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JFP News, 7/15 - CSM, WSJ respond to criticism on claim of plurality for Honduran coup
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 15 July 2009 - 6:21pm
Just Foreign Policy News
July 15, 2009
CSM, WSJ Respond to Criticism of Claim of Plurality for Honduran Coup
Just Foreign Policy members wrote to the Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor asking them to correct the record after they falsely reported that a plurality of Hondurans supported the coup that overthrew President Zelaya. In response, the Journal and the Monitor have published clarifications. But questions remain: did the Monitor and the Journal rely on the pro-coup, pro-elite Honduran newspaper La Prensa as a sole source? If so, why - when the Voice of America, the New York Times, and the Associated Press were able to access independent, accurate information? Will the Journal and the Monitor act differently in the future?
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1) Hondurans who want their ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, reinstated are in Washington pressing the U.S. government to suspend trade and foreign aid to Honduras, The Hill reports. The Hondurans intend to push lawmakers and administration officials to end trade and foreign aid to Honduras until the political crisis is resolved. "The power to return the president is here in Washington if they suspend trade," said Marvin Ponce, a member of the Honduran National Congress. Last week Reps. Bill Delahunt, James McGovern and José Serrano introduced a resolution deeming the action a coup and calling for the reinstatement of Zelaya. The resolution had 16 co-sponsors Tuesday. A Republican bill supporting the coup had 11 cosponsors. In a July 9 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, 78 Latin American scholars said, "Anything less than the urgent restoration of President Manuel Zelaya to office would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people." But those opposed to Zelaya's ouster will find a lobbying campaign against the former president in Washington. Last week, the Honduran branch of CEAL, essentially Latin America's chamber of commerce, hired Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to lobby on its behalf, saying it was right to oust Zelaya.
2) Despite the Administration's statements it had suspended military cooperation with the de facto regime in Honduras following the coup, the U.S. continues to train Honduran officers at the School of the Americas, says the National Catholic Reporter. Several SOA graduates participated in the coup or serve in the coup government.
3) A former and a currently serving senior U.S. official said members of Iran's Quds Force seized in Iraq by the US were held for more than two years even though they had not been involved in anti-U.S. activities and were functioning as diplomats at the time, Barbara Slavin reports in the Washington Times. The officials said the Iranians were in effect "hostages" held as "potential leverage" against Iran. In the spring of 2007, Iran imprisoned several Iranian-Americans in what appeared in part to be retaliation for the detention of the Quds Force officers and an effort to secure their release.
4) Obama told CNN the issue of U.S. negotiations with Iran is not a lost cause, Haaretz reports, suggesting that although bilateral engagement may have been set back by the aftermath of the elections multilateral engagement was moving forward.
5) Hondurans opposed to the coup plan a new round of protests, Inter Press Service reports. On Monday, one faction of the teachers' unions called for a return to the classroom, while the rest decided in an assembly to continue a strike. A leader of one of the five factions that agreed to continue the strike told IPS "besides suspending classes, we are going to block roads, because the resistance will continue." Zelaya announced that he would return to Honduras this week.
6) The State Department said the US may have overestimated Iran's influence in Latin America, AFP reports. On Monday, spokesman Ian Kelly recognized that "right now, there is no major Iranian presence in Nicaragua." US officials said privately they were concerned that various allegations of Iran's nefarious activities in Latin America could lack little real world evidence.
7) Iranian government allegations of foreign involvement in "an unusual upsurge of rioting, protests and bombings by minority groups targeting government officials and institutions" cannot be "entirely dismissed," Time Magazine reports. In 2007, ABC News alleged that Jundullah - which claimed responsibility for the bombing of a mosque in May that killed 25 people - had secretly received advice and encouragement from U.S. intelligence officials on their efforts to destabilize the Iranian regime. That same year, Voice of America broadcast an interview with Jundallah's leader Abdul Malik Rigi, identifying him as "the leader of a popular Iranian resistance movement." The U.S. government denies sponsoring terrorism in Iran, and was reported in May to be considering adding Jundullah to its list of international terrorist organizations. The primary impact of the activities of foreign-based insurgent groups inside Iran, and whatever backing they receive from abroad, has been to render the legitimate reform movement more vulnerable to being attacked as part of a security threat, Time says.
8) McClatchy correspondents in Najaf, Basra, Anbar, Diyala and Mosul report that Iraqi forces have made no requests for U.S. combat help since the June 30 deadline for withdrawal of US combat troops from Iraqi cities, McClatchy reports. In Baghdad, the Iraqis won't allow U.S. forces on the street, except for supply convoys.
9) Israeli combat soldiers have acknowledged they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus shells to burn down buildings as part of Israel's military offensive in Gaza last winter, McClatchy reports. The white phosphorus supplied by the U.S. is supposed to be used to illuminate targets or provide smoke cover for advancing troops.
10) The European Commission said that Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank was strangling the Palestinian economy and forcing Palestinians there to become more dependent on foreign aid, Inter Press Service reports. "It is the European taxpayers who pay most of the price of this dependence," read the Jul. 6 EC statement. Approximately 40 percent of the West Bank has been taken by Israel.
11) The EU's foreign policy chief called for the U.N. Security Council to recognise a Palestinian state by a certain deadline even if Israelis and Palestinians have not reached agreement, Reuters reports. "After a fixed deadline, a U.N. Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution," Javier Solana said, adding this should include border parameters, refugees, control over the city of Jerusalem and security arrangements. "It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the U.N., and set a calendar for implementation.
12) Human Rights Watch is urging Secretary of State Clinton to withhold U.S. military aid to Mexico until it complies with the human-rights requirements listed in the Merida Initiative, EFE reports. HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth expressed concern about "the rapidly growing number of serious abuses committed by the Mexican military during counternarcotics and public security operations, including rapes, killings, torture, and arbitrary detentions."
1) Honduran group seeks help from U.S. to reinstate Zelaya
Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, 07/14/09 06:18 PM [ET]
A group of Hondurans who want their ousted president, Manuel Zelaya, reinstated are pressing the U.S. government to suspend trade and foreign aid to the Central American country. The Hondurans, who oppose the nation's interim government, were in Washington this week to make the case to the U.S. government that Zelaya's June 28 ouster was an illegal military coup. They believe business interests inside and outside of Honduras conspired to remove the president due to his populist policies.
"We are very worried because the coup takes us back to the past politically, economically and socially," said Marvin Ponce, a member of the Honduran National Congress. "We are here not just to defend Zelaya but to defend democracy."
Ponce and other Hondurans spoke with reporters through a translator Tuesday morning at a briefing organized by the Center for Democracy in the Americas, a think tank that tracks U.S. policy toward Latin America.
The lobbying trip by the Hondurans comes as partisan fault lines take shape on Capitol Hill. Democrats have embraced the idea that this was a military coup, while Republicans say Zelaya's removal was justified after he tried to grab more power than he is constitutionally allowed.
A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee has already taken up the issue at a hearing, and last week a trio of liberal House Democrats - Reps. Bill Delahunt (Mass.), James McGovern (Mass.) and José Serrano (N.Y.) - introduced a resolution deeming the action a coup and calling for the reinstatement of Zelaya. "To accept the overthrow of a democratically elected government is to wipe away the progress that has been made - progress that has been supported by both Democratic and Republican presidents and congresses," the lawmakers wrote in a "Dear Colleague" letter seeking support for their resolution.
The resolution had 16 co-sponsors as of press time Tuesday - all of them Democrats, including a few committee chairmen: Reps. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) of the Judiciary Committee and Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.) of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Their resolution followed one introduced last Thursday by Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), who condemned Zelaya for his desire to change presidential term limits and said that led to his exile. Eleven co-sponsors have signed on, all Republican.
This week, the Hondurans opposing the takeover are scheduled to meet with McGovern but also with Reps. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. They also plan to hold an open briefing for lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the situation in Honduras and have meetings planned with officials from the State Department and World Bank.
Engel, who chaired last week's hearing, is a key voice in the debate over Honduras; his subcommittee has jurisdiction over the region. Engel more forcibly criticized Zelaya last week at the hearing after calling for his reinstatement one day after his June 28 ouster.
The Hondurans who are against Zelaya's exile plan intend to push lawmakers and administration officials to end trade and foreign aid to Honduras until the political crisis is resolved. "The power to return the president is here in Washington if they suspend trade," Ponce said.
The advocates for Zelaya said those who oppose the interim government are being censored in the press, arrested and even killed by the authorities. "If this government was a democratic government, they wouldn't have to use this force," Almendares said.
The Hondurans in Washington this week have found support among some American academics. In a July 9 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, 78 Latin American scholars said, "Anything less than the urgent restoration of President Manuel Zelaya to office would be an usurpation of the will of the Honduran people."
But those opposed to Zelaya's ouster will already find a lobbying campaign against the former president here in Washington. Last week, the Honduran branch of CEAL, essentially Latin America's chamber of commerce, hired Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to lobby on its behalf, saying it was right to oust Zelaya.
2) U.S. continues to train Honduran soldiers
James Hodge and Linda Cooper, National Catholic Reporter, Jul. 14, 2009
A controversial facility at Ft. Benning, Ga. - formerly known as the U.S. Army's School of the Americas - is still training Honduran officers despite claims by the Obama administration that it cut military ties to Honduras after its president was overthrown June 28, NCR has learned.
A day after an SOA-trained army general ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint, President Barack Obama stated that "the coup was not legal" and that Zelaya remained "the democratically elected president." The Foreign Operations Appropriations Act requires that U.S. military aid and training be suspended when a country undergoes a military coup, and the Obama administration has indicated those steps have been taken.
However, Lee Rials, public affairs officer for the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, the successor of SOA, confirmed Monday that Honduran officers are still being trained at the school. "Yes, they're in class now." Rials said Asked about the Obama administration's suspension of aid and training to Honduras, Rials said, "Well, all I know is they're here, and they're in class."
The decision to continue training the Hondurans is "purely government policy," he said, adding that it's possible that other U.S. military schools are training them too. "We're not the only place."
The school trained 431 Honduran officers from 2001 to 2008, and some 88 were projected for this year, said Rials, who couldn't provide their names. Since 2005, the Department of Defense has barred the release of their names after it was revealed that the school had enrolled well-known human rights abusers.
The general who overthrew Zelaya - Romeo Orlando Vásquez Velásquez - is a two-time graduate of SOA, which critics have nicknamed the "School of Coups" because it trained so many coup leaders, including two other Honduran graduates, Gen. Juan Melgar Castro and Gen. Policarpo Paz Garcia.
Vasquez is not the only SOA graduate linked to the current coup or employed by the de facto government. Others are:
-Gen. Luis Javier Prince Suazo, the head of the Honduran air force, who arranged to have Zelaya flown into exile in Costa Rica;
-Gen. Nelson Willy Mejia Mejia, the newly appointed director of immigration, who is not only an SOA graduate, but a former SOA instructor. One year after he was awarded the U.S. Meritorious Service Medal, he faced charges in connection with the infamous death squad, Battalion 3-16, for which he was an intelligence officer.
-Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza Membreño, the Honduran army's top lawyer who admitted that flying Zelaya into exile was a crime, telling the Miama Herald that "In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime," but it will be justified.
-Lt. Col. Ramiro Archaga Paz,the army's director of public relations, who has denied harassment of protesters and maintained that the army is not involved in internal security.
-Col. Jorge Rodas Gamero, a two-time SOA graduate, who is the minister of security, a post he also held in Zelaya's government.
3) Iranians Held By U.S. Were Envoys
U.S. held Iranians as 'hostages,' officials say
Barbara Slavin, Washington Times, July 15, 2009
Three members of Iran's elite Quds Force who were seized in Iraq by the United States were held for more than two years even though they had not been involved in anti-U.S. activities and were functioning as diplomats at the time, a former and a currently serving senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
The former official, who served in Iraq and was in a position to know about the issue but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the topic, said that the three - who were turned over to the Iraqis last week and then to Iran - were in effect "hostages" taken to try to persuade Iran to reduce its support for anti-U.S. violence in Iraq.
The second official, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity because his account contradicted previous U.S. government statements, said the three were held as "potential leverage" against Iran, which provided financial and weapons support to anti-U.S. Iraqis after the 2003 U.S. invasion.
Both Iran and Iraq protested the arrests and prolonged detentions, which attracted worldwide attention. The Quds or Jerusalem Force is an elite unit in Iran's military and intelligence establishment. Many of its officials and veterans serve in top Iranian government positions.
U.S. officials have repeatedly suggested since the arrests that the three Iranians had been directly involved in support of anti-U.S. violence in Iraq but provided no specific evidence. The three were never charged with any wrongdoing.
A White House official, who spoke on the condition he not be named, said Tuesday that the U.S. view "has not changed. The detainees in question are members of the Quds Force and the Quds Force is involved deeply in training and supporting Iraqi militant groups that threaten our soldiers and civilians as well as Iraqi security forces and civilians and the long-term stability of Iraq."
However, asked to identify links between the three and any specific anti-U.S. or anti-Iraq activities, the U.S. official said he had "no information on specific acts."
Iran has long maintained that the three were diplomats. Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, a Quds Force officer who also serves as Iran's ambassador in Iraq, told The Times recently that the three - Abbass Jamie, Majid Ghaemi and Hussein Bagheri - are consular officials who were arrested illegally in an office long used by the Iranians in Irbil, a city in the Kurdish region of Iraq.
Mr. Kazemi-Qomi said the three had documents proving that their activities were in accord with an agreement in effect from 1991 to 2003 between Iran and the autonomous Iraqi Kurdish government. "They worked on issuing visas and other consular matters for ordinary people, patients seeking medical care, tourists and businessmen traveling from Kurdistan to Iran," Mr. Kazemi-Qomi said in an e-mail relayed to The Times from an official in Tehran.
In the spring of 2007, Tehran imprisoned several Iranian-Americans in what appeared in part to be retaliation for the detention of the Quds Force officers and an effort to secure their release.
4) Obama: Iran protests could hinder nuclear talks
Shlomo Shamir, Haaretz, 15/07/2009
U.S. President Barack Obama hinted that the Iranian elections and the ensuing violent demonstrations could adversely affect the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. "My hope is that they continue to see [the U.S. diplomatic effort vis-a-vis the Iranian government] as an opportunity, but obviously what's happened over the past several weeks raises serious questions," he said in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN's '360 Degrees.'
The president nevertheless emphasized that the issue of U.S. negotiations with Iran is not a lost cause. "Well I think that it's still in flux, and what we have to do is evaluate over the next several months both how ... the ... Iranian leadership works through what appears to be still dissension within its ranks. I think it's important for us to recognize that although the ... the prospects of bilateral engagement may have been ... shifted as a consequence of this post-election activity, that we still have a multilateral track with the Europeans and the Russians and the Chinese and others that ... no matter what happened we were going to have to mobilize to help to obtain some sort of serious agreement with the Iranians, and that diplomatic effort is going to continue."
5) Coup Opponents Announce New Stage of Protests
Thelma Mejía, Inter Press Service, Jul 13
Tegucigalpa - The sectors opposed to the regime that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya on Jun. 28 announced a new stage of resistance, while Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is planning a second round of talks, as peace broker.
Meanwhile, the so-called Resistance Front Against the Coup d'Etat announced a new, more radical phase of protests this week aimed at securing Zelaya's return.
Congressman Marvin Ponce of the leftist Democratic Unification (UD) party said he believes the talks in San José are merely aimed at "buying time, while the Micheletti regime gets established, and we won't let that happen. We think they are only trying to drag this situation out, when things here are clear: there was a coup d'etat and Manuel Zelaya should be reinstated.
"As of this week we are going to take more radical action," he told IPS. "We are calling all of the organisations that make up the Resistance Front to an assembly Tuesday where we are going to propose a nationwide general strike as well as more radical actions. If what it takes is civil war, then that's what we'll do.
"The people owe Honduras a revolution, and if the legitimate president, Manuel Zelaya, is not reinstated, there will be a confrontation between social classes. What I can say is that the days of peaceful resistance, like we have had until now, are numbered," said Ponce, visibly exhausted from the last two weeks of protests.
There have been media reports and footage of harsh crackdowns on pro-Zelaya demonstrators, and two protesters were reportedly killed in a clash with security forces at the airport in Tegucigalpa when the leader's attempt to return to Honduras was thwarted by the military on Jul. 5.
In addition, two of Ponce's fellow UD politicians have been murdered in murky circumstances: Roger Bados was killed over the weekend at his home in Rivera Hernández, a violent slum in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, while Ramón García was murdered while riding in a bus to the capital from the western city of Santa Bárbara.
The deaths of the two UD social activists have not been expressly linked to the crisis triggered two weeks ago, when at least 200 military troops surrounded Zelaya's residence early in the morning on Sunday, Jun. 28, pulled him out of bed at gunpoint and put him on a plane to Costa Rica.
The situation surrounding the two murders is "strange and hazy. We need more information before we can comment on" the deaths, said Ponce.
In the view of Erasto Reyes, a leader of the Bloque Popular that forms part of the Resistance Front in San Pedro Sula, the murders "have increased the fear and sense of insecurity in this tense context in which social activists move. But we are not going to let down our guard, regardless," he told IPS.
On Sunday, the Micheletti government lifted the nighttime curfew in place since the coup, an attempt to show the international community that things were returning to normal in Honduras, in the wake of wide condemnation of the suspension of constitutional guarantees. Labour and business activity began to return to normal last week, while marches by pro- and anti-Zelaya demonstrators have continued since Jun. 28.
The most affected sector has been education. On Monday, one faction of the teachers' unions called for a return to the classroom, while the rest decided in an assembly to continue the strike. Lina Pineda, leader of one of the five factions that agreed to continue the strike, told IPS that "besides suspending classes, we are going to block roads, because the resistance will continue. We are completely united, and we are not going to stop until the coup-mongers leave."
In statements from the Dominican Republic, Zelaya announced that he would return to the country this week, in line with remarks by his ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who said Sunday that the Honduran leader would reenter his country at a point "where he is least expected."
No government has recognised the regime in Honduras, which is facing total isolation. The coup was condemned by the United Nations General Assembly and the Organisation of American States, both of which called for Zelaya's immediate return to power. The Non-Aligned Movement, to which Honduras belongs, is preparing to do the same on Thursday.
6) Iran's hand in Latin America not as US feared
Sylvie Lanteaume, AFP, July 14, 2009
The United States may have overestimated Iran's influence in Latin America, described for months as worrisome by Obama administration officials, lawmakers and experts, the State Department said. The agency's spokesman Ian Kelly had to refute his own boss, Hillary Clinton, after The Washington Post revealed Iran was not building a major beachhead in Nicaragua, despite the US diplomatic chief's assertions otherwise.
"The Iranians are building a huge embassy in Managua," Secretary of State Clinton said in May. "And you can only imagine what that's for," she added, calling the effort "quite disturbing." But on Monday, Kelly recognized that "right now, there is no major Iranian presence in Nicaragua."
Kelly said he was unaware of the source behind Clinton's statements. But another State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said her assertions came from an unidentified "foreign counterpart."
Citing Western counterterrorism officials, the Los Angeles Times in August spoke of Tehran-financed training camps for the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
Citing a secret Israeli government report, Tel Aviv-based Haaretz said in May that Venezuela and Bolivia, led by President Evo Morales - another US foe - was providing uranium to Iran for its controversial nuclear program.
US officials said privately they were concerned that the allegations could lack little real world evidence.
But Eliot Engel, a congressman of the majority Democratic Party who chairs a subcommittee dealing with Latin American affairs in the House of Representatives, warned the threat was real. He told AFP he was "relieved" that Iran may not be building a huge embassy compound in Managua.
However, he added: "I remain deeply concerned about the lax screening of Iranian travelers to Nicaragua, the flights from Tehran to Caracas for which the passenger and cargo manifests are secret and the many reports of Hezbollah fundraising in South America."
7) Iran's Campaign Against Foreign Plots
Andrew Lee Butters, Time, July 15, 2009
The execution of 13 men in Iran on July 14 highlights a central theme of the regime's response to the protests that followed the disputed result of the June 12 election. Those executed were not street protesters, but instead were accused by authorities in the southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchestan of being members of Jundallah - a Sunni Muslim terrorist group, which may have links to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The group, composed mainly of Iranians of ethnic Baluchi origin and based in the Baluchistan province of neighboring Pakistan, has been charged with a string of attacks across Iran. It also claimed responsibility for the bombing of a mosque in May that killed 25 people.
Iranian authorities claim that those executed were responsible for killing civilians and policemen in several different attacks, and made no specific link between their crimes and the current postelection political crisis. But because Iran sees Jundallah as having U.S. backing, the timing of the execution reinforces Tehran's narrative that foreigners are to blame for the postelection unrest. The executions are also a message to Iran's restive minority groups to stay out of the confrontation between President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his opponents.
Although Persians are Iran's largest ethnic group, almost half of the population comprises Azeris, Kurds, Lors, Arabs, Turkomans, Baluchis and other minorities with longstanding grievances against the central government. During Ahmadinejad's first term, there has been an unusual upsurge of rioting, protests and bombings by minority groups targeting government officials and institutions, including an ambush on the President himself by Baluchis. While the minority groups blame government repression for the unrest, the government blames foreign agitators.
That charge cannot be entirely dismissed as a conspiracy theory, for allegations of a U.S. covert program to destabilize Iran are hardly confined to paranoid mullahs. Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett, former National Security Council officials in the Bush Administration, wrote in May that "the Obama Administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program, begun in President George W. Bush's second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic."
In 2007, ABC News alleged that Jundullah had secretly received advice and encouragement from U.S. intelligence officials on their efforts to destabilize the Iranian regime. That same year, the U.S. government-funded Voice of America radio network broadcast an interview with Jundallah's leader Abdul Malik Rigi, identifying him as "the leader of a popular Iranian resistance movement" - rather than as a militant extremist. The U.S. government denies sponsoring terrorism in Iran, and was reported in May to be considering adding Jundullah to its list of international terrorist organizations.
The primary impact of the activities of foreign-based insurgent groups inside Iran, of course, and whatever backing they receive from abroad, has been to render the legitimate reform movement more vulnerable to being attacked as part of a security threat to the Islamic Republic. After all, it would be a lot harder to paint a crackdown as directed against an "external threat" if there was no external threat.
8) Iraqis Have Told US Military No Patrols Permitted in Baghdad
Mike Tharp, McClatchy Newspapers, Tue, Jul. 14, 2009
Baghdad - Two weeks after U.S. combat troops withdrew from Iraq's major cities, amid sporadic outbreaks of violence countrywide, Iraqi authorities aren't asking American forces for help. Although U.S. troops are "just a radio call away," in Baghdad and five other major urban areas, it appears the Iraqis haven't asked even once. In Baghdad, the Iraqis also won't allow U.S. forces on the street, except for supply convoys.
The failure to trigger the "Onstar option" suggests that the government of Iraq and its military think that they can deal with the car bombings, homemade bombs and attacks with silencer-equipped handguns that have plagued parts of the country in recent days.
As the June 30 deadline approached for withdrawing troops from major cities, U.S. military officials told their Iraqi army and national police allies that they were "just a radio call away" in case they needed American military muscle.
So far, however, it isn't clear whether there's been a call. McClatchy special correspondents in Najaf, Basra, Anbar, Diyala and Mosul report that Iraqi forces have made no requests for U.S. combat help.
American officers have been surprised to learn that "out of the cities" meant just that. "The Iraqis have been hell-bent on taking control of all security operations in the city and completely excluding the Americans," one U.S. officer in Baghdad said, "to the point of completely refusing to permit U.S. patrols of any kind into the city except logistics convoys."
9) Israeli Soldiers in Gaza Describe a 'Moral Twilight Zone'
Dion Nissenbaum, McClatchy Newspapers, July 14, 2009 10:28:32 PM
Jerusalem - Israeli combat soldiers have acknowledged that they forced Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields, needlessly killed unarmed Gazans and improperly used white phosphorus shells to burn down buildings as part of Israel's three-week military offensive in the Gaza Strip last winter.
In filmed testimony and written statements released Wednesday, more than two dozen soldiers told an Israeli army veterans' group that military commanders led the fighters into what one described as a "moral Twilight Zone" where almost every Palestinian was seen as a threat.
Soldiers described incidents in which Israeli forces killed an unarmed Palestinian carrying a white cloth, an elderly woman carrying a sack, a Gazan riding a motorcycle, and an elderly man with a flashlight, said Breaking the Silence, a group formed by army reservists in 2004.
Any Palestinian spotted near Israeli troops was considered suspect. A man talking on a cell phone on the roof of his building was viewed as a legitimate target because he could've been telling militants where to find Israeli forces, the group quoted soldiers as saying. "In urban warfare, everyone is your enemy," said one soldier. "No innocents."
Michael Sfard, an Israeli human rights attorney who reviewed the testimony, said the stories reflected a "dramatic change in the ethos" of the Israeli military that portrays itself as the most moral army in the world. "What we are seeing now is a deterioration of our moral values and red lines," Sfard said. "This is a dramatic change in heart and values."
According to the soldiers, the Israeli military fired white phosphorus mortars and artillery shells to set suspicious buildings ablaze and destroyed scores of Palestinian homes for questionable reasons. The white phosphorus supplied by the U.S. is supposed to be used to illuminate targets or provide smoke cover for advancing troops. "Phosphorus was used as an igniter, simply make it all go up in flames," one soldier said.
In the Ezbt Abd Rabbo neighborhood, Israeli combatants said they forced Palestinians to search homes for militants and enter buildings ahead of soldiers in direct violation of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that bars fighters from using civilians as human shields.
10) Israel and EU Clash Over Settlements
Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service, Jul 13
Ramallah - The Israeli Foreign Ministry's concern over an "unusually harsh statement" by the European Commission over Israel's settlement policy indicates a growing unease between Israel and the EU.
The European Commission (EC), the executive arm of the EU, said that Israel's settlement policy in the West Bank was strangling the Palestinian economy and forcing Palestinians there to become more dependent on foreign aid. "It is the European taxpayers who pay most of the price of this dependence," read the Jul. 6 EC statement.
According to the EC, expropriation of fertile Palestinian land for the settlements, the settler-only bypass roads which serve them, and the hundreds of West Bank checkpoints manned by the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) have stunted Palestinian economic growth.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) states that 509 million dollars is spent annually on maintaining Israeli settler roads and checkpoints. The bypass roads are meant to make it easier and quicker for Israeli settlers to reach Israel proper, while the checkpoints ostensibly serve their security.
OCHA released a report in June saying that nearly 30 percent of the West Bank, which under international law belongs to the Palestinians, has been expropriated by the Israelis as closed military zones and for nature reserves.
Together with Israel's more than 100 illegal settlements - home to approximately 500,000 settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank - approximately 40 percent of the territory has been taken by Israel.
11) EU's Solana calls for UN to recognise Palestinian state
Reuters, Sun Jul 12, 2009 8:36am EDT
Brussels - The European Union's foreign policy chief called for the U.N. Security Council to recognise a Palestinian state by a certain deadline even if Israelis and Palestinians have not reached agreement among themselves. The EU's Javier Solana made his comments on Saturday at a lecture in London while Palestinian and Israeli peace talks remain stalled.
"After a fixed deadline, a U.N. Security Council resolution should proclaim the adoption of the two-state solution," Solana said, adding this should include border parameters, refugees, control over the city of Jerusalem and security arrangements. "It would accept the Palestinian state as a full member of the U.N., and set a calendar for implementation. It would mandate the resolution of other remaining territorial disputes and legitimise the end of claims," Solana went on.
Advocating a return to Israel's borders before the 1967 war with Egypt, Syria and Jordan in which it took the West Bank, Solana said mediators should set a timetable for a peace agreement. "If the parties are not able to stick to it (the timetable), then a solution backed by the international community should be put on the table," he said.
12) Group Wants Aid to Mexico Conditioned on Human Rights
EFE, July 13, 2009
Washington - Human Rights Watch is urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to withhold U.S. military aid to Mexico until it complies with the human-rights requirements listed in the Merida Initiative, which provides the framework for Washington's drug-war assistance.
It specifically states that members of the military accused of committing abuses against the population be tried by civil courts and not by military tribunals, in the belief that military judges "lack the independence necessary to ensure that these cases are brought to justice."
HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth expressed concern about "the rapidly growing number of serious abuses committed by the Mexican military during counternarcotics and public security operations, including rapes, killings, torture, and arbitrary detentions."
"The Merida Initiative provides the Obama administration with an important opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Mexican drug-enforcement and human-rights cooperation," he said in the letter to Clinton. "To capitalize on this opportunity, however, the Obama administration should vigorously enforce the human-rights requirements included in the aid package."
HRW regrets that in the last 10 years Mexican military courts, which assume the responsibility of investigating abuses of the military against civilians, has not convicted a single defendant in a case involving serious human rights abuses.
In its report, "Uniform Impunity: Mexico's Misuse of Military Justice to Prosecute Abuses in Counternarcotics and Public Security Operations," HRW says that the number of complaints about human-rights violations by the Mexican military has increased six-fold since President Felipe Calderon deployed 45,000 troops to combat powerful, well-armed drug cartels. The Merida Initiative is a regional security plan promoted by the United States to help Mexico and Central America combat drug trafficking. Lawmakers have budgeted $405 million for the effort in the 2009 fiscal year.
HRW recalls that the U.S. Congress ordered that 15 percent of Merida funds be retained until the secretary of state can report that the Mexican administration is complying with the initiative's conditions in terms of human rights.
For that reason the group asks Clinton to issue her report "only if and when she can determine that Mexico has effectively reformed its military justice system to ensure that alleged serious human rights abuses will by law be tried before civilian authorities, and are in fact being investigated and prosecuted by civilian authorities." HRW also recommends that, before making that report, she carry out a wide-ranging process of consultation with Mexican and international organizations.
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