- Sign Up
JFP 5/24: Brazil, Turkey: Obama Asked Us to Get the Deal
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 24 May 2010 - 5:30pm
Just Foreign Policy News
May 24, 2010
Support the Work of Just Foreign Policy
Your financial support allows us to educate Americans about U.S. foreign policy and to create opportunities for Americans to advocate for U.S. policies that are more just.
Tell Obama: Talk to Iran
As Senator Obama argued in his campaign for the Presidency, the U.S. should "never fear to negotiate." Urge President Obama to follow through on his promise to talk with Iran - and spread our video documenting President Obama's promises to negotiate.
Here comes the war supplemental
The White House wants the Afghanistan war supplemental by Memorial Day. Urge your Representative and Senators to 1) Support the Feingold McGovern bill, requiring the President to establish a timetable for military withdrawal 2) Oppose the war supplemental.
Currently the McGovern bill has 91 cosponsors in the House.
1) Brazil says the US and other Western powers prodded Brazil to try to revive the U.N. fuel swap deal proposed last October. "We were encouraged directly or indirectly ... to implement the October proposal...and that's what we did," said Foreign Minister Amorim. In a letter to Brazilian President Lula two weeks ago, President Obama said an Iranian uranium shipment abroad would generate confidence. "From our point of view, a decision by Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium abroad, would generate confidence and reduce regional tensions by cutting Iran's stockpile," Obama said.
2) President Obama said last year that the US and Turkey must "work together," notes the Washington Post. But now Turkish mediation of an agreement for Iran to ship abroad part of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium has "thoroughly irritated U.S. officials."... on a matter so important to us, it will inevitably have an impact on the way Americans and Congress and the president will interact with Turkey," a US official said in an apparent threat. U.S. officials said the deal fell short because Iran did not agree to freeze uranium enrichment, the Post says, [without explaining why this should be an obstacle to a deal now, when this condition was not part of the US-proposed deal in October - JFP.]
3) Iran's Parliament speaker and former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran would abandon a deal to ship some of its nuclear fuel to Turkey and rethink its cooperation with the IAEA if the US pushed new sanctions through the Security Council, the New York Times reports. Larijani said Obama had asked Turkey to help mediate the nuclear dispute, then rejected a deal it helped arrange.
4) "I believed Obama was ready to think anew on Iran," writes Roger Cohen in the New York Times, but "it seems not." Presidents "must lead on major foreign policy initiatives, not be bullied by domestic political considerations, in this case incandescent Iran ire on the Hill in an election year," Cohen writes. Obama is now insisting on a prior suspension of enrichment that was not in the October deal. No wonder the Turkish foreign minister, is angry. "I believe him when he says Obama and U.S. officials encouraged Turkey earlier this year to revive the deal," Cohen says. Last year, Obama called for a new era of shared responsibilities. "Together we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides," he declared. Turkey and Brazil responded - and got snubbed. Obama has just made his own enlightened words look empty.
5) U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped Iran's deal to send some of its enriched uranium abroad may open the door to a negotiated settlement, Reuters reports. In a speech in Istanbul, Ban said the agreement Iran had reached with Turkey and Brazil, was "an important initiative in resolving international tensions over Iran's nuclear program by peaceful means."
6) The Obama Administration has expanded pilot programs begun under the Bush Administration to relax restrictions requiring that US food aid be purchased in and shipped from the United States, the Los Angeles Times reports in an editorial, praising the development. The amount of food aid funds authorized for local and regional purchases through the pilot programs is about $325 million of the $1.9 billion in U.S. food aid this year.
7) US officials claim a reference to Iran's central bank in the sanctions resolution now being debated in the Security Council could give them a legal basis in the future for choking off financial transactions between Iran and banking centers in Europe and elsewhere, the New York Times reports. But China and Russia insisted that this language not be legally binding.
8) The Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban denied any connection to reported peace talks on a Maldives island, the New York Times reports. The office of President Nasheed of the Maldives announced his government had helped organize the talks. An Afghan parliamentarian said Iran had organized the talks, but there was no independent confirmation.
9) The Obama administration's campaign to drive the Taliban out of Kandahar is a gamble even its authors are unsure will succeed, writes Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post reports. There is no Plan B, she writes. Kandahar is arguably more hostile to foreign intervention and the government in Kabul than to the Taliban, DeYoung says.
10) Four small cargo boats and four passenger vessels - ranging from cruisers carrying 20 to a Turkish passenger ferry for 600 - are a multimillion-dollar bid to shame the international community to use ships to circumvent Israel's tight control on humanitarian supplies reaching war-ravaged Gaza, writes Paul McGeough for the Sydney Morning Herald. An organizer said the number of vessels and passengers in this week's flotilla was intended to overstretch the capacity of Israel's navy and, in the event of mass arrests, the capacity of its prisons.
11) The international media has largely ignored the latest incidents of pipeline damage in Nigeria, writes Joe Brock for Reuters. An industry source said 100,000 bpd of oil had leaked for a week from a pipeline that has since been mended. "If this (the BP spill) were in the Niger Delta, no one would be batting an eyelid," said an African oil analyst. "They have these kinds of oil spills in Nigeria all the time."
12) A former police major has alleged that President Uribe's younger brother Santiago led a paramilitary group that killed petty thieves, guerrilla sympathizers and suspected subversives, the Washington Post reports. The revelations threaten to renew a criminal investigation against Santiago Uribe and raise new questions about the president's past. The disclosures could prove uncomfortable to the US, which has long seen Uribe as a trusted caretaker of US money, the Post says. "[Meneses] incriminates himself and also the brother of the president who managed the paramilitary group, but also President Uribe," said Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel.
1) Iran nuclear deal still possible - Brazil minister
Reuters, May 22, 2010 11:43 AM http://www.bernama.com/bernama/v5/newsindex.php?id=500259
Brasilia, May 22 - Brazil still sees room for a negotiated solution to Iran's nuclear program but acknowledges Tehran's plans to continue uranium enrichment are a concern neither country addressed in talks, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said on Friday.
Brazil and Turkey helped broker an agreement under which Iran agreed to send low-enriched uranium abroad, reviving a fuel swap plan drafted by the United Nations with the waim of keeping Iran's nuclear activities in check.
"Of course there need to be reassurances, discussions - many things still need to happen. It's difficult but there is a way out," Amorim told foreign correspondents in his office. "You need to give it some time to work."
Several countries were still open to the possibility of pursuing talks at the same time as imposing sanctions on Iran, said Amorim. "Many countries have said they are committed to a two-track approach. The thing about two tracks is that at one point, people go different ways and you have to decide which way you'll go," Brazil's chief diplomat said.
Amorim acknowledged that Iran's insistence it would continue its highly enriched uranium activities was a valid concern to the global community. He said the issue had not been part of Brazil's talks with Iran. "It wasn't on the agenda. Nobody told us, 'Hey if you don't stop 20 percent enrichment, forget the deal'," said Amorim.
Brazil argues Washington and other Western powers had prodded Brazil to try to revive the U.N. fuel swap deal proposed last October. "We were encouraged directly or indirectly ... to implement the October proposal without any leeway and that's what we did," said Amorim.
In a letter to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva two weeks ago, U.S. president Barack Obama said an Iranian uranium shipment abroad would generate confidence. "From our point of view, a decision by Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium abroad, would generate confidence and reduce regional tensions by cutting Iran's stockpile," Obama said, according to excerpts from the letter translated into Portuguese and seen by Reuters.
Brazil has warned against further U.N. sanctions on Iran, drawing parallels to the bombing of Iraq on the false assumption it had weapons of mass destruction.
Asked whether Brazil's mediation would still have been worthwhile if proof emerged that Iran had used Brazil to buy time to build a nuclear bomb, Amorim answered: "Was it worth bombing Iraq, killing 200,000 people, some say a million?"
2) Spat over Iran may further strain relations between allies U.S., Turkey
Janine Zacharia, Washington Post, Monday, May 24, 2010; A10
Jerusalem - President Obama said last year that the United States and Turkey must "work together to overcome the challenges of our time." This month, the allies couldn't have been more out of sync.
Turkish mediation of an agreement for Iran to ship abroad part of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium has threatened the Obama administration's efforts to win consensus at the U.N. Security Council on a new package of Iran sanctions and thoroughly irritated U.S. officials.
A rougher patch in relations could be on the horizon if Turkey - a key Muslim NATO ally crucial to U.S. efforts to stabilize Afghanistan and Iraq - works to forestall a sanctions vote or votes against sanctions on Iran.
"We're always going to have important issues with Turkey that we're going to cooperate on. But, of course, on a matter so important to us, it will inevitably have an impact on the way Americans and Congress and the president will interact with Turkey," a senior administration official said.
A day after Turkey reached the deal with Iran, negotiated with Brazil, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced an agreement among the five permanent members of the Security Council on a fourth round of sanctions on Iran. Her quick declaration was widely perceived as a sign of U.S. irritation with Turkey, a non-permanent council member, and a slap in the face to Turkey's diplomatic efforts.
On Wednesday, Obama spent more than an hour on the telephone explaining to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan why the deal his country cut with Iran was incongruous with a U.S. push to isolate the Islamic republic over its nuclear program, according to U.S. and Turkish officials.
Obama acknowledged Turkey's mediation efforts and "stressed the international community's continuing and fundamental concerns about Iran's overall nuclear program as well as Iran's failure to live up to its international obligations," the White House said in a statement. Obama also told Erdogan that the sanctions push would continue, despite Turkey's opposition to new U.N. penalties on Iran. The U.S. official described the conversation as "frank."
Still, U.S. officials said the deal fell short because Iran did not agree to freeze uranium enrichment and because it would still retain enough low-enriched uranium for a bomb if it decided to enrich the material to a higher level.
3) Iranian Says Uranium Deal Off if Sanctions Are On
Michael Slackman, New York Times, May 23, 2010
Cairo - The speaker of Iran's Parliament said Sunday that his country would abandon a deal to ship some of its nuclear fuel to Turkey and rethink its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency if the United States pushed new sanctions through the United Nations Security Council.
The comments at the morning session of Parliament, by Speaker Ali Larijani, an influential conservative, were made one day before Iran was scheduled to present the atomic agency with the terms of a deal brokered by Turkey and Brazil. That pact called for Iran to store about half its low-enriched uranium in Turkey. In exchange, after a year, Iran would receive more highly enriched fuel from a third country to use in a medical reactor.
Mr. Larijani, a former chief nuclear negotiator, attacked the United States on Sunday, saying that President Obama had asked Turkey to help mediate the nuclear dispute, then rejected a deal it helped arrange, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported.
As speaker of Parliament, Mr. Larijani does not control Iran's nuclear policy and it was not clear if his views reflected those of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
But Parliament does have the authority to force the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to change its relationship with the nuclear agency. Iran could further restrict the agency's inspectors, or throw them out altogether, the way North Korea did in late 2002.
4) America Moves the Goalposts
Roger Cohen, New York Times, May 20, 2010
New York - John Limbert, once a U.S. hostage in Tehran, now charged with Iranian affairs at the State Department, has given a good description of the caricatures that bedevil American-Iranian non-relations.
Americans see Iranians as "devious, mendacious, fanatical, violent and incomprehensible." Iranians, in turn, see Americans as "belligerent, sanctimonious, Godless and immoral, materialistic, calculating," not to mention bullying and exploitive.
That's Ground Zero in the most traumatized relationship on earth and the most tantalizing. Tantalizing because Iran and the United States are unnatural enemies with plenty they might agree on if they ever broke the ice. Limbert, a bridge-builder, has spent half a lifetime trying to deliver that message. It never flies. Poisonous history gets in the way. So do those that profit from poison.
If all the mistrust needed further illustration, it has just been provided by the Brazilian-Turkish deal on Iran's low enriched uranium (LEU), the peevish U.S. reaction to it, and the apparent determination of the Great Powers, led by the Obama administration, to burrow deeper into failure.
I believed Obama was ready to think anew on Iran. It seems not. Presidents must lead on major foreign policy initiatives, not be bullied by domestic political considerations, in this case incandescent Iran ire on the Hill in an election year.
More on that later, but first let's take a cold look at the Brazilian and Turkish leaders' achievement in Tehran, how it relates to an earlier American near-deal, and what all this says about a world undergoing significant power shifts.
I'll take the last point first. Brazil and Turkey represent the emergent post-Western world. It will continue to emerge; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should therefore be less trigger-happy in killing with faint praise the "sincere efforts" of Brasilia and Ankara.
The West's ability to impose solutions to global issues like Iran's nuclear program has unraveled. America, engaged in two inconclusive wars in Muslim countries, cannot afford a third. The first decade of the 21st century has delineated the limits of U.S. power: It is great but no longer determinative. Lots of Americans, including the Tea Party diehards busy baying at wolves, are angry about this. They will learn that facts are facts.
Iran has been producing, under International Atomic Energy Agency inspection, LEU (enriched to about 5 percent). It is this LEU that would have to be turned into bomb-grade uranium (over 90 percent) if Iran were to produce a nuclear weapon. The idea behind the American deal in Geneva last October was to get a big chunk of LEU out of Iran to build confidence, create some negotiating space, and remove material that could get subverted. In exchange, Iran would later get fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
Iran, doing the bazaar routine, said yes, maybe and no, infuriating Obama. Iran now wanted the LEU stored on Iranian soil under I.A.E.A. control, phased movement of the LEU to this location, and a simultaneous fuel rod exchange. Forget it, Obama said.
Well, Turkey and Brazil have now restored the core elements of the October deal: a single shipment of the 1,200 kilograms of LEU to a location (Turkey) outside Iran and a one-year gap - essential for broader negotiations to begin - between this Iranian deposit in escrow and the import of the fuel rods.
And what's the U.S. response? To pursue "strong sanctions" (if no longer "crippling") against Iran at the United Nations; and insist now on a prior suspension of enrichment that was not in the October deal (indeed this was a core Obama departure from Bush doctrine).
Obama could instead have said: "Pressure works! Iran blinked on the eve of new U.N. sanctions. It's come back to our offer. We need to be prudent, given past Iranian duplicity, but this is progress. Isolation serves Iranian hard-liners."
No wonder Ahmet Davutoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, is angry. I believe him when he says Obama and U.S. officials encouraged Turkey earlier this year to revive the deal: "What they wanted us to do was give the confidence to Iran to do the swap. We have done our duty."
Yes, Turkey has. I know, the 1,200 kilograms now represents a smaller proportion of Iran's LEU than in October and it's no longer clear that the fuel rods will come from the conversion of the LEU in escrow. But that's small potatoes when you're trying to build a tenuous bridge between "mendacious" Iranians and "bullying" Americans in the interests of global security.
The French and Chinese reactions - cautious support - made sense. The American made none, or did only in the light of the strong Congressional push for "crushing" sanctions. Further sanctions will not change Iran's nuclear behavior; negotiations might. I can only hope the U.S. bristling was an opening gambit.
Last year, at the United Nations, Obama called for a new era of shared responsibilities. "Together we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides," he declared. Turkey and Brazil responded - and got snubbed. Obama has just made his own enlightened words look empty.
5) U.N.'S Ban Hopes Iran Deal May Bring Atom Settlement
Daren Butler, Reuters, May 21, 2010
Istanbul - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he hoped Iran's deal to send some of its enriched uranium abroad may open the door to a negotiated settlement of a row with the West over its nuclear programme. In a speech delivered in Istanbul, Ban said the agreement Iran had reached on Monday with Turkey and Brazil, both non-permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, was "an important initiative in resolving international tensions over Iran's nuclear programme by peaceful means."
"I have mentioned Turkey's welcome role with respect to Iran, working with Brazil. We hope that this and other initiatives may open the door to a negotiated settlement," Ban said.
Ban's spokesman had said on Monday the nuclear fuel talks shepherded by Turkey and Brazil were "encouraging" but that Tehran must comply with Security Council resolutions. On Friday, Ban's speech was full of praise for Turkey's diplomatic efforts.
6) The starving can't wait
The Obama administration is expanding pilot programs to get food aid to the needy faster.
Editorial, Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2010
A close observer of current events could be forgiven for thinking that world hunger is waning, given that the issue has largely disappeared from headlines since the global food crisis that led to riots in 2008. Sadly, the opposite is true. Continued high food prices, drought and a worldwide recession that has reduced remittances from immigrant workers in developing countries have all contributed to swelling the ranks of chronically hungry people.
Although development experts need to address the global shortfalls in production, distribution problems and other underlying causes of famine, the immediate challenge always is to feed the hungry. In 2007, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported 923 million undernourished people worldwide, an increase of 80 million over 1992. Last fall, the organization counted more than 1 billion hungry people - an estimated 15% of the world's population - up by nearly 80 million in just two years. Population growth, rural-to-urban migration and other factors mean the numbers will continue to rise over the coming decades. This is dispiriting news by any measure, but there is at least some progress to report in U.S. efforts to feed the hungry.
The United States is the world's largest food donor, and historically the U.S. government has required that its food aid be purchased at home and shipped by American companies to the countries in need. International aid organizations have long argued that this is expensive and inefficient, and most other developed countries have made the switch to cash allocations that allow the food to be purchased where it makes the most sense - sometimes in the donor countries, but more often in the region where it will be consumed. Now the U.S. is beginning to follow suit with pilot programs that allow aid groups to buy food elsewhere, rather than exclusively in the United States, or to distribute vouchers to the poor.
The pilot programs, begun under the George W. Bush administration and advanced under President Obama, can cut the cost of food aid by up to one-third in parts of Africa, according to the Government Accountability Office, and deliver the goods three times as fast. For the hungry, that can mean the difference between life and death. Right now, that life-and-death struggle is most acute and concentrated in the West African nation of Niger, where drought has devastated the grain harvest and there is fear of a famine even more widespread than one in 2005. More than 2 million people already require food assistance, and the government estimates that about half of the country's 15 million people are at risk. The U.N. special envoy to Niger declared the problem a disaster in January, clearing the way for international humanitarian aid that needs to be in place by summer. Disturbingly, food shipped directly from the United States today probably wouldn't arrive until fall, whereas food from the region could be delivered within a couple of months.
The amount of food aid funds authorized for local and regional purchases through the pilot programs is relatively small - about $325 million of the $1.9 billion in U.S. food aid this year. Yet groups that distribute sustenance to the hungry, such as the U.N. World Food Program and the not-for-profit Mercy Corps, say it is a good beginning that gives them more flexibility to address a variety of problems.
7) Sanctions Effort May Open Door to Press Iran Central Bank
Neil MacFarquhar and David E. Sanger, New York Times, May 19, 2010
United Nations - Buried in the sanctions resolution now being debated in the United Nations Security Council lies the possibility of a new effort to pressure Iran over its nuclear program: a call for countries to "exercise vigilance" in dealing with Iran's central bank.
American and European officials said Wednesday that the reference, passing though it is, could give them a legal basis in the future for choking off financial transactions between Iran and banking centers in Europe and elsewhere. Previous sanctions have taken aim at specific banks suspected of financing proscribed nuclear activity, but never anything as pivotal as dealings with the central bank itself.
What is notably absent from the draft resolution, however, is any binding restriction on transactions with Iran's central bank. Among the many compromises that the United States accepted to get China and Russia to back new sanctions against Iran was an agreement to limit any reference to the bank - or Iran's entire energy sector, for that matter - to the introductory paragraphs rather than the sanctions themselves, according to American officials and other diplomats, yielding a weaker resolution than the United States would have liked.
The haggling over the central bank illustrates both the opportunities and the frustrations that American and European officials see in the resolution. One the one hand, it provides an opportunity to expand the range of financial activity that the West can try to impede. On the other, it provides a loophole for any nation that wants to continue relations with Iran, allowing it to argue that a cut off is not mandatory.
Security Council diplomats expressed confidence that they had at least 10 votes on the 15-member council, and maybe more depending on how negotiations unroll. Turkey and Brazil, both current members, have said they will not engage in talks on the draft, and Lebanon is also expected to sit out the vote. The position of other members, especially Nigeria and Uganda, remain unclear since they are awaiting instructions from their capitals, diplomats said.
8) Afghan Government And Taliban Deny Formal Talks
Carlotta Gall, New York Times, May 22, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - The Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban denied on Saturday any connection to reported peace talks on a Maldives island and said the gathering would not lead to anything substantive.
The office of President Mohammed Nasheed of the Maldives announced Thursday that his government had helped organize the talks in the hope of bringing peace to the region.
About 10 to 20 delegates, including members of the Afghan Parliament, were taking part in several days of discussions to explore an end to the war in Afghanistan, government officials confirmed. Among them were former members of the Taliban and of the mujahedeen party Hezb-i-Islami, whose leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, opposes foreign forces in Afghanistan, officials said.
The gathering was organized by Homayoun Jarir, a son-in-law of Mr. Hekmatyar, who has acted as a go-between for the Afghan government and Mr. Hekmatyar. Among the parliamentarians present were Arsala Rahmani, a former minister of higher education in the Taliban government who has worked on bringing Taliban members to the government's side.
Another parliamentarian, Khalid Farooqi, a former member of Mr. Hekmatyar's party, said Iran had organized the talks, but there was no independent confirmation.
9) Results of Kandahar offensive may affect future U.S. moves
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, Sunday, May 23, 2010; A01
The Obama administration's campaign to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan's second-largest city is a go-for-broke move that even its authors are unsure will succeed. The bet is that the Kandahar operation, backed by thousands of U.S. troops and billions of dollars, will break the mystique and morale of the insurgents, turn the tide of the war and validate the administration's Afghanistan strategy.
There is no Plan B.
The deadline for results is short: Administration officials anticipate that the operation will form the centerpiece of a major strategy assessment due in December and will justify the first withdrawals of U.S. troops from elsewhere in Afghanistan in July 2011. Although operations initiated last winter in southwestern Helmand province will continue, and new troop deployments are scheduled this year for northern and eastern Afghanistan, little else will matter if the news from Kandahar is not good.
The urgency and the difficulty of the task were illustrated Saturday when the Taliban launched an unprecedented rocket and ground attack against the Kandahar air field, NATO's largest installation in southern Afghanistan and the headquarters of the upcoming offensive. Several coalition troops and civilian employees were wounded when rockets sailed over perimeter fortifications, but gunmen who tried to fire their way inside through a gate were unsuccessful, the U.S. military said.
Success has been only vaguely defined, and progress will be monitored through what the military calls "atmospherics reporting," including public opinion polls and levels of commerce in the streets. A senior military official said the central question, which the administration will pose and answer for itself, is: "Are we moving toward a solution in Kandahar that the people support?"
Public descriptions of the balance between the offensive's military and civilian aspects have fluctuated in response to Afghan sensibilities in a region that is arguably more hostile to foreign intervention and the government in Kabul than to the Taliban.
10) Flotilla aims to break Israel's grip on Gaza
Paul McGeough, Sydney Morning Herald, May 24, 2010
Agios Nikolaos, Greece: A global coalition of Palestinian support groups is taking protest to a dangerous new point of brinkmanship this week, with an attempt to crash through Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip in a flotilla of cargo and passenger boats now assembling in the eastern Mediterranean.
Converging at an undisclosed rendezvous in international waters, the four small cargo boats and four passenger vessels - ranging from cruisers carrying 20 to a Turkish passenger ferry for 600 - are a multimillion-dollar bid to shame the international community to use ships to circumvent Israel's tight control on humanitarian supplies reaching war-ravaged Gaza.
As the first boat in the flotilla sailed from Dundalk, Ireland, to link up with others being readied at ports in Turkey and in Greece, Israel announced that it would bar the boats from landing.
Celebrity names include the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell and Denis Halliday, a former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator who in 1998 resigned, protesting that economic sanctions on Iraq amounted to genocide.
On Saturday evening, attempts were under way to find a berth on the over-subscribed manifest for the activist American philosopher Noam Chomsky, who Israeli authorities last week barred from entering the West Bank where he had been invited to speak at a Palestinian university.
Five of eight previous protest boats have managed to land in Gaza. But most recently one was rammed at sea by an Israeli navy ship, and another was captured, with all on board being held in Israeli jails for up to a week before they were deported.
This is deliberately their biggest operation. Ms Jaouadi said the number of vessels and passengers in this week's flotilla was intended to overstretch the capacity of Israel's navy and, in the event of mass arrests, the capacity of its prisons.
11) Africa's oil spills are far from U.S. media glare
Joe Brock, Reuters, Tue, May 18 2010
London - Oil gushing from an undersea well in the Gulf of Mexico has damaged BP's reputation and share price but accidents involving other companies in less scrutinized parts of the world have avoided the media glare.
The U.S. media and political machine has turned its full force on BP and U.S. President Barack Obama has set up a commission into the leak which is sending an estimated 5,000 barrels per day (bpd) into Gulf of Mexico waters. In contrast, the international media has largely ignored the latest incidents of pipeline damage in Nigeria, where the public can only guess how much oil might have been leaked.
An industry source, who declined to be named, said 100,000 bpd of oil had leaked for a week from a pipeline that has since been mended. "If this (the BP spill) were in the Niger Delta, no one would be batting an eyelid," said Holly Pattenden, African oil analyst at consultants Business Monitor International. "They have these kind of oil spills in Nigeria all the time."
12) Colombian president's brother said to have lead death squads
Juan Forero, Washington Post, Monday, May 24, 2010; A12
Yarumal, Colombia - Colombian President Álvaro Uribe will leave office in August having largely succeeded in winning control of once-lawless swaths of countryside from Marxist rebels, an accomplishment partly made possible by more than $6 billion in U.S. aid.
But Uribe's government has also been tarnished by scandals, including accusations in congressional hearings that death squads hatched plots at his ranch in the 1980s and revelations that the secret police under his control spied on political opponents and helped kill leftist activists.
Now a former police major, Juan Carlos Meneses, has alleged that Uribe's younger brother, Santiago Uribe, led a fearsome paramilitary group in the 1990s in this northern town that killed petty thieves, guerrilla sympathizers and suspected subversives. In an interview with The Washington Post, Meneses said the group's hit men trained at La Carolina, where the Uribe family ran an agro-business in the early 1990s.
The revelations threaten to renew a criminal investigation against Santiago Uribe and raise new questions about the president's past in a region where private militias funded with drug-trafficking proceeds and supported by cattlemen wreaked havoc in the 1990s. The disclosures could prove uncomfortable to the United States, which has long seen Uribe as a trusted caretaker of American money in the fight against armed groups and the cocaine trade.
"This is what we have been hoping for - that something like this could come out, and we could show what these paramilitary groups were," said María Eugenia López. She said five of her relatives were killed by paramilitaries based in Yarumal in 1990.
But in his eight years in office, Uribe has frequently vented against human rights activists, accusing them of being guerrilla stooges who disseminate false accusations against his government.
But human rights advocates who have first-hand knowledge of Meneses's allegations said his declaration amounts to powerful evidence that should trigger an investigation. Several of them are prominent Argentines, including 1980 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel, who heard Meneses recount his story in a videotaped meeting in Buenos Aires in April. "He incriminates himself and also the brother of the president who managed the paramilitary group, but also President Uribe," Pérez Esquivel said.
Just Foreign Policy
Just Foreign Policy is a membership organization devoted to reforming US foreign policy so it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans.