JFP News 10/6: Honduran Security Forces Accused of Abuse
Just Foreign Policy News
October 6, 2009
Is Team Obama Really Rethinking Afghanistan?
Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal suggest that Obama and his advisers are indeed rethinking key assumptions which have underpinned U.S. policy: in particular, the assumption that al Qaeda would have a "safe haven" in Afghanistan if the Taliban regain control of parts of the country. Two other assumptions that have driven U.S. policy also deserve White House review: the assumption that an al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan would significantly increase the terrorist threat to the United States, and the assumption that a Taliban military victory would necessarily follow a U.S. military withdrawal.
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1) Human rights groups say.that since Honduran President Zelaya was removed in a June 28 coup, security forces have tried to halt opposition with beatings and mass arrests, the New York Times reports. Eleven people have been killed since the coup, according to the Committee for Families of the Disappeared and Detainees in Honduras, or Cofadeh. The number of violations and their intensity has increased since Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras two weeks ago, human rights groups say. Groups that were vulnerable to human rights abuses before the coup face even more risk now. Since the coup, for example, there have been six murders of gay men or transvestites, according to gay rights groups. Until 2008, the average number of such killings each year was three to six.
2) Successful "nation-building" in Afghanistan can only be undertaken by Afghanistan's own people and, it is the western military presence in Afghanistan that is driving support for the Taliban there and in Pakistan, argue Maleeha Lodhi and Anatol Lieven in the Financial Times. A carefully phased exit strategy will involve talking to the Taliban leadership. The west should therefore pursue a political solution, open negotiations with the Taliban and offer a timetable for a phased withdrawal in return for a ceasefire. The point should not be to eliminate the Taliban - which is impossible - but to persuade it to agree to a deal. Similarly, a new approach to Pakistan should focus not on putting pressure on the Pakistani state to destroy the Afghan Taliban on its territory, but on persuading Islamabad to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
3) Defense Secretary Gates cautioned military and civilian leaders against publicly airing their advice to Obama on Afghanistan, after General McChrystal criticized proposals being advocated by Vice President Biden, the Washington Post reports. "In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations - civilians and military alike - provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately," Gates said. The Army's top general immediately echoed Gates's remarks.
4) Steps by the U.S. to vastly expand its aid to Pakistan, as well as the footprint of its embassy and private security contractors, are aggravating an already volatile "anti-American" mood in Pakistan, the New York Times reports. The Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said that missile attacks by US drones in Baluchistan, as implied by the Americans, "would not be allowed," after the US ambassador Patterson suggested that the US should eliminate Mullah Omar if the Pakistanis would not. The Pakistanis complain they are not being sufficiently consulted over the pending White House decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan. The head of Pakistan's chief spy agency met with senior officials at the CIA last week, where he argued against sending more US troops.
5) If the US and Russia reach a deal with Iran, Israel may have to live with Iran having a breakout capacity, the Jerusalem Post reports. Ilan Mizrachi, a former head of the National Security Council and deputy head of the Mossad, says Israel would not be able to oppose a deal under which Iran's uranium is enriched in Russia. "Israel will have difficulty not agreeing to a deal under which the enrichment is done outside of Iran," Mizrachi said Monday. "With the right control and supervision, we might be able to live with it."
6) Excerpts of the internal draft report by the staff of the IAEA published online last week show that the report's claims about Iranian work on a nuclear weapon is based almost entirely on intelligence documents which have provoked a serious conflict within the agency, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. Contrary to sensational stories by the AP and the New York Times, the excerpts on the website of ISIS reveal that the IAEA's Safeguards Department, which wrote the report, only has suspicions - not real evidence - that Iran has been working on nuclear weapons in recent years.
7) Much of the Afghan insurgency is oriented against the presence of non-Muslims in Afghanistan, writes Arif Rafiq in the Christian Science Monitor. He argues for a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul including insurgents, backed by regional diplomacy and peacekeepers from non-neighboring Muslim countries.
8) Moshe Yaalon, an Israeli government minister and former army chief of staff, has canceled a trip to Britain, fearing he could be arrested on war crimes charges, the New York Times reports. Activists in Britain seek to have him charged in connection with the 2002 assassination of a Hamas leader in Gaza in which civilians were killed.
1) Honduran Security Forces Accused of Abuse
Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, October 6, 2009
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Rosamaria Valeriano Flores was returning home from a visit to a public health clinic and found herself in a crowd of people dispersing from a demonstration in support of the ousted president, Manuel Zelaya. As she crossed the central square of the Honduran capital, a group of soldiers and police officers pushed her to the ground and beat her with their truncheons.
She said the men kicked out most of her top teeth, broke her ribs and split open her head. "A policeman spit in my face and said, 'You will die,' " she said, adding that the attack stopped when a police officer shouted at the men that they would kill her.
Ms. Valeriano, 39, was sitting in the office of a Tegucigalpa human rights group last week, speaking about the assault, which took place on Aug. 12. As she told her story, mumbling to hide her missing teeth, she pointed to a scar on her scalp and to her still-sore left ribs.
Since Zelaya was removed in a June 28 coup, security forces have tried to halt opposition with beatings and mass arrests, human rights groups say. Eleven people have been killed since the coup, according to the Committee for Families of the Disappeared and Detainees in Honduras, or Cofadeh.
The number of violations and their intensity has increased since Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras two weeks ago, taking refuge at the Brazilian Embassy, human rights groups say.
The groups describe an atmosphere of growing impunity, one in which security forces act unhindered by legal constraints. Their free hand had been strengthened by an emergency decree allowing the police to detain anyone suspected of posing a threat.
"In the 1980s, there were political assassinations, torture and disappearances," said Bertha Oliva, Cofadeh's general coordinator, in an interview last week, recalling the political repression of the country's so-called dirty war. "They were selective and hidden. But now there is massive repression and defiance of the whole world. They do it in broad daylight, without any scruples, with nothing to stop them."
Amid the crackdown, a delegation of foreign ministers from the Organization of American States is scheduled to arrive in the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Wednesday in an attempt to restart negotiations between representatives for Zelaya and Roberto Micheletti, the de facto president. In advance of the meeting, Micheletti lifted the decree Monday.
The abuses could have a chilling effect on presidential elections scheduled for Nov. 29. The de facto government and its supporters argue that the elections will close the chapter on the coup and its aftermath, but the United Nations, the United States and other governments have said that they will not recognize the vote if it is conducted under the current conditions.
"Elections are a risk because people won't vote," said Javier Acevedo, a lawyer with the Center for Research and the Promotion of Human Rights in Tegucigalpa. "The soldiers and police at the polls will be the same ones as those who have been carrying out the repression."
Investigators from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights visited in August, and found a pattern of disproportionate force, arbitrary detentions and control of information.
Groups that were vulnerable to human rights abuses before the coup face even more risk now. Since the coup, for example, there have been six murders of gay men or transvestites, according to gay rights groups. Until 2008, the average number of such killings each year was three to six.
The day after Zelaya returned, the police broke up a demonstration by his supporters outside the Brazilian Embassy with tear gas. As people were fleeing, security forces tear-gassed the Cofadeh office, just blocks away. The action, Ms. Oliva believes, was aimed at preventing Cofadeh lawyers from intervening by taking testimony or seeking the release of people who were detained.
Since Zelaya's return, security forces also have been rumbling through poor neighborhoods that are the base of his support. "They are going into neighborhoods in a way to intimidate people," said Acevedo, the lawyer. In that time, the center has documented an increasing level of violence. Investigators have seen more than two dozen people with bullet wounds in hospitals, and some detainees have had their hands broken and have been burned with cigarettes, he said.
While the police and soldiers are looking for the activists who have been organizing resistance, the sweep seems to pick up anyone who gets in their way.
Yulian Lobo said her husband was arrested in the neighborhood of Villa Olímpica and accused of having a grenade. "It came out of nowhere," she said, adding that her husband, a driver, had not been to pro-Zelaya marches.
Lesbia Marisol Flores, 38, is a resistance activist, but when the police beat her up, she was waiting at a bus stop after attending the wake of a 24-year-old woman who died after she was tear-gassed outside the Brazilian Embassy on Sept. 22. "There were eight policemen and their faces were all covered," she said, adding that they had selected her at random from the group at the bus stop. "There was no motive. It is their hobby now."
2) How the west can exit the Afghan quagmire
Maleeha Lodhi and Anatol Lieven, Financial Times, October 5 2009
[Lodhi is Pakistan's former ambassador to the US. Lieven is a professor at King's College London.]
But the west should not simply leave. That would repeat the error of the 1990s when the US abandoned the region, contributing to the chaos that helped nurture the attacks of September 11 2001. The choice is not between scuttling away or deepening an open-ended military engagement. Neither is feasible.
The US and its allies need to recognise two facts and shape their strategy accordingly: successful "nation-building" in Afghanistan can only be undertaken by Afghanistan's own people; and, above all, it is the western military presence in Afghanistan that is driving support for the Taliban both there and in Pakistan. Put these together and what results is the need for a carefully phased exit strategy combined with a military and diplomatic strategy vis-a-vis the Taliban.
This will involve talking to the Taliban leadership. The Taliban today probably does not enjoy the support of a majority of Pashtuns - but then, neither the IRA in Northern Ireland nor the FLN in Algeria were supported by a majority of their communities. To continue their fight indefinitely, such groups only need to be stronger than any other group in their community, and to appeal to one deeply felt idea. In the case of the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and Pakistan, that is a strong desire for the departure of western forces from Afghanistan. From this point of view, the notion that the western presence is protecting Pakistan from the Taliban misses the point completely.
The west should therefore pursue a political solution, open negotiations with the Taliban and offer a timetable for a phased withdrawal in return for a ceasefire. This should begin with the military pulling out of specific areas in return for Taliban guarantees not to attack western bases and Afghan authorities in those areas.
If the Taliban refuses such terms, then military pressure should continue. The point should not be to eliminate the Taliban - which is impossible - but to persuade it to agree to a deal. Similarly, a new approach to Pakistan should focus not on putting pressure on the Pakistani state to destroy the Afghan Taliban on its territory, but on persuading Islamabad to help bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. Meanwhile, Kabul should be secured as a neutral space by the establishment of a UN peacekeeping force from Muslim countries.
This approach should be combined with political reforms to decentralise the Afghan state and with a move from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government. In the parliamentary elections due next year political parties should be allowed to stand (at present this is banned). The Taliban should be encouraged to form a political party, which could take local power in many Pashtun areas through the political process and share in central government in Kabul. The west's central condition must be that the Taliban pledge not to permit sanctuaries for terrorism in areas it may dominate. Indications that the Taliban's alliance with al-Qaeda may be fraying need to be seriously tested.
Why should the Taliban agree to these terms if the west is leaving anyway? Because otherwise, after withdrawing ground forces, the US will give massive long-term military aid and air support to the anti-Taliban forces of non-Pashtun ethnicities, rekindling the civil wars of the 1990s, but on terms vastly disadvantageous to the Taliban and the Pashtuns.
This approach will not bring quick results. But the military-diplomatic strategy we have proposed offers a chance of a settlement and orderly withdrawal - whereas the present strategy offers only endless quagmire.
3) Gates Wants Leaders' War Advice Kept Private
Admonition Follows Comments on War By U.S. Commander
Ann Scott Tyson and Scott Wilson, Washington Post, Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates cautioned military and civilian leaders Monday against publicly airing their advice to President Obama on Afghanistan, just days after the top U.S. general in that country criticized proposals being advocated by some in the White House.
"In this process, it is imperative that all of us taking part in these deliberations - civilians and military alike - provide our best advice to the president candidly but privately," Gates said in a speech at the annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army.
The Army's top general immediately echoed Gates's remarks, which seemed designed to rein in dissent within the ranks.
4) U.S. Push To Expand In Pakistan Meets Resistance
Jane Perlez, New York Times, October 6, 2009
Islamabad, Pakistan - Steps by the United States to vastly expand its aid to Pakistan, as well as the footprint of its embassy and private security contractors here, are aggravating an already volatile anti-American mood as Washington pushes for greater action by the government against the Taliban.
An aid package of $1.5 billion a year for the next five years passed by Congress last week asks Pakistan to cease supporting terrorist groups on its soil and to ensure that the military does not interfere with civilian politics. President Asif Ali Zardari, whose association with the United States has added to his unpopularity, agreed to the stipulations in the aid package.
But many here, especially in the powerful army, object to the conditions as interference in Pakistan's internal affairs, and they are interpreting the larger American footprint in more sinister ways.
American officials say the embassy and its security presence must expand in order to monitor how the new money is spent. They also have real security concerns, which were underscored Monday when a suicide bomber, dressed in the uniform of a Pakistani security force, killed five people at a United Nations office in the heart of Islamabad, the capital.
The United States Embassy has publicized plans for a vast new building in Islamabad for about 1,000 people, with security for some diplomats provided through a Washington-based private contracting company, DynCorp.
The embassy setup, with American demands for importing more armored vehicles, is a significant expansion over the last 15 years. It comes at a time of intense discussion in Washington over whether to widen American operations and aid to Pakistan - a base for Al Qaeda - as an alternative to deeper American involvement in Afghanistan with the addition of more forces.
The fierce opposition here is revealing deep strains in the alliance. Even at its current levels, the American presence was fueling a sense of occupation among Pakistani politicians and security officials, said several Pakistani officials, who did not want to be named for fear of antagonizing the United States. The United States was now seen as behaving in Pakistan much as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan, they said.
In particular, the Pakistani military and the intelligence agencies are concerned that DynCorp is being used by Washington to develop a parallel network of security and intelligence personnel within Pakistan, officials and politicians close to the army said.
The concerns are serious enough that last month a local company hired by DynCorp to provide Pakistani men to be trained as security guards for American diplomats was raided by the Islamabad police. The owner of the company, the Inter-Risk Security Company, Capt. Syed Ali Ja Zaidi, was later arrested.
The action against Inter-Risk, apparently intended to cripple the DynCorp program, was taken on orders from the senior levels of the Pakistani government, said an official familiar with the raid, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
In a public statement, the American ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, suggested last week that Pakistan should eliminate the Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, a onetime ally of the Pakistanis who Washington says is now based in Baluchistan, a province on the Afghanistan border. If Pakistan did not get rid of Mullah Omar, the United States would, she suggested.
The Pakistani army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in an unusually stern reaction last week, said that missile attacks by American drones in Baluchistan, as implied by the Americans, "would not be allowed."
The Pakistanis also complain that they are not being sufficiently consulted over the pending White House decision on whether to send more troops to Afghanistan.
The head of Pakistan's chief spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, met with senior officials at the Central Intelligence Agency last week in Washington, where he argued against sending more troops to Afghanistan, a Pakistani official familiar with the visit said.
Recently, there have been a series of complaints by Islamabad residents who said they had been "roughed up" by hefty, plainclothes American men bearing weapons, presumably from DynCorp, one of the senior Pakistani officials involved with the Americans said.
The embassy had received complaints, and confirmed two instances, an embassy official said, but the embassy denied receiving any formal protests from the Foreign Office.
5) Living with a nuclear Iran
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, October 6, 2009
Let's assume, for argument's sake, that tomorrow Iran announces it is prepared to enrich uranium in Russia, is willing to abide by all UN resolutions on its nuclear program and will permit IAEA supervision in all of its nuclear facilities.
While the Americans, Russians and Europeans would likely be thrilled at their apparent diplomatic success, Israel would be left with a decision - can it live with Iran as a threshold nuclear country?
While speculative, this scenario is not all that detached from reality.
On Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that an agreement was in the works between Teheran and six world powers for Russia to enrich uranium for Iran.
The debate within Israel is whether such a deal is something the country can accept. Iran already has the know-how to manufacture a nuclear weapon. It has the long-range ballistic missile delivery system and is enriching uranium to produce the necessary fissionable material.
According to the IAEA, it already has more than a ton of low-enriched uranium that could be converted into 25 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, the amount needed for one nuclear bomb.
The question is whether Israel can live with such a situation - where Iran has the know-how and all of the material but, because of diplomatic and political considerations, decides not to make use of it.
This is similar to the situation with Japan, which could quickly develop a nuclear weapon but decides not to do so for several reasons, including its World War II history but also the American nuclear umbrella which protects it.
According to Ilan Mizrachi, a former head of the National Security Council and deputy head of the Mossad, Israel would not be able to oppose a deal under which Iran's uranium is enriched in Russia. "Israel will have difficulty not agreeing to a deal under which the enrichment is done outside of Iran," Mizrachi said Monday. "With the right control and supervision, we might be able to live with it."
6) Leaked Iran Paper Based on Intel that Split IAEA
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, 6 Oct
Washington - Excerpts of the internal draft report by the staff of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published online last week show that the report's claims about Iranian work on a nuclear weapon is based almost entirely on intelligence documents which have provoked a serious conflict within the agency.
Contrary to sensational stories by the Associated Press and The New York Times, the excerpts on the website of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) reveal that the IAEA's Safeguards Department, which wrote the report, only has suspicions - not real evidence - that Iran has been working on nuclear weapons in recent years.
The newly published excerpts make it clear, moreover, that the so-called "Alleged Studies" documents brought to the attention of the agency by the United States five years ago are central to its assertion that Iran had such a programme in 2002-03.
Whether those documents are genuine or were fabricated has been the subject of a fierce struggle behind the scenes for many months between two departments of the IAEA.
Some IAEA officials began calling for a clear statement by the agency that it could not affirm the documents' authenticity after the agency obtained hard evidence in early 2008 that a key document in the collection had been fraudulently altered, as previously reported by this writer. As journalist Mark Hibbs reported last week in Nucleonics Week, opposition to relying on the intelligence documents has come not only from outgoing Director General Mohamed ElBaradei but from the Department of External Relations and Policy Coordination.
Since September 2008, however, the Safeguards Department, headed by Olli Heinonen, has been pressing for publication of its draft report as an annex to a regular agency report on Iran.
Heinonen leaked the draft to Western governments last summer, and in September it was leaked to the Associated Press and ISIS. That has generated sensational headlines suggesting that Iran can already build a nuclear bomb.
The draft report says the agency "assesses that Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device". But other passages indicate the authors regard such knowledge only as a possibility, based on suspicions rather than concrete evidence.
It says the "necessary information was most likely obtained from external sources and probably modified by Iran". But it cites only the 15-page "uranium metal document" given by the A. Q. Khan network to Iran when it purchased centrifuge designs in 1987. "Based on the information in the document," it says, "it is possible that Iran has knowledge regarding the contents of a nuclear package."
The IAEA "suspects" that the 15-page document was part of "larger package that Iran may have obtained but which has not yet come to the Agency's attention", according to the leaked excerpts.
But that document only outlines procedural requirements for casting uranium into hemispheres, not the technical specifications, as the IAEA report of Nov. 18, 2005 noted. No evidence has ever surfaced to challenge the Iranian explanation that Khan's agents threw in the document after a deal had been reached on centrifuges in an effort to interest Iran in buying the technology for casting uranium.
The IAEA affirmed that it has found no evidence that Iran ever acquired such technology.
7) A Muslim solution for Afghanistan
Let Muslim nations, not Western coalition, lead the mission to bring peace there.
Arif Rafiq, Christian Science Monitor, October 06, 2009
US and Western troops should leave. But because Afghanistan will remain dependent on international aid for development and security, troops cannot leave without something to fill the vacancy.
The solution? Muslim and regional states must fill the void.
Much of the Afghan insurgency is oriented against the presence of non-Muslims in this almost exclusively Muslim land. Taliban statements, for example, describe the US-led coalition as "crusaders" and equate it with previous invaders, such as the British. Sensitivity to the non-Muslim military presence in their homeland gives Afghan insurgents common cause with Al Qaeda, which directly threatens the US at home and abroad.
But the most intransigent of Afghan rebels will be receptive to peacekeeping and nation-building with Muslim states as long as their factions are included in a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul.
The Organization of the Islamic Conference, the association of more than four dozen Muslim states, should set up an Afghanistan contact group, led by Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The group would lead a coalition of Muslim states responsible for political reconciliation, peacekeeping, economic development, and governmental capacity building in Afghanistan.
Wealthy Muslim states such as Malaysia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates can provide funding. Members of NATO and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which includes China and Russia, can also contribute donations and offer expertise.
But the military presence must be limited to personnel from Muslim states. Given Afghanistan's problematic relations with its neighbors, peacekeepers should come from nonneighboring Muslim states, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, and Turkey.
Many of those nations have valuable experience to offer. Bangladesh, for example, is a leading troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions. Turkey (a NATO member) and the UAE already have a physical presence in Afghanistan. Peacekeeping in Afghanistan would be a natural extension of their present foreign missions.
Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey have the most developed bureaucracies and armies among Muslim states. They can help train the Afghan civil, foreign, and security services. A Muslim-led mission in Afghanistan would offer middle powers such as Egypt and Turkey an opportunity to revitalize regional leadership roles they once had. It would also provide regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia with a platform to constructively resolve a problem integral to their security concerns and interests.
Having Muslims lead the mission to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan would create a wedge between Afghan insurgents and transnational jihadists, such as Al Qaeda, the elimination of which is the Obama administration's major goal in the region.
Ultimately, Al Qaeda will be given a decisive blow when Muslim states rise to the challenge and bring stability to Afghanistan.
8) Israel: Official Cancels Trip to Britain
Moshe Yaalon, a government minister and former army chief of staff, has canceled a trip to Britain, fearing he could be arrested on war crimes charges. Yaalon was scheduled to speak at a charity fund-raiser in London next month. His spokesman, Alon Ofek-Arnon, said Monday that Yaalon had avoided traveling to Britain for years because of attempts by activists to have him charged, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, in connection with the 2002 assassination of a Hamas leader in Gaza in which civilians also died. Yaalon "will not lend a hand to those trying to delegitimize Israel," Ofek-Arnon said. Palestinian activists tried to have the defense minister, Ehud Barak, arrested when he was in Britain last week, but Barak was on an official visit and was granted immunity.
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