JFP News 8/12: Iranian Opposition Intellectuals Oppose Economic Sanctions
Just Foreign Policy News
August 12, 2009
What Did a US-funded Poll Say About a Karzai First-Round Victory?
The British newspaper The Telegraph is claiming that a US funded poll indicates that Hamid Karzai will not win re-election as President of Afghanistan in the first round. The poll put Karzai at 36 per cent of the vote and Abdullah Abdullah at 20 per cent, the Telegraph says. But the Telegraph report is misleading. A Washington Post report of the same poll noted that Karzai led with 45 percent of the vote among decided voters - much closer to the 50% needed to avoid a run-off.
Obama, You Do Have a Button to Reverse the Coup in Honduras
"I can't press a button and suddenly reinstate Zelaya," Obama said. But Obama does have a button he has not pressed: canceling U.S. visas of coup leaders, as called for by 16 Democratic Members of Congress.
Letter: 16 Members of Congress call on Obama to take further measures against Honduran coup regime
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1) A group of liberal lawmakers urged President Obama to do more to reverse the coup in Honduras, such as freezing the assets of those involved, and denying them entry into the US, The Hill reports. "We are … increasingly concerned by the many reports of flagrant human rights violations that are being committed under the current de facto regime," said a letter to the president, which was signed by Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and 16 fellow members of the caucus.
2) Iranian human rights and democracy activist Akbar Ganji told Democracy Now that opposition intellectuals in Iran oppose new economic sanctions on Iran, NIAC reports.
3) Iran is much less vulnerable to gasoline sanctions than is commonly believed on Capitol Hill, and its foreign gasoline dependence is dropping by the day, writes energy analyst Gal Luft for Foreign Policy. As of this fall, Iran's daily gasoline dependence will stand below 25 percent. This figure is expected to decline even further to roughly 15 percent over the next year as new refining capacity comes online. By 2012 Iran is projected to be gasoline self-sufficient.
4) More than 3,000 supporters of Manuel Zelaya threatened to boycott a presidential election planned for November if the ousted Honduran leader is not brought back to power, AFP reports. Protesters converged on the capital Tegucigalpa after marching for several days from eastern Honduras, while other groups headed by foot to the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, the country's financial center.
5) Chilean President Bachelet called on her South American counterparts to back (OAS) Secretary General Insulza in his efforts to restore democracy in Honduras, the Santiago Times reports. Insulza was a top cabinet minister in the Chilean government. Bachelet's defense of Insulza came after Honduran coup leader Roberto Micheletti questioned the OAS head's "lack of objectivity, impartiality, and professionalism."
6) Top advisers to Obama played down the role of Iran in aiding insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan, saying information was conflicting and any threat appeared unsubstantial, Reuters reports. "We get conflicting reports on that," US envoy Holbrooke said, when asked if Iran was supporting the insurgency. Holbrooke said Iran had a "legitimate role to play in the resolution of the Afghan issue." Holbrooke's advisor Vikram Singh said: "Certainly the Iranians have in the past provided some arms to some groups inside Afghanistan. I do not think it has been viewed from a defense perspective as a substantial effort or a substantial threat."
7) Despite what a lot of commentators imply, recent bombings in Iraq have almost nothing to do with the cessation of US patrols in the major cities, writes Juan Cole. 437 Iraqis were killed by political violence in June, the last month of US military patrols, with 40 attacks per week. In July, the first month in which there were no regular US patrols in the major cities, 275 Iraqis were killed in political violence and the number of attacks was 29 per week.
8) The Congressional fight to end the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba is the main battlefield in the dispute for the normalization of relations, Inter Press Service reports. The "Freedom to Travel Act" (HR 874) has 160 co-sponsors in the House and Senate.
1) Liberals urge Obama to do more on Honduras
Mike Soraghan, The Hill, 08/11/09 05:04 PM [ET]
A group of liberal lawmakers urged President Obama to do more to reverse the coup in Honduras, such as freezing the assets of those involved, and denying them entry into the United States.
"We are … increasingly concerned by the many reports of flagrant human rights violations that are being committed under the current de facto regime," said a letter to the president, which was signed by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and 16 fellow members of the caucus.
The letter cites human rights groups that have documented protesters being shot by the military, media outlets that have been shut down and political organizers who have been detained. "It is this increasingly alarming situation that compels us to urge you to take further action," the letter said.
2) Ganji: Opposition Does Not Support Economic Sanctions
NIAC, August 12th, 2009
Iranian human rights and democracy activist Akbar Ganji went on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman:
Anjali Kamat: Let's bring this back to the present, Akbar Ganji. What are you calling for? You, along with several other Iranian intellectuals, have sent a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. You're very clear in the letter that this is not a call for economic sanctions. This is something that some right-wing politicians in the US continue to call for. It's also not a call for military intervention. But what are you calling for?
Akbar Ganji: [translated] I have repeated this several times, and a large number of Iranian intellectuals concur on this, that we disagree with military action. We also oppose economic sanctions. Economic sanctions did not weaken Saddam; they weakened the Iraqi people.
We have to two major requests. In the hunger strike that we held, our request was for the Secretary-General of the UN to send an envoy to Iran to visit prisons and to meet with prisoners and to ask for the release of all political - prisoners of conscience.
The new campaign that we have launched is against crimes against to humanity. The International Criminal Court considers crimes against humanity. And it is our belief and our suggestion that the leaders of the Islamic Republic have perpetrated crimes against humanity.
What we are suggesting to the West and to the United Nations is that if you launch an attack on Iran and if you enforce military sanctions, this will destroy the Iranian people. Why would you punish the Iranian people? You should not punish the Iranian people; punish the Iranian regime, rather. Whoever has taken part in oppressing and suppressing the Iranian people, including and especially Ali Khamenei, should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.
3) The New Iran Sanctions: Worse Than the Old Ones
The U.S. Congress is considering cutting off petroleum-products shipments to Iran - a useless sanction, and a distraction from real solutions.
Gal Luft, Foreign Policy, August 11, 2009
[Luft is executive director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security and publisher of the Journal of Energy Security.]
In an effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the U.S. Congress has set its sights on the Islamic Republic's foreign gasoline dependence. The logic is straightforward: Iran, it has been widely reported, is an oil giant that nonetheless imports 40 percent of its gasoline; internationally coordinated sanctions stopping it from obtaining enough could pain the regime into rethinking its nuclear ambitions. Little wonder the bipartisan Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act, introduced in both the Senate and the House, enjoys the support of at least 74 senators and 294 representatives.
There is just one problem: Iran is much less vulnerable to gasoline sanctions than is commonly believed on Capitol Hill, and its foreign gasoline dependence is dropping by the day.
The little-known reason is that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has imposed dramatic measures to eliminate this strategic vulnerability. He has massively expanded the country's refinery infrastructure. Seven of Iran's nine existing refineries are undergoing expansion projects; seven new refineries are on the drawing board or already under construction. In three to five years, these projects will double Iran's refining capacity, putting it on par with Saudi Arabia.
These efforts, in addition to an effective petrol rationing scheme, have slashed Iran's need to import petroleum products. As of this fall, Iran's daily gasoline dependence will stand below 25 percent. This figure is expected to decline even further to roughly 15 percent over the next year as new refining capacity comes online. By 2012 Iran is projected to be gasoline self-sufficient; shortly after that, the Islamic Republic is likely to become a net gasoline exporter.
In expanding its refining capacity, Iran worked with French, British, German, Swiss, Korean, Romanian, Italian, Danish, Japanese, Chinese, and even American firms (working through shell companies set up overseas). Vigorous enforcement of the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act might cause some of these companies to reconsider their relations with Iran. But the idea that the new U.S. sanctions on gasoline imports - widely thought in Washington to be a "drastic" measure - would derail Iran's progress toward energy independence or inflict more than a pin prick on the mullahs' regime is overly optimistic.
First, the foreign companies that have been involved in Iran's refinery expansion projects have done so in the early phases of licensing, consulting, financing, design and engineering. For the most part these services have already been performed; the Iranians do the construction themselves. Even if the foreign partners responded to the sanctions, it would have little impact on the projects.
Second, Iran is becoming increasingly reliant on China for its refinery expansion program - and Beijing has shown little interest in abiding by any sanctions regime initiated by the United States. In recent months, Chinese companies have greatly expanded their presence in Iran's oil sector. In the coming months, Sinopec, the state-owned Chinese oil company, is scheduled to complete the expansion of the Tabriz and Shazand refineries - adding 3.3 million gallons of gasoline per day. Iran has also secured agreements to take part in three overseas refining joint ventures, in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Syria. The chances those governments would annul these projects are nil.
4) Zelaya supporters threaten to boycott Honduran poll
AFP, Tue Aug 11, 1:50 am ET
Tegucigalpa - More than 3,000 supporters of Manuel Zelaya threatened to boycott a presidential election planned for November if the ousted Honduran leader is not brought back to power.
Protesters converged on the capital Tegucigalpa after marching for several days from eastern Honduras, while other groups headed by foot to the northwestern city of San Pedro Sula, the country's financial center.
"Our goal is to reestablish institutional order by returning President Manuel Zelaya to power," protest leader Andres Tamayo, a Salvadoran priest and member of the Resistance Front that opposes the June 28 military-backed coup, told AFP. "If the coup leaders don't accept, there won't be any elections. We will boycott them."
The move was likely to further prolong the crisis that has gripped the impoverished Central American country.
"Get out putschists, get out Micheletti," protestors shouted as they converged upon the center of Tegucigalpa, referring to Roberto Micheletti, the former president of Congress who was catapulted to the head of the interim government after Zelaya was expelled from the country.
Zelaya, who was in Ecuador, meanwhile called on his opponents to "listen to the people" and denounced the interim government for the deaths of more than 10 young protesters in Honduras. "They were murdered in the streets because they were marching peacefully and were slaughtered with bullets," he said during a mass in Quito celebrating the inauguration of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.
5) Bachelet To Unasur Leaders: "Help Insulza Help Honduras"
Chilean President Hands UNASUR Reigns To Ecuador
Santiago Times, Tuesday, 11 August 2009
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday called on her South American counterparts to back Organization of American States (OAS) General Secretary José Miguel Insulza in his efforts to resolve the ongoing political crisis in Honduras. Insulza, a Chilean, served as a top cabinet minister during the Ricardo Lagos and Eduardo Frei governments.
"(We have to) renew our support for Insulza as he has been working constantly to guarantee the possibility of restoring democratic and constitutional order in Honduras," she said during a Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) summit in Quito Ecuador. The crisis in Honduras has been the most recent reminder that democracy has still not been completely consolidated in the region."
Chile's president made her plea just before handing over the temporary presidency of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.
Bachelet's defense of Insulza came after interim Honduran President Roberto Michelett on Sunday questioned the OAS head's "lack of objectivity, impartiality, and professionalism." Micheletti also confirmed that the visit of Insulza and six OAS foreign ministers to Honduras to assess the situation in the country, due to take place on Tuesday, would be postponed, adding that the Insulza would only be recognized in the capacity of an observer.
6) U.S. sees limited Iranian hand in Afghan insurgency
Adam Entous, Reuters, Wednesday, August 12, 2009 4:23 PM
Washington - Top advisers to U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday played down the role of Iran in aiding insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan, saying information was conflicting and any threat appeared unsubstantial.
Shi'ite Iran is not a comfortable ally of the hardline Sunni Taliban, but analysts say Tehran may be providing some support to tie down and irritate U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Earlier this year, the U.S. commander of international forces in Afghanistan accused Iran of supporting the Taliban but said he had not seen the introduction of sophisticated Iranian military equipment of the kind that was sent to Iraq.
"We get conflicting reports on that," Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, told a panel organized by a Washington think tank, when asked if Iran was supporting the insurgency.
Holbrooke's senior defense advisor, Vikram Singh, said: "Certainly the Iranians have in the past provided some arms to some groups inside Afghanistan. I do not think it has been viewed from a defense perspective as a substantial effort or a substantial threat."
Holbrooke said Tehran had a "legitimate role to play in the resolution of the Afghan issue."
"They are a factor. And to pretend that they're not, as was often done in the past, doesn't make much sense," Holbrooke said, but added: "We don't have any direct contacts with them on this."
7) Spike in Bombings in Iraq Unrelated to lack of US Patrols
Juan Cole, Informed Comment, Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Bombings killed 8 and wounded 50 in Iraq on Tuesday [AFP reports.] There were two bombings in eastern Shiite neighborhoods in the capital. A boy and two soldiers were wounded near Baqubah.
These attacks are likely to go on for a while. But despite what a lot of commentators imply, the recent bombings have almost nothing to do with the cessation of US patrols in the major cities.
As AFP lets slip, 437 Iraqis were killed by political violence in June, the last month of US military patrols, with 40 attacks per week.
In July, the first month in which there were no regular US patrols in the major cities, 275 Iraqis were killed in political violence and the number of attacks was 29 per week.
One month does not make a trend. The number of deaths in August could well be back up to the June level. But if deaths and attacks dropped by a third during the first month of no US patrols, it is not legitimate to suggest that the patrols need to start back up or their lack is the cause of increased violence!
Moreover, the bombing in Khazna north of Mosul would not have been in any way impeded by patrols of US troops in the big city of Mosul. Small villages have all along been vulnerable to attacks precisely because they are seldom garrisoned by US or Iraqi troops. In August of 2007, truck bombings of two Yazidi villages in the north killed an estimated 500 Iraqis. And that was at the height of the so-called 'surge.' US troops could not stop the hitting of a soft target like that 2 years ago, and Iraqi troops cannot stop it today. It is irrelevant to the question of the security fallout from the US withdrawal.
So, to repeat: Violence and monthly death tolls fell when the US troops stopped patrolling. And attacks like that at Khazna were happening when US troops had more security duties.
So whatever has been going on in Iraq during the past week is not an argument for the unwisdom of the troop drawdown. The journalists who are playing up this angle are just not doing the math.
8) USA-Cuba: A Different Scenario.
Inter Press Service, August 11, 2009
The new round of immigration talks between the US and Cuba that began recently could mark a point of relaxation in this old, bitter and tense dispute, possibly extending the horizons that the new White House administration is proposing.
In April, US President Barack Obama authorized travel and money transfers to Cuba on the part of Cuban-Americans. Soon after, the State Department acknowledged that representatives of the two countries had begun unofficial discussions in an attempt to reinitiate dialogue.
In May, a US official said Cuban authorities had "demonstrated they would like to explore other areas of dialogue," such as in combating drug trafficking, the war on terrorism, and training to respond to hurricanes and other catastrophes.
The Obama administration also maintained the suspension of enforcement of Title III, one aspect of the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, which would allow legal action against firms that trade with Cuban companies involved with formerly American-owned properties nationalized following the Cuban Revolution. [These include firms that sell food products to Cuba under special licensing.]
A survey conducted by the World Public Opinion company revealed that 70 percent of Americans - including 62 percent of those who identified themselves as Republicans - want to put an end to restrictions on travel to Cuba.
Likewise, most Cuban-American are now in favor of putting an end to the prohibitions on trips, as well as normalizing relations, indicated an international publication.
Congressional Representative Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, who participated in a delegation of the Black Caucus that traveled to the island in March of this year and met with former President Fidel Castro, has introduced the Commercial Normalization Act between the United States and Cuba. If passed, this legislation would revoke the Helms-Burton and Torricelli acts and would put an end to the embargo; the bill currently has 55 co-sponsors.
The Congressional fight to end the travel ban is the main battlefield in the dispute for the normalization of relations, agree most specialists on the issue.
Moving in that direction, growing support is projected for the "Freedom to Travel Act" (HR 874), which has bipartisan support from 160 co-sponsors in the two houses. Another bill (S 428) has 29 co-sponsors in the Senate.
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