JFP 1/29: Haiti's Prime Minister Slams US Aid Delays
Just Foreign Policy News
January 29, 2010
Al Jazeera Video: Haiti PM slams US aid delays
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive says he does not understand why so much water and food in storage facilities at the airport is not being distributed. Bellerive expressed his frustration with security decisions made by the US military that are hindering the earthquake relief effort. "Haitians don't care about the security, they just want the water, food and medicine to get to them ... they don't feel that there is the need for so much security," he said.
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1) Afghan President Karzai said he will convene a nationwide meeting of tribal, religious and political leaders in the next few weeks to discuss reintegrating and reconciling with insurgents, the Washington Post reports. Afghan government officials said Taliban members would be welcome to attend. "We didn't know they were going to do it," a senior Obama administration official said of the apparent breadth of Karzai's invitation. "We're very enthusiastic about reintegration," the official said. "We're not here to discuss reconciliation."
2) Taliban commanders held secret exploratory talks with UN envoy Kai Eide this month to discuss peace terms, the Guardian reports. Regional commanders on the Taliban's leadership council, the Quetta Shura, sought the meeting; it took place in Dubai on 8 January. It was the first such meeting between the UN and senior members of the Taliban. "We believe there are mid-level commanders tired of fighting and who have realised neither side is going to win," a Western official said. "There is a younger generation of Taliban commanders who believe it was a colossal mistake to side with the Arabs [in al-Qaida]. In fact the vote at the shura [meeting] in Kandahar in 2001 was only narrowly in favour of sticking with the Arabs." The official said: "This 'new Taliban' is not that much more extreme than some of the people in government. They could be willing to compromise on some issues, like women's rights, girls education, even watching telly perhaps."
3) Stratfor says "There seems to be an emerging consensus that when all is said and done, the Afghan jihadist movement - in one form or another - will be part of the government in Kabul," Reuters reports.
4) Even the leftist website Counterpunch reported as fact the false internet rumor that Venzuela's President had blamed the earthquake in Haiti on the US, Inca Kola News reports. [As of this writing, Counterpunch had failed to take down or correct the article, more than a day after the error was called to their attention - JFP.]
5) The Palestinian village of Nilin appears to be at the center of an intensifying Israeli arrest campaign, the New York Times reports. Apparently concerned that protests against the Israeli "security barrier" could spread, the Israeli Army and security forces have recently begun clamping down, arresting scores of local organizers and activists here and conducting nighttime raids on the homes of others.
6) The Senate approved legislation that would let President Obama impose sanctions on Iran's gasoline suppliers, Reuters reports. The sanctions, approved on a voice vote, would target companies that export gasoline to Iran or help expand the country's oil-refining capacity. The House has already passed similar legislation. Differences between the two bills will have to be worked out before the measure becomes law. U.S. business groups oppose the legislation.
7) Some analysts say recent US-sponsored airstrikes in Yemen were largely counterproductive, having missed AQAP leadership and angered powerful local tribes, the blog WarIsBoring.com reports.
8) Pashtun villagers in Afghanistan's heartland have begun to lose faith in the American project, writes Anand Gopal in The Nation. Many of them can point to the precise moment of this transformation, and it usually took place in the dead of night: the US military has been arresting suspects and sending them to one of a number of secret detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families. These night raids have become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition airstrikes.
9) A gunner in a U.S. military convoy shot and killed a local imam as he was driving his car in Kabul Thursday, prompting outrage among residents, the Washington Post reports. The U.S. military said the convoy "fired on what appeared to be a threatening vehicle." Neighbors and friends at the scene said the imam was waiting to pick up one of his sons and take him to an Islamic school when the convoy passed by and opened fire.
1) Afghan president plans meeting on reintegrating, reconciling with insurgents
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Friday, January 29, 2010; A10
London - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Thursday that he will convene a nationwide meeting of tribal, religious and political leaders in the next few weeks to discuss reintegrating and reconciling with insurgents. Afghan government officials said Taliban members would also be welcome to attend.
U.S. officials, who strongly support reintegration of low-level Taliban fighters but have drawn a bright red line against dealings with insurgents who have not forsworn violence or who have ties to al-Qaeda, appeared unsure of what Karzai had in mind.
Speaking to a one-day meeting of foreign ministers from nearly 70 countries here, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Karzai called on Saudi Arabia, which has offered to serve as a go-between with Taliban leaders, to play a "prominent role" in a process of "peace and reconciliation." He asked "all our neighbors, particularly Pakistan," where top Taliban leaders are based, to support it.
"We must reach out to all of our countrymen, especially our disenchanted brothers," Karzai told the gathering, which was convened by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bolster international resolve and solidify a new strategy for the eight-year-old war.
"We didn't know they were going to do it," a senior Obama administration official said of the apparent breadth of Karzai's invitation. "We're very enthusiastic about reintegration," the official said. "We're not here to discuss reconciliation." That term generally refers to a negotiated settlement between opposing forces. The official said reconciliation did not come up in closed-door meetings Thursday, and it was not mentioned in a final communique that welcomed Karzai's outreach to "those willing to renounce violence" and "cut ties with al-Qaeda."
But the meeting was dominated by talk about talks with insurgents, which Karzai said was his first priority.
The event followed a flurry of recent reports about negotiations with at least some Taliban factions, including a report by Reuters on Thursday that members of the Taliban's leadership council had met secretly with a U.N. representative on Jan. 8 in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to discuss laying down their arms.
The Obama administration has emphasized that there is no purely military solution to the Afghanistan war and that it ultimately must be resolved politically. "You don't make peace with your friends," Clinton said at a news conference Thursday. "You have to be willing to engage with your enemies if you expect to create a situation that ends an insurgency or . . . marginalizes the remaining insurgents."
The Afghans themselves seemed unsure Thursday about whether any Afghan would be ruled out of attendance at the proposed meeting, or jirga, and whether participants had to first forswear violence and pledge to abide by Afghan law. U.S. officials said they did; Afghans appeared to leave the matter open.
Karzai said only that his offer applied "especially" to those "who are not part of al-Qaeda or other terrorist networks, who accept the Afghan constitution." But he noted that the United Nations this week dropped five Taliban members from its terrorist blacklist, and he encouraged "more progress in this regard."
Outgoing Afghan foreign minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, representing his government at the news conference with Miliband, said that even "hard-liner, ideology-oriented" Taliban members had to be "encouraged for reconciliation."
2) UN In Secret Peace Talks With Taliban
Kabul envoy met top commanders in Dubai this month to discuss terms
Julian Borger, Guardian, Thursday 28 January 2010 21.20 GMT http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jan/28/taliban-united-nations-afghanistan
Taliban commanders held secret exploratory talks with a United Nations special envoy this month to discuss peace terms, it emerged tonight.
Regional commanders on the Taliban's leadership council, the Quetta Shura, sought a meeting with the UN special representative in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, and it took place in Dubai on 8 January. "They requested a meeting to talk about talks. They want protection, to be able to come out in public. They don't want to vanish into places like Bagram," the Reuters news agency quoted a UN official as saying, referring to the Bagram detention centre at a US military base outside Kabul.
The Dubai meeting was confirmed to the Guardian by officials with knowledge of the encounter, but they said they could provide no further details.
It was the first such meeting between the UN and senior members of the Taliban. The fact that it took place suggests that peace talks have revived since exploratory contacts between emissaries of the Kabul government and the Taliban in Saudi Arabia last year broke down.
It also suggests that some Taliban members might be prepared for the first time to put faith in an international organisation to broker a deal to end the nine-year war.
An official statement from the Taliban leadership in response to today's conference warned that "attempts by the enemy to bribe the mujahideen, offering them money and employment to abandon jihad, are futile". However, it added what appeared to be a conciliatory note, saying that it was waging a jihad only to "liberate" Afghan territory and posed "no threat to neighbouring countries or anyone else".
Although an important development, it was unclear how significant a faction Eide had met in Dubai or how serious they were. A western official confirmed that there were indications of splits in the Taliban over the prospect of a settlement.
"We believe there are mid-level commanders tired of fighting and who have realised neither side is going to win," the official said. "There is a younger generation of Taliban commanders who believe it was a colossal mistake to side with the Arabs [in al-Qaida]. In fact the vote at the shura [meeting] in Kandahar in 2001 was only narrowly in favour of sticking with the Arabs."
The western official said: "This 'new Taliban' is not that much more extreme than some of the people in government. They could be willing to compromise on some issues, like women's rights, girls education, even watching telly perhaps."
3) London meeting marks sea-change in Afghan approach
Myra MacDonald, Reuters, Wed, Jan 27 2010
London - A conference on Afghanistan which only a week ago was seen as the political stunt of an enfeebled British government could now mark the beginning of the end of the war in Afghanistan. The 60-nation meeting in London on Thursday has been preceded by an unexpected groundswell of support, including from top military commanders, for an eventual political settlement with the Taliban. "There seems to be an emerging consensus that when all is said and done, the Afghan jihadist movement - in one form or another - will be part of the government in Kabul," U.S. think tank Stratfor said.
Only last March, President Barack Obama talked of an "uncompromising core of the Taliban" which must be defeated.
But facing dwindling public support for a war now into its ninth year and economic problems at home, Washington and its allies have been scaling back their ambitions for Afghanistan. "They have defined success as the absence of a Taliban revolution," said Steve Coll at the New America Foundation. "That is an achievable goal."
"Both sides have similar perceptions that neither side can fully win," said Antonio Giustozzi, a London School of Economics researcher on the Taliban. "It is exactly at this point of equilibrium that negotiations become possible."
4) Lefties can be total dumbasses about Chávez, too
Inca Kola News, 1/29/10
Nikolas Kozloff over at Counterpunch has managed to fall for the classic trap of believing somebody else's bullshit, just because it's written down. Kozloff's latest column is all about the "story" that Chávez thinks the Haiti earthquake was caused deliberately by the USA and some secret nefarious doomsday device used by its military command.
Here's how his stuff starts: "...Chávez has another zinger: the United States intentionally created the earthquake in Haiti through means of a secret weapon.
Chávez seemingly believes he's in the middle of the Mel Gibson movie, Conspiracy Theory. According to Spanish paper ABC Chávez has joined the ranks of the truly paranoid, declaring that the earthquake was the result of an insidious U.S. naval test. Ultimately, Chávez believes, Haiti served as a test case for further U.S. machinations.."
Unfortunately, as explained to the world by two far better and more diligent bloggers, first broken by duderino over at Abiding and then by the all-conquering Borev, the whole story was total bullshit from start to finish, created as somebody's flight of fancy and then picked up by others in a global version of the telephone game.
And as Borev says.
"1. Some Venezuelan blogger wrote a weird story about the U.S. causing the Haiti earthquake with some sort of earthquake weapon.
2. A website operated by a Venezuelan state TV channel included a link to the post in their roundup of Haiti coverage from all over the country.
3. Some right-wing newspaper in Spain published a story about the link, referring to it as a Venezuelan state "press release."
4. Fox News reports the Spanish story, saying the earthquake weapon claim comes from "Hugo Chavez' mouthpiece."
5. Randomly, Vladimir Putin's English language teevee channel Russia Today claimsall over thefucking place, Drudge sirens!! that Chavez himself made the statement. This video report is picked up
6. Right wing news "analysts" opine about what level of threat this represents to the United States."
5) Israel Signals Tougher Line on West Bank Protests
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, January 29, 2010
Nilin, West Bank - For more than a year, this village has been a focus of weekly protests against the Israeli security barrier, which cuts through its lands. Now, the village appears to be at the center of an intensifying Israeli arrest campaign.
Apparently concerned that the protests could spread, the Israeli Army and security forces have recently begun clamping down, arresting scores of local organizers and activists here and conducting nighttime raids on the homes of others.
Muhammad Amira, a schoolteacher and a member of Nilin's popular committee, the group that organizes the protests, said his home was raided by the army in the early hours of Jan. 10. The soldiers checked his identity papers, poked around the house and looked in on his sleeping children, Mr. Amira said. He added, "They came to say, 'We know who you are.' "
Each Friday for the last five years, Palestinians have demonstrated against the barrier, bolstered by Israeli sympathizers and foreign volunteers who document the ensuing clashes with video cameras, often posting the most dramatic footage on YouTube.
The protests first took hold in the nearby village of Bilin, which became a symbol of Palestinian defiance after winning a ruling in the Israeli Supreme Court stipulating that the barrier must be rerouted to take in less agricultural land. According to military officials, work to move the barrier will start next month.
Like a creeping, part-time intifada, the Friday protests have been gaining ground. Nabi Saleh, another village near Ramallah, has become the newest focus of clashes, after Jewish settlers took over a natural spring on village land.
One recent Friday, a group of older villagers marched toward the spring. They were met with tear gas and stun grenades, and scuffled with soldiers on the road. Other villagers spilled down the hillsides swinging slingshots and pelted the Israelis with stones.
"Israel recognizes the threat of the popular movement and its potential for expanding," said Jonathan Pollak, an Israeli anarchist and spokesman of the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which is based in Ramallah. "I think the goal is to quash it before it gets out of hand."
In recent months the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, and other leaders of the mainstream Fatah Party have adopted Bilin as a model of legitimate resistance.
The movement has also begun to attract international support. The Popular Struggle Coordination Committee receives financing from a Spanish governmental agency, according to the committee's coordinator, Mohammed Khatib of Bilin.
"Bilin is no longer about the struggle for Bilin," said Mr. Khatib, who was arrested in August and has been awaiting trial on an incitement charge. "This is part of a national struggle," he said, adding that ending the Israeli occupation was the ultimate goal. Before dawn on Thursday soldiers came to Mr. Khatib's home in Bilin and took him away again.
Israeli human rights groups like B'Tselem and Yesh Din have long complained of harsh measures used to quell the protests, including rubber bullets and .22-caliber live ammunition. The Israeli authorities say the live fire is meant to be used only in dangerous situations, and not for crowd control. But the human rights groups say that weapons are sometimes misused, apparently with impunity, with members of the security forces rarely held to account.
Tristan Anderson, 38, an American activist from Oakland, Calif., was severely wounded when he was struck in the forehead by a high-velocity tear-gas canister during a confrontation in Nilin last March. After months in an Israeli hospital, Mr. Anderson has regained some movement on one side, and has started to talk. But he has serious brain damage, according to his mother, Nancy, and the prognosis is unclear.
The Andersons' Israeli lawyer, Michael Sfard, is convinced that the tear-gas projectile was fired directly at the protesters, contrary to regulations. Yet the Israeli authorities who investigated the episode recently decided to close the case without filing charges.
The investigation found that the Israeli security forces had acted in line with regulations, according to Israeli officials. But witnesses insist the projectile was fired from a rise only about 60 yards from where Mr. Anderson stood. If it had been fired properly, in an arc, they contend, it would have flown hundreds of yards. Nineteen Palestinians have been killed in confrontations over the barrier since 2004. A month after Mr. Anderson was wounded, Bassem Abu Rahmah, a well-known Bilin activist, was killed when a similar type of tear-gas projectile struck him in the chest.
Aqel Srur, of Nilin, one of three Palestinians who gave testimony to the Israeli police in the Anderson case, was killed by a .22-caliber bullet in June.
So far, the activists seem undeterred. Salah Muhammad Khawajeh, a Nilin popular committee member and another local witness in the Anderson case, related that when he was summoned for questioning two months ago, he was warned that he could end up like Mr. Srur. Mr. Khawajeh's son, 9, was wounded in the back of the head by a rubber bullet at a protest this month. But as Mr. Khawajeh put it, "We still come."
6) Senate OKs sanctions on Iran's fuel suppliers
Tom Doggett and Susan Cornwell, Reuters, Thursday, January 28, 2010; 6:58 PM http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/28/AR2010012803505.html
Washington - The Senate on Thursday approved legislation that would let President Barack Obama impose sanctions on Iran's gasoline suppliers and penalize some of Tehran's elites, a move aimed at pressuring Tehran to give up its nuclear program.
The sanctions, approved on a voice vote, would target companies that export gasoline to Iran or help expand the country's oil-refining capacity by, in part, denying them loans and other assistance from U.S. financial institutions.
The House of Representatives has already passed similar legislation. Differences between the two bills will have to be worked out before the measure becomes law.
The administration has been working with several other major powers to build a consensus on new sanctions to be imposed jointly.
But U.S. business groups have warned the White House that the lawmakers' approach threatens to undercut this joint strategy. The critics say broad-based sanctions sought by lawmakers would upset U.S. allies whose companies would be affected, and frustrate joint action with other countries against Iran.
The sanctions in the Senate bill would extend to companies that build oil and gas pipelines in Iran and provide tankers to move Iran's petroleum.
The measure also prohibits the U.S. government from purchasing goods from foreign companies that do business in Iran's energy sector.
7) Can Yemen Stop Al Qaeda?
Zach Rosenberg, WarIsBoring.com, Thursday January 28th 2010, 2:34 pm http://www.warisboring.com/?p=3654
Despite increased pressure on Yemen to fight an Al-Qaeda branch that has taken root there, the government in Sana'a, the Yemeni capital, may lack the will and leverage to oust the terror group.
During a panel at the New America Foundation (NAF), a respected Washington, D.C. think tank, several scholars with experience in the region questioned the Yemeni government's ability to mount effective anti-terrorism operations within the nation's borders.
While nominally in control of the nation, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh's orders have little effect outside the capital. Yemeni government influence in the areas where Al Qaeda operates is dependent on the cooperation of area tribes, suggests Barak Barfi, whose report on Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was released in conjunction with the NAF panel.
The relationship between the tribes and Saleh's government is often antagonistic. As the government lacks the military power to force cooperation, a complicated system of leverage and patronage has arisen. Saleh has earned tribal cooperation in the past through payments to tribal leadership, which use the money as they see fit; in much of the country, Barfi says, it is the only link Yemenis have with the government in Sana'a. But money, scarce in Yemen, has not been the only form of leverage. Other tactics - kidnapping prominent figures, for example - are common on both sides.
Barfi and fellow panelists stressed that though the relationship between the tribes and AQAP is poorly understood, most Yemenis consider AQAP to be a tool for addressing their own grievances with Saleh's government. "That said, there is a very thin line and it's easy to cross," he added. Likewise, Saleh appears to view AQAP as a tool to guarantee foreign help in leveraging the tribes, as opposed to an existential or ideological threat. Despite the commonness of radical Wahabi-style Islam in Yemen, AQAP appears to be composed of foreigners.
While U.S. intelligence operations in Yemen have been an open secret since a well-publicized drone strike in 2002, a recent flurry of air strikes indicates that U.S. operations extend to training, sharing intelligence with and supplying Yemeni forces. Barfi, the NAF panelist, suggested that the air strikes were largely counterproductive, having missed AQAP leadership and angering powerful local tribes.
8) America's Secret Afghan Prisons
Anand Gopal, The Nation, January 28, 2010 [February 15 print edition.]
One quiet, wintry night last year in the eastern Afghan town of Khost, a young government employee named Ismatullah simply vanished. He had last been seen in the town's bazaar with a group of friends. Family members scoured Khost's dusty streets for days. Village elders contacted Taliban commanders in the area who were wont to kidnap government workers, but they had never heard of the young man. Even the governor got involved, ordering his police to round up nettlesome criminal gangs that sometimes preyed on young bazaargoers for ransom.
But the hunt turned up nothing. Spring and summer came and went with no sign of Ismatullah. Then one day, long after the police and village elders had abandoned their search, a courier delivered a neat handwritten note on Red Cross stationery to the family. In it, Ismatullah informed them that he was in Bagram, an American prison more than 200 miles away. US forces had picked him up while he was on his way home from the bazaar, the terse letter stated, and he didn't know when he would be freed.
In the past few years Pashtun villagers in Afghanistan's rugged heartland have begun to lose faith in the American project. Many of them can point to the precise moment of this transformation, and it usually took place in the dead of night, when most of the country was fast asleep. In its attempt to stamp out the growing Taliban insurgency and Al Qaeda, the US military has been arresting suspects and sending them to one of a number of secret detention areas on military bases, often on the slightest suspicion and without the knowledge of their families. These night raids have become even more feared and hated in Afghanistan than coalition airstrikes. The raids and detentions, little known or understood outside the Pashtun villages, have been turning Afghans against the very forces many of them greeted as liberators just a few years ago.
9) Killing of cleric prompts outrage in Afghanistan
Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Friday, January 29, 2010; A10
Kabul - A gunner in a U.S. military convoy shot and killed a local imam as he was driving his car here Thursday morning, prompting outrage among residents and an apology from coalition forces.
The killing of civilians is a sensitive political issue in Afghanistan and has become a public cause for President Hamid Karzai. U.S. commanders have taken pains to minimize such killings in recent months, but each new civilian death is capable of inflaming public sentiment against the presence of American troops.
The shooting Thursday occurred along a stretch of four-lane highway in the eastern Kabul neighborhood of Paktia Kot, outside Camp Phoenix, a U.S. military base. The site is not far from where a suicide bomber targeted a passing convoy Tuesday, wounding eight American soldiers.
In a statement describing the shooting, the U.S. military said the convoy "fired on what appeared to be a threatening vehicle," without elaborating.
Neighbors and friends at the scene said Mohammad Yunis, a cleric from Laghman province, was shot about 8 a.m. while idling in his Toyota Corolla station wagon on a mud side street that abuts the highway between Kabul and Jalalabad. They said the imam, who had two wives and multiple children, was waiting to pick up one of his sons and take him to an Islamic school when the convoy passed by and opened fire. They added that other children were in the car. The gunfire came from the third or fourth vehicle, they said, and was not preceded by an explosion or other shooting.
"After they shot him, they didn't stop. They just kept driving," said Baryalai, a 45-year-old day laborer at the scene who goes by one name.
Residents said they counted four gunshot wounds in Yunis's torso. At least eight bullet holes were visible in the passenger side of his vehicle.
The killing prompted a brief protest in Paktia Kot before elders called it off out of fear of a confrontation with Afghan forces.
Residents expressed outrage over the shooting of a man they described as a respected religious leader who had spent the past three months in Kabul teaching at an Islamic school and preaching at the Marqazi Jumad mosque.
"A lot of innocent people have been killed by the Americans," said Shabaz Khan, 20, a student.
When American soldiers determine that a vehicle is too close to their convoy, they have a series of procedures they are instructed to follow before resorting to shooting, such as using hand signals, making loud noises and firing warning shots. U.S. military officials said that an investigation is underway.
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