JFP 1/19: US Blocks Doctors from Aiding Haiti
Just Foreign Policy News
January 19, 2010
Doctors Without Borders: Plane with Lifesaving Medical Supplies Diverted Again from Landing in Haiti
Patients in Dire Need of Emergency Care Dying from Delays in Arrival of Medical Supplies
Rachel Maddow/Jubilee USA: Cancel the Debt, Grants Not Loans to Haiti
Maddow: "Is sending loans instead of grants really about control?"
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1) The Paris Club of international creditors issued an appeal Tuesday for nations owed money by Haiti to cancel the debts to help reconstruction, the New York Times reports. [The statement only called on bilateral creditors to cancel their debts; half of Haiti's debt is owed to the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank - JFP.]
2) The U.S. military has airdropped water and food into Haiti after earlier ruling out such a delivery method as too risky, AP reports. Military officials are considering whether the method was successful enough to be used throughout Haiti.
3) The State Department has been denying many seriously injured people in Port-au-Prince visas to be transferred to Miami for surgery and treatment, the New York Times reports. "It's beyond insane," said the dean of the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami,"It's bureaucracy at its worst."
4) Defense Secretary Gates "effectively ruled out" reconciliation with the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, the New York Times reports. Afghan officials are now considering removing Omar's name from the UN list of terrorists.
5) A spectacular assault by militants in Kabul on Monday drove home the ease with which insurgents could strike the US-backed government, the New York Times reports. Five hours after the attack began, gunfire was still echoing through the downtown. The Faroshga market, one of the city's most popular shopping malls, lay in ruins.
6) In the weeks since the November election, the human rights situation has deteriorated, In These Times reports. Shooting and killings are becoming increasingly common in the streets.
7) The UN says Afghans had to pay bribes worth nearly a quarter of the country's GDP last year, AP reports. The U.N. report said one person in two had to pay at least one kickback to a public official between 2008 and 2009. The average bribe cost $160 - in a country where the GDP per capita was just $425 per year, the report said.
8) U.S. intelligence agencies now suspect that Iran never halted work on its nuclear arms program in 2003, as stated in a national intelligence estimate made public three years ago, the Washington Times reports. The new consensus emerging among analysts in the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community on Iran's nuclear arms program is expected to be the highlight of a classified national intelligence estimate nearing completion that will replace the estimate issued in 2007. Newsweek reported Saturday that the new estimate was being drafted and may be released as soon as next month.
9) The list of candidates barred from the Iraqi election, which was endorsed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, seems to disproportionately target prominent Sunnis and secular leaders, the Washington Post reports. Being labeled a Baathist in today's Iraq is tantamount to being called a communist during the McCarthy era, the Post says. Some Sunni leaders and analysts said more aggressive US intervention is the only way to avert a bigger crisis, the Post says.
10) Israel's bid to join the OECD could be jeopardized by its occupation of Arab lands, the New York Times reports. All 30 member states must approve the accession of a country. [The membership of the OECD includes Turkey, for example - JFP.]
11) A provision of the Central American Free Trade Agreement still languishes in Costa Rica's Assembly awaiting approval, the Tico Times reports. The copyright provsion ignited massive student protests over the ability to copy from textbooks, and has unnerved health officials concerned that the process of copyrighting pharmaceutical products would bankrupt the public health system. Until the provision is approved, the US is delaying market access to sugar.
12) The election of billionaire Sebastian Pinera as President of Chile could complicate Chile's relations with its neighbors, AP reports. Pinera's victory returns to power the same political parties that provided civic support for Augusto Pinochet's brutal 1973-1990 dictatorship. While President Bachelet tried to defuse border tensions with Peru and Bolivia, Pinera's more nationalistic tone could make relations difficult. Bolivia's Evo Morales expressed hope that Pinera will follow through on Bachelet's promises regarding water rights and access to the sea.
1) Rich Nations Call for Haiti Debt Relief
Alan Cowell, New York Times, January 20, 2010
Paris - Broadening the relief effort, the Paris Club of international creditors issued an appeal Tuesday for nations owed money by Haiti to cancel the debts to help reconstruction after the devastating earthquake a week ago.
A statement from the informal grouping, which meets each month in Paris and is composed of major industrialized countries, came as international agencies pressed for the provision of greater security to protect the distribution of aid in Haiti and the supply route leading from the neighboring Dominican Republic.
The Paris Club said that last July its members canceled all their claims on Haiti, at that time totaling $214 million.
"Considering the financing needs that Haiti will face in reconstructing the country, Paris Club creditors call upon other bilateral creditors also to urgently provide full debt cancellation to Haiti," the statement said.
2) US military airdrops supplies into Haiti
Associated Press, Monday, January 18, 2010; 8:09 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/18/AR2010011803559.html
Washington - The U.S. military has airdropped water and food into Haiti after earlier ruling out such a delivery method as too risky.
Maj. Tanya Bradsher, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Southern Command, said an Air Force C-17 flying out of Pope Air Force Base, N.C., on Monday dropped 14,500 MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, and 15,000 liters of water into a secured area 5 miles northeast of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.
Military officials are considering whether the method was successful enough to be used throughout Haiti.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said last week that early airdrops were ruled out because they might do more harm than good, possibly triggering riots if there was no structure on the ground to distribute the supplies.
3) Homeless Haitians Told Not to Flee to U.S.
James C. McKinley Jr., New York Times, January 19, 2010
Miami - America has a message for the millions of Haitians left homeless and destitute by last week's earthquake: Do not try to come to the United States.
Every day, a United States Air Force cargo plane specially equipped with radio transmitters flies for five hours over the devastated country, broadcasting news and a recorded message from Raymond Joseph, Haiti's ambassador in Washington.
"Listen, don't rush on boats to leave the country," Mr. Joseph says in Creole, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon. "If you do that, we'll all have even worse problems. Because, I'll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from."
So far, there has been no sign of Haitians trying to flee the island by boat, United States officials say. Nor has there been a mass exodus of Haitians into the neighboring Dominican Republic, except for about 3,000 injured people who are being treated at hospitals just over the Dominican border, officials there say.
The State Department has also been denying many seriously injured people in Port-au-Prince visas to be transferred to Miami for surgery and treatment, said Dr. William O'Neill, the dean of the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami, which has erected a field hospital near the airport there. "It's beyond insane," Dr. O'Neill said Saturday, having just returned to Miami from Haiti. "It's bureaucracy at its worst."
Customs officials have allowed a total of 23 Haitians into the United States on humanitarian grounds for medical treatment, said a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security.
4) Taliban Leaders Unlikely To Accept Offer, Gates Says
Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, January 19, 2010
New Delhi - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Monday that there could be a surge of Taliban followers willing to reintegrate with the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai, but that for now an Afghan government reconciliation with the Taliban leadership was unlikely.
Mr. Gates, who made his comments on his plane en route to India, was reacting to the announcement on Sunday of a major new Afghan initiative to offer jobs, security, education and other social benefits to Taliban followers who defect. The plan is in the final stages of preparation and has qualified support from American officials, who see luring large numbers of Taliban supporters to change sides as critical to success in Afghanistan.
But Mr. Gates, like other American officials, effectively ruled out reconciliation with the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar. Mr. Karzai has offered repeatedly to talk directly with Mullah Omar, with little result, but Afghan officials are now considering removing his name from the United Nations list of terrorists. Those placed on the list are barred from international travel and their bank accounts can be frozen.
"I'd be very surprised to see a reconciliation with Mullah Omar," Mr. Gates told reporters. "And I think it's our view that until the Taliban leadership sees a change in the momentum and begins to see that they are not going to win, that the likelihood of significant reconciliation at senior levels is not terribly great."
On the other hand, he said, "we may see a real growth of reintegration at the local or district or provincial level" as "people come under pressure and they know they can't win and they know that if they reintegrate and accept the terms of the Afghan government, that they and their families can be protected."
NATO officials estimate that there are 25,000 to 30,000 active Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. So far only a relatively small number have defected.
5) Kabul Attack Shows Resilience Of Afghan Militants
Dexter Filkins, New York Times, January 19, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - A team of militants launched a spectacular assault at the heart of the Afghan government on Monday, with two men detonating suicide bombs and the rest fighting to the death only 50 yards from the gates of the presidential palace.
The attack paralyzed the city for hours, as hundreds of Afghan commandos converged and opened fire. The battle unfolded in the middle of Pashtunistan Square, a traffic circle where the palace of President Hamid Karzai, the Ministry of Justice and the Central Bank, the target of the attack, are located.
As the gun battle raged, another suicide bomber, this one driving an ambulance, struck a traffic circle a half-mile away, sending a second mass of bystanders fleeing in terror. Afghan officials said that three soldiers and two civilians - including a child - were killed, and at least 71 people were wounded.
The assault was the latest in a series of audacious operations by insurgents meant to shatter the calm of the Afghan capital. The Taliban are a mostly rural phenomenon in a mostly rural country; the overwhelming majority of United States troops are deployed in small outposts in the countryside. On most days, the war does not reach the urban centers.
But increasingly the Taliban are bringing the fight into the cities, further demoralizing Afghans and lending to the impression that virtually no part of the country is safe from the group's penetration.
The Monday attack seemed intended to strike fear into the usually quiet precincts of downtown Kabul - and to drive home the ease with which insurgents could strike the United States-backed government here.
In that way the assault succeeded without question. Five hours after the attack began, gunfire was still echoing through the downtown as commandos searched for holdouts in a nearby office building. The Faroshga market, one of the city's most popular shopping malls and a place where some militants holed up, lay in ruins, shattered and burning and belching black smoke.
6) Slideshow: Inside the World's Newest Police State
Photos of Honduras in crisis, all taken since President Mel Zelaya was ousted from power by a military coup last June.
Jeremy Kryt, In These Times, January 9, 2010
[photos at link - JFP.]
Tegucigalpa, Honduras - It's the worst political and humanitarian crisis to hit Central America since the terrible wars of the 1980s, and it doesn't seem likely to go away any time soon.
The coup that deposed President Mel Zelaya last June ignited a firestorm of nonviolent but determined resistance, but the business-military junta-under the leadership of de facto president Roberto Micheletti-reacted to the peaceful marches and demonstrations by cracking down hard on protesters. More than 3,000 people have been detained, and hundreds more have been beaten, with many requiring hospitalization for their wounds. At least 28 members of the resistance have been killed by soldiers, police, or political assassins during the last five months.
Zelaya's term will officially end on January 27. His successor, Porfirio Lobo, is widely seen as having cooperated with the coup. The turnout for an election in late November was the lowest in the Honduras' history, and the coup government was caught in the act of fixing the numbers. Meanwhile, Zelaya remains trapped in the Brazilian embassy, allowed to leave the country safely only if he first renounces the presidency.
In the weeks since the election, the human rights situation has deteriorated. Shooting and killings are becoming increasingly common in the streets, as the coup government's harsh policies have led to a troubling rise in poverty and violent crime. And last month, the regime itself was accused of torturing and murdering two resistance activists.
Several farmers unions have risen up in recent days, occupying their formerly legally-titled land because the de facto government has begun canceling agricultural micro-loans and land-ownership programs that Zelaya had enacted. The Honduran judiciary ruled against the farmers last week, and soldiers and police have been sent to disperse the farmers and their families.
7) UN: Afghans Forced To Pay Billions In Bribes
Sylvia Hui, Associated Press, Tuesday, January 19, 2010; 10:51 AM
London - Corruption in Afghanistan is so entrenched that Afghans had to pay bribes worth nearly a quarter of the country's GDP last year, a United Nations report said Tuesday.
Afghans paid $2.5 billion (euro1.7 billion) to bribe public officials over the past 12 months, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said in a report on corruption in the country. "Drugs and bribes are the two largest income-generators in Afghanistan," the program's executive director, Antonio Maria Costa, said as he launched the report in London. The country's opium trade last year was worth an estimated $2.8 billion.
The U.N. report said one person in two had to pay at least one kickback to a public official - whether a policeman, politician, judge or government official - between 2008 and 2009. Many paid to cut through red tape or to get help with poor service.
More than half the time, the request was an explicit demand for cash. The average bribe cost $160 - in a country where the GDP per capita was just $425 per year, the report said.
Costa said the lack of trust in public officials was prompting Afghans to look for alternative providers of security and welfare. The weakening of traditional justice administered by village elders could mean that more people will be drawn to violent forms of retribution such as Sharia religious law, he said.
The report was based on interviews with 7,600 people in 12 provincial capitals and more than 1,600 villages around Afghanistan between autumn 2008 and autumn 2009.
It said that, even though corruption was pervasive, only 9 percent of the urban population believed it was worth reporting to authorities.
8) Review Says Iran Never Halted Nuke Work In 2003
Eli Lake, Washington Times, Tuesday, January 19, 2010
U.S. intelligence agencies now suspect that Iran never halted work on its nuclear arms program in 2003, as stated in a national intelligence estimate made public three years ago, U.S. officials said.
Differences among analysts now focus on whether the country's supreme leader has given or will soon give orders for full-scale production of nuclear weapons.
The new consensus emerging among analysts in the 16 agencies that make up the U.S. intelligence community on Iran's nuclear arms program is expected to be the highlight of a classified national intelligence estimate nearing completion that will replace the estimate issued in 2007.
The unclassified summary of the 2007 document said the U.S. intelligence community had "moderate confidence" that Iran's nuclear weapons work had halted in 2003. In a footnote, it stated that weapons development was defined as warhead design and not the enrichment of uranium, which has continued unabated contrary to the Iranian government's agreement not to develop uranium enrichment techniques outside International Atomic Energy Agency controls.
A senior U.S. military officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity last week revealed that the new argument among analysts is over Iran's decision to move forward with weaponization. "There is a debate being held about whether the final decision has been made. It is fair to argue that the supreme leader has not said, 'Build a nuclear weapon.' That actually does not matter, because they are not at the point where they could do that anyway."
Newsweek magazine first reported Saturday that the new estimate was being drafted and may be released as soon as next month.
The 2007 national intelligence estimate prompted harsh criticism from U.S. allies and some members of Congress and the Bush administration, who said the document had been "politicized" to undermine any policy that would authorize a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
9) Sunni Iraqis fear disenfranchisement after hundreds of candidates banned
Leila Fadel and Ernesto Londoño, Washington Post, Tuesday, January 19, 2010; A07
Baghdad - By barring hundreds of candidates from an upcoming parliamentary election, a controversial commission whose members have close ties to Iran is threatening to disenfranchise members of Iraq's Sunni minority and weaken its fledgling democracy.
The commission, led by Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi politician who supplied faulty intelligence to the United States in the run-up to the war, and Ali Faisal al-Lami, a former U.S. detainee, was established to help cleanse the Iraqi government of officials who adhered to the ideals of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party.
But the panel sent shockwaves through Iraq's political establishment when it recently announced the disbarment of 511 candidates for their alleged allegiance to the party. The move has led to recriminations that Iran, through proxies, is trying to rig the vote to ensure that Iraq is solidly in the hands of politicians loyal to Tehran.
Many Sunnis boycotted a national election in 2005 to protest the U.S. occupation. Their disenfranchisement contributed to the rise of an insurgency and a civil war fought along sectarian lines. This time, there is little talk of boycotting, but there is widespread fear that Sunnis will once again believe they got a raw deal.
On Friday, at a Sunni mosque in Adhamiyah, the Iraqi army stopped a demonstration over the disbarments, residents said. Sunnis in Baghdad complain that in recent months the Iraqi army has sharply restricted movement in their districts, stifling commerce and imposing de facto martial law.
The committee that announced the disbarments is known as the Supreme National Commission for Accountability and Justice. Its chairman, Chalabi, is an erstwhile Pentagon and CIA ally who played a crucial role in the run-up to the invasion. He's fallen out of favor, and most U.S. officials now call him an Iranian agent. Chalabi's deputy on the commission, Lami, spent nearly a year in U.S. custody after being implicated in the bombing of a Sadr City government building that killed two American soldiers and two U.S. Embassy employees. He has denied involvement in the attack and claims that U.S. interrogators tortured him.
An aide to Chalabi said he was unavailable for comment. In an interview, however, Lami said he wasn't to blame that candidates failed to qualify for elections. He also disputed allegations, from U.S. officials and others, that he and Chalabi were acting at the behest of Tehran or in the interest of their own coalition vying for seats in the next parliament.
The list of barred candidates, which was endorsed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, provides vague justification for the banishments. It includes Sunni and Shiite politicians, but it seems to disproportionately target prominent Sunnis and secular leaders. There were 6,592 candidates who were screened for Baathist ties.
Being labeled a Baathist in today's Iraq, which is led by exiles driven out by Hussein, is tantamount to being called a communist during the McCarthy era. The disbarment would be likely to benefit Maliki's coalition and the predominantly Shiite bloc that includes Chalabi and Lami.
Barred candidates have three days to appeal to a newly empaneled body of three judges. Sunni politicians and U.S. officials worry that the appeals process could inflame tensions and potentially derail the election, scheduled for March 7.
Vice President Biden called the Iraqi speaker of parliament Sunday to push back the disbarment of politicians until after the vote, according to the speaker's spokesman. But the call and other, similar efforts by the U.N. envoy to Iraq and Western diplomats appear to have gone unheeded.
Some Sunni leaders and analysts said more aggressive American intervention is the only way to avert a bigger crisis. "We need to hear from you Americans. Please don't just watch this from the outside," said Mithal al-Alusi, a former member of the now-disbanded commission on de-Baathification. "The White House needs to move and move quickly."
10) For Israel, Bumps on Path to Economic Club
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, January 19, 2010
Jerusalem - Israel, which has catapulted in the past two decades from a minor state-dominated economy to a market-driven technology hothouse, is in the final stages of accession to the exclusive club of advanced countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But its secretive weapons trade, patent-bending drug industry and occupation of Arab lands are raising last-minute questions.
The secretary general of the O.E.C.D., Angel Gurría, currently in Israel to discuss the issues with senior officials, said he was confident they could be resolved and that Israel might miss the original target of May but would become a member some time this year.
But he acknowledged that Israel, unlike other small countries in the process of accession - Chile, Slovenia and Estonia - might face objections unrelated to the technical questions still to be answered.
That political issue is Israel's declining international reputation because of its Gaza war a year ago and its ongoing building of Jewish housing in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Professional staff employees of the O.E.C.D., which is based in Paris, say all 30 member states must approve the accession of a country and it remained unclear if any would object. But the three technical issues all still needed to be solved.
The first involved the organization's convention to combat bribery of foreign officials, which it considers one of its more significant accomplishments. Some years ago, bribes were tax-deductible in several European countries. Now, all of the organization's members are required to fight bribery through domestic legislation and regulation.
The arms trade is notoriously filled with palm-greasing across the world, and Israel is a large arms trader. It has signed the antibribery convention as part of its accession process, but the way it handles the issue is causing difficulty, O.E.C.D. officials say.
The main concern is that Israel's Defense Ministry has the power to censor the results of any investigation of bribes paid by Israeli companies to foreign officials on the ground that the publicity could harm Israel's national interests. The censor can bar publication and is under no obligation to tell the authorities about the investigations. The O.E.C.D. wants both practices changed.
The second concern, regarding intellectual property rights, involves the Israeli company Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the world's largest producers of generic drugs. Major American and Swiss companies have long accused Israel of insufficient regulation of the way Teva markets its products in the face of patent regulations in other countries.
Finally, the O.E.C.D. is unhappy with the Israel's definition of its territory in collating of economic data. Israel includes activities in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, both of them won in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war; most of the world views those areas as occupied, but Israel considers them its own through annexation.
The O.E.C.D. brings together market-oriented democracies, promotes good business and economic practices and to boost employment and international trade. For Israel, membership would help it continue to modernize its economy but also to fight efforts to delegitimize and ostracize it over its dispute with the Palestinians.
11) In Costa Rica, CAFTA hits a snag
Chrissie Long, Tico Times, January 15, 2010
While the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) technically has been in effect in Costa Rica for more than a year, a piece of it still languishes in the Legislative Assembly and awaiting approval.
That piece, which treats copyright law, is perhaps the most controversial.
It's the section that ignited massive student protests over the ability to copy from textbooks. It pitted rights-holders against certain radio outlets for use of protected material. And, it's the part that has unnerved health officials concerned that the process of copyrighting pharmaceutical products would bankrupt the public health system.
Yet, until the final piece is approved, the United States is delaying market access to sugar. Costa Rican sugar producers will not be able to sell their product in the U.S. unless legislators approve the last part, known as the 14th amendment (see this week's Business story).
The original deadline for approval of the final section was Dec. 31, but government processes and political disagreements pushed discussion into this year.
12) Pinera victory could complicate Chile's diplomacy
Michael Warren, Associated Press, Monday, January 18, 2010; 2:02 PM
Santiago, Chile - Billionaire and now President-elect Sebastian Pinera invoked the calls to service of John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama as he challenged Chileans to come together to improve their country. The conservative businessman, who won Sunday's election by a 52-48 percent margin over former President Eduardo Frei, vowed to appoint the "best, most prepared, most honest and most dedicated" people to help transform Chile "into the best country in the world."
But Pinera's long and rousing victory speech made no mention of foreign policy other than his vow to fight drug trafficking, and given his recent comments about Chile's neighbors, he may find unity on a continent dominated by leftist governments very hard to achieve.
Pinera's election victory Sunday night ends two decades of uninterrupted rule by a center-left coalition, and returns to power the same political parties that provided civic support for Augusto Pinochet's brutal 1973-1990 dictatorship.
That legacy alone is bound to complicate relations with Argentina, whose leader has made prosecuting human rights violators a centerpiece of her presidency, and Uruguay, which just elected a former leftist guerrilla as its president.
But while President Michelle Bachelet tried to defuse border tensions with Peru and Bolivia and avoid antagonizing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Pinera's more nationalistic tone - and friendship with Colombia's conservative President Alvaro Uribe - could make relations difficult.
Pinera has criticized Latin American populism as a failed approach, and in last week's presidential debate, he called Cuba a "dictatorship," said Venezuela is "not a democracy" and vowed never to concede land nor sea that belongs to Chile.
"This tone is clearly going to become an obstacle to building good relations with Bolivia, and certainly with Venezuela," said Marcelo Mella, a political scientist at the University of Santiago. "It seems to me that nationalistic and chauvinistic declarations won't help generate a good climate for resolving conflicts."
Pinera received good wishes on Monday from across the spectrum. Peru's president called for dialogue even as the international court in the Hague considers their disputed maritime border, and Bolivia's Evo Morales expressed hope that Pinera will follow through on Bachelet's promises regarding water rights and access to the sea.
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