JFP 11/19: National Democratic Institute Supporting Coup in Honduras?
Just Foreign Policy News
November 19, 2009
Will the National Democratic Institute Back the Coup in Honduras?
Senator Lugar's office suggests that the US-funded National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute will be sending observers to the Nov. 29 elections in Honduras - a step towards recognizing the elections of the coup regime, which would put the U.S. at odds with most of Latin America. Ask your Represenative to oppose funding for observers of the Nov. 29 election unless President Zelaya is reinstated.
For background, see: Mark Weisbrot's commentary on the JFP blog:
Mark Weisbrot on Senator Lugar's Call to Recognize Honduran Election
Monday: Call the White House Against Escalation in Afghanistan
There will be a national call-in day to the White House Monday against military esclalation in Afghanistan.
Prepare for Local Reaction to the President's Escalation Speech
If President Obama announces he is sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, groups around the country will hold events to coincide with the President's speech.
Post a local event:
Sample Press Release:
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1) The White House is developing "clear targets" for both the Afghan and Pakistani governments, possibly with specific timelines, as a way to signal that the US military presence in Afghanistan will not last indefinitely, the New York Times reports. It is not yet clear what the administration is willing to do if the targets are not met, the Times says. Officials said that the president's advisers had been testing the reaction to an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 troops. Officials indicated that no announcement appeared likely until after the Thanksgiving holiday. A Senate aide said lawmakers anticipated a decision in time to hold hearings during the week of Nov. 30.
2) If President Obama orders an additional 30,000 to 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, he will be deploying practically every available U.S. Army brigade to war, leaving few units in reserve in case of an unforeseen emergency, writes Spencer Ackerman in the Washington Independent, reviewing Army data. The shortage of available combat brigades means that an escalation of between 30,000 and 40,000 troops is "not realistic," said Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress.
3) Iraqi vice president Tariq al-Hashemi followed through on a threat to veto Iraq's election law, throwing the January election into doubt, the New York Times reports. The chief executive of Iraq's electoral commission said that the elections would have to be delayed.
4) The German government approved a one-year extension of Germany's deployment of troops in Afghanistan, but the number of troops will stay the same, the New York Times reports. The cabinet decision must be confirmed by Parliament in December. Germany is the third largest contributor of foreign forces after the US and Britain, with more than 4,000 troops.
5) Members of Congress told Secretary of State Clinton U.S. military funding to Colombia should be decreased and the 2011 budget should instead focus on humanitarian aid, Kirsten Begg writes for Colombia Reports. [Text of the letter and signers are here: http://www.lawg.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=539&Itemid=77 - JFP.]
6) Proponents say they have their best chance in years of repealing the ban on U.S. travel to Cuba, the Washington Post reports. A bill ending the travel ban has picked up 178 co-sponsors - approaching the 218 votes needed for passage. But Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz sent a letter to House Speaker Pelosi signed by 53 Democrats opposing any loosening of sanctions. Some lawmakers are now looking to a bill that could pick up extra votes by both abolishing the travel restrictions and reducing barriers for U.S. farm exports to Cuba. Travel to Cuba by Americans was effectively banned in 1963. In 1977, the Carter administration eliminated most travel restrictions, but many were reimposed by subsequent administrations.
7) The Israeli security establishment is in a state of alarm over the possible departure of Palestinian president Abbas, the New York Times reports. Some of its top members are urging their government to make far-reaching offers - "not just lifting a few roadblocks"- that would persuade him to stay in power and resume negotiations with Israel on a solution that involves creating an independent Palestinian state.The Times notes that about 60 percent of the West Bank remains "fully in Israeli hands."
1) U.S. Demands Clear Results From Afghan Reforms
Peter Baker and Mark Landler, New York Times, November 20, 2009
Washington - President Obama's top diplomat privately pressed Afghan President Hamid Karzai to deliver "measurable results" on governance and corruption as the White House prepared specific new demands to accompany an American troop buildup.
In an unannounced visit Wednesday to Kabul, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Mr. Karzai that future civilian aid would depend in part on how his government performed in areas like developing an effective army and curbing cronyism, according to an American official. Publicly, she told reporters that Mr. Karzai had begun to tackle corruption but "not nearly enough."
The trip, coming on the eve of Mr. Karzai's inauguration for a second term after a chaotic election marred by charges of rampant fraud, represented part of a broader effort by the Obama administration to tie the pending troop increase in Afghanistan to more effective efforts by its partners in the region.
The White House is developing "clear targets" for both the Afghan and Pakistani governments, possibly with specific timelines, as a way to signal that the American military presence will not last indefinitely, American officials said. It is not yet clear what the administration is willing to do if the targets are not met.
Among other things, the officials said, the administration will insist that Afghanistan fight corruption, speed up troop training and retention, and funnel development assistance to areas the Taliban dominate. As for Pakistan, the officials said, the White House plan would press Islamabad to keep up pressure on its insurgents as well as on Al Qaeda and, most important, go after militant groups that until now it has not taken on aggressively.
But laying out such benchmarks in the past - most recently in September - did not change the course of events in that region, and aides said Mr. Obama was reluctant to threaten consequences aggressively if the goals were not met. Mrs. Clinton's mention of civilian aid raised one potential point of leverage. The fact that additional American troops will flow into Afghanistan in phases over the next year provides another.
Mr. Obama told CNN that he was "very close to a decision" on how many more troops to send and would announce it "in the next several weeks." He suggested that he would like to be winding down American military involvement in Afghanistan before leaving office. "My preference would be not to hand off anything to the next president," he said.
Mr. Obama has already sent 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan since taking office, bringing the total American force to 68,000. After more than two months of rethinking his strategy, he has decided to send even more and is weighing how many.
Several people briefed on administration deliberations, who like others requested anonymity to discuss delicate matters, said Wednesday that the president's advisers had been testing the reaction to an increase of 20,000 to 30,000 troops, while warning that no decision had been made.
White House officials said that after returning from Asia, Mr. Obama would meet with his national security team on Friday or over the weekend, his ninth such session, but they indicated that no announcement appeared likely until after the Thanksgiving holiday. A senior Senate aide said lawmakers anticipated a decision in time to hold hearings during the week of Nov. 30.
Whether timetables will be applied to some of these demands remains undecided, officials said. Deadlines have been set for some goals, like training more Afghan soldiers, and they very likely will be accelerated. But while the White House is seeking to develop an exit strategy, Mr. Obama does not appear likely to set an overall time frame for beginning to withdraw American troops, as he once advocated for Iraq.
2) Army Data Show Constraints on Troop Increase Potential
Escalation in Afghanistan Could Leave Few Brigades in Reserve
Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent, 11/18/09
If President Obama orders an additional 30,000 to 40,000 troops to Afghanistan, he will be deploying practically every available U.S. Army brigade to war, leaving few units in reserve in case of an unforeseen emergency and further stressing a force that has seen repeated combat deployments since 2002.
According to information compiled by the U.S. Army for The Washington Independent about the deployment status of active-duty and National Guard Army brigades, as of December 2009, there will be about 50,600 active-duty soldiers, serving in 14 combat brigades, and as many as 24,000 National Guard soldiers available for deployment. All other soldiers and National Guardsmen will either be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan already or ineligible to deploy while they rest from a previous deployment.
The shortage of available combat brigades means that an escalation of between 30,000 and 40,000 troops is "not realistic," said Lawrence Korb, a former senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration who now studies defense issues for the liberal Center for American Progress. To send practically all available soldiers into one of the two wars would leave the U.S. with "no reserve in case you had a problem in Korea."
Obama would have something of a cushion, but not much, in the early months of 2010. An additional five brigades will finish their 12 months of so-called "dwell time" at home between deployments by April 2010, providing an additional 22,600 troops, but by that time, about 10,200 troops will be scheduled to leave Afghanistan, leaving available a net gain of 12,400. More brigades become available in the summer and fall, although others currently in Afghanistan will be ending their scheduled deployments then as well. Under current Pentagon policy, dwell time for the National Guard varies, but can be no shorter than two years, and so it is possible but not certain that two National Guard brigades composed of 6,800 National Guard soldiers might be available for deployment by March 2010 as well, beyond the 24,000 theoretically available now. Pentagon leaders had hoped to extend dwell time this year, but that was before McChrystal's request for additional troops.
3) Veto Of Iraq's Election Law Could Force Vote Delay
Rod Nordland and Riyadh Mohammed, New York Times, November 19, 2009
Baghdad - Iraq was thrown into a fresh political crisis on Wednesday after a vice president vetoed a newly passed election law, delaying the vote, setting off fresh sectarian wrangling and possibly complicating plans to withdraw American troops.
In a move that caught American officials by surprise, one of two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashemi, said Wednesday that he had vetoed the new election law the night before; he had threatened a veto but the Americans did not expect him to follow through. Shortly afterward, the chief executive of Iraq's United Nations-supported electoral commission said in an interview for the first time that the elections would have to be delayed.
The veto touched off a political explosion. Iraq's prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, condemned it as constitutionally questionable, while President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, warned that delaying the elections risked creating a constitutional vacuum during which the Iraqi government would lose its legitimacy.
"Parliament could amend this law in a day," Mr. Hashemi said. "We have no time to lose." But with Kurdish leaders also objecting to provisions of the law, a much more protracted debate in Parliament is likely. Kurdish leaders also want a greater share of parliamentary seats and on Tuesday had threatened to boycott the elections unless their demand was met.
4) Germany Approves Extension For Afghan Mission
Judy Dempsey, New York Times, November 19, 2009
Berlin - The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday approved a one-year extension of Germany's deployment of troops in the American-led coalition in Afghanistan, a government official said, but the number of troops will stay the same.
The cabinet decision must be confirmed by Parliament in December, when the current mandate expires, setting the stage for a critical test for political leaders in the face of deep opposition among German voters to the Afghanistan deployment.
Germany is the third largest contributor of foreign forces in Afghanistan after the United States and Britain. Germany has more than 4,000 troops there.
5) US Congressmen urge Clinton to step up humanitarian and decrease military aid
Kirsten Begg, Colombia Reports, Wednesday, 18 November 2009
[Text of the letter and signers:
U.S. military funding to Colombia should be decreased and the 2011 budget should instead focus on humanitarian aid, U.S. Congressmen urged in a letter to the country's Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton.
The Congressmen stated that cases of extrajudicial executions by members of the army, the resurgence of paramilitaries, the illegal wire tappings of government opponents and other human rights abuses were "trends that require a strong and focused diplomatic response." In regards to extrajudicial killings of civilians carried out by Colombian armed forces they said they were "disturbed that many of these units were recipients of U.S. military and defense assistance"
The letter calls for Clinton "to scale down assistance for Colombia's military and more systematically "Colombianize" such programs".
The Congressmen outlined where they believe U.S. funding to Colombia should be focused. "We believe strongly that the United States should continue to provide substantial assistance to Colombia's judicial system, focused upon the goal of reducing impunity, with special attention to extrajudicial executions, attacks and threats against human rights defenders and trade unionists, and violence by illegal armed groups," the letter reads.
The letter also suggests a shift in the approach of Plan Colombia: "For sustained gains, investment must be shifted from aerial spraying to farmer-led programs with voluntary, phased-in eradication coupled with effective community-based alternative development and rural development programs, including a special focus on food security."
The U.S. Senate extended Plan Colombia for another year in October, guaranteeing its help in combatting leftist guerrillas and the production and trafficking of cocaine in Colombia. Since 2000, the U.S. spent US$6 billion in Plan Colombia.
6) Sides gear up for fight over U.S. ban on travel to Cuba
Wide support for repeal is countered by demand for political reforms
Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, Thursday, November 19, 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/18/AR2009111801523.html
A battle over Cuba policy is escalating in Congress, with proponents saying they have their best chance in years of repealing the ban on U.S. tourist travel to the island.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee has scheduled a hearing Thursday to galvanize support for scrapping the ban as opponents rally to block any changes. Proponents have lined up a powerful and diverse roster of supporters, including U.S. farmers, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Cuban American veterans of the Bay of Pigs and the Iraq war. The travel site Orbitz has collected over 100,000 signatures on a petition to eliminate the ban.
Travel to Cuba by Americans was effectively banned in 1963. In 1977, the Carter administration eliminated most travel restrictions, but many were reimposed by subsequent administrations. A growing number of lawmakers have argued in recent years that the sanctions have not been successful. But President George W. Bush threatened to veto bills softening the sanctions and tightened travel regulations.
In recent months, a bill ending the travel ban sponsored by Reps. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has picked up 178 co-sponsors - approaching the 218 votes needed for passage. With Democrats controlling the White House and holding a significant majority in Congress, proponents say they think their moment has come. "There's a better chance of passage than ever before," said Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.
But supporters of the ban have fought back and say they think they can block the bill. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this month signed by 53 Democrats opposing any loosening of sanctions.
Worried about the split in the Democratic caucus, some lawmakers are now looking to a bipartisan bill being drafted by Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) and others that could pick up extra votes by both abolishing the travel restrictions and reducing barriers for U.S. farm exports to Cuba. No action on the travel ban is expected before early next year.
While the House could muster the votes to lift the travel ban, it faces a tougher fight in the Senate, where a prominent Cuban American - Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) - has indicated that he will try to block it.
Pro-embargo groups have dramatically shifted their campaign contributions to Democrats since the party took control of Congress in 2006, according to a study released this week by Public Campaign, a nonprofit group. For example, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee gave 76 percent of its donations to Democrats in the past year, the study found. During the 2004 election cycle, the anti-Castro group overwhelmingly supported Republicans, according to the study.
Overall, the study found that embargo supporters have contributed more than $10 million to federal candidates since the 2004 election cycle. The group also identified more than a dozen lawmakers who changed their position on easing the embargo within months of receiving money from anti-Castro groups.
7) Mideast Peace Talks Hang in Balance Over Abbas
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, November 19, 2009
Jerusalem - Two weeks after the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, vowed not to run for re-election and hinted that he might resign, the Middle East peace process has sunk into a deep crisis amid urgent efforts to revive it.
The Israeli security establishment is in a state of alarm over the possible departure of Mr. Abbas, whom it considers a genuine moderate. Some of its top members are urging their government to make far-reaching offers - "not just lifting a few roadblocks," in the words of one - that would persuade him to stay in power and resume negotiations with Israel on a solution that involves creating an independent Palestinian state.
Palestinian leaders are looking elsewhere for salvation. Aware of their own weakness, but also of rising disillusionment abroad with Israel over West Bank settlement growth and its war in Gaza in January, they are hoping to turn frailty to their advantage by appealing to the international community to come to their rescue.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration and European governments are also seeking ways to restart the peace talks and keep Mr. Abbas in place. "Everyone is running around in circles trying to rebuild this process, to find some way to start it up again," a senior Israeli official observed. "No one knows if it is possible."
Mr. Abbas has repeatedly stated that the only way forward is with a complete Israeli freeze on settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has offered to greatly reduce building, but not to stop it - and added that East Jerusalem would not be included. His government just announced plans to build hundreds of new units in a part of the city captured in 1967.
Mr. Abbas's threat stems from many causes, but essentially from his belief that Israel is unwilling to accept Palestinian demands on settlements, Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees. Officials on all sides agree that the gaps between the two sides on these issues appear unbridgeable for now.
"He is at a point where he can no longer pretend that this role of presidency will lead him to helping the Palestinians overcome occupation," said Nader Said, a sociologist who runs Arab World for Research and Development, in Ramallah. "It doesn't seem that there is any seriousness on the Israeli side to establish a Palestinian state and no desire on the part of the Americans to deliver the goods."
Mr. Abbas has joined his chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, in seeking approval by the United Nations Security Council of the declaration of a Palestinian state without Israel's agreement. "We are now facing a moment of truth," Mr. Erekat said recently. "We will seek to pass this Security Council resolution and the activation of the Fourth Geneva Convention to protect the Palestinian people."
American and Israeli officials are contemplating a series of steps to persuade Mr. Abbas to stay. They include a marked intensification of security and economic cooperation, more money, invitations to Western capitals, robust statements of support, prisoner releases and efforts to draw Arab states more fully into the process.
Over the past year and a half, Palestinian security forces have moved into West Bank cities and taken over responsibilities previously filled by the Israeli military. But about 60 percent of the West Bank remains fully in Israeli hands, and some suggest yielding part of that area to the Palestinians right away and increasing Palestinian responsibilities in the other areas.
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