JFP News 9/22: Brzezinski suggests U.S. threaten Israeli planes to deter Israeli attack
Just Foreign Policy News
September 22, 2009
Now is the Time to Restore President Zelaya
Secretary of State Clinton says that "now that President Zelaya is back, it would be opportune to restore him to his position." But before there can be a diplomatic solution, the U.S. must make clear to the coup regime that a violent crackdown won't solve the crisis. Urge the State Department and the White House to speak out forcefully against violent repression.
Withdraw from Afghanistan with a Public, Negotiated Timetable
In this short video from the CATO forum, Just Foreign Policy makes the case for a timetable for withdrawal.
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1) Honduran authorities maintained a security cordon around the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa Tuesday after forcefully dispersing supporters of ousted President Zelaya, CNN reports. Police and soldiers blocked off streets throughout the capital to enforce a nationwide curfew. All flights in and out of the country were canceled. The de facto authorities isolated the Brazilian Embassy by cutting water, power and phone lines to the building. The U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa was closed. The State Department said U.S. diplomats remained in contact with both sides in the conflict.
2) A WorldPublicOpinion.org poll says 6 in 10 Iranians favor "full, unconditional negotiations" with the U.S. Three in four continue to have an unfavorable view of the U.S. government. Eight in 10 Iranians say they consider Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the country's legitimate president. 62 percent say they have a lot of confidence in the declared election results, while 21 percent say they have some confidence. Just 13 percent say they do not have much confidence or no confidence in the results.
3) Gen. McChrystal's grim assessment of the Afghanistan war has opened a divide between the military, which is pushing for an early decision to send more troops, and civilian policymakers who are increasingly doubtful of an escalating nation-building effort, the Washington Post reports. Some of President Obama's advisers have proposed looking at other, less costly options to address his primary goal of preventing al-Qaeda from reestablishing itself in Afghanistan. Those options include a redirection of U.S. efforts toward persuading the Taliban to stop fighting. If Obama's core objective is to prevent al-Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan, some officials argue, it may not depend on defeating the Taliban. An equally viable policy could include convincing amenable Taliban fighters that it is in their best interests to keep al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan.
4) Police officials from some of Afghanistan's most violent regions questioned the need for more U.S. troops, saying it would increase the perception the U.S. is an occupying power and the money would be better spent on local forces, AP reports.
5) U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, told a town hall meeting he plans to sponsor legislation calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette reports. "I want to protect America, but I don't want to lose lives senselessly," Johnson said. "And we cannot police the world." Johnson said he is working with a bipartisan group, including Reps. Ron Paul, R-Texas, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, on the Afghanistan withdrawal legislation.
6) By allowing President Zelaya shelter in Brazil's embassy, Brazil has seized a chance to consolidate its position as Latin America's undisputed leader, the Christian Science Monitor says. When a Zelaya colleague phoned the Brazilian mission less than two hours before Zelaya walked through its doors, Brazilian officials apparently did not hesitate. "I reiterated that Brazil would not just support him, but we would also house him under the circumstances and do whatever was necessary to help him in the dialogue," Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim said. "We can't accept that for political differences people think they have the right to depose a democratically-elected president," said President Lula.
7) Carter's national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski says President Obama should make it clear to Israel that if they attempt to attack Iran's nuclear weapons sites the U.S. Air Force will stop them, ABC News reports. "We are not exactly impotent little babies," Brzezinski said. "They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? ... We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a 'Liberty' in reverse."
8) President Obama chided the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority for not doing more to move peace talks forward, the Washington Post reports. Obama said Israel must do more to turn their discussions about limiting Israeli settlements into tangible action. And he said Palestinians need to do more to end anti-Israeli rhetoric in the Palestinian territories.
9) The last 15 U.S. troops in Ecuador left the country's Manta air base Friday, AP reports. "The Ecuadoran government is very satisfied to comply with a constitutional mandate and deliver on a campaign promise . . . by fully recuperating our sovereignty over the Manta base," Ecuador's security minister, Miguel Carvajal, said. Carvajal said Ecuador plans to continue cooperating with U.S. anti-narcotics efforts. "Relations with the U.S. remain very good. We have no problem in continuing to cooperate," he said.
1) Honduran military uses tear gas on ousted leader's backers
CNN, September 22, 2009
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Honduran authorities maintained a security cordon around the Brazilian Embassy in the Honduran capital Tuesday after forcefully dispersing supporters of ousted President Jose Manuel Zelaya, who remained holed up inside the embassy.
Police and soldiers blocked off streets throughout the capital to enforce a nationwide curfew in effect until Tuesday evening, CNN en Español reported.
All flights in and out of the country were canceled Tuesday, after all four of Honduras's international airports were also closed.
The measures were the de facto Honduran government's reaction to Zelaya's surprise return Monday.
The government of interim President Roberto Micheletti, who was named by the Honduran congress after the June 28 coup that deposed Zelaya, also isolated the Brazilian Embassy by cutting water, power and phone lines to the building, U.S. Department of State spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters in Washington.
"The United States calls on all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that might provoke violence in Honduras and place individuals at risk or harm," Kelly said. "We urge that all parties refrain from actions that would lead to further unrest."
Kelly said that the American Embassy in Tegucigalpa had closed because of the situation, but that U.S. diplomats remained in contact with both sides in the conflict.
Telesur and the Libertador newspaper reported that electricity has been cut off to some communications media, including Radio Globo and Canal 36 TV.
2) Iranians Favor Diplomatic Relations With US But Have Little Trust in Obama
World Public Opinion, September 18, 2009
A new WorldPublicOpinion.org poll of Iranians finds that six in 10 favor restoration of diplomatic relations between their country and the United States, a stance that is directly at odds with the position the Iranian government has held for three decades. A similar number favor direct talks.
However, Iranians do not appear to share the international infatuation with Barack Obama. Only 16 percent say that have confidence in him to do the right thing in world affairs. This is lower than any of the 20 countries polled by WPO on this question in the spring. Despite his recent speech in Cairo, where Obama stressed that he respects Islam, only a quarter of Iranians are convinced he does. And three in four (77%) continue to have an unfavorable view of the United States government.
"While the majority of Iranian people are ready to do business with Obama, they show little trust in him," says Steven Kull, director of WPO.
At the same time, there are some signs of softening. Trust in Obama is three times higher than the 6 percent of Iranians who expressed confidence in George W. Bush in a 2008 WPO poll. Unfavorable views of the United States government are down 8 points from the 85 percent unfavorable views in 2008 (WPO).
On Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the survey finds that eight in 10 Iranians say they consider him to be the country's legitimate president. Ahmedinejad, who will visit the United States on Tuesday and address the UN General Assembly, was the focus of large-scale protests in Tehran after opposition supporters disputed the validity of his reelection in June.
However, WPO finds 63 percent of Iranians polled say they favor restoration of diplomatic ties. Only 27 percent are opposed.
Asked if they favor or oppose full, unconditional negotiations between the governments of the two countries, 60 percent say they do. Thirty percent are opposed.
Most Iranians express acceptance of the outcome of the Presidential election. Eighty-one percent say they consider Ahmadinejad to be Iran's legitimate president, and 62 percent say they have a lot of confidence in the declared election results, while 21 percent say they have some confidence. Just 13 percent say they do not have much confidence or no confidence in the results. In general, eight in 10 (81%) say they are satisfied with the process by which authorities are elected, but only half that number (40%) say they are very satisfied.
Among the 87 percent of respondents who say they voted in the June presidential election, 55 percent say they voted for Ahmadinejad. Only 14 percent say they voted for Mir Hossein Mousavi, the leading opposition candidate, and 26 percent refused to answer. Asked how they would vote if the election were held again, overall 49 percent say they would vote for Ahmadinejad, 8 percent for Mousavi, 13 percent say they would not vote, and 26 percent would not answer.
"The extremely high number of people refusing to answer questions about their voting preference-something not found in response to any other questions-suggests that people have some discomfort with this topic," says WPO's Kull. "Thus these findings on voting preference are not a solid basis for estimating the actual vote."
Eight in 10 say Ahmadinejad is honest but slightly less than half - 48 percent - say he is very honest. Asked about the institutions that make up the government of the Islamic republic, large majorities express at least some confidence in major institutions. The president is viewed most favorably, with 84 percent of respondents expressing a lot (64%) of or some (20%) confidence.
Overall most Iranians express support for their current system of government. Nine in ten say they are satisfied with Iran's system of government, though only 41 percent say they are very satisfied. Six in ten approve of the system by which a body of religious scholars has the capacity to overturn laws they deem contrary to the Koran, while one in four express opposition. A modest majority (55%) says that the way the Supreme Leader is selected is consistent with the principles of democracy, though three-fifths say they are comfortable with the extent of his power.
3) General's Review Creates Rupture
As Military Backs Call for More Troops In Afghanistan, Civilian Advisers Balk
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's grim assessment of the Afghanistan war has opened a divide between the military, which is pushing for an early decision to send more troops, and civilian policymakers who are increasingly doubtful of an escalating nation-building effort.
Senior military officials emphasized Monday that McChrystal's conclusion that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure" without an urgent infusion of troops has been endorsed by the uniformed leadership. That includes Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the head of U.S. Central Command and architect of the troop "surge" strategy widely seen as helping U.S. forces turn the corner in Iraq.
But before any decision is made, some of President Obama's civilian advisers have proposed looking at other, less costly options to address his primary goal of preventing al-Qaeda from reestablishing itself in Afghanistan. Those options include a redirection of U.S. efforts - away from protecting the Afghan population and building the Afghan state and toward persuading the Taliban to stop fighting - as well as an escalation of targeted attacks against al-Qaeda itself in Pakistan and elsewhere.
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that he was "deeply troubled . . . by reports that the White House is delaying action on the General's request for more troops" and was questioning the "integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency" Obama himself set in motion. "It's time for the President to clarify where he stands on the strategy he has articulated," Boehner said, "because the longer we wait the more we put our troops at risk."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that "any failure to act decisively in response to General McChrystal's request could serve to undermine the other good decisions the president has made" on Afghanistan.
But Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a Navy veteran of Vietnam who once led opposition to that war, praised Obama's deliberative pace.
"All the president is saying is that he wants to take the time to make sure this decision is not done like the Gulf of Tonkin" resolution, where "underlying assumptions aren't questioned," Kerry said. The 1964 joint congressional resolution, based on false information about North Vietnamese actions and adopted amid an anti-communist frenzy, authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to use military force in Southeast Asia.
"You've got to figure out . . . what is the counterinsurgency mission," Kerry said. "The president has all the right in the world to properly vet that mission and define it. It may well be we'll all decide [McChrystal] is absolutely correct, and the mission he's defined is correct."
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has positioned himself between the urgency expressed by military commanders and those calling for a reconsideration of the strategy, last week suggested that all involved take a "deep breath." He has told McChrystal to delay sending his formal request for additional resources until the policy discussion is further along.
This military official and others cautioned that any strategy revision that resulted in a pullback by U.S. and NATO forces would leave Taliban forces in uncontested control of territory and could lead to a return of civil war in Afghanistan, opening the door to reestablishment of al-Qaeda sanctuaries there.
But some civilian officials believe that such a scenario is based on possibly faulty assumptions about who the Taliban insurgents are, what their aims may be, and whether some can be co-opted. If Obama's core objective is to prevent al-Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan, this reasoning goes, it may not depend on defeating the Taliban. An equally viable policy, they argue, could include stepped-up, targeted attacks on al-Qaeda's sanctuaries in Pakistan and convincing amenable Taliban fighters that it is in their best interests to keep al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan.
4) Afghan police: More foreign troops not the answer
Jason Straziuso and Rahim Faiez, Associated Press, September 21, 2009 4:39 PM
Kabul - Police officials from some of Afghanistan's most violent regions questioned the need for more American troops, saying Monday it would increase the perception the U.S. is an occupying power and the money would be better spent on local forces.
The police were responding to an assessment from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that warned the war was getting worse and could be lost without more troops.
President Barack Obama earlier this year approved sending 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of U.S. forces to 68,000 by the end of 2009. McChrystal is expected to ask for more troops in coming weeks, but increasing the number risks alienating Afghans, the police officials said.
The officials come from some of the provinces where the militant threat is the strongest and where international soldiers and Afghans alike have struggled for years to keep the peace. Their reluctance to add troops is striking because of their broad experience already against the Taliban.
"It is very hard for local people to accept any foreigners who come to our country and say they are fighting for our freedom," said Gen. Azizudin Wardak, the police chief in Paktia province. "To give the idea that they are not invaders, that they are not occupiers, is very difficult."
Mohammad Pashtun, the chief of the criminal investigation unit in southern Kandahar province, the Taliban's heartland, said that the money would be better off going to Afghan forces. "Increasing international troops is not useful," he said. "For the expense of one American soldier, we can pay for 15 Afghan soldiers or police."
While Afghans have their doubts about local forces, they also are not convinced international forces have made things any safer.
According to a July survey by the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute, 52 percent of Afghans believe the country was less stable that it was a year ago - up from 43 percent in May, when the new troops had only just begun to arrive. The survey, which interviewed 2,400 Afghan adults, had a margin of error of 2 percentage points.
5) Johnson plans to push to get troops out of Afghanistan
Tom Kacich, Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, Tuesday September 22, 2009
Gibson City - U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, told a town hall meeting Monday night that he plans to sponsor legislation calling for the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. "I want to protect America, but I don't want to lose lives senselessly," Johnson said following a one-hour, open-air session with about 300 people at a park pavilion in Gibson City. "And we cannot police the world."
Johnson's unexpected comments were reminiscent of a break he made in early 2007 with former President Bush over the war in Iraq. At that time, he came out against a "troop surge" in Iraq. "People believe and I believe that we are at a point in history where, unless we have dramatic change in direction, we can wind up being mired and continue to lose large numbers of lives - American, Iraqi and others - indefinitely," he said in January 2007. "And I'm not going to be a part of it."
Two years later, regarding a different country and with a different president, Johnson said he sees a similarity. "I'm suggesting to you that there is no end game. I believe that our men and women are there in a mission that is ill-defined," Johnson said of the war in Afghanistan and the growing pressure to send more American troops there. "I think we're losing people by the day, here and over there, with no even indirect relationship to our national security.
"Within a couple of weeks, I'm going to be looking at legislation and issuing a definitive statement on my position on Afghanistan which at this point I would suggest would call for our withdrawal of troops forthwith."
"We've had a succession from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan, and the net result has been thousands of lives lost, and very little progress made.
"It's kind of like one of those whack-a-moles at the fair. You knock down one and there are four others to get up. I'm in favor of doing everything we can to make America secure, to make sure we don't have another 9/11 or even anything analogous to that, but I'm also convinced that our continued presence in Afghanistan is not serving that role. And we need to seriously re-examine where we're at."
Johnson said he is working with a bipartisan group, including Reps. Ron Paul, R-Texas, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, on the Afghanistan withdrawal legislation.
6) Honduras crisis: Brazil grabs leadership role
By allowing ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to hole up in its embassy, Brazil has thrust itself into the middle of Latin America's most volatile political crisis.
Sara Miller Llana and Andrew Downie, Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 2009
On the eve of this week's gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Brazil has thrust itself into the middle of Latin America's most delicate and volatile political crisis.
By allowing ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya to hole up in Brazil's embassy in Honduras on Monday, just hours after he sneaked back into the country from three months in exile, Brazil has seized a chance to consolidate its position as Latin America's undisputed leader.
"If Brasilia can somehow find the key to peaceful, prompt resolution, they will win major plaudits, and many will begin to see Brazil as the new arbiter of hemispheric issues," says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York.
When a Zelaya colleague phoned the Brazilian mission less than two hours before Zelaya walked through its doors - essentially putting himself under house arrest since he has been threatened with arrest should he set foot on Honduran territory - Brazilian officials apparently did not hesitate.
"I reiterated that Brazil would not just support him, but we would also house him under the circumstances and do whatever was necessary to help him in the dialogue," Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim told reporters in New York. Mr. Amorim said that Brazil did not help Zelaya sneak into Honduras.
The decision to house Zelaya has put the Brazilian embassy at the center of the Honduran political crisis. Hundreds of Honduran troops descended on the area early Tuesday morning, violently dispersing the 4,000 or so Zelaya supporters who had gathered outside. Police fired tear gas and charged with batons. They then placed speakers in front of the embassy and played the Honduran national anthem.
"The soldiers played loud noises to try and make those inside the embassy go crazy," Zelaya said. Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in New York for the UN gathering, said that he asked Zelaya to not give the Honduran military any pretext to resort to violence, according to the Associated Press. "We can't accept that for political differences people think they have the right to depose a democratically-elected president," he said.
7) Zbig Brzezinski: Obama Administration Should Tell Israel U.S. Will Attack Israeli Jets if They Try to Attack Iran
Jake Tapper, ABC News, September 20, 2009 11:10 AM
The national security adviser for former President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, gave an interview to The Daily Beast in which he suggested President Obama should make it clear to Israel that if they attempt to attack Iran's nuclear weapons sites the U.S. Air Force will stop them.
"We are not exactly impotent little babies," Brzezinski said. "They have to fly over our airspace in Iraq. Are we just going to sit there and watch? ... We have to be serious about denying them that right. That means a denial where you aren’t just saying it. If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a 'Liberty' in reverse."
The USS Liberty was a U.S. Navy technical research ship that the Israeli Air Force mistakenly attacked during the Six Day War in 1967. [The claim that the Israeli attack on the Liberty was a "mistake" has been the subject of vigorous dispute - JFP.]
8) Obama Chides Mideast Leaders for Lack of Progress in Peace Talks
Michael D. Shear and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, September 22, 2009 1:47 PM
United Nations, Sept. 22 - President Obama on Tuesday chided the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority for not doing more to move peace talks forward but announced no breakthrough after meeting here privately with both men.
Speaking before convening three-way talks later in the day, Obama said top U.S. diplomatic officials will continue discussions with both countries in the next two weeks in an attempt to restart peace talks.
"It is past time to talk about starting negotiations. It is time to move forward," Obama said after shaking hands for the cameras with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
"We cannot continue the same pattern of taking tentative steps forward and then stepping back," Obama said. "It is absolutely critical that we get this issue resolved."
Obama said Israel must do more to turn their discussions about limiting Israeli settlements into tangible action on the contentious issue. And he said Palestinians need to do more to end anti-Israeli rhetoric and news reports in the Palestinian territories.
Critical to reaching any final deal are three "final status" issues: the status of Jerusalem and its mix of religious holy sites, the possible return of Palestinian refugees to lands they left behind in Israel decades ago, and the final border between the two states, which would include deciding which settlements in the West Bank Israel would retain.
U.S. officials had hoped to use this forum during the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly to announce an initial breakthrough. But in recent days, White House and State Department officials had played down expectations for any sort of significant movement.
9) As U.S. Closes Military Post, Ecuador Hails Restoration of 'Sovereignty'
Gonzalo Solano, Associated Press, Saturday, September 19, 2009
Quito, Ecuador, Sept. 18 - The last 15 U.S. troops in Ecuador left the country's Manta air base Friday, officially closing the American military post in what Ecuador's government calls a recovery of sovereignty.
The small U.S. mission flew anti-narcotics flights meant to help catch cocaine smugglers close to the point of production.
But Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa, promised in his 2006 election campaign that he would not renew the United States' 10-year lease on the base, located on the Pacific coast. A new constitution approved in a referendum last year officially prohibited foreign military bases on Ecuadoran soil.
"The Ecuadoran government is very satisfied to comply with a constitutional mandate and deliver on a campaign promise . . . by fully recuperating our sovereignty over the Manta base," Ecuador's security minister, Miguel Carvajal, said.
Carvajal said Ecuador plans to continue cooperating with U.S. anti-narcotics efforts. "Relations with the U.S. remain very good. We have no problem in continuing to cooperate," he said.
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