have contributed to harsh criticism of the war in Britain, Canada, Germany and France, the Wall Street Journal reports. So far this year, 192 foreign soldiers have been killed, including 103 Americans - a 40% jump from the same period last year, and a 75% increase from 2007, say U.S. officials. That figure doesn't include the latest U.S. casualties. Since the start of July, the death toll for U.S. and NATO troops has been comparable to casualty levels in Iraq during the height of violence there, averaging roughly 3.5 a day.

4) A secret CIA initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to assassinate al Qaeda operatives, the Wall Street Journal reports. House lawmakers are now making preparations for an investigation into "an important program" and why Congress wasn't told about it, said Rep. Schakowsky. Sens. Durbin, and Leahy also called for an investigation.

5) President Obama has ordered his national security team to investigate reports that U.S. allies were responsible for the deaths of as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners of war during the opening days of the war in Afghanistan, AP reports. The New York Times said Friday the Defense Department and FBI never fully investigated the incident.

Honduras
6) In Honduras, where roughly half of its 7.8 million residents live on less than $2 per day, President Zelaya has attracted a large following among young school teachers and state workers for whom Zelaya pushed wage increases, the Miami Herald reports.

Afghanistan
7) Until very recently, the conventional wisdom among pollsters, pundits and the public was that Karzai would easily garner the 50.01 percent of votes he needs to win in the first round of polling August 20, the Washington Post reports. But now some say Karzai's opponents might be able to stop him from winning in the first round.

Pakistan
8) Conflict in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan is escalating, Carlotta Gall reports in the New York Times. Three local political leaders were assassinated in April, and local residents blame the Pakistani intelligence agencies. Politicians and analysts warn the conflict presents a distracting second front for the authorities, drawing off resources, like helicopters, that the US provided Pakistan to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Israel/Palestine
9) Britain has revoked five licenses for arms exports to Israel after reviewing how British-provided equipment was used during Israel's war in Gaza, the Washington Post reports. It marks the only such action to date by a foreign government against Israel over the Gaza invasion. Amnesty International called for governments to review military exports to Israel following the conflict.

Contents:
U.S./Top News

1) Honduran Rivals See U.S. Intervention as Crucial in Resolving Political Crisis
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, July 13, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/13/world/americas/13honduras.html

San José, Costa Rica - When President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica set out to find a negotiated solution to the Honduran political crisis, he hailed it as an opportunity for Central Americans to show they could resolve their own problems, and he established some simple ground rules.

The ousted president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and the man who leads the de facto government that replaced him, Roberto Micheletti, were each to show up at his house with just four of their closest Honduran advisers.

On Thursday morning, Micheletti showed up with six, adding an American public relations specialist who has done work for former President Bill Clinton and the American's interpreter, and an official close to the talks said the team rarely made a move without consulting him.

Then on Friday, with the negotiations seemingly going nowhere, Arias reached out for American support of his own, telling Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that pressure from the United States was crucial to ending the stalemate.
[...]
In recent days, Zelaya and his allies, who include some of the most vocal critics of United States policy in the region, have repeatedly called on Washington to increase its pressure on Micheletti by recalling its ambassador - the United States is one of the few countries in the region that continues to keep its envoy in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital - and by imposing tougher sanctions.

Even Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez, made a rare call to Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon Jr. on Friday to directly make an appeal he had issued earlier on television. "Do something," Chávez had said to reporters. "Obama, do something."

Meanwhile, Micheletti has embarked on a public relations offensive, with his supporters hiring high-profile lawyers with strong Washington connections to lobby against such sanctions. One powerful Latin American business council hired Lanny J. Davis, who has served as President Clinton's personal lawyer and who campaigned for Mrs. Clinton for president.

And last week, Micheletti brought the adviser from another firm with Clinton ties to the talks in Costa Rica. The adviser, Bennett Ratcliff of San Diego, refused to give details about his role at the talks. "Every proposal that Micheletti's group presented was written or approved by the American," said another official close to the talks, referring to Ratcliff.
[...]
Among the most intractable of those obstacles, said three officials close to the talks, was Micheletti. While Zelaya indicated that he was willing to accept a compromise that would return him to office with significantly limited powers, the officials said, it appeared that Micheletti believed he could run out the clock and hold on to the presidency until his country's presidential elections in November.

The officials said Arias told Mrs. Clinton that the United States had to make clear to Micheletti that elections held by an illegitimate government would themselves not be considered legitimate.

However, one official said that the United States wanted to be careful "not to take a huge public role." He said the United States indicated that it would quietly make clear to Micheletti that the $16.5 million it has already suspended in military aid could be expanded to include $180 million in other economic development assistance that is still under review.

Micheletti's supporters are pushing back in part by paying hundreds of dollars an hour to well-connected Washington lawyers who have initiated a charm offensive from Washington. On Friday, Davis was testifying on Capitol Hill in support of Micheletti's de facto government.

And on Saturday, Davis called reporters close to midnight to notify them that Micheletti had fired Enrique Ortez, whom he had appointed as his foreign minister, for having outraged American officials by referring in a television interview to President Obama as "that little black guy who doesn't even know where Tegucigalpa is located."

2) Iran's Invisible Nicaragua Embassy
Feared Stronghold Never Materialized
Anne-Marie O'Connor and Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, Monday, July 13, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/12/AR2009071202337.html

Managua - For months, the reports percolated in Washington and other capitals. Iran was constructing a major beachhead in Nicaragua as part of a diplomatic push into Latin America, featuring huge investment deals, new embassies and even TV programming from the Islamic republic. "The Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned in May. "And you can only imagine what that's for." But here in Nicaragua, no one can find any super-embassy.

Nicaraguan reporters scoured the sprawling tropical city in search of the embassy construction site. Nothing. Nicaraguan Chamber of Commerce chief Ernesto Porta laughed and said: "It doesn't exist." Government officials say the U.S. Embassy complex is the only "mega-embassy" in Managua. A U.S. diplomat in Managua conceded: "There is no huge Iranian Embassy being built as far as we can tell."

The mysterious, unseen giant embassy underscores how Iran's expansion into Latin America may be less substantive than some in Washington fear.

Iran's proposed investments in Nicaragua - for a deep-water port, hydroelectric plants and a tractor factory - have also failed to materialize, Nicaraguan officials say. At a time when Iran's oil revenue is falling, the same is true of many projects planned for Latin America, according to analysts.

U.S. officials emphasized that there is plenty of reason to be concerned about Iran, which they consider a state sponsor of terrorism. But the Iranian activity has revived Cold War-style rhetoric in Washington that at times doesn't match what is evident in places such as Managua.

Last month, Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.) even told reporters in a call organized by the Israel Project that "the growing influence of Iran in the Western Hemisphere reminds me of the relationship between Russia and Cuba when we dealt with the Cuban missile crisis."

It is not clear where the report of the embassy in Managua began. But in the past two years, it has made its way into congressional testimony, think tank reports, press accounts, and diplomatic events in the United States and elsewhere.

"Iran recently established a huge embassy in Managua," Nancy Menges of the Center for Security Policy told a House committee last year. "Iran's embassy in Managua is now the largest diplomatic mission in the city," wrote Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute.
[...]
But Bayardo Arce, a senior economic adviser to Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, likened the elusive "mega-embassy" to the nonexistent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. "It doesn't exist. They deceived the secretary of state," Arce said. "We don't have an Iranian mega-embassy. We have an ambassador in a rented house with his wife."

If anything, Arce said, Iranian investment in Nicaragua has fallen far short of the expectations of the cash-strapped government. Nicaragua can't even persuade Iran to pardon its $160 million debt, he said. "They haven't invested anything. They haven't built anything," Arce said. "We haven't even been able to renegotiate the debt. They say the Koran doesn't permit them to. We'll have to study the Koran to see if we can find something that condones it."

In a country that President Ronald Reagan once famously said was just a 48-hour drive from Brownsville, Tex., even opponents of the Sandinista government are irritated by the report. "Who told Hillary that? Someone misinformed her," said Francisco Aguirre Sacasa, a leader of the opposition Constitutionalist Liberal Party and head of a legislative foreign affairs committee. "I never cease to be astonished that a country with such intelligence-gathering capacities could fall for such a canard. What now? Is Obama going to start talking about the Axis of Evil?"
[...]
And a new Iranian Embassy may be on the drawing board. Plinio Suárez, executive president of Canal de Noticias television, said he went to a party at the Iranian Embassy some months ago and saw an architectural model of a three-story building that an Iranian staffer said was the prototype of a future embassy.

"There is an intention of Iran to build their own embassy," said Sandinista deputy Edwin Castro Rivera, leader of the Sandinista bloc in the General Assembly. "But it doesn't exist. And it won't be mega."

3) Mounting Casualties In Afghanistan Spur Concern
Death Tolls Compare to Iraq as Number of U.S. and NATO Forces Surge; Criticism of War in U.K. Heats Up
Anand Gopal, Matthew Rosenberg and Alistair Macdonald, Wall Street Journal, July 13
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124741046100128361.html

A series of attacks in Afghanistan has left four U.S. Marines and eight British soldiers dead in recent days, stoking concern among U.S. and allied forces over a surge in battlefield deaths, as thousands of troops pour into the country.

The mounting deaths have contributed to harsh criticism of the war in a handful of NATO countries that have lost soldiers in recent months, including Canada, Germany and France. It has been an especially divisive issue in Britain, which has lost 15 soldiers in the past 11 days, including the eight killed Friday. Those deaths have brought Britain's total losses to 184, a tally that now exceeds the 179 British military personnel killed in Iraq.

So far this year, 192 foreign soldiers have been killed, including 103 Americans - a 40% jump from the same period last year, and a 75% increase from 2007, say U.S. military officials. That figure doesn't include the latest U.S. casualties.
[...]
Since the start of July, the death toll for U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization troops has been comparable to casualty levels in Iraq during the height of violence there, averaging roughly 3.5 a day, according to the Web site icasualties.org, which monitors military deaths in both countries. British forces have suffered more casualties than any country except the U.S.

4) CIA Had Secret Al Qaeda Plan
Initiative at Heart of Spat With Congress Examined Ways to Seize, Kill Terror Chiefs
Siobhan Gorman, Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2009
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124736381913627661.html

A secret Central Intelligence Agency initiative terminated by Director Leon Panetta was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives, according to former intelligence officials familiar with the matter.

The precise nature of the highly classified effort isn't clear, and the CIA won't comment on its substance.

According to current and former government officials, the agency spent money on planning and possibly some training. It was acting on a 2001 presidential legal pronouncement, known as a finding, which authorized the CIA to pursue such efforts. The initiative hadn't become fully operational at the time Panetta ended it.

In 2001, the CIA also examined the subject of targeted assassinations of al Qaeda leaders, according to three former intelligence officials. It appears that those discussions tapered off within six months. It isn't clear whether they were an early part of the CIA initiative that Panetta stopped.

The revelations about the CIA and its post-9/11 activities have emerged amid a renewed fight between the agency and congressional Democrats. Last week, seven Democratic lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee released a letter that talked about the CIA effort, which they said Panetta acknowledged hadn't been properly vetted with Congress. CIA officials had brought the matter to Panetta's attention and had recommended he inform Congress.

Neither Panetta nor the lawmakers provided details. Panetta quashed the CIA effort after learning about it June 23.
[...]
Amid the high alert following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a small CIA unit examined the potential for targeted assassinations of al Qaeda operatives, according to the three former officials. The Ford administration had banned assassinations in the response to investigations into intelligence abuses in the 1970s. Some officials who advocated the approach were seeking to build teams of CIA and military Special Forces commandos to emulate what the Israelis did after the Munich Olympics terrorist attacks, said another former intelligence official. "It was straight out of the movies," one of the former intelligence officials said. "It was like: Let's kill them all."
[...]
Also in September 2001, as CIA operatives were preparing for an offensive in Afghanistan, officials drafted cables that would have authorized assassinations of specified targets on the spot.

One draft cable, later scrapped, authorized officers on the ground to "kill on sight" certain al Qaeda targets, according to one person who saw it. The context of the memo suggested it was designed for the most senior leaders in al Qaeda, this person said.

Eventually Bush issued the finding that authorized the capturing of several top al Qaeda leaders, and allowed officers to kill the targets if capturing proved too dangerous or risky.

Lawmakers first learned specifics of the CIA initiative the day after Panetta did, when he briefed them on it for 45 minutes.

House lawmakers are now making preparations for an investigation into "an important program" and why Congress wasn't told about it, said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, in an interview.

On Sunday, lawmakers criticized the Bush administration's decision not to tell Congress. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, hinted that the Bush administration may have broken the law by not telling Congress. "We were kept in the dark. That's something that should never, ever happen again," she said. Withholding such information from Congress, she said, "is a big problem, because the law is very clear."

Ms. Feinstein said Panetta told the lawmakers that Cheney had ordered that the information be withheld from Congress. Cheney on Sunday couldn't be reached for comment through former White House aides. The Senate's second-ranking official, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoed those concerns and called for an investigation, an indication of how the politics of intelligence continue to bedevil the CIA.

5) Obama Orders Probe of Alleged Mass Grave
Investigation to focus on the deaths of up to 2,000 Taliban in Afghanistan
AP, 6:37 p.m. ET, Sun., July 12, 2009
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31879223/ns/world_news-south_and_central_asia/

President Barack Obama has ordered his national security team to investigate reports that U.S. allies were responsible for the deaths of as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners of war during the opening days of the war in Afghanistan.

Obama told CNN in an interview that aired Sunday that he doesn't know how the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance behaved in November 2001, but he wants a full accounting before deciding how to move forward.
[...]
The president's comments seem to reverse officials' statements from Friday, when they said they had no grounds to investigate the 2001 deaths of Taliban prisoners of war who human rights groups allege were killed by U.S.-backed forces.
[...]
But Obama's direction - discussed as he toured a former slave castle on Ghana's coast - does not guarantee action. "We'll probably make a decision in terms of how to approach it once we have all the facts gathered up," Obama said.

The mass deaths were brought up anew Friday in a report by The New York Times. It quoted government and human rights officials accusing the Bush administration of failing to investigate the executions of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of prisoners.

U.S. officials said Friday they did not have legal grounds to investigate the deaths because only foreigners were involved and the alleged killings occurred in a foreign country.

The Times pointed to U.S. military and CIA ties to Afghan Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, accused by human rights groups of ordering the killings. The newspaper said the Defense Department and FBI never fully investigated the incident.

The allegations date back to November 2001, when as many as 2,000 Taliban prisoners died in transit after surrendering during one of the regime's last stands, according to a State Department report from 2002.

Witnesses have claimed that forces with the U.S.-allied Northern Alliance placed the prisoners in sealed cargo containers over the two-day voyage to Sheberghan Prison, suffocating them and then burying them en masse, using bulldozers to move the bodies, according to the State Department report. Some Northern Alliance soldiers have said that some of their troops opened fire on the containers, killing those within.

Dostum, the Northern Alliance general who is accused of overseeing the atrocities, has previously denied the allegations. He was suspended from his military post last year on suspicion of threatening a political rival, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently rehired him.

Honduras
6) Honduran teen's slaying propels youth movement
Rallies and marches supporting and opposing deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya have engaged the youth of the country.
Laura Figueroa, Miami Herald, Monday, 07.13.09
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/americas/story/1138977.html

Tegucigalpa - Sitting next to her younger brother's white casket on the back of a pickup truck, an angry Rebeca Murillo screamed at soldiers guarding the city's international airport as the hearse drove past the deadly site. "Assassins!" she repeated several times over.

Her brother Isis Obed Murillo, 19, was shot by Honduran soldiers following violent protests that broke out when thousands awaited the unsuccessful return of deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

The teenager's name and the images of his bloody body being carried away from the scene have now become a rallying point for those against the post-Zelaya government. Grafitti bearing Isis' name has been spray-painted on city walls with words calling for Zelaya's return. "He was just a kid standing up for his rights," said José Miguel Otero, 23, at a recent pro-Zelaya march down one of Tegucigalpa's main streets. "His sacrifice has now given others like me the courage to continue standing up for what we believe in."

Honduras' youth have become an integral part of manning the rallies and marches both for and against Zelaya's ouster. For many Hondurans born after the 1980s, the stories of coups and military regimes were things of the past, circumstances they learned about in history books or from tales told by parents and grandparents. Now, lessons of life and liberty, democracy and protest are becoming intertwined with their everyday lives.

Murillo himself was from Villeda Morales, a mountain town on the outskirts of the capital, named after former Honduran President Ramón Villeda Morales, who was forced from office by the country's military in 1963. The country also experienced coups in 1955 and 1972. The 1970s marked a period of military rule in the country until democratic elections were held in 1981.
[...]
In a country where roughly half of its 7.8 million residents live on less than $2 per day, Zelaya has attracted a large following among young school teachers and state workers for whom Zelaya pushed wage increases.
[...]
Murillo originally hailed from Zelaya's rural home state of Olancho, but his family moved into a small brick house without glass in the windows in the Villeda Morales community less than a year ago. His father held nightly evangelical church services in the home.

The teenager, described by neighbors as reserved, worked at a supermarket stocking groceries and was one of 11 children. Just a day after Zelaya's removal, he started making the roughly 30-mile journey to central Tegucigalpa to join the Zelaya rallies. "He never really talked about political stuff, he just said he wanted to defend our country," said neighbor Ana Carolina.

Honduras' human rights commission has said it will investigate Murillo's slaying, while military officials contend they only fired rubber bullets into the crowd.

The bloody melee took place July 5 when soldiers fired off shots and threw tear gas into the crowd, after an unruly segment of protesters attempted to tear down a chain link fence blocking access to the runway where the plane carrying Zelaya's was attempting to land.

Murillo was shot in the back of the head. A group of men quickly grabbed his body and loaded him onto a flatbed truck trying to make its way through the crowd. TV camera crews captured his last gasps of breath, in videos that have since been posted on YouTube.
[...]

Afghanistan
7) For Karzai, Stumbles On Road To Election
Campaign Chaos, Rivals' Gains Cited
Pamela Constable, Washington Post, Monday, July 13, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/12/AR2009071202426.html

Kabul - His portrait adorns giant billboards in every corner of the capital: hugging a child, making a speech and smiling serenely atop comforting platitudes about progress and peace. But the real Hamid Karzai, president of the Islamic republic of Afghanistan and candidate for reelection Aug. 20, is nowhere to be seen.

Since the official campaign began last month, his aides said, more than 50 rallies have been organized by supporters across the country, but he has not yet attended one. Television stations have proposed debates among Karzai and his major rivals, but he has demurred, saying certain conditions need to be established first.
[...]
Until very recently, the conventional wisdom among pollsters, pundits and the public was that Karzai would easily garner the 50.01 percent of votes he needs to win in the first round of polling, despite his declining popularity at home and increasingly testy relations with allies abroad. But in the past several weeks, that presumption has begun to change.

Although none of Karzai's major challengers is expected to defeat him outright Aug. 20, several election observers said they may do well enough as a group to force a second round of polling, partly because of recent blunders by Karzai and partly because many Afghans are looking for alternative leadership at a time of sustained insurgent violence, economic stagnation and political drift.
[...]
There have also been complaints of local government officials using their resources to assist Karzai's campaign and their muscle to intimidate opponents, despite a presidential decree prohibiting such behavior. In a joint report last week, the U.N. advisory mission and the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission said they had received numerous reports of state interference in the election process.

"The president may not be directly aware of these incidents, but many local authorities are eager to win his favor," said Ahmad Nader Nadery, an official with the commission. He cited a case last week in which district officials in Baghlan province complained of being instructed by the governor, a Karzai appointee, to bring 100 people each to a rally for the president - and to tell each of those 100 to bring 15 others.

Pakistan
8) Another Insurgency Gains In Pakistan
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, July 12, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/12/world/asia/12baluchistan.html

Turbat, Pakistan - Three local political leaders were seized from a small legal office here in April, handcuffed, blindfolded and hustled into a waiting pickup truck in front of their lawyer and neighboring shopkeepers. Their bodies, riddled with bullets and badly decomposed in the scorching heat, were found in a date palm grove five days later.

Local residents are convinced that the killings were the work of the Pakistani intelligence agencies, and the deaths have provided a new spark for revolt across Baluchistan, a vast and restless province in Pakistan's southwest where the government faces yet another insurgency.

Although not on the same scale as the Taliban insurgency in the northwest, the conflict in Baluchistan is steadily gaining ground. Politicians and analysts warn that it presents a distracting second front for the authorities, drawing off resources, like helicopters, that the United States provided Pakistan to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Baluch nationalists and some Pakistani politicians say the Baluch conflict holds the potential to break the country apart - Baluchistan makes up a third of Pakistan's territory - unless the government urgently deals with years of pent up grievances and stays the hand of the military and security services.

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of Baluch were rounded up in a harsh regime of secret detentions and torture under President Pervez Musharraf, who left office last year. Human rights groups and Baluch activists say those abuses have continued under President Asif Ali Zardari, despite promises to heal tensions. "It's pretty volatile," said Nawab Zulfiqar Ali Magsi, the governor of Baluchistan. "When you try to forcibly pacify people, you will get a reaction."

The discovery of the men's bodies on April 8 set off days of rioting and weeks of strikes, demonstrations and civil resistance. In schools and colleges, students pulled down the Pakistani flag and put up the pale blue, red and green Baluch nationalist flag.

Schoolchildren still refuse to sing the national anthem at assemblies, instead breaking into a nationalist Baluch song championing the armed struggle for independence, teachers and parents said.

For the first time, women, traditionally secluded in Baluch society, have joined street protests against the continuing detentions of nationalist figures. Graffiti daubed on walls around this town call for independence and guerrilla war, which persists in large parts of the province.

The nationalist opposition stems from what it sees as the forcible annexation of Baluchistan by Pakistan 62 years ago at Pakistan's creation. But much of the popular resentment stems from years of economic and political marginalization, something President Zardari promised to remedy but has done little to actually address.
[...]
The insurgents, who say they are led by the Baluchistan Liberation Army, have escalated their tactics, too. A prominent example was the kidnapping in February of an American citizen, John Solecki, the head of the United Nations refugee organization in the provincial capital, Quetta.

The abduction was carried out by a breakaway group of young radicals who wanted to draw international attention to their cause and to exchange their captive for Baluch being held by the security services.

Solecki was released in April after the intervention of Baluch leaders, including Gul Muhammad. Baluch leaders speculate that the intelligence agencies may have killed Muhammad and his colleagues to provoke the kidnappers into murdering the American, which would have branded the Baluch nationalists as terrorists. Instead, "the killing of these three has centralized the national movement of Baluchistan," Ali, the lawyer, said.

He and others said they had no doubt that the intelligence services were responsible.

Israel/Palestine
9) Britain Revokes Licenses for Arms Exports to Israel
Howard Schneider, Washington Post, Monday, July 13, 2009 1:24 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/13/AR2009071301611.html

Jerusalem - Britain has revoked five licenses for arms exports to Israel after reviewing how British-provided equipment was used during Israel's three-week war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, officials in both nations said Monday.

It marks the only such action to date by a foreign government against Israel over the country's incursion into Gaza in December and January. Israeli officials said the license revocation would have no effect on the country's military, and noted that 177 British arms export licenses remain intact.

The decision, first reported by the Israeli daily Haaretz, comes amid steady criticism from human rights groups over Israel's conduct of the Gaza war, an ongoing United Nations inquiry into the conflict, and calls for an arms embargo against the country.


"We do not believe that the current situation in the Middle East would be improved by imposing an arms embargo on Israel. Israel has the right to defend itself and faces real security threats," said a statement by the British embassy in Tel Aviv. "This said, we consistently urge Israel to act with restraint and supported the (European Union) Presidency statement that called the Israeli actions during Operation Cast Lead 'disproportionate'."
[...]
Amnesty International in particular called for governments to review military exports to Israel following the conflict. The British foreign office said it started such a study, which it described as routine, after the conflict.

The British Embassy statement said "a small number" of export licenses had been suspended under rules forbidding arms exports "where there is a clear risk that arms will be used for external aggression or internal repression." It did not detail the type of equipment affected by the license revocations, and an embassy spokeswoman said that information could not be released.

The Israel Defense Forces, which said it tried to minimize civilian casualties during the Gaza war, did not comment. Neither did the Ministry of Defense. An Israeli official, who was not authorized to speak for the record, said the licenses involved shipments to Israel's navy, but could not provide further detail.

Haaretz, citing a memo from Israel's embassy in London to the foreign ministry, said the licenses involved spare parts for armaments aboard the Israeli Navy's Saar 4.5 class ships.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, in an April statement to parliament, said there were "credible reports" that Saar class vessels had fired on Gaza with 76 mm guns that contain parts exported from the U.K.
[...]
-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

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The news itself is such a good start. Most especially that people are already worrying on what is going on.

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