JFP 12/23: Rep. Waters Demands Explanation for Exclusions from Haitian Elections

Just Foreign Policy News
December 23, 2009


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Rep. Waters Demands Explanation of Exclusions from Haiti Election
Congresswoman Maxine Waters sent a letter to Haitian President Rene Preval today - copied to Secretary of State Clinton - to express her concerns about the the arbitrary exclusion of political parties from the upcoming elections in Haiti.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/node/439

Summary:
U.S./Top News

1) Gaza's scars have been frozen in place since Israel waged war a year ago, AP reports. Entire neighborhoods still lie in rubble, and traumatized residents can't rebuild their lives. A man who lost two daughters and his home can't visit his surviving 4-year-old girl in a Belgian hospital because Gaza's borders remain sealed. A 15-year-old struggles to walk on her artificial limbs, while dozens of other war amputees still await prostheses. Couples postpone marriage because not enough apartments survived three weeks of bombing and shelling. Thousands are homeless, and damaged systems mean electricity and water are sporadic. A three-year-old blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt makes any large-scale rebuilding impossible, because the embargo includes steel and concrete.

2) Egypt confirmed it is engaged in construction along its border with Gaza but denied it is building a "steel wall," Reuters reports. "We refuse to call the construction a steel wall," said a spokesman for Egypt's Foreign Ministry.

3) The war in Afghanistan is deeply unpopular among the European public, Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times. New European troop commitments will simply replace other troops that are leaving: the Netherlands will withdraw its 2,200 troops in the course of 2010; Canada, with 2,800, will be leaving by 2011. That means as American troop levels rise from 68,000 to 98,000 by next summer, allied troop levels are not likely to go much higher than the present 38,000.

4) The prime minister of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic that broke from Moscow's orbit and is now a member of NATO, accused the US of using "Soviet methods" to set up two secret prisons in Lithuania for terrorism suspects, the New York Times reports. The prime minister, Andrius Kubilius, said the US had reached clandestine and illegal arrangements with the Lithuanian secret services for prisons that were outside civilian control. The national security committee in the Lithuanian Parliament released a report that contended that state security officials never informed senior government officials, like the prime minister, about the prisons.

Honduras

5) The official tally of voter turnout in last month's election in Honduras will be lower than officials have previously claimed, CNN reports. According to Honduras' Supreme Electoral Tribunal and interviews with the electoral officials, with 99.8 percent of the votes counted, 2,298,080 people participated in the November 29 election. This represents a 50 percent voter turnout, a figure much lower than the 61 percent officially estimated by the electoral tribunal on election day, and lower than revised turnout figures that the Electoral Tribunal gave to CNN as recently as December 5. "There was clearly an effort to get out early vote results as robustly as possibly and convince the international community that the elections were legitimate," Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, told CNN. Some countries, such as the US, Colombia and Costa Rica, have said they will recognize President-elect Lobo Sosa. Others, such as Argentina, Brazil and Spain, have said they will not. Other nations have indicated that the turnout figure will be an important indicator in determining whether they will recognize the legitimacy of the election.

Jordan
6) King Abdullah has dismissed the prime minister and replaced him with a palace aide and loyalist, dissolved Parliament and postponed legislative elections for a year, the New York Times reports. The king's recent moves demonstrate the leadership's continued intention to manipulate and suppress the political process, former officials and political commentators said.

Afghanistan
7) Policemen killed an Afghan senator and his driver after their car allegedly failed to stop at a checkpoint, the New York Times reports.

Iraq
8) Christians in Iraq are preparing for a muted holiday season, with one bishop in Basra calling for a ban on public festivities while other congregations across the country have canceled services and cautioned worshipers to keep their celebrations private, the Washington Post reports. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq's Christian minority has faced constant persecution, including dozens of church bombings, executions, kidnappings and forced expulsions, devastating some communities and reducing the overall Christian population by at least 25 percent.

Japan
9) A mayoral election in Nago could influence the future of the U.S. military presence in Japan, the Wall Street Journal reports. New Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised during his campaign that he wouldn't allow a new U.S. base at Nago, has resisted U.S. calls to move ahead on the plan. That helped transform Nago City's Jan. 24 mayoral vote into a de facto referendum on the U.S. military in Japan. The current mayor wants to build the airfield. His challenger, who doesn't, has gained momentum from Hatoyama's no-bases stance.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Postwar Gaza: Scars frozen, Mideast at an impasse
Karin Laub, Associated Press, Wednesday, December 23, 2009; 1:36 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/23/AR2009122301414.html

Gaza City, Gaza Strip - Gaza's scars have been frozen in place since Israel waged war a year ago to subdue Hamas and stop rockets from hitting its towns. Entire neighborhoods still lie in rubble, and traumatized residents can't rebuild their lives.

A man who lost two daughters and his home can't visit his surviving 4-year-old girl in a Belgian hospital because Gaza's borders remain sealed. A 15-year-old struggles to walk on her artificial limbs, while dozens of other war amputees still await prostheses.

Couples postpone marriage because not enough apartments survived three weeks of bombing and shelling. Thousands are homeless,and damaged systems mean electricity and water are sporadic. Untreated sewage pours into the Mediterranean.

A three-year-old blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt makes any large-scale rebuilding impossible, because the embargo includes steel and concrete.

The unprecedented use of Israeli firepower against the Palestinians has had repercussions far beyond the pain inflicted on Gaza's long-suffering 1.5 million people.

It emboldened Gaza's Hamas rulers by failing to topple them, and weakened their Western-backed Fatah rivals, whom Palestinians increasingly see as subordinate to Israel. It deepened the political split between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-governed West Bank, making a unified Palestinian government - a prerequisite for any peace deal - even less likely.
[...]
For Khaled Abed Rabbo, rebuilding his family home is the least of his problems.

On Jan. 7, as Israeli tanks rumbled through his neighborhood, soldiers ordered him, his wife, mother and four children to leave the house, he said. After the women and children emerged waving a white cloth, a soldier opened fire, killing 2-year-old Amal and 7-year-old Soad, while 4-year-old Samar was left paralyzed, Abed Rabbo said.

Samar has been in Belgium for treatment for the past year accompanied by Abed Rabbo's wife, while he stayed behind with his 7-year-old son in a rented Gaza apartment.

Israel denies its soldiers targeted civilians but is investigating some of the allegations. The military said it is still investigating Abed Rabbo's case and cannot comment further.

The father wants to travel to Belgium to see his wife and child. But Hamas told him he is not on the list of hardship cases allowed out of Gaza when Egypt opens its border every few months.
[...]

2) Egypt says no steel Gaza wall despite Hamas fears
Reuters, Tue Dec 22, 1:43 pm ET
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091222/wl_nm/us_egypt_border_1

Cairo - Egypt confirmed on Tuesday it is engaged in construction along its border with Gaza but said it is not building what some reports have said is a steel wall to block cross-border smuggling. Hamas and other militant groups have called on Egypt to stop building such a wall along the Gaza border and Egyptian security officials have confirmed a steel barrier is being built.

Tunnel builders say around 150 tunnels along the border between Egypt and Gaza provide a vital supply link for the enclave whose imports are blocked by Israel.
Until now the foreign ministry had refused to comment, but at a news conference ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said: "The procedures that Egypt is undertaking inside its lands, whether building or construction work along the border with the Gaza Strip, is an Egyptian concern that is related to Egypt and Egyptian national security."

"We refuse to call the construction a steel wall and wonder where such a name came from," he added.
[...]

3) Europe's Revolving Door In Afghanistan
Steven Erlanger, New York Times, December 21, 2009, 3:15 PM
http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/europes-revolving-door-in-afghanistan/

Europeans are fighting in Afghanistan, but they are less and less sure why. President Obama, by his long process of self-examination on Afghanistan and his decision to ramp up troops in pursuit of an exit, has bought himself 18 months or so, senior European diplomats say.

The war is deeply unpopular among the European public, who do not easily accept the notion that their security is on the line in Kandahar or along the Hindu Kush. Still, key European members of the NATO alliance have agreed to go to the well one more time and stump up several thousand more troops for Afghanistan, with France and Germany the noted holdouts.

But after a European-sponsored conference on Afghanistan scheduled for London on Jan. 28, to assess Afghan progress and to discuss new pledges of support and aid, both Germany and France are expected to also increase their troop commitments. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, however, with key regional elections in March, may decide to wait until they are over, especially since he announced that not one more French solider would go to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan under Mr. Obama has increasingly become an American war, with what was once a rough equality of American and NATO troops becoming more than 2 to 1 American. Still, having declared Afghanistan an Article 5 conflict after the attacks of 9/11 - committing NATO to the defense of a member nation, in this case, the United States - NATO members regard some measure of success in Afghanistan as crucial to the health and credibility of the alliance, and have pledged, according to NATO, some 7,000 more troops from 25 nations.

The Italians and Poles have come up with 1,000 more troops each, Britain 500 more. But almost 2,000 of the 7,000 will come from countries outside the alliance (including Australia, South Korea, Sweden and aspiring NATO members, Georgia, Ukraine, Macedonia and Montenegro).

At the same time, there is an element of filling a cup with a hole in the bottom. The Netherlands will withdraw its 2,200 troops in the course of 2010; Canada, with 2,800, will be leaving by 2011. That means as American troop levels rise from 68,000 to 98,000 by next summer, allied troop levels are not likely to go much higher than the present 38,000.
[...]

4) U.S. Put Jails In Lithuania, Premier Says
Clifford J. Levy, New York Times, December 23, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/23/world/europe/23lithuania.html

Moscow - The prime minister of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic that broke from Moscow's orbit and is now a member of NATO, accused the United States on Tuesday of using "Soviet methods" to set up two secret prisons in Lithuania for terrorism suspects.


The prime minister, Andrius Kubilius, said the United States had reached what he contended were clandestine and illegal arrangements with the Lithuanian secret services for prisons that were outside civilian control.

Mr. Kubilius made his remarks on the day that the national security committee in the Lithuanian Parliament released a report that determined that the country was the site of two small secret prisons, though it did not indicate how they were used.

The report was based on testimony from politicians and national security officials. It was initiated after ABC News described Lithuania's role in hosting so-called black sites, and other questions were raised about its activities in the fight against terrorism.
[...]
The report contended that state security officials never informed senior government officials, like the prime minister, about the prisons, which supposedly could hold a handful of people.

The scandal over the secret prisons has shaken Lithuania's political system and could lead to an overhaul of the security services. The intelligence chief has already resigned.
[...]

Honduras
5) Honduran election turnout lower than first estimated
Numbers are important because they may show faith of Hondurans during crisis
Other countries split on whether they will recognize President-elect Lobo Sosa
Mariano Castillo, CNN, December 21, 2009
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/12/21/honduras.election.turnout/

The official tally of last month's presidential election is almost complete, and one pivotal piece of electoral data - voter turnout - will be lower than officials have previously claimed.

The turnout matters as it may reflect how much trust the Hondurans placed in an election during a political crisis pitting the country's de facto government against the nation's ousted president.

According to Honduras' Supreme Electoral Tribunal and interviews with the electoral officials, with 99.8 percent of the votes counted, 2,298,080 people participated in the November 29 election.

This represents a 50 percent voter turnout, a figure much lower than the 61 percent officially estimated by the electoral tribunal on election day, and lower than revised turnout figures that the Electoral Tribunal gave to CNN as recently as December 5.

The crisis, which escalated after President Jose Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup last June, has split the international community now that a new president has been elected.

Some countries, such as the United States, Colombia and Costa Rica, have said they will recognize President-elect Lobo Sosa. Others, such as Argentina, Brazil and Spain, have said they will not.

Other nations have indicated that the turnout figure will be an important indicator in determining whether they will recognize the legitimacy of the election.

To date, the tribunal, known as TSE by its Spanish acronym, has only released one official press release regarding the vote count. That statement, made on election day, cites a 61 percent voter turnout rate and says 2.8 million people cast votes.

When CNN made its own analysis earlier this month, TSE spokesman Roberto Reyes Pineda said that about 2.6 million votes were cast. This downward revision turned out to be overly optimistic as well.

"There was clearly an effort to get out early vote results as robustly as possibly and convince the international community that the elections were legitimate," Christopher Sabatini, senior director of policy at the Americas Society and Council of the Americas, told CNN.
[...]

Jordan
6) Jordan's King Remakes His Government
Michael Slackman, New York Times, December 23, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/23/world/middleeast/23amman.html

Amman, Jordan - In recent days, King Abdullah II, popularly perceived in the West as being among the most enlightened Middle East leaders, has dismissed the prime minister and replaced him with a palace aide and loyalist, dissolved Parliament and postponed legislative elections for a year.

The king's decisions were widely seen here as an effort to free the government from a recalcitrant legislature so it could push through financial measures viewed as essential to shoring up an economy burdened by debt and deficit. The Parliament, dissolved midway through its term, had opposed cuts in spending and the reduction of business taxes, key components of the government's financial plan.

While King Abdullah often talks about human rights and democracy, the reality here is often quite different, rights advocates say. Last month the internal security forces were criticized by human rights groups when two prisoners died in custody.

The king's recent moves, while aimed at fiscal management, demonstrate the leadership's continued intention to manipulate and suppress the political process, former officials and political commentators said.
[...]
The king tried to blunt that criticism by ordering the government to rework an unpopular election law that limits the ability of voters to select their representatives. But even allies of the government conceded that there was little chance of substantially altering the law, which was instituted in 1993 to keep power out of the hands of certain groups, like the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organization.
[...]
The king's credentials as a proponent of democracy were further undermined when he delayed legislative elections and then announced that there would be elections for new local councils, a move termed political sleight of hand by those calling for free elections for Parliament. The councils would have no legislative or decision-making authority, officials said, but would instead work as local administrators and troubleshooters.
[...]
Jordan's actions are nothing out of the ordinary in the Middle East, where kings, emirs, sultans and presidents rely on elected institutions to claim legitimacy and give citizens the perception they have a stake in the direction of the state, political experts said. But those institutions have little independent power or authority. In Egypt, officials in 2006 delayed local elections for two years, saying they would use that time to improve the democratic conditions, though those improvements have not occurred.

When Jordan's king dissolved Parliament, he also instructed the government to ensure that future elections were a "model of transparency and justice." By doing that, he focused attention on the election law that was put in effect in 1993 by his father, King Hussein.

The law shifted control of Parliament away from heavily populated urban centers, with a majority of Palestinians and Islamist supporters, to more rural, tribal-dominated areas. The election law has been preserved over the years because it permitted some degree of public political participation, while allowing the government to preserve a social balance that it sees as essential to keeping Islamists from taking power, and keeping Jordanians of Palestinian origin from winning political control. Of the six million Jordanians, at least half are ethnic Palestinians.
[...]

Afghanistan
7) Afghan Senator Killed Mistakenly at Police Checkpoint
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, December 24, 2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/24/world/asia/24afghan.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - Policemen killed an Afghan senator and his driver in the country's north early Wednesday after their car failed to stop at a checkpoint, according to a statement by the Ministry of Interior, which said it had sent a high-level delegation to look into the case.

The senator, Mohammed Younus, was in an area where fighting had recently gone on and tensions were still unresolved, leading the police to conclude that if a driver failed to heed their warnings, the passengers were likely to be enemies, officials said.

The senator encountered the checkpoint on a small road in Baghlan Province about 2:30 a.m., after leaving a social gathering in a remote village, according to Barak Akbar Barakzai, the provincial governor. The senator's four-wheel drive vehicle sped through despite signals to stop, Mr. Barakzai said, and the police, worried that the car might be carrying some of the insurgents they had fought hours earlier, radioed the next checkpoint about the oncoming vehicle. When the car failed to stop there, the police opened fire, killing the senator and driver and injuring a bodyguard.

"We had carried out a clearance operation yesterday in central Baghlan district of the province against the militants, in which four policemen and more than 10 armed militants were killed," said Mr. Barakzai. "So last night we had intelligence indicating opposition forces would attack police checkpoints on the main highway. So we set up a few ambushes along the main highway to disrupt militant activity and hunt down those who want to transport the wounded out of the province to safe havens."

Mr. Younus was a mujahedeen commander during the fight against the Soviet Union, fighting with the Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious warlord, said a fellow member of Parliament from Baghlan, Mohammed Asim.

Iraq
8) A Quiet Christmas For Christians In Iraq
Michael Hastings, Washington Post, Wednesday, December 23, 2009; A08
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/22/AR2009122203537.html

Christians in Iraq are preparing for a muted holiday season, with one bishop in the southern city of Basra calling for a ban on public festivities while other congregations across the country have canceled services and cautioned worshipers to keep their celebrations private.

The Chaldean bishop of Basra, Imad al-Banna, is asking Christians "not to display their joy, not to publicly celebrate the feast of Nativity" to avoid offending Iraq's Shiite community, whose Ashura holiday falls two days after Christmas this year.

According to Louis Sako, chief archbishop of Kirkuk for the Chaldean Christians, a Catholic sect that originated in Iraq, none of the northern archdiocese's nine churches has scheduled a Christmas Mass this year. "This is the first time we have had to cancel our celebrations," he said.

Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, Iraq's Christian minority has faced constant persecution, including dozens of church bombings, executions, kidnappings and forced expulsions, devastating some communities and reducing the overall Christian population by at least 25 percent.
[...]
Sako, the Chaldean archbishop, said that 10,000 Christians have fled Kirkuk in the past three months, and church officials in Basra have reported that the Christian community there has halved to about 2,500 people because of militia attacks.

The United Nations reported over the summer that 12,000 Christians had left Mosul and recently called for a "redoubling of efforts" to protect the besieged minority. Many Christian families have sought refuge in the autonomous Kurdish region in the north, where church services and festivities are held with no apparent security problems.
[...]
"I'm fed up. I've been speaking with the press for seven years. I have no comment," said Ahad, the Syrian Catholic pastor. "I've been asking the Iraqi government, asking the Americans, and no one has helped us.

"I used to celebrate Christmas with many people, with joy, with visits, with guests," said the pastor at the Virgin Mary church. "Now I am staying here alone. We are living like rats."

Japan
9) Okinawa Mayor Race May Hold Key To U.S.-Japan Base Spat
Yuka Hayashi, Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2009
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126153435914902399.html

Nago, Japan - The course of U.S.-Japan relations, and the future of the American military presence here, may come down to who wins the mayoral election in this island town hundreds of miles from Tokyo.

Ties between Japan's new center-left government and the Obama administration have become strained in recent weeks over intensifying debate about the U.S. military presence on the island of Okinawa. The sides agreed in 2006 to close an airbase in Okinawa's center and build a V-shaped runway for the Marine Corps outside this town on the island's scenic coast.

New Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who promised during his campaign that he wouldn't allow the new base, has resisted U.S. calls to move ahead by year's end on the troop relocation plans. Last week, he said his government would put off a decision on bases here until next year.

That helped transform Nago City's Jan. 24 mayoral vote into a de facto referendum on the U.S. military in Japan. The current mayor wants to build the airfield. His challenger, who doesn't, has gained momentum from Mr. Hatoyama's no-bases stance.

"People in Okinawa had resigned to the idea of a new facility. But Mr. Hatoyama's promise to move it elsewhere has really fired us up," said Eiji Chinen, chairman of Okinawa Employers' Association, a powerful local business lobby that has traditionally supported co-existence with U.S. bases. "If the government doesn't keep its word, there would be a tremendous pushback."

Japan has long been a faithful U.S. ally, providing shelter and training grounds for tens of thousands of U.S. troops. Of the 33,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan, around 21,000 are currently on Okinawa, a southern island two-thirds the size of Long Island.

The base issue has long divided this town of 60,000. A majority of its voters rejected an airfield plan in a 1997 referendum. Since then, three mayors favoring the facility have won elections.
[...]
But a growing number of locals, emboldened by Mr. Hatoyama's stance, want the plan canceled, say politicians and news organizations here.

"We let Camp Schwab come because we were so poor and we could hardly feed ourselves," said Muneyoshi Kayo, an 87-year-old retiree who sits out on the beach by Camp Schwab several times a week to protest the construction of the new facility.

He and others are giving a nod to the mayor's challenger, Susumu Inamine, a 64-year-old former head of the local board of education. Instead of counting on infusions from Tokyo, Mr. Ianamine wants to encourage more tourism in Nago.

The area has become a destination for mainland tourists who dive on its coral reefs and trek in its tropical forests. The waters off Camp Schwab are a feeding ground for dugongs, a marine animal related to manatees, that are in danger of extinction in Japan.

"It is totally irrational that such a small place like Okinawa has shouldered so many military facilities," Mr. Inamine said. "It's about time people all over the nation start sharing the burden."

Japan's defense minister said Tuesday the government aimed to settle the base issue by May.
[...]
Unresolved, the issue could become knottier with time. In August's parliamentary elections, candidates opposing the facility won all of the four districts in Okinawa. Both the Nago election and a gubernatorial vote later in the year could result in the victory by candidates opposing the base, unifying Okinawa's voice against it.

That would hold up the 2006 accord, which calls for shutting down the unpopular Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in a crowded area in central Okinawa and moving 8,000 troops to Guam. The plan is predicated on building the new facility in Nago.

-
Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy
www.justforeignpolicy.org

Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.

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