JFP News 9/24: 500,000 Troops in Afghanistan?
Just Foreign Policy News
September 24, 2009
Tell President Obama: No More Troops for Afghanistan
Some of Obama's advisers are urging him to reject General McChrystal's request for more troops. With Obama publicly deliberating, now is the time to weigh in. Send President Obama a letter. Urge him to reject the request for more troops and turn U.S. policy away from military escalation and towards diplomacy and negotiation.
Scholars, NGOs Appeal to President Obama for UN Security Council Meeting on Honduras
Brazil has asked for an emergency UN Security Council session on the crisis in Honduras. The State Department has said it is viewing Brazil's request positively. Scholars and NGO leaders have initiated a letter to President Obama urging him to support Brazil's request. You can sign too.
Video - Andrea Mitchell: 500,000 Troops Needed for Afghanistan?
Journalist Andrea Mitchell is reporting that in the classified section of the McChrystal report on Afghanistan was a statement that 500,000 troops would be needed in Afghanistan. That's total troops, not U.S. forces, but Mitchell makes the point that since many are deeply skeptical that McChrystal's goals for increasing Afghan troops are realistic, it's reasonable for President Obama to view McChrystal's request for more U.S. troops very skeptically, since the request for more U.S. troops is based on a promise of a "success" in which there are 500,000 troops overall.
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1) Latin American leaders pressed for the return to office of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in their U.N. General Assembly speeches on Wednesday, VOA reports. Brazilian President Lula warned that unless international support for Zelaya is able to force his return to office, Latin America could see a return to an era when military coups were commonplace. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez also demanded Zelaya's immediate restoration to power, with the Chilean leader saying Honduras' planned November elections should go forward only with, in her words, the country's "constitutional president leading this process." Argentine President Cristina Kirchner protested water and power cutoffs this week to the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa and a local television station that reported Zelaya's return as well as a crackdown on his supporters.
2) Gen. McChrystal's request for more troops and other resources to fund the expanded counterinsurgency campaign he has proposed in Afghanistan will arrive at the Defense Department by the end of this week but will not be immediately turned over to the White House, the Washington Post reports. McChrystal rejected reports of a rift between the military and administration civilians, denied that he considered resigning, and said "a policy debate is warranted."
3) Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Iran is willing to have its nuclear experts meet with scientists from the US as a confidence-building measure aimed at resolving concerns about Iran's nuclear program, the Washington Post reports. Iran also will seek to buy from the US enriched uranium needed for medical purposes. Iran's medical reactor was supplied by the United States during the shah's rule.
4) Former and current U.S. officials say Syria is reorganizing its foreign intelligence operations and sidelining officials with unsavory pasts in an effort to improve Syria's relations with the US, the Washington Times reports.
5) President Obama said he and Russian President Medvedev agreed on Wednesday that serious additional sanctions must be considered if Iran does not respond to proposals to end a nuclear standoff, Reuters reports. Medvedev made clear Russia was ready to back further sanctions against Iran unless it changes course on its nuclear program, despite Russia's general reluctance to support such punitive measures. "Russia's position is simple," he said. "Sanctions are seldom productive but they are sometimes inevitable."
6) A government spokeswoman said China will not support increased sanctions on Iran as a way to curb its nuclear program, the New York Times reports. "At present, it is not conducive to diplomatic efforts," the foreign ministry spokeswoman said.
7) Brazilian President Lula said he will visit President Ahmadinejad in Tehran next year and defended his relationship with Iran, Bloomberg reports. "I defend for Iran the same rights with respect to nuclear energy that I do for Brazil," Lula said.
1) Latin American Leaders Support Zelaya in UN Debate
David Gollust, Voice of America, 23 September 2009
United Nations - Latin American leaders pressed for the return to office of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya in their U.N. General Assembly speeches on Wednesday, as the deposed leader remained holed up in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa. In his U.N. speech, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva demanded protection for his country's mission in Honduras.
The ouster of the Honduran president in June was condemned by all other member countries of the Organization of American States, or OAS. And U.N. General Assembly policy statements by several Latin American leaders on Wednesday made clear that diplomatic support for Mr. Zelaya has not diminished.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country by tradition opens the annual General Assembly debate, warned that unless international support for Mr. Zelaya is able to force his return to office, Latin America could see a return to an era when military coups were commonplace.
"Unless there is more political will, we will see more coups, like the one which toppled the constitutional president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, who has been granted refuge in Brazil's embassy in Tegucigalpa since Monday," said Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. "The international community demands that Mr. Zelaya immediately return to the presidency of his country, and must be alert to insure the inviolability of Brazil's diplomatic mission in the capital of Honduras."
In their U.N. messages, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez also demanded Mr. Zelaya's immediate restoration to power, with the Chilean leader saying Honduras' planned November elections should go forward only with, in her words, the country's "constitutional president leading this process."
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner protested water and power cutoffs this week to the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa and a local television station that reported Mr. Zelaya's return as well as a crackdown on his supporters.
She said the action by Tegucigalpa authorities was misbehavior that not even the 1980s' military dictatorships in South America would have engaged in. "Not even in Chile under the dictatorship of General [Augusto] Pinochet, nor in Argentina under the dictatorship of General [Jorge] Videla - perhaps the most cruel dictatorships in Latin America - even then, we didn't see similar conduct with embassies that were actively working to give shelter to refugees," said Cristina Kirchner.
Ms. Kirchner warned that if multi-lateral political action fails to return democracy to Honduras, it would set "a very serious precedent" in a region where in past decades military regimes killed thousands of opponents and exiled many others.
The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that Brazil has asked the U.N. Security Council to meet to discuss the safety and security of Mr. Zelaya and Brazilian facilities in Honduras, and that the United States, holder of the council's rotating presidency, is working on that request.
2) McChrystal Request To Reach Pentagon By End Of The Week
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Thursday, September 24, 2009
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request for more troops and other resources to fund the expanded counterinsurgency campaign he has proposed in Afghanistan will arrive at the Defense Department by the end of this week but will not be immediately turned over to the White House, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.
"It is simply premature to consider additional resources until General McChrystal's assessment has been fully reviewed and discussed by the president and his team," spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
President Obama's national security team is still in the preliminary stages of considering the Aug. 30 assessment by McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, that the war will probably be lost unless more troops are sent there within the next year.
McChrystal, in an interview published on the New York Times Web site Wednesday, rejected reports of a rift between the military and administration civilians on the subject. Asked about rumors that he was considering resigning, which the Times said were being "whispered around the Pentagon," he said, "I have not considered resigning at all."
Although he warned against taking too long, McChrystal said that "a policy debate is warranted. We should not have any ambiguities, as a nation or a coalition."
3) Iranian Leader Offers U.S. Access To The Country's Nuclear Scientists
Ahmadinejad Says Talks Could Build Trust Over Issue
Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, Thursday, September 24, 2009
United Nations, Sept. 23 - Iran is willing to have its nuclear experts meet with scientists from the United States and other world powers as a confidence-building measure aimed at resolving concerns about Tehran's nuclear program, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday.
At international talks next week on its nuclear ambitions, Iran also will seek to buy from the United States enriched uranium needed for medical purposes, Ahmadinejad told reporters and editors from The Washington Post and Newsweek. Agreement by the Americans, he suggested, would demonstrate that the Obama administration is serious about engagement, while rejection might give Iran an excuse to further enrich its stock of uranium.
"These nuclear materials we are seeking to purchase are for medicinal purposes. . . . It is a humanitarian issue," Ahmadinejad said in the interview. "I think this is a very solid proposal which gives a good opportunity for a start" to build trust between the two countries and "engage in cooperation."
Nuclear research reactors are used to create radioactive isotopes for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. The Iranian president said that about 20 medical products are created at a reactor in Tehran but that more fuel is needed.
On Oct. 1, a senior Iranian diplomat will meet counterparts from the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in Geneva to discuss the nuclear program, and Ahmadinejad said he will bring the new proposal. In a meeting Wednesday evening at the United Nations, foreign ministers and senior officials from the six countries met to plot strategy for the session.
"We expect a serious response from Iran" and will decide on "next steps" if it is not forthcoming, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said in a statement approved by the six nations.
Obama singled out Iran and North Korea as nuclear outliers in his speech before the General Assembly on Wednesday. "If they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East, then they must be held accountable," he said as Ahmadinejad sat in the fifth row of the chamber. "The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear."
Iran's medical reactor was supplied by the United States during the shah's rule.
4) Syria Makes Overture To U.S.
Richard Sale, Washington Times, Thursday, September 24, 2009
Syria is reorganizing its foreign intelligence operations and sidelining officials with unsavory pasts in an effort by President Bashar al-Assad to consolidate control and improve Syria's relations with the United States, Middle East specialists and former and current U.S. officials say.
Richard Norton, a Levant specialist at Boston University, former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro and two serving U.S. intelligence officials who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to talk to the press told The Washington Times that the task of overseeing Syria's foreign intelligence operations has been transferred from the heavy-handed military intelligence agency, known as the Mukhabarat, to Syria's General Intelligence Agency (GI), which formerly handled domestic matters and now oversees relations with the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The GI is headed by Gen. Ali Mamluk, who is advised by Samir al Taqi, a former legislator, the sources said. Mr. al Taqi runs the Al-Sharq Center for International Relations in Damascus and is associated with the Center for Syrian Studies at St. Andrews University in Scotland.
The intelligence shakeup began in February and continues. Mr. Cannistraro said much of the pressure for the transfer "came from the Saudis," who have been furious with Syria since the 2005 assassination in Lebanon of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a Saudi ally. Syria is suspected of involvement in the killing but has denied responsibility.
Mr. Norton added that the change was made by Syria to avoid "queering its current dialogue with the United States."
Mr. Norton added that the changes are part of the president's efforts to consolidate Syria's key governing institutions under his direct control and that this was evidence that at least some of Mr. Assad's inner circle consists of "reformist, smart, street-wise young technocrats" who want better relations with the West.
President Obama, who has assigned a high priority to advancing an Arab-Israeli peace agreement, has sought to improve relations with Syria in order to move the process forward.
Yet the U.S. has not yet named a new ambassador to Damascus despite earlier pledges to do so, and the administration still objects to Syrian support for Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group and political party that is also backed by Iran.
In Lebanon, the administration is disappointed that months have gone by without formation of a new government despite the election victory of a pro-Western alliance. Yet Mr. Norton said he had not detected any "Syrian string-pulling" in the Lebanese elections in which the pro-West coalition beat an alliance led by Hezbollah.
Mr. Norton also said Syria is loosening its grip on Hezbollah.
"Hezbollah has obtained a degree of autonomy and is no longer a Syrian client," Mr. Norton said, adding: "Syria is no longer obtrusive in Lebanese politics and no longer is pulling the strings when it comes to Hezbollah."
Two former U.S. intelligence officials said Syria cooperated with the United States last year in an attack that killed Abu Ghadiyah, a former lieutenant of the infamous Abu Musab Zarqawi, the late al Qaeda leader in Iraq. He was killed along with eight civilians near Abu Kamal about five miles inside Syria, foiling a planned attack on Iraqi civilians, according to the former U.S. officials. They spoke on condition that they not be named because they were discussing sensitive information.
The CIA would not confirm the account. "We do not, as a rule - despite the inaccuracies that sometimes appear - comment on reports of relationships with foreign intelligence organizations," said a CIA spokeswoman, Marie Harf.
Behind the scenes, according to Mr. Norton and Mr. Landis, however, U.S.-Syria relations are improving slowly.
Representatives of U.S. Central Command recently visited Damascus, followed by another U.S. military delegation that discussed border security and increased intelligence-sharing. According to Mr. Landis, Syria and Washington are also talking about easing U.S. sanctions against Syria.
Mr. Landis cautioned, however, that while there are people in Mr. Assad's inner circle who want closer ties with the United States, "the Syrians don't think that Obama can change the Middle East. Intelligence-sharing is good, and dialogue is constructive, but we will keep trying to force them out of Lebanon and killing Hezbollah, and Damascus will hang on to Iran and its ties to Hamas and Hezbollah, and Israel will cling to the Golan."
In other words, all of this "could go nowhere," he said.
5) Obama: US, Russia agree Iran may face new sanctions, Reuters, September 23, 2009
Caren Bohan and Oleg Shchedrov, Reuters, Wed Sep 23, 2009 6:15pm EDT
United Nations - U.S. President Barack Obama said he and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed on Wednesday that serious additional sanctions must be considered if Iran does not respond to proposals to end a nuclear standoff.
Foreign ministers from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members - the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China - and a German official were gathering at the United Nations to continue discussions about Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at developing atomic weapons.
Medvedev made clear that Moscow was ready to back further sanctions against the Islamic Republic unless it changes course on its nuclear program, despite Russia's general reluctance to support such punitive measures.
"Russia's position is simple," he said. "Sanctions are seldom productive but they are sometimes inevitable."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to join his counterparts from the other five countries to discuss their Oct. 1 meeting with an Iranian delegation in Geneva. It is the six powers' first meeting with Iran since July 2008.
Russia had previously ruled out new sanctions against Iran but appears to have reversed its position.
Obama announced last week that he would scrap plans for a U.S. missile shield in the Czech Republic and Poland that had angered Russia. Washington and Moscow have denied any quid pro quo deal on Iran sanctions in exchange for scrapping the shield, but analysts and U.N. diplomats suspect otherwise.
6) China Opposes Iran Sanctions Sought by U.S.
Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, September 25, 2009
Beijing - China will not support increased sanctions on Iran as a way to curb its nuclear program, a government spokeswoman said Thursday.
Although China has generally opposed the use of sanctions, the announcement is sure to complicate President Obama's efforts to impose tougher penalties on Iran, should international talks over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, scheduled for Oct. 1, fail to make headway.
"We always believe that sanctions and pressure are not the way out," said Jiang Yu, a foreign ministry spokeswoman, during a news conference. "At present, it is not conducive to diplomatic efforts."
On Wednesday, the White House savored success after Russia, a longtime opponent of economic sanctions, said it would consider tough new sanctions against Iran.
As a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has veto power over any decision by the body to impose sanctions.
Despite its stated antipathy to sanctions, Beijing has shown some willingness to make exceptions. In June, China voted to approve a package of financial and trade restrictions aimed at punishing North Korea for its launch of ballistic missiles and the detonation of a nuclear device. Aside from a ban on arms exports, however, the sanctions, more recommendations than requirements, have been widely seen as ineffective.
7) Lula Defends Ahmadinejad's Nuclear Goal, Plans Visit to Iran
Joshua Goodman, Bloomberg, September 24, 2009
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he will visit President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran next year and defended his relationship with Iran, saying he can't judge its nuclear ambitions or elections.
Lula, speaking to reporters outside the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, said Ahmadinejad assured him during a meeting that Iran was developing its nuclear industry for peaceful, civilian uses.
"I defend for Iran the same rights with respect to nuclear energy that I do for Brazil," he said, adding that Brazil had clout to engage Iran in talks on its nuclear program because it's the only country in the world whose constitution bans it from seeking nuclear weapons. "If anyone is ashamed of having relations with Iran, it's not my case."
Ahmadinejad will visit Brazil in November, Lula said. Iran's leader canceled a trip to Brazil in May without explanation and amid criticism from the U.S. State Department about Iran's growing influence in Latin America.
Ahmadinejad received the invitation after Brazil for the first time in 17 years sent its foreign minister to Tehran, and after its state-controlled oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, began exploration last year in the Iranian waters of the Caspian Sea. Trade between the countries quadrupled to $2 billion in 2007 from 2002.
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