JFP 4/8: Florida Rep. Calls Out Red Cross on Haiti; Red Cross Responds
Just Foreign Policy News
April 8, 2010
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Highlights of the Afghanistan Debate
Beverly Bell: There are no "natural disasters"
For those in Haiti's middle- and upper-income strata, before-the-earthquake privileges are returning. For most, though, post-earthquake "normalization" means adaptation to even higher levels of social and economic precariousness.
1) Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who traveled to Haiti with Sen. Mary Landrieu and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee this week, said the Red Cross was nowhere to be found in Haiti, The Hill reports. Wasserman Schultz said what she saw gave her pause in recommending the Red Cross as a venue for donations, and that she and other lawmakers would look into the Red Cross's work in Haiti. The Red Cross responded, saying it has spent $110 million for food, water, shelter, health and family services in Haiti, and that it works through the Haitian Red Cross and other organizations to deliver supplies.
2) Opposition politicians said they had taken control of the government in Kyrgyzstan, calling into question the fate of a U.S. military base critical to the war in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. Opposition leaders were angered last spring when Obama administration officials courted President Bakiyev - who they admitted was an autocrat - in a successful attempt to retain rights to the military base, Manas. Opposition leaders have been divided in recent weeks over whether they would continue to allow the US military base to remain, but it seems clear that they harbor bitterness toward the US.
3) By facing off squarely against national self-determination, the U.S. is guaranteeing that it will be involved in "long wars" indefinitely, and continue to slow the pace of economic and social progress in the world, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. National self-determination matters in countries that do not have democratic governments, Weisbrot notes. China has had the fastest-growing economy in world history over the last three decades, pulling hundreds of millions of people out of poverty, by defying the economic policies prescribed by Washington for the developing countries over which it had control.
4) Relatives and colleagues of the Iraqi civilians killed in a 2007 US airstrike called for a further investigation to establish responsibility for the deaths after video footage of the attack emerged, with the family saying it would sue, the Times of London reports. An expert on international law said the evidence indicated that there was a "case to be made that a war crime may have been commited".
5) As the White House pushes for cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the Pentagon is developing "Prompt Global Strike" weapons - missiles armed with conventional warheads that could strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour, the Washington Post reports. Russian officials say the program could trigger a nonnuclear arms race. US critics say taking the nuclear part out of the equation could make it too easy for the White House to order a Prompt Global Strike attack. Intelligence in fast-breaking crises is rarely rock-solid, they note, and could result in a rushed strike on the wrong target.
6) There is no possibility whatsoever that the government of Israel will unilaterally send the air force to attack Iran, writes longtime Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery: Israel cannot start any large-scale military operation without US consent. Since the Iranians also realize that Israel could not attack without US consent, they would react accordingly. But the US likes to pose as if it can hardly hold back the ferocious Israeli Rottweiler on its leash. This puts pressure on other powers to agree to the imposition of sanctions on Iran. If you don't agree, the murderous dog could leap out of control. Meanwhile, everyone who raises the Palestinian question in a meeting with Israeli leaders is immediately interrupted: Forget this nonsense, let's talk about the Iranian bomb! But Obama and his people turn the argument around: if this is an existential danger, sacrifice the West Bank settlements on this altar. Accept the Arab League peace offer, make peace with the Palestinians as quickly as possible. If a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem is more important to you than the Iranian bomb, the matter is clearly not really so critical for you. And that is my opinion too, Avnery concludes.
7) Under pressure from Western governments, President Karzai ousted Afghanistan's top two elections officials, the New York Times reports. But Western diplomats said the significance of the move would not be known until replacements were named. If he had not ousted the two officials, Karzai appeared to acknowledge that he risked losing hundreds of millions of dollars from Western donors for the fall elections.
8) Japan and the US are likely to launch working-level negotiations next week to discuss the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Kyodo News reports. Before entering full-fledged negotiations, the US apparently wants to confirm whether the existing deal the two countries signed in 2006 remains a viable option.
9) The US and Brazil may sign a new agreement as early as Monday meant to bolster military ties, Reuters reports. The latest agreement would not allow the US to build a military base in Brazil, despite speculation in South American media about that possibility, a diplomatic source said. "There is no provision for special access to installations ... there is no provision of building new installations," said the source.
10) A referendum organized by the Sadrists has rejected the two main candidates for prime minister, AFP reports. The referendum is being seen as a way for the Sadrist bloc to avoid giving its backing to Maliki [or to strengthen its hand in negotiations with Maliki's party - JFP.]
1) Democratic lawmaker back from Haiti says Red Cross nowhere to be found
Michael O'Brien, The Hill, 04/08/10 08:55 AM ET
Donors should think twice before giving money to the Red Cross for earthquake relief in Haiti, a Democratic lawmaker said. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who traveled to Haiti with Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) earlier this week, said Thursday the internationally renowned relief group was nowhere to be found in Haiti. "We were actually pretty struck by the fact that we didn't see the Red Cross anywhere, at all," Wasserman Schultz said during an appearance on Florida radio station WTFL.
The Florida congresswoman said that what she saw gave her pause in recommending the Red Cross as a venue for donations. "I wouldn't say that," she said when asked if the Red Cross was the best place for listeners to donate, adding later that she could not "unequivocally" recommend the relief group.
Millions of dollars have flowed into Haiti since a large earthquake devastated its capital, Port au Prince, in late January. The Red Cross raised millions of dollars for Haitian earthquake relief via a text messaging donation campaign that was promoted by several members of Congress.
Wasserman Schultz said that she and the lawmakers with whom she was traveling would look into the Red Cross's work there in the future. "I'm not disparaging the Red Cross, but I personally and the senators I was traveling with want to inquire as to what the Red Cross is doing down there," she said.
Update, 3:03 p.m.: The American Red Cross sent the following statement in response:
The American Red Cross has been on the ground responding in Haiti since the moment the earthquake struck and has spent a record $110 million so far for food, water, shelter, health and family services. Our efforts have touched the lives of close to two million people.
Unlike disasters here at home, the model we use for international disasters is not to send in large numbers of American Red Cross volunteers who may not speak the language or know the people, but work though, in this case, the Haitian Red Cross to deliver relief supplies. This is a model that has repeatedly proven effective over decades of international disaster relief work because local Red Cross societies know the people, language, and geography and have established relationships with other organizations and the government. By working through the Haitian Red Cross, we believe we can empower them and help the Haitian people become self-sufficient more quickly.
So far the American Red Cross has sent more than 165 trained disaster specialists and volunteers to Haiti to help support and train more than 10,000 Haitian Red Cross volunteers. We are also working alongside hundreds of Red Cross and Red Crescent workers and volunteers from around the world.
The results of our efforts are evident in many areas around Haiti. For example, the American Red Cross has provided 111,000 tarps, 4,400 tents, 29,000 shelter kits and 248,000 blankets. These tents, tarps and blankets may not be marked with Red Crosses, but they were paid for by donors who gave so generously to the American Red Cross.
The Red Cross network has also provided relief items to 400,000 people, supplied meals to more than 1 million people, distributed 60 million liters of clean drinking water, built more than 1,300 latrines and helped vaccinate more than 152,00 people.
In areas where the American Red Cross does not have extensive expertise, we have donated millions of dollars to other organizations to ensure the needs of earthquake survivors are met in the fastest, most effective way. Those agencies include the World Food Programme to provide meals for 1 million people for 1 month, Habitat for Humanity to fund 14,000 emergency shelter kits to benefit 70,000 people and Fonkoze to fund small grants and microfinance loans to 16,000 people.
2) Upheaval In Kyrgyzstan Could Imperil Key U.S. Base
Clifford J. Levy, New York Times, April 7, 2010
Moscow - The president of Kyrgyzstan was forced to flee the capital, Bishkek, on Wednesday after bloody protests erupted across the country over his repressive rule, a backlash that could pose a threat to the American military supply line into nearby Afghanistan.
Opposition politicians, speaking on state television after it was seized by protesters, said they had taken control of the government after a day of violent clashes that left more than 40 people dead and more than 400 wounded. The instability called into question the fate of a critical American air base in the country.
Riot police officers fired rounds of live ammunition into angry crowds of demonstrators who gathered around government buildings to rally against what they termed the government's brutality and corruption, as well as a recent decision to increase utility rates sharply. Witnesses said that the police seemed to panic, and that there was no sign of supervision. In several cases, demonstrators wrested their weapons away from them.
By early Thursday morning, opposition officials occupied many government buildings in Bishkek, and were demanding that the president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, sign a formal letter of resignation. Mr. Bakiyev has issued no public remarks since the protests began. An official at the Bishkek airport said Mr. Bakiyev was flying to Osh, a major city in the southern part of the country.
A coalition of opposition parties said a transition government would be headed by a former foreign minister, Roza Otunbayeva. "Power is now in the hands of the people's government," she said in a televised address on Wednesday evening.
Those same opposition leaders were angered last spring when Obama administration officials courted Mr. Bakiyev - who they admitted was an autocrat - in an ultimately successful attempt to retain rights to the military base, Manas, used to supply troops in Afghanistan. President Obama even sent him a letter of praise.
Russia had offered Mr. Bakiyev a sizable amount in new aid, which the United States interpreted as an effort to persuade him to close the base in order to limit the American military presence in Russia's sphere of influence. After vowing to evict the Americans last year, Mr. Bakiyev reversed course once the administration agreed to pay much higher rent for the base.
An American official said late on Wednesday that flights into the base at Manas had been suspended. Lt. Cmdr. Bill Speaks, a spokesman for United States Central Command, said late on Wednesday that some troops and equipment scheduled to transit from Manas to Afghanistan were likely to be delayed because of the government upheaval and that the military was preparing to use other routes.
The American attitude toward Mr. Bakiyev ruffled opposition politicians in Kyrgyzstan, who said it was shameful for the United States to stand for democratic values in the developing world while maintaining an alliance with him.
The Kyrgyz president's son, Maksim, had been scheduled to be in Washington on Thursday for talks with administration officials. The opposition views the younger Mr. Bakiyev as a vicious henchman for his father, and was infuriated that he was granted an audience. The State Department said late on Wednesday that it had canceled the meetings.
Opposition leaders have been divided in recent weeks over whether they would continue to allow the American military base to remain, but it seems clear that they harbor bitterness toward the United States. And neighboring Russia, which has long resented the base, has been currying favor with the opposition.
"The political behavior of the United States has created a situation where the new authorities may want to look more to Russia than to the United States, and it will strengthen their political will to rebuff the United States," said Bakyt Beshimov, an opposition leader who fled Kyrgyzstan last August in fear for his life.
Mr. Beshimov was one of numerous opposition politicians and journalists who in recent years have been threatened, beaten and even killed. Kyrgyzstan, with five million people in the mountains of Central Asia, is one of the poorest countries of the former Soviet Union, and has long been troubled by political conflict and corruption. Mr. Bakiyev himself took power in 2005 after the Tulip Revolution, one of a series of so-called color revolutions that seemed to offer hope of more democracy in former Soviet republics. Since then, the Kyrgyz human rights situation has deteriorated. Mr. Bakiyev easily won another term as president last year, but independent monitors said the election was tainted by extensive fraud.
3) U.S. Fighting Losing Battles Against National Self-Determination
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Thursday 8 April 2010 15.30 BST
Of all the misunderstandings that guide US foreign policy - including foreign commercial policy - perhaps the most important and long-lasting is the failure to recognise or understand what national self-determination means to most people in the world. Or why it might be important to them. Our leaders seem to have learned very little since their disastrous war in Vietnam, which ended 35 years ago.
The cynical would say that America's leaders do understand these things, but don't care. However that would not explain why President Obama would go to Afghanistan and humiliate President Karzai, in a way that was sure to alienate the government that Washington wants to work with, and its supporters.
Karzai reacted angrily: "In this situation there is a thin curtain between invasion and cooperation-assistance," he said last week. He also warned that the insurgency "could become a national resistance."
Of course, Washington's problem with the Afghan government does not really have so much to do with corruption, as Obama lectured Karzai about - just look at the billions of dollars that the US government continues to slather on corrupt governments all over the world, from Pakistan to Colombia. It is more that Karzai wants to negotiate a peace agreement with the Taliban insurgents, while Washington - especially the Pentagon - wants to pull off something it can claim as a "military victory" before that happens. It remains to be seen how many people, including civilians, will die needlessly before the Afghan government's preferred strategy of negotiations is allowed.
But the problem is much more general and extends to US foreign policy throughout the world. Washington claims to support "democracy", but democracy without self-determination is a very limited form of democracy. It is a great irony that Latin America, for example, had more self-determination in the realm of economic policy from 1950 to 1980, when much of the region lived under dictatorships, than it had after formal democracy became widespread. Not surprisingly, the region's economy grew enormously faster between 1950 and 1980 than it has in the last 30 years, when "Washington consensus" economic policies became the norm.
Fortunately the Latin American electorate did not conclude from this experience that dictatorship was better than democracy. Instead, over the last decade they decided that they needed more democracy, the kind that includes national self-determination and economic policy making that benefits their own countries and also the majority of their citizens. Bolivia took control over some of its most important natural resources - especially hydrocarbons - and now has an extra 20% of GDP that the government has been able to spend for economic and social development. (For comparison, 20% of GDP is the average amount of the entire federal budget in the United States over the last 40 years). Bolivia also now has an independent foreign policy, where it can play a leading role on issues of great importance to the country, such as climate change.
In 2001 Argentina defaulted on its massive foreign debt and changed its economic policies, getting rid of the Washington-controlled IMF in the process. There is no question that they were also better off for this move, with the economy growing 63% in the ensuing six years. Venezuela is another example of a government that was able to grow very rapidly after getting control over its national oil industry in 2003, and to greatly expand access to health care and education. It has also used its oil wealth to help other countries in the hemisphere (including the poorest, Haiti, where it has apparently pledged more money than the US government for relief and reconstruction; and the richest, the United States, where it has donated tens of millions of dollars annually in the form of discounted heating oil to low-income Americans). Ecuador's left, nationalist government has doubled spending on healthcare, got rid of a third of its foreign debt through default, and has refused to cave to US pressure on the multi-billion lawsuit of Ecuadorians against oil giant Chevron for pollution of ground waters. There are numerous other examples that could be cited from "pink tide" governments that now govern most of Latin America.
Of course, national self-determination also matters in countries that do not have democratic governments. China has had the fastest-growing economy in world history over the last three decades, pulling hundreds of millions of people out of poverty despite widening inequality. As economists Nancy Birdsall, Dani Rodrik, and Arvind Subramanian have noted, this would not have happened if China had pursued "a garden-variety World Bank structural adjustment programme in 1978 instead of its own brand of heterodox gradualism."
And Vietnam, another country ruled by a communist party, has also had one of the world's fastest growing economies since it got rid of the American troops 35 years ago. Over the past three decades its income per person has more than quadrupled.
By facing off squarely against one of the most important political forces of the 20th and 21st centuries, Washington is not only placing itself on the wrong side of history. It is guaranteeing that the United States will be involved in any number of "long wars", indefinitely, and generally slowing the pace of economic and social progress in the world.
4) Baghdad Families To Sue US Army Over Deaths In 2007 Airstrike 'Mistake'
Alice Fordham, Times of London, April 8, 2010
Baghdad - Relatives and colleagues of the Iraqi civilians killed in a 2007 American airstrike called yesterday for a further investigation to establish responsibility for the deaths after video footage of the attack emerged. Among the 11 people killed in the shooting from a helicopter gunship in Baghdad were Saeed Chmagh and Namir Nour-Eldeen, Iraqi journalists with Reuters news agency, whose cameras and equipment were mistaken for weapons by soldiers.
Mr Chmagh's brother, Safa, told The Times last night that no compensation or apology had ever been offered to the family by American forces. He said: "My mother and father are still alive and when they saw the video it was like it had happened yesterday. "We saw the facts of the Americans in it. Since we found the truth now, we are going to sue the US soldiers that did it, we are going to sue them for murdering the two journalists."
Khalid al-Anfari, a writer for Reuters who knew the two men, joined the calls for the case - which was investigated at brigade level in 2007 - to be reopened. "There should be further investigation, at least for the family to be satisfied that the blood of their sons has not gone without anyone feeling responsible," he said.
Mark Taylor, an expert on international law and a director at the Fafo Institute for International Studies in Norway, said the evidence indicated that there was a "case to be made that a war crime may have been commited".
5) For Deterrent, U.S. Looks To Conventional Warheads
Craig Whitlock, Washington Post, Thursday, April 8, 2010; A01
As the White House pushes for cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, the Pentagon is developing a weapon to help fill the gap: missiles armed with conventional warheads that could strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
U.S. military officials say the intercontinental ballistic missiles, known as Prompt Global Strike weapons, are a necessary new form of deterrence against terrorist networks and other adversaries. As envisioned, the conventional missiles would give the White House a fresh military option to consider in a crisis that would not result in a radioactive mushroom cloud.
The Prompt Global Strike program, which the Pentagon has been developing for several years, is already raising hackles in Moscow, where Russian officials predict it could trigger a nonnuclear arms race and complicate President Obama's long-term vision of ridding the world of nuclear weapons. U.S. military officials are also struggling to solve a separate major obstacle: the risk that Russia or China could mistake the launch of a conventional Prompt Global Strike missile for a nuclear one.
"World states will hardly accept a situation in which nuclear weapons disappear, but weapons that are no less destabilizing emerge in the hands of certain members of the international community," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters Tuesday in Moscow.
The White House says that development of Prompt Global Strike is not affected by the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev are scheduled to sign Thursday in Prague. Analysts say, however, that any conventional ballistic missiles would count the same as nuclear ones under the treaty, which places new limits on each country's stockpile.
Deployment of a conventional ballistic missile is not expected until 2015 at the earliest. But the program has received a recent boost from the Obama administration, which sees the missiles as one cog in an array of defensive and offensive weapons that could ultimately replace nuclear arms.
The administration has asked Congress for $240 million for next year's Prompt Global Strike development programs, a 45 percent increase from the current budget. The military forecasts a total of $2 billion in development costs through 2015 - a relative bargain by Pentagon standards.
Critics acknowledge that the technological hurdles are surmountable. But they say a more basic problem is that taking the nuclear part out of the equation could make it too easy for the White House to order a Prompt Global Strike attack. Intelligence in fast-breaking crises is rarely rock-solid, they note, and could result in a rushed strike on the wrong target.
"People watch '24' and think that's how intelligence comes in," said Jeffrey G. Lewis, director of the Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative at the New America Foundation. "It's not like the president has his brain cybernetically linked to satellite images."
6) "Hold Me Back!"
Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, 03/04/10
When a boy has a scuffle with a bigger and stronger boy, he pretends that he is going to attack him any moment and shouts to the spectators: "Hold me back, or I am going to kill him!" Israel is now in such a situation. We pretend that we are going to attack Iran at any moment and shout to the entire world: "Hold us back or…" And the world does indeed hold us back.
It is dangerous to prophesy in such matters, especially when we are dealing with people not all of whom are wise and not all of whom are sane. Yet I am ready to maintain: there is no possibility whatsoever that the government of Israel will send the air force to attack Iran.
I want to focus on another aspect: is it politically feasible? What would be the consequences? First of all, a basic rule of Israeli reality: the State of Israel cannot start any large-scale military operation without American consent. Israel depends on the US in almost every respect, but in no sphere is it more dependent than in the military one.
The aircraft that must execute the mission were supplied to us by the US. Their efficacy depends on a steady flow of American spare parts. At that range, refueling from US-built tanker aircraft would be necessary. The same is true for almost all other war material of our army, as well as for the money needed for their acquisition. Everything comes from America.
In 1956, Israel went to war without American consent. Ben-Gurion thought that his collusion with the UK and France was enough. He was vastly mistaken. One hundred hours after telling us that the "Third Kingdom of Israel" had come into being, he announced with a broken voice that he was going to evacuate all the territories just conquered. President Dwight Eisenhower, together with his Soviet colleague, had submitted an ultimatum, and that was the end of the adventure.
Since then, Israel has not started a single war without securing the agreement of Washington. On the eve of the Six-day War, a special emissary was sent to the US to make sure that there was indeed American agreement. When he returned with an affirmative answer, the order for the attack was issued.
On the eve of Lebanon War I, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon rushed to Washington to obtain American consent. He met with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, who agreed - but only on condition that there would be a clear provocation. A few days later there just happened to be an attempt on the life of the Israeli ambassador in London, and the war was on.
Since the Iranians, too, realize that Israel could not attack without American consent, they would react accordingly.
If so, why has the military option not been removed from the table? Because the US and Israel like it lying there. The US likes to pose as if it can hardly hold back the ferocious Israeli Rottweiler on its leash. This puts pressure on the other powers to agree to the imposition of sanctions on Iran. If you don’t agree, the murderous dog could leap out of control. Think about the consequences!
When Netanyahu & Co. criticize the inability of the American leaders to act against Iran, they answer in the same coin: you, too, are not serious. And indeed, how serious are our leaders about this? They have convinced the Israeli public that it is a matter of life and death. Iran is led by a madman, a new Hitler, a sick anti-Semite, an obsessive Holocaust-denier. If he got his hands on a nuclear bomb, he would not hesitate for a moment to drop it on Tel Aviv and Dimona. With this sword hanging over our heads, this is no time for trivial matters, such as the Palestinian problem and the occupation. Everyone who raises the Palestinian question in a meeting with our leaders is immediately interrupted: Forget this nonsense, let's talk about the Iranian bomb!!
But Obama and his people turn the argument around: if this is an existential danger, they say, please draw the conclusions. If this matter endangers the very existence of Israel, sacrifice the West Bank settlements on this altar. Accept the Arab League peace offer, make peace with the Palestinians as quickly as possible. That will ease our situation in Iraq and Afghanistan and free our forces. Also, Iran would have no more pretext for war with Israel. The masses of the Arab world would not support it anymore.
And the conclusion: If a new Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem is more important to you than the Iranian bomb, the matter is clearly not really so critical for you. And that, with all due modesty, is my opinion, too.
7) Pressed To Act, Karzai Fires Election Monitors
Richard A. Oppel Jr., New York Times, April 7, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - Under enormous pressure from Western governments, President Hamid Karzai ousted Afghanistan's top two elections officials, who were seen as sanctioning the widespread fraud that favored him during last year's presidential race. But Western diplomats said the significance of the move, which was announced on Wednesday, would not be known until replacements were named and could show whether they were less willing to condone fraud.
"This is something everyone has been hoping for," said one diplomat, who like other diplomats and Western officials interviewed for this article requested anonymity so they could openly discuss internal Afghan political matters. "But it will only have an impact if they are replaced by people who are better."
Some officials have already expressed deep concern over one possible replacement, Abdul Karim Khuram, who until a few months ago was minister of information and culture. Mr. Khuram, a Karzai partisan, was criticized last year for pressing broadcasters, including state-run television, to favor Mr. Karzai's re-election campaign.
His appointment "would be a slap in the face of the international community," one Western diplomat said, adding that the independence of the election process "would be under question again."
While firing the two Karzai loyalists was a major demand of Western officials who must decide whether to finance parliamentary elections scheduled for September, it is not the only one. They are also furious about Mr. Karzai's efforts to emasculate the Electoral Complaints Commission, the country's only independent election monitor. They are pressing him to back down, but the outcome of that dispute also remains uncertain.
Mr. Karzai foreshadowed the dismissals of the election officials last week during the first in a series of tirades in which he accused American and European officials of committing widespread electoral fraud, and at one private meeting he even threatened to join the Taliban himself.
If he had not ousted the two officials - the chairman of the Independent Election Commission, Azizullah Ludin, and Daoud Ali Najafi, the chief electoral officer - even Mr. Karzai had appeared to acknowledge that he risked losing hundreds of millions of dollars from Western donors for the fall elections.
8) Japan, U.S. Eye Next Week For Crucial Futenma Talks
Kyodo News, April 8, 2010
Japan and the United States are likely to launch working-level negotiations next week to discuss the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, government sources said Wednesday.
In a meeting held at his official residence Tuesday night, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who is seeking to settle the issue by the end of May, urged officials from the Foreign and Defense ministries and Cabinet Secretariat to step up the talks with the United States, the sources said.
Before entering full-fledged negotiations, the United States apparently wants to confirm whether the existing deal the two countries signed in 2006 remains a viable option, as Washington believes it is the most feasible relocation plan, the sources said.
Under the existing plan, the Futenma base, currently in a crowded residential area in Ginowan, Okinawa, would be relocated to the Henoko coastal area of U.S. Marine Corps Camp Schwab in Nago, also in Okinawa, and would entail extending runways out over water. But the plan has met with fierce opposition from locals.
Some diplomatic sources said Tokyo is planning to move part of the Futenma facility temporarily to an inland heliport to be built at Camp Schwab and eventually to either a yet-to-be-built artificial island near the Katsuren Peninsula and White Beach in the eastern Okinawa city of Uruma or to Tokunoshima Island in Kagoshima Prefecture.
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada conveyed the plan to U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos when they met March 26, the sources said.
But the two-stage relocation plan slightly differs from what Okinawa has been told by the government. Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima in their April 1 meeting that Tokyo plans to first transfer Futenma's helicopter unit to Tokunoshima, then build a heliport at Camp Schwab, and eventually move the aircraft operations to the envisioned artificial island.
9) U.S., Brazil To Sign Defense Cooperation Accord
Phil Stewart and Raymond Colitt, Reuters, Wednesday, April 7, 2010; 7:18 PM
Washington/Brasilia - The United States and Brazil may sign a new agreement as early as Monday meant to bolster military ties, despite tensions over Iran and signs a U.S. firm might lose a major Brazilian defense contract.
Pentagon officials acknowledged on Wednesday a new defense cooperation agreement with Brazil was being worked on and could be signed as early as next week. Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim said he hoped it could happen on Monday. "I'm trying to agree with Secretary Gates to sign this accord in Washington on Monday," Jobim said in Brasilia, referring to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
A diplomatic source familiar with the document described the accord as partly symbolic. Jobim said it was an umbrella agreement meant to facilitate future defense negotiations.
Still, it would be the first of its kind in more than 30 years, taking the place of an agreement that Brazil's then-military dictatorship withdrew from in 1977, said the diplomatic source, who declined to be identified.
Brazil has rejected U.S. calls to back a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva plans to visit Tehran in May.
Last year, a U.S. agreement with Colombia allowing U.S. troops greater access to Colombian bases raised eyebrows in Latin America. It prompted an outcry from neighboring Venezuela, where President Hugo Chavez said it was part of a plot for invasion.
The latest agreement would not allow the United States to build a military base in Brazil, despite speculation in South American media about that possibility, the diplomatic source said. "There is no provision for special access to installations ... there is no provision of building new installations," said the source.
The diplomatic source said the accord would contain a clause guaranteeing respect for each nation's sovereignty and "territorial integrity," as well as nonintervention in internal matters.
Despite not having an umbrella agreement in place since 1977, the U.S. and Brazilian militaries have signed other defense agreements related to specific areas of cooperation, including a 2000 accord on the provision of U.S. defense materials, the source said.
10) Iraq ex-premier Jaafari wins Sadr 'referendum'
AFP, Wed Apr 7, 6:46 am ET
Baghdad - A radical Shiite cleric's supporters have rejected the main candidates for prime minister, preferring an ex-premier under whom Iraq's sectarian conflict erupted, the results of an unofficial ballot showed on Wednesday. Former prime minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari garnered nearly a quarter of the votes in the two-day referendum organised by powerful anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
The poll has no legal standing and its results come as sitting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and ex-premier Iyad Allawi battle to form a government following Iraq's general election last month. Neither leader holds enough seats to claim a parliamentary majority.
Figures released by ballot organisers showed that Maliki, who succeeded Jaafari, came a distant fourth, followed by Allawi, who was Jaafari's predecessor as Iraqi prime minister.
Jaafari won 24 percent of the 1.8 million ballots cast, and 23 percent went to Jaafar al-Sadr, the son of another senior cleric who founded Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party and was murdered in 1980. Maliki garnered 10 percent of the vote and Allawi won nine percent, in the nationwide vote held on April 2-3. Qusay Abdul Wahab al-Suhail, a Sadrist MP whose name did not actually appear on the ballot, was backed by 17 percent of voters, who wrote in his name.
The referendum is being seen as a way for the Sadrist bloc, whose leader has been living in neighbouring Iran for about two years, to avoid giving its backing to Maliki. [Some say: in order to increase its leverage with Maliki's party in the ongoing negotiations - JFP.]
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