JFP News 7/17: If the US Military Had Deported President Roosevelt...

Just Foreign Policy News
July 17, 2009


The Day They Arrested President Roosevelt
How might American history have been different, if, like President Zelaya, President Roosevelt had been deported by the military during a constitutional dispute? Maybe we wouldn't have a Social Security system, or minimum wage laws, or the National Labor Relations Act, which guarantees the right of workers to organize; maybe, like Honduras, 60% of our fellow citizens would live in poverty.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/265

LAWG, SOAWatch: Call, Write to Support Democracy in Honduras
The Latin America Working Group and School of the Americas Watch urge Americans to contact Congress in support of the resolution (HRes 630) introduced by Reps. Delahunt, McGovern and Serrano, calling for Honduran President Zelaya to be returned to office. The Capitol switchboard is 202.224.3121; or you can send an email here:
LAWG:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/625/t/8560/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1206
SOAWatch:
http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/727/t/3823/campaign.jsp?campaign_KEY=27691

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The current stand-off in Honduras is raising questions about who is in charge of US foreign policy for the hemisphere, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. There appear to be some in the administration who would be content to let the coup government stall out the remaining months of Zelaya's term. Obama needs to lay down the law and make it clear that this coup will not stand. If Obama really wanted to get rid of the coup government he could freeze the bank accounts of those who seized power, and their supporters in the Honduran oligarchy, as suggested by the Los Angeles Times editorial board. This would have the advantage of not hurting poor people in Honduras. If the US does nothing, and the US-dependent coup regime escalates repression against Hondurans to remain in power, the region will hold the US responsible.

2) President Arias said negotiators for President Zelaya and the coup regime in Honduras had agreed to the formation of a unity government and an amnesty for President Zelaya and the coup leaders, the New York Times reports. But the two sides were still far apart on the reinstatement of President Zelaya, [which Costa Rica, the OAS and the US have said is essential to ending the crisis - JFP.] Patricia Rodas, Foreign Minister under the elected government, said President Zelaya was "on his way" back to Honduras, without specifying when or how he would enter.

3) Defense Secretary Gates he could send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year than the 68,000 previously announced, AP reports.

4) Honduran Congressman Marvin Ponce asked the US to step up sanctions on the coup regime in Honduras, Reuters reports. 'We are calling for economic sanctions because it is the only way the coup leaders will give up power,' Ponce said. Ponce called on Washington to suspend visas held by coup leaders and their families and to halt temporarily the transfer of remittances from Honduran workers living in the United States, among other measures.

5) U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo actively helped Chinese interrogators question members of China's Uighur minority, including physically restraining them so they could be photographed against their will, according to testimony presented to Congress, McClatchy reports. The Uighurs were turned over to U.S. troops in Afghanistan by bounty hunters who were paid $5,000 per captive. Eventually, the Uighurs were cleared of any connection to terrorism and ordered released.

Honduras

6) Writing in the Miami Herald, Honduran human-rights activist Bertha Oliva takes issue with Members of Congress and pundits in the U.S. who have sought to justify the coup in Honduras as legal or democratic. What was scheduled to take place on June 28 was not a vote on Zelaya's ability to continue in office, but a nonbinding survey on the possibility of holding a constitutional assembly. In a society based on Rule of Law, there are various mechanisms available for an opposition to make claims against a sitting administration. Kidnapping a president at gunpoint and spiriting him over the border is not one of them and declaring marital law is not one of them. The US must suspend all aid to and trade with Honduras until the legitimate president is restored to power. If the U.S. does not cut ties with Honduras, it is sending a clear signal of tacit support for those who took power illegally as well as the abuses of power we have seen in the week the regime has been in place.

7) The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation denounced as 'disgusting' a letter from leading US trade associations to President Obama, calling for business as usual with Honduras following the coup, Inteletex reports. Seven trade groups, including the American Apparel & Footwear Association and the Chamber of Commerce, wrote to President Obama July 11 urging him to secure the US's economic relationship with Honduras. The textile workers' union expressed concern at efforts to claw back a wage increase ordered by President Zelaya to reflect the increased cost of food and other essentials.

Afghanistan

8) Afghan villagers and officials said at least five civilians were killed and 13 were wounded by US airstrikes Wednesday, the New York Times reports. Survivors of the US attack said they had not previously heard any fighting and that there were no Taliban in the village.

Pakistan
9) India and Pakistan agreed to increase communication to prevent terrorist attacks, the Washington Post reports. Previously, India had insisted that Pakistan take "concrete and demonstrable" action to prevent cross-border terrorism as a precondition for the resumption of peace talks. But a joint statement said that "action on terror should not be linked to the composite dialogue process." India has kept the issue of Kashmir out of the talks but agreed to let Pakistan include in the joint statement a mention about threats in its Baluchistan province, which Pakistan has blamed on India in the past.

Iran
10) If China follows through on plans announced by Iran for China to invest in Iran's refining capacity that Iran has announced, it could significantly weaken the US ability to threaten Iran by cutting off gas imports, Time Magazine reports.

Iraq
11) The prime minister of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region said the Kurdish region and the Iraqi government are closer to war than at any time since 2003, the Washington Post reports. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, fighting might already have started, the Kurdish prime minister said.

Contents:
U.S./Top News

1) Who's in Charge of US Foreign Policy?
The coup in Honduras has exposed divisions between Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton
Mark Weisbrot Guardian, Thursday 16 July 2009
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jul/16/honduras-coup-obama-clinton

The current stand-off in Honduras, in which the coup government headed by Roberto Micheletti is refusing to allow the return of elected president Manuel Zelaya, is raising questions about who is in charge of US foreign policy for the hemisphere.
[...]
When the coup occurred on 28 June, the first statement that came out of the White House was a major blunder. Although the US and international press gave Obama a pass, the diplomatic community could hardly help noticing that the White House issued the only official statement in the world that didn't have a bad word to say about the coup when it happened.

This position shifted as events moved forward, and Obama himself even went so far as to say: "We believe that the coup was not legal and that President Zelaya remains the president of Honduras." But then his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, seemed to contradict him. Twice she was asked by the press whether restoring the democratic order in Honduras meant restoring the elected president, and twice she declined to answer.

There appear to be others in the administration who would be content to let the coup government stall out the remaining months of Zelaya's term. Obama needs to lay down the law and make it clear that this coup will not stand.
[...]
Of course, if Obama really wanted to get rid of the coup government he could freeze the bank accounts of those who seized power, and their supporters in the Honduran oligarchy. This was recommended on Tuesday by the Los Angeles Times editorial board. Such a move would most likely do the job. These people may have a cause, but they are probably more dedicated to their life savings. It would also have the advantage of not hurting poor people in Honduras.

If Obama has qualms about acting unilaterally, he could easily get approval for such sanctions in the Organisation of American States, which condemned the coup and called for the "immediate and unconditional" return of Zelaya. (The OAS doesn't have the authority to require binding sanctions on its members, but it could approve sanctions for those members who want to implement them.)
[...]
It turns out that two of the Honduran coup government's top advisers have close ties to the US secretary of state. One is Lanny Davis, an influential lobbyist who was a personal lawyer for President Bill Clinton and also campaigned for Hillary. G Gordon Liddy, the man who organised the infamous Watergate break-in in 1972, once said of his friend Davis: "He can defend the indefensible." Davis is doing that quite well lately, testifying for the coup government at a congressional hearing last week, and spinning the media on their behalf.

The other hired gun for the coup government that has deep Clinton ties is Bennett Ratcliff. "Every proposal that Micheletti's group presented was written or approved by [Ratcliff]," a witness told the New York Times on Sunday.
[...]
Violence and the control of information are their main weapons of the dictatorship. They will use them much more freely if Obama maintains his silence. This is not Iran, where denunciations from the US serve to discredit the opposition. This is a government that is highly dependent on the US for aid, commerce and moral support – and that the whole world has condemned.

The cynics will say it doesn't matter, that even if Zelaya returns to Honduras with the coup government still holding power, and the military responds with murder and mayhem, Washington can avoid responsibility. But given the long-standing and close ties between the US and Honduran military, Hillary Clinton's relationship with their advocates, the ugly history of the US in Central America and its long support for death squads and anti-democratic forces there and the mixed signals that have come from the Obama administration since the coup, Washington will be blamed for the mess and potential bloodshed that could result.

2) Some Terms Reached in Honduras Dispute
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, July 17, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/world/americas/17honduras.html

The chief negotiator for the political standoff in Honduras said Thursday that the two camps in the crisis had agreed to a number of compromises, including the formation of a so-called unity government and amnesty for crimes committed by both sides.

But, the negotiator warned, the two sides were still far apart on the central point of contention - the reinstatement of the ousted president - making it unlikely that they would reach a deal when talks formally resume this weekend. Indeed, tensions between the camps remain high, with the deposed president threatening to sneak back into the country and the de facto government enforcing a curfew after warning that armed groups were planning a rebellion.

The negotiator, President Óscar Arias of Costa Rica, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, said both sides had agreed to some form of unity government that would include members of all political parties and serve as a check on presidential powers. Fears that the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, was trying to subvert the Constitution and extend his tenure were a driving force behind his ouster last month.

The two sides have also agreed to amnesty, Mr. Arias said, both for those who ousted Mr. Zelaya and for Mr. Zelaya himself, who has been threatened with arrest if he returns to Honduras.
[...]
Hundreds of Zelaya supporters blocked highways in Honduras on Thursday, as Patricia Rodas, the former foreign minister under Mr. Zelaya, said the ousted president was "on his way" back to the country, without specifying when or how he would enter, The Associated Press reported.

3) Gates: More US troops could head to Afghanistan
Lara Jakes, Associated Press, Thursday, July 16, 2009 8:27 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/16/AR2009071602644.html

Chicago - The Pentagon's chief said Thursday he could send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan this year than he'd initially expected and is considering increasing the number of soldiers in the Army.

Both issues reflect demands on increasingly stressed American forces tasked with fighting two wars.
[...]
Asked about Afghanistan by one soldier, Gates said, "I think there will not be a significant increase in troop levels in Afghanistan beyond the 68,000, at least probably through the end of the year. Maybe some increase, but not a lot."
[...]

4) OAS says to keep up pressure on Honduras
Tim Gaynor, Reuters, 7.15.09, 09:01 PM EDT
http://www.forbes.com/feeds/afx/2009/07/15/afx6660568.html

The Organization of American States said on Wednesday it would keep pressure on coup leaders that ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya last month, while supporting dialogue to end the crisis.
[...]
With the OAS urging continued sanctions and a negotiated settlement, a Honduran member of Congress who supports Zelaya's reinstatement asked the United States to step up sanctions on the interim government.

'We are calling for economic sanctions because it is the only way the coup leaders will give up power,' Marvin Ponce, of the leftist Democratic Unification Party, told Reuters.

Ponce, part of a delegation meeting with U.S. lawmakers and government officials, called on Washington to suspend visas held by coup leaders and their families and to halt temporarily the transfer of remittances from Honduran workers living in the United States, among other measures.

5) Uighur detainees: U.S. helped Chinese interrogate us
Grace Chung, McClatchy Newspapers, Fri, Jul. 17, 2009
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/251/story/72000.html

Washington - U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, actively helped Chinese interrogators question members of China's Uighur minority, including physically restraining them so they could be photographed against their will, according to testimony presented Thursday to a congressional subcommittee.

The testimony is certain to add to the controversy over how the U.S. government has handled the Uighurs, who were turned over to U.S. troops in Afghanistan by bounty hunters who were paid $5,000 per captive.

Eventually, the Uighurs were cleared of any connection to terrorism and ordered released from Guantanamo. Nine have been freed; 13 more remain at the prison as officials scour the world for a country that will take them.

Human rights advocates have accused the U.S. of helping China gather information from the Uighurs for use against their friends and families back home, where tension between the predominantly Muslim Uighurs and the dominant Han Chinese frequently breaks into public protest and violence.
[...]
Among the Uighurs' claims:

- U.S. military personnel treated them harshly in the days before Chinese officials visited the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in an effort to soften them up for interrogation.

- That harsh treatment included keeping the detainees awake, subjecting them to frigid temperatures, and keeping them isolated from one another and other prisoners. All of those techniques were approved for use on detainees by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

- U.S. soldiers followed Chinese officials' orders to restrain detainees they said weren't cooperating. One detainee testified that an American told him the harsh treatment he'd received after his interrogation had been at the direction of the Chinese.
[...]

Honduras

6) No justification for coup
Bertha Oliva, Miami Herald, Wed, Jul. 15, 2009
http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/other-views/story/1143103.html

[Oliva is director of the Honduran Committee of Family of the Disappeared Detainees (COFADEH) in Tegucigalpa.]

As a Honduran human-rights activist, it has been disturbing to hear the drumbeat of voices in the U.S. media justifying what is taking place in my country. While the Organization of American States, the United Nations and heads of state from countries across the political spectrum worldwide have condemned the coup, commentators in The New York Times, Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal have called it a "democratic" coup, while others have blamed exiled President Manuel Zelaya for it happening in the first place.

U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fl., has joined the chorus as well, introducing a resolution in support of the de facto regime in the name of "the Honduran people," just days after the coup leaders murdered peaceful citizens on the streets of Tegucigalpa.

The events that have unfolded in Honduras are a forceful and illegal overthrow of a democratically elected government. To justify this act by adding the adjective "democratic" to the coup is not only an oxymoron, but a blatant inaccuracy.

Many in the United States have declared that the proposal by President Zelaya to hold a national consultation on constitutional issues was so dangerous that he somehow brought the coup on himself. To set the record straight, what was scheduled to take place on Sunday, June 28 was not a vote on Zelaya's ability to continue in office, but a nonbinding survey on the possibility of holding a constitutional assembly.

To purposefully misconstrue this as an aggressive, "anti-democratic" act is to stretch the truth to its breaking point, in the service of a pre-determined position against the Zelaya government's policies or politics.

When our fragile democracy and millions of lives are at stake, what is truly dangerous is for influential opinion leaders in the United States to imply that certain kinds of democratically elected governments "deserve" overthrow. In a society based on Rule of Law, there are various mechanisms available for an opposition to make claims against a sitting administration. Kidnapping a president at gunpoint and spiriting him over the border is not one of them and declaring marital law is not one of them. Even the top legal military advisors to the de facto regime in Honduras admitted that their actions were - and are - illegal.
[...]
The last few days have been an uncanny repeat of atrocities that we thought were left behind in the 1980s: forced detentions, murder and violent repression of peaceful protesters, media censorship and suspension of constitutional rights. The situation has garnered swift reproach from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other prominent watchdog groups, but the stifling of dissent has only intensified inside the country.

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have spoken up for democracy and human rights in condemning the actions of the coup leaders. Now the United States must put its money where its mouth is by formally recognizing what happened as a coup d'etat and suspending all aid to and trade with Honduras until the legitimate president is restored to power.

Honduras is deeply dependent on the United States, which is the market for roughly 70 percent of its exports. U.S. trade and aid are the backbone of our economy. If the U.S. does not cut ties with Honduras, it is sending a clear signal of tacit support for those who took power illegally as well as the abuses of power we have seen in the week the regime has been in place.

Actions speak louder than words. The U.S. government is uniquely positioned to play the deciding role in whether or not Honduras is returned to democracy or plunged into dictatorship. Along with my fellow citizens, I pray that this is a moral and political responsibility that the Obama administration will not ignore.

7) US Trade Associations Accused over Honduras
Inteletex, July 16, 2009
http://www.inteletex.com/NewsDetail.asp?PubId=&NewsId=6319

US textile-business leaders have been criticised for putting their commercial interests above ethical concerns in their response to the recent military coup in Honduras.

The International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation dubbed as 'disgusting' a letter from leading US trade associations to President Obama, calling for business as usual with Honduras following the coup, which was supported by key elements of the country's business community.

Seven trade groups, including the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the Emergency Committee for American Trade, the National Council of Textile Organizations, the National Retail Federation, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel and the US Chamber of Commerce, wrote to President Obama on July 11 urging him to secure the US's economic relationship with Honduras.

Neil Kearney, general secretary of the Brussels-based ITGLWF, said: "This approach, which overlooks democracy, civil liberties and the rule of law, is an affront to democracy and a negation of American values.

"Since the coup there has been growing concern at the threat to trade-union and popular leaders, and it appears there is a list of leaders who are threatened with detention and whose personal safety is at risk. There have been reports that on Saturday evening, two leaders of the popular opposition to the coup, Roger Ivan Bados and Ramon Garcia, were murdered in two separate incidents by unidentified gunmen.

"There is also growing concern about worsening working conditions, and in particular at efforts to claw back a wage increase ordered by President Zelaya six months ago in order to reflect the increased cost of food and other essentials. In reality the increased wage barely covered 90% of basic food needs and less than a third of a living wage covering basic needs such as food, rent, transport, education, and medical care".

The letter from the seven trade association stressed the particular importance of Honduras for the US textile-and-apparel supply chain and called it the 'linchpin' to the Western Hemisphere supply chain for this sector. It added: "Honduras is the third largest market for US textile mill products (US exports were $1.4 billion in 2008), the fourth largest supplier of apparel to the US market and the largest DR-CAFTA [Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement] supplier to the United States."

Afghanistan

8) U.S. Strike Kills 5 Civilians, Afghans Say
Taimoor Shah and Carlotta Gall, New York Times, July 17, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/world/asia/17afghan.html

Kandahar - At least five Afghan civilians were killed and 13 were wounded when a United States patrol was attacked on Wednesday night and called in air support, villagers and local officials said Thursday.

The chief spokesman for United States forces, Col. Greg Julian, said that helicopters were sent to the area on Wednesday night after the patrol came under fire, but that he could not confirm any casualties. The patrol was still engaged in fighting on Thursday afternoon, he said.

Nine wounded villagers, including two women and four children, reached a Kandahar hospital on Thursday. Several were unconscious, but others described helicopters firing into their compound at 11 p.m. as they fled the house and tried to hide in an orchard.

The United States military said it was investigating the reports of civilian casualties, and the governor of Kandahar Province sent a delegation to the village to investigate.

Two weeks ago the American commander of NATO and United States forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, issued new orders to try to reduce civilian casualties in an effort to win back the support of the Afghan people.

Over the past few years, NATO and United States operations have killed and wounded thousands of Afghans. This has contributed to growing opposition among Afghans to foreign forces in Afghanistan and to the government of President Hamid Karzai.
[...]
The wounded civilians in the Kandahar hospital were from a farming family in the village of Tawalla, in the remote district of Shah Wali Kot, which has long been a stronghold of Taliban forces. One of the wounded, Muhibullah, 24, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name, said he woke to the sound of shooting and helicopters and ran from the house with the rest of the family toward an adjoining orchard owned by his uncle.

"When we reached the garden, the helicopter shot at us and injured three of my brothers, one sister, my mother, father and sister-in-law, and killed Rahmania, a 4-year-old girl," he said. "I do not know the reason; we did not hear any fighting that night, and there are not any Taliban in our village," he said. "It was a very frightening night for us - we could all have been killed."

His father, Niamatullah, 46, said that when he woke he tried to stop the family from leaving the house, but they were already running. Helicopters were hovering near the house, he said, and when he rushed after his family, the helicopters reappeared and started firing. He said that he hid behind a wall and that the helicopters fired on it. The wall collapsed, injuring his head. He found seven members of his family lying wounded on the ground in the orchard, including four of his sons, his wife, his sister-in-law and her daughter.

He listed four neighbors, all farmers in their 20s and 30s, who he said were killed in the attack, besides Rahmania, his cousin's daughter. Haystacks and wood piles caught fire from the gunfire, which continued until 3 a.m., he said.

The governor of Kandahar Province, Tooryalai Wesa, said only four people were killed; he did not identify them. He said he did not know if the dead were civilians or insurgents, but he confirmed that there were children and women among the wounded. "We are very sad, and it should not have happened," he said.
[...]

Pakistan
9) India, Pakistan To Share Intelligence
Anti-Terror Effort Marks Break in Recriminations That Followed Mumbai Attacks
Rama Lakshmi, Washington Post, Friday, July 17, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/16/AR2009071601408.html

New Delhi - India and Pakistan agreed Thursday to increase communication and information-sharing in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks and said dialogue was the only way forward in the wake of violence such as November's siege in Mumbai.

The leaders of the two countries spoke for almost two hours on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. In a statement afterward, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani agreed to "share real-time, credible and actionable" intelligence information about possible terrorist plots.

The joint statement represented a break in the bitter blame game that followed the deadly Mumbai attacks. "Both leaders affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and cooperate with each other to this end," the statement said. Until now, New Delhi had insisted that Pakistan take "concrete and demonstrable" action to prevent cross-border terrorism as a precondition for the resumption of peace talks.

However, the joint statement said that "action on terror should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed" and that "terrorism is the main threat to both countries."

During the talks, Singh reiterated his demand to "bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice," and Gillani assured that Pakistan would do "everything in its power in this regard."
[...]
An Indian official said India has kept the vexing issue of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir out of the talks and has narrowed the focus to the issue of terrorism. But Singh agreed to let Pakistan include in the joint statement a mention about threats in its Baluchistan province, which Pakistan has blamed on India in the past.

Iran
10) How Iran Might Beat Future Sanctions: The China Card
Vivienne Walt, Time Magazine, Thursday, Jul. 16, 2009
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1910669,00.html

Iran may have an ace in the hole as Western governments weigh sanctions in response to the often violent crackdown on opposition demonstrators. The card Tehran is likely to play? China.

On July 13 Iran's Oil Ministry announced that it had China's agreement to invest about $40 billion in refining Iranian gasoline. The deal would include financing the major new Hormoz refinery in southern Iran, which will be able to produce about 300,000 bbl. of gasoline and kerosene a day once the four-year construction project is completed. China would also overhaul Iran's aging Abadan refinery in the south so that its production could increase by 29%, according to Iranian oil officials, who provided no deadline for that project.

The deal has not yet been signed (and China has yet to confirm it), but if Iran pulls it off, it would solve one of the country's biggest headaches. For despite vast oil reserves and exports, Iran still imports about 130,000 bbl. of gasoline a day because its refineries are too few and too old to meet the demand at home. The Chinese deal would literally keep Iran's factories, homes and cars - in effect, a nation of 66 million people - running.

At the moment, Iran's gasoline imports are not affected by U.S. sanctions or the international, U.N.-agreed sanctions. But the willingness of other countries to sell gasoline to Iran has faltered as political pressure mounts over Iran's nuclear program. India, a major supplier, recently suspended exports of gas for a brief while, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency. "If you really want to use effective sanctions, then you want to cut off gas imports," says Erica Downs, China energy fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "If the Chinese do invest $40 billion and dramatically increase Iran's refining capacity, it would definitely weaken one of the weapons in the U.S. arsenal."
[...]
Major Western oil companies operating in Iran, including Total, Royal Dutch Shell and the Italian company ENI, have held off from signing new deals with Iranian oil officials for several months, perhaps waiting to see if President Obama's moves to open talks with Tehran will succeed in breaking the political impasse. The Chinese deal last month to develop the South Pars gas field came only after Total opted not to sign, fearing political fallout. Such fears have rarely fazed Beijing - and are unlikely to now.

Iraq
11) Kurdish Leaders Warn Of Strains With Maliki
Military Conflict a Possibility, One Says
Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, Friday, July 17, 2009
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/16/AR2009071604369.html

Irbil - Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region and the Iraqi government are closer to war than at any time since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the Kurdish prime minister said Thursday, in a bleak measure of the tension that has risen along what U.S. officials consider the country's most combustible fault line.

In separate interviews, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and the region's president, Massoud Barzani, described a stalemate in attempts to resolve long-standing disputes with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's emboldened government. Had it not been for the presence of the U.S. military in northern Iraq, Nechirvan Barzani said, fighting might have started in the most volatile regions.

The conflict is one of many that still beset Iraq, even as violence subsides and the U.S. military begins a year-long withdrawal of most combat troops from the country. There remains an active sectarian conflict, exacerbated by insurgent groups that seem bent on reigniting Sunni-Shiite carnage. There is also a contest underway in Baghdad to determine the political coalition that will rule the country after next year's elections. But for months, U.S. officials have warned that the ethnic conflict pitting Kurds against Arabs, or more precisely the Kurdish regional government against Maliki's federal government in Baghdad, poses the greatest threat to Iraq's stability and could persist for years.
[...]

-
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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