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JFP 6/28: War Vote Expected This Week; NYT Attacks "Border"
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 28 June 2010 - 7:38pm
Just Foreign Policy News
June 28, 2010
NYT Attacks "Border" with False Rant of Pro-Coup Reporter
No reasonable person would have bet serious money that news editors at the New York Times would be huge fans of Oliver Stone's new documentary about South America, "South of the Border." But still, there are supposed to be rules for newspapers like the Times. On Friday, the Times ran an attack on Oliver Stone's documentary by Larry Rohter. Not only was the Times attack inaccurate, more importantly, the Times failed to acknowledge the bias of Larry Rohter in running the article. Rohter covered Venezuela for the Times during the period of the April 2002 coup, and during the coup, on April 12, 2002, Rohter wrote a piece for the Times claiming that the coup was not a coup, but a popular uprising. That should have disqualified Rohter from writing a piece on the film for publication by the Times. At the very least, the paper should have acknowledged Rohter's previous advocacy for the coup - and its own.
FAIR: NYT Reporter, Playing Film Critic, Pans Film About Himself
Stone, Weisbrot, Ali Respond to Attack From the New York Times' Larry Rohter
War Supplemental Expected in the House This Week
For months, the war supplemental has been "expected" in the House. But today, Win Without War and Peace Action reported that it is "likely" that the war supplemental will be voted on later this week, perhaps as early as Wednesday. The Majority Whip sent out a whip question Friday asking Democrats whether they would vote in favor of a) the Afghanistan war money, and b) all the other supplemental funding, a sign that a vote is imminent.
Please contact your Representative, and ask him or her to 1) vote no on the war money 2) co-sponsor the McGovern bill and vote for a corresponding amendment, requiring the President to establish a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Capitol Switchboard is 202-225-3121. Ask to be connected to your Representative's office. Try to get the Foreign Policy Legislative Assistant on the phone; tell whomever you get to speak with that you urge the Representative to vote no on war funding and to co-sponsor McGovern's bill and vote for McGovern's amendment; try to get them to say how the Representative will vote; report back to us any result of your query at the following link:
Speaker Pelosi, More War Funding This Week is No "Emergency"
Speaker Pelosi says she is committed to passing an emergency war supplemental before the July Fourth recess. But there is no "emergency" requiring the House to throw another $33 billion into bloody and pointless occupation of Afghanistan before we celebrate the anniversary of our Declaration of Independence from foreign occupation. Representatives McGovern and Obey have demanded answers on Afghanistan and teachers' jobs at home before voting on more money for war. If the House wants those answers, it has to be prepared to call the Pentagon's bluff.
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1) The head of the army said Coalition forces in Afghanistan should open talks with the Taliban "pretty soon" as part of a future exit strategy, the Guardian reports. General Sir David Richards also seemed to cast doubt on whether the coalition would be able to inflict "strategic defeat" on the Taliban, the Guardian says.
2) British Conservative MP Rory Stewart the war in Afghanistan is a "mission impossible" and Britain and other NATO allies should heavily reduce their presence next summer or risk a Vietnam-style defeat, the Daily News of Pakistan reports. "I do not believe we can win a counterinsurgency campaign. We are never going to have the time or the troop numbers," Stewart said. A member of parliament's influential Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Stewart believes only a few thousand troops - perhaps 1,000 of them British - should remain in Afghanistan after next summer, the paper says.
3) President Karzai held talks with Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of a major anti-government faction, Al Jazeera reports. Haqqani is reported to have been accompanied to the meeting earlier in the week by Pakistan's army chief and the head of its intelligence services. Karzai's office denied the report.
4) General McChrystal issued a devastatingly critical assessment of the war against a "resilient and growing insurgency" just days before being forced out, The Independent reports. McChrystal warned NATO Defense Ministers not to expect any progress in the next six months. It was this briefing, as much as the Rolling Stone article, which convinced Obama to move against McChrystal, because it undermined the White House political team's aim of pulling some troops out of Afghanistan in time for the US elections in 2012, The Independent says.
5) On Tuesday,, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a confirmation hearing for Obama's nomination of Mark Feierstein to head USAID programs in Latin America, the Andean Information Network reports. Feierstein, of the firm Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner, served as a political adviser to former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada during his 2002 Presidential campaign. Sánchez de Lozada resigned and fled to Maryland in 2003 to escape prosecution for the massacre of 60 protesters by troops operating under his orders. Last year Feierstein and his colleagues again conducted polling in Bolivia to assist the campaign of right wing candidate Manfred Reyes Villa, who lost by a landslide to President Morales. The appointment of Feierstein has increased apprehension in the region that aid programs will continue to be used to support U.S.-favored political actors within the region's democracies, AIN says.
6) USAID's refusal to come clean about who it is funding in Bolivia to do what appears to be the main sticking point preventing the re-establishment of normal diplomatic relations between Bolivia and the U.S., Alexander Main writes for Truthout. Documents obtained under FOIA show that, as early as 2002, USAID funded a "Political Party Reform Project" designed to "serve as a counterweight to [Evo Morales'] radical MAS [party] or its successors." Bolivia has threatened to expel USAID if it continues to fund opposition groups.
7) U.S. officials fear that China, which is skeptical of sanctions and hungry for energy, will step up its trade and investment with Iran as other countries scale back to comply with trade restrictions, the Los Angeles Times reports. The concerns point to the possibility new unilateral sanctions could backfire by putting Western firms at a disadvantage while benefiting China and failing to affect Iran's nuclear program. China "has given no commitment not to take up the slack," said a Western diplomat. Many Chinese firms do no business in the US and won't care about U.S. threats to cut off access to the US market. CIA Director Panetta said Sunday the sanctions by themselves would "probably not" deter Iran's nuclear ambitions.
8) US diplomats are trying to prevent Jordan from getting the necessary technology to build a nuclear reactor unless it agrees to purchase its nuclear fuel on the open markets rather than use its own uranium, writes former Israeli official and peace advocate Yossi Beilin in the New York Times. Jordan is furious and is convinced that Israel is behind the U.S. pressure, Beilin writes. This policy is counterproductive to Israeli interests, given that Jordan is a strong advocate of Israel-Arab peace, Beilin notes.
9) Turkey has been blocking Israeli military flights from entering its airspace, the New York Times reports. A Turkish official said Turkey would reject Israeli requests to use its airspace "until there would be a change in their treatment of Gaza."
10) The family of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza for four years, began a march to Jerusalem on Sunday aimed at pressing the government to make a deal for the soldier's release, the New York Times reports. In exchange for his release, Hamas has demanded the release of as many as 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons. A weekend poll in Israel's largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, found that 72 percent of Israelis polled said they supported a prisoner exchange, even if it included the release of hundreds of terrorists, including killers.
11) The Obama administration has decided to repatriate to Yemen a detainee held at Guantanamo after he was ordered released by a federal judge who cited overwhelming evidence the detainee had been held illegally for more than eight years by the US, the Washington Post reports. U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy "emphatically" ordered Mohammed Odaini's release after concluding there was no evidence he had any connection to al-Qaeda.
1) Taliban Talks In Afghanistan Should Start Soon, Says Head Of Army
General gives his 'private view' in interview on Radio 4, and warns he is not certain of military victory
Andrew Sparrow, Guardian, Sunday 27 June 2010 20.30 BST http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/27/taliban-talks-afghanistan-head-army
Coalition forces in Afghanistan should open talks with the Taliban "pretty soon" as part of a future exit strategy, the head of the army said today.
Insisting that talking to the enemy was eventually inevitable in a conflict of this kind, General Sir David Richards also seemed to cast doubt on whether the coalition would be able to inflict "strategic defeat" on the Taliban.
"If you look at any counter-insurgency campaign throughout history there's always been a point at which you start to negotiate, probably through proxies in the first instance," he said in an interview on Radio 4's the World this Weekend.
Claiming that he was merely expressing "a private view", he went on: "I think there's no reason why we shouldn't be looking at that sort of thing pretty soon."
Ministers have been cautious about talking up the prospects of holding peace talks for fear that it might be seen as an admission of defeat. But Richards said he did not think negotiations and outright war were "mutually contradictory".
"At the same time [as talking to the enemy] you have got to continue the work we are doing on the military, governance and development perspectives to make sure they don't think that we are giving up. It's a concurrent process," he said.
"We need to continue to make the Taliban feel they are being punished in a military sense.
"So that needs to continue, but whether we can turn that into some sense of strategic defeat I'm less certain."
2) Afghan war is a mission impossible: British MP
Daily Times (Pakistan), Sunday, June 27, 2010
Stewart says NATO should heavily reduce presence or risk a Vietnam-style defeat
London: The war in Afghanistan is a "mission impossible" and Britain and other NATO allies should heavily reduce their presence next summer or risk a Vietnam-style defeat, a new Conservative MP Rory Stewart said on Saturday.
Stewart, a former soldier and diplomat, believes that a radical rethink is the only option if the NATO-led surge of 40,000 extra troops fails to achieve results by next July. "I do not believe we can win a counterinsurgency campaign. We are never going to have the time or the troop numbers. Even if you put 600,000 troops on the ground, I can't see a credible, effective, legitimate Afghan Government emerging," he said.
"If you keep going like this the backlash that will build up, the spectres of Vietnam that will emerge in the minds of the British public will mean that we will end up leaving entirely and the country will be much worse off."
His message to US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron is, "OK, you have sent your 40,000 extra troops. You are going to be in there until July of next year. But enough already, no more, let this be the last. Let's start now talking about a plan B, not exit but reduction."
As newly-elected member of parliament's influential Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he believes that only a few thousand troops perhaps 1,000 of them British should remain in Afghanistan after next summer.
"You would have a few planes around but you would no longer do counter-insurgency. You would no longer be in the game of trying to hold huge swathes of rural Afghanistan."
3) Karzai 'holds talks' with Haqqani
Al Jazeera, Sunday, June 27
Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan, has met Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of a major anti-government faction, in face-to-face talks, Al Jazeera has learned.
Haqqani, whose network is believed to be based across the border, is reported to have been accompanied to the meeting earlier in the week by Pakistan's army chief and the head of its intelligence services, according to Al Jazeera's sources.
Karzai's office, however, denied on Sunday that any such meeting took place. Major-General Athar Abbas, the Pakistani army spokesman, also said he had "no knowledge of such a meeting taking place".
The Haqqani network is described by the US as one of the three main anti-government armed groups operating in Afghanistan, alongside the Taliban and al-Qaeda. It is thought to be responsible for the most sophisticated attacks in Kabul and across the country.
4) The last post: McChrystal's bleak outlook
President Obama lost patience with Runaway General's failed strategy
Jonathan Owen and Brian Brady, The Independent, Sunday, 27 June 2010
Sacked US General Stanley McChrystal issued a devastatingly critical assessment of the war against a "resilient and growing insurgency" just days before being forced out.
Using confidential military documents, copies of which have been seen by the IoS, the "runaway general" briefed defence ministers from Nato and the International security Assistance Force (Isaf) earlier this month, and warned them not to expect any progress in the next six months. During his presentation, he raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration.
Details of General McChrystal's grim assessment of his own strategy's current effectiveness emerged as the world's most powerful leaders set the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, a five-year deadline to improve security and governance in his country. The G8 summit in Toronto called for "concrete progress" within five years on improving the justice system and for Afghan forces to assume greater responsibility for security. David Cameron said a "political surge" must now complement the military one.
But the "campaign overview" left behind by General McChrystal after he was sacked by President Barack Obama last week warned that only a fraction of the areas key to long-term success are "secure", governed with "full authority", or enjoying "sustainable growth". He warned of a critical shortage of "essential" military trainers needed to build up Afghan forces - of which only a fraction is classed as "effective".
He pinpointed an "ineffective or discredited" Afghan government and a failure by Pakistan "to curb insurgent support" as "critical risks" to success. "Waning" political support and a "divergence of coalition expectations and campaign timelines" are among the key challenges faced, according to the general.
It was this briefing, according to informed sources, as much as the Rolling Stone article, which convinced Mr Obama to move against the former head of US Special Forces, as costs soar to $7bn a month and the body count rises to record levels, because it undermined the White House political team's aim of pulling some troops out of Afghanistan in time for the US elections in 2012. In addition to being the result of some too-candid comments in a magazine article, the President's decision to dispense with his commander was seen by the general's supporters as a politically motivated culmination of their disagreements.
General McChrystal's presentation to Nato defence ministers and Isaf representatives provided an uncompromising obstacle to Mr Obama's plan to bring troops home in time to give him a shot at a second term, according to senior military sources. The general was judged to be "off message" in his warning to ministers not to expect quick results and that they were facing a "resilient and growing insurgency".
Nato played down the chances of success. "I don't think anyone would say we're winning," said a Nato spokesman. The revelations provide context to the disagreements between Mr Obama and his general, highlighted in the article in Rolling Stone in which senior White House figures were criticised.
The reality, according to a senior military source, is that General McChrystal's candour about the reality of the situation was an obstacle to Mr Obama's search for an "early, face-saving exit" to help his chances in the 2012 presidential elections. "Stan argued for time, and would not compromise. Rolling Stone provided an excuse for Obama to fire the opposition to his plan without having to win an intellectual argument," he said.
General McChrystal knew "his time was up" and had been told by White House aides his "time-frame was all wrong", with the general thinking in years while the President was thinking more in months, he added.
General McChrystal said progress in the next six months was unlikely. He raised serious concerns over levels of security, violence, and corruption within the Afghan administration. Only five areas out of 116 assessed were classed as "secure" - the rest suffering various degrees of insecurity and more than 40 described as "dangerous" or "unsecure".
Just five areas out of 122 were classed as being under the "full authority" of the government - with governance rated as non-existent, dysfunctional or unproductive in 89 of the areas. Seven areas out of 120 rated for development were showing sustainable growth. In 48 areas, growth was either stalled or the population were at risk. Less than a third of the military and only 12 per cent of police forces were rated as "effective".
A strategic assessment referred to in the presentation revealed just how close the strategy in Afghanistan is to failing. It stated that the campaign was "on track temporarily" - but this was defined as meaning that there was "a low level of confidence that positive trends will be sustained over the next six-month period". It also said the Afghan people "believe that development is too slow" and many "still generally mistrust Afghan police forces". Security was "unsatisfactory" and efforts to build up the Afghan security forces were "at risk", with "capability hampered by shortages in NCOs and officers, corruption and low literacy levels".
5) Tuesday Hearing: Feierstein Nomination Raises Questions About USAID's Role In Latin America
Doug Hertzler, Andean Information Network, June 28, 2010
This Tuesday, June 29, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations will hold a confirmation hearing for President Obama's nomination of Mark Feierstein to head USAID programs in Latin America. Feierstein, of the firm Greenberg, Quinlan and Rosner, served as a political adviser to former Bolivian president Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada during his 2002 Presidential campaign. Sánchez de Lozada resigned and fled to Chevy Chase, Maryland in 2003 to escape prosecution for the massacre of 60 protesters by troops operating under his orders. Last year Feierstein and his colleagues again conducted polling in Bolivia to assist the campaign of right wing candidate Manfred Reyes Villa, who lost by a landslide to President Evo Morales. The appointment of the political pollster has increased apprehension in the region that aid programs will continue to be used to support U.S.-favored political actors within the region's democracies.
Feierstein's appointment coincides with Bolivian government officials' renewed accusations that USAID is intervening politically in some indigenous organizations. Although the Morales administration has not yet proven these allegations, unfortunately there is a long history of using USAID funds for direct and indirect political intervention. I worked in rural Bolivia from 1988-1996. During that time I personally observed how USAID-funded projects carried out through the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD) financed conventions, paid union leaders and split the Confederation of Bolivian Settlers into two factions. The program clearly worked to limit support for the coca growers' federations headed by Evo Morales. According to the General Accounting Office, from 1980-1994, USAID provided 87% of the budget of AIFLD, along with 10% from the National Endowment for Democracy. When AIFLD's programs ended in 1996, the rift in the indigenous settlers' unions in Bolivia healed immediately.
Undoubtedly, the Morales administration has not forgotten the history of AIFLD and other questionable aid programs since, and the Obama administration has done little to clarify the role and future focus of USAID efforts in Latin America to alleviate tensions. Denunciations against USAID and Feierstein's appointment have both complicated negotiations of a new framework agreement for U.S.- Bolivian relations. There is hope that the agreement would guarantee a more transparent aid relationship and establish a foundation for improved relations.
It is important to evaluate whether a nominee, who for many years fought partisan political battles, can successfully transition to running non-partisan and transparent USAID programs in Latin America. This hearing is an opportunity for the Obama administration to "go on the record" to establish USAID's respect for national sovereignty and guarantee program and contractor transparency and accountability. The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign relations should ask Mr. Feierstein to clearly and completely address these crucial issues.
6) USAID: The Bone of Contention in U.S. - Bolivia Relations
Alexander Main, Truthout, Monday 28 June 2010
When Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela met at the beginning of the month, it appeared that relations between the US and Bolivia were on the verge of being normalized following an 18-month diplomatic chill. Choquehuanca announced to the press that, "The two sides are 99% done with a pact that would allow the exchange of ambassadors." President Evo Morales declared his own hope that the two countries would now "advance with this new framework agreement for full diplomatic, trade and investment relations."
But hope for improved relations appeared to be dashed two weeks later when President Morales angrily accused the US Agency for International Development (USAID) of financing groups opposed to his government. "If USAID continues working in this way," he said, "I will not hesitate to expel them because we have dignity and sovereignty, and we are not going to allow any interference."
Some may see Morales' recent statements as evidence that he isn't serious about seeing the agreement with the U.S. finalized and signed and, instead, is more interested in stoking nationalistic sentiment and strengthening his anti-imperialist image among his supporters. However, it is worth noting that Morales' latest statements are consistent with criticism that the Bolivian government has directed at USAID since at least 2006. Declassified documents uncovered by investigative journalist Jeremy Bigwood through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) show that, as early as 2002, USAID funded a "Political Party Reform Project" designed to "serve as a counterweight to [Evo Morales'] radical MAS [party] or its successors." Though USAID has refused to reveal which political organizations have received funding since Evo Morales' election in 2006, the FOIA documents point to possible funding of opposition groups that engaged in violent tactics and sparked an explosive political crisis in September of 2008. Moreover, given the US government's record for funding opposition groups in Venezuela, the country with which Bolivia has the closest relations, it is perfectly understandable that President Morales is deeply suspicious of USAID's Bolivia program.
Unfortunately, rather than seeking to assuage the Bolivian government's concerns by lifting the veil on USAID's activities, the U.S. government has systematically refused to reveal all of the programs and groups that are currently receiving funding from the aid agency. As the Andean Information Network has noted, the US government's position violates international norms on cooperation calling for effective joint collaboration between the governments of donor and recipient countries on all cooperation programs.
It appears that the total lack of transparency in USAID's activities is the main sticking point - the 1% that has yet to be agreed upon - that is holding up the signing of the framework agreement that will allow for the full normalization of diplomatic relations. It is this issue that Bolivia's top representative in Washington, Ericka Duevas, refers to in diplomatic terms in the Inter-American Dialogue's June 10 Latin America Adviser when she calls for "An outline for cooperation to be defined in a transparent way by both states with the goal of preventing future controversies that disrupt the bilateral relationship."
Aside from this longstanding issue, the Obama administration has added one more source of tension to the bilateral agenda with its decision to appoint Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Vice-president Mark Feierstein to the position of Assistant Administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean at USAID. Feierstein was a key campaign consultant to the infamous former Bolivian President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (alias "Goni") who fled to the US in order to avoid facing trial for his alleged role in the massacre of dozens of protesters in October of 2003 under his presidency. Feierstein has never expressed regret for having helped Goni become president; in fact, he has said that he is "proud of the role that we played in electing Goni." This unrepentant attitude, combined with the US government's refusal to extradite Goni to Bolivia, understandably has President Morales and other Bolivians fuming.
It is clear that USAID's role in Bolivia is at the heart of discussions taking place between the US and Bolivian governments today. If the U.S. administration is sincere in its desire to improve relations with the Bolivian government, it should come clean regarding USAID's political activities in Bolivia and agree to a framework of future relations that allows for full transparency in all of its "cooperation" programs. Finally, if the US administration wishes to stand by its decision to appoint of Feierstein to USAID, it should, at the very least, recognize the controversial character of the nomination while making it clear that Feierstein has ceased to have relations, and will not work to promote or defend the interests of Bolivia's most reviled politician, Sanchez de Lozada.
7) West Worries China May Undermine Iran Sanctions Efforts
Officials fear that China, which has questioned the value of sanctions and is hungry for energy, will step up its trade with Iran as other countries scale back.
Paul Richter, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2010
Washington - U.S. and European officials in charge of efforts to tighten sanctions against Iran have expressed new concerns that China is quietly positioning itself to undermine the latest measures.
In the last two weeks, the United States and the European Union imposed new sanctions to pressure Tehran to curtail its nuclear program. The measures, which augment United Nations sanctions adopted this month, aim to discourage international investment in Iran, particularly its energy sector.
But U.S. officials fear that China, which is skeptical of sanctions and hungry for energy, will step up its trade and investment with Iran as other countries scale back to comply with trade restrictions.
The concerns point to the possibility that new unilateral sanctions approved by the Obama administration and its European allies could, in effect, backfire by putting Western firms at a disadvantage while benefiting China and failing to affect Iran's nuclear program.
Sanctions have been widely questioned as an effective means of persuading a defiant Iran to give in to demands for opening its nuclear program to international inspectors and scaling back its ambitions.
CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said Sunday in an ABC interview that the sanctions would have "some impact" on Iran, but by themselves would "probably not" deter Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
China, despite its misgivings, supported a fourth round of U.N. sanctions this month after Iran refused to scale back its expanding uranium enrichment program.
The U.N. measures were diluted during negotiations among the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council, and passed on a split vote. China's support depended on the inclusion of language that permits continued foreign investment in Iran's oil and gas sector.
Within days, U.S. and European officials quickly added their own tougher measures in hopes of discouraging petroleum sales, energy investment and foreign financing.
But U.S. officials fear that China could secretly sell gasoline and other refined petroleum products to Iran through intermediaries in the Persian Gulf. And they worry that China could expand its growing investments in the oil and gas sector.
U.S. officials have received complaints from allied countries that have trimmed their ties with Iran, only to see the Chinese fill any void.
Japanese officials have complained regularly to the Americans in private, said Fariborz Ghadar, a former Iranian official now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. A typical complaint, Ghadar said, is: "You asked us to cut back - we backed out - and now the Chinese are stepping in."
In North Korea, Chinese cooperation with U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang has been considered spotty. Beijing has been unwilling to disclose information about Chinese business contacts with the North Koreans, experts said.
"There's a track record of China not cooperating with the mechanisms set up to implement the international sanctions," said Mark Hibbs of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "In the case of unilateral sanctions by the United States, cooperation is likely to be even less."
In Iran, China "has given no commitment not to take up the slack," said a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with diplomatic protocol. Iran's trade with China has been growing and reached an estimated $36.5 billion last year, surpassing trade with the European Union.
In some cases, the U.S. may find it difficult to pressure Chinese firms to limit business ties with Iran because many do no business in the United States and won't care about U.S. threats to cut off access to the American market, as allowed under the sanctions legislation.
For Chinese companies that could be punished under the U.S. sanctions measure, the U.S. would risk complicating its relationship with one of its largest trading partners.
8) Let Jordan Enrich Its Own Uranium
Yossi Beilin, New York Times, June 25, 2010
[Beilin, a former Israeli minister of justice, is the head of the Geneva Initiative, an organization that promotes Israeli-Palestinian peace.]
Herzliya, Israel - Quietly and with barely any public confrontation, Israel is creating a new enemy for itself: the Kingdom of Jordan. In the situation that we justifiably or unjustifiably find ourselves now - boycotted and isolated - we do not need to lose the only Arab state with which we have peace-like relations.
This is the story: Jordan is a poor country, lacking almost any natural resources, that spends billions of dollars each year to import 95 percent of its electricity. But in 2007, at least 65,000 tons of uranium ore was found in the Jordanian desert - the 11th-largest deposit of uranium in the world. Jordan is now taking international bids to build a 1,100-megawatt reactor, the first in a planned series of plants that would allow the country to produce a substantial part of the electricity it needs and, by 2030, to export power to its neighbors in the Middle East.
The Obama administration, however, is trying to dissuade Middle Eastern countries from producing their own atomic fuel; the fear is that any low-level uranium enrichment would inevitably lead to high-level enrichment of bomb-grade materials - and then to a regional arms race. As a result, American diplomats are trying to prevent Jordan from getting the necessary technology unless it agrees to purchase its nuclear fuel on the open markets rather than use its own uranium.
Jordan's king, Abdullah II, is furious and, to make matters worse, he is convinced that the demands of the United States are the result of Israeli pressure. The last thing Israel needs today is a confrontation with Jordan on this subject.
Jordan is a stable, pro-Western Arab country, which signed a peace agreement with Israel - a peace that has survived grave challenges in recent years. What's more, Jordan is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which explicitly allows participants to enrich uranium for peaceful power production. And the king has continuously affirmed his willingness for transparency on all matters relating to the production of nuclear power plants.
Why should his country be denied the right to use its own uranium to produce energy? Why suspect his country of doing exactly what it has said it won't do? Why deny Jordan nuclear technology out of fear of some "worst-case scenario" whereby his regime collapses and is replaced by one that attempts to develop a bomb? This could occur in many other places.
Indeed, the United Arab Emirates recently agreed to a deal with the United States like the one Washington wants Amman to sign - the emirates, having agreed to purchase uranium on the international market, are planning to build a $20 billion nuclear reactor. Similar deals are being worked out with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. But none of those states have uranium deposits, and Jordan does.
King Abdullah is a great believer in peace in our region. For example, a few years ago, he expressed his unreserved support for the peace plan presented by the Geneva Initiative, of which I am the head, in a public appearance before a joint session of Congress. Other Arab leaders merely expressed their support behind closed doors.
There is a certain risk in allowing Jordan to enrich uranium so close to Israel's border, but the risk in denying the king's request is far greater. Indeed, there is much more at stake here than Jordan's desire to establish power plants for electricity. This is about how Israel treats its pragmatic neighbors, like President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and King Abdullah.
9) Turkey Barring Israeli Military Flights From Its Airspace
Sebnem Arsu and Jack Healy, New York Times, June 28, 2010
Istanbul - Turkey has been blocking Israeli military flights from entering its airspace, Turkish officials said Monday, in the latest diplomatic fallout over Israel's deadly raid last month on a Turkish ship carrying activists trying to breach the naval blockade of Gaza.
Officials in Turkey, one of Israel's closest allies in the Muslim world, threatened to sever diplomatic ties unless they received an apology for the attack, which left nine Turkish activists dead. Israel has not offered such an apology, saying its commandos fired only to defend themselves after being attacked by the activists.
The new measures do not affect civilian flights, and it was unclear how many flights by the Israeli air force would be affected. Before the ban was put into place, the Israeli military only crossed occasionally into Turkey's airspace, Turkish officials said.
A Turkish official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity on a matter of international relations, said Turkey would reject Israeli requests to use its airspace "until there would be a change in their treatment of Gaza."
The official said the Turkish government would also no longer invite Israel to participate in international military exercises hosted in Turkey. "After all, the experience gained in these exercises is used in launching operations on Gaza," said the official. "We had to respond to that."
According to many political analysts in Turkey, the military operation against the aid flotilla may been the last straw.
Turkey has demanded an international commission to investigate the deaths of the nine activist and strongly rejected as inadequate the Israeli plan for few international experts to oversee a local investigation, talking about severe consequences.
10) Family of Captured Israeli Soldier Press for Deal
Dina Kraft, New York Times, June 27, 2010
Tel Aviv - The family of Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held captive by Hamas in Gaza for four years, began a march to Jerusalem on Sunday aimed at pressing the government to make a deal for the soldier's release. "We won't wait any longer in our home," said Noam Shalit, the soldier's father, as the march began. He said Israel's leaders "have to put an end to this sad saga."
The march began two days after the fourth anniversary of Sergeant Shalit's capture and a week after Israel relaxed a blockade against Gaza that had been imposed in part to press for his release.
Israel scaled back the embargo in response to tremendous pressure after its deadly raid on a flotilla of aid ships last month aimed at breaking the blockade. Now the Shalits say they fear their son has been forgotten. Vowing not to return without him, the Shalits, accompanied by thousands of supporters, set out on foot from their home in the Galilee on a planned 12-day march via villages, winding roads and highways. "We want to see not just efforts but results," Mr. Shalit said.
Negotiations between Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamist movement that rules Gaza, over the 23-year-old soldier have repeatedly collapsed. In exchange for his release, Hamas has demanded the release of as many as 1,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including some convicted of organizing suicide bombings and other attacks.
Palestinian families are also deeply vested in prospects for a deal, as many of them have relatives in Israeli prisons.
A weekend poll in Israel's largest newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, found that 72 percent of Israelis polled said they supported a prisoner exchange, even if it included the release of hundreds of terrorists, including killers.
"Gilad Shalit is a national trauma," Sima Kadmon, a Yediot Ahronot columnist, wrote Friday. "He is the symbol of our powerlessness. Of the fact that the Israel Defense Forces cannot solve everything and of the fact that not everything can be fixed by force, and perhaps, of the fact that not everything can always be resolved."
11) U.S. Will Repatriate Detainee To Yemen
Peter Finn, Washington Post, Saturday, June 26, 2010; A08
The Obama administration has decided to repatriate to Yemen a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after he was ordered released by a federal judge who cited overwhelming evidence that the detainee had been held illegally for more than eight years by the United States, administration officials said.
In January, President Obama suspended the transfer of any detainees to Yemen because of concerns about the security situation in that country. But the case of Mohammed Odaini, who was 17 when he was picked up in Pakistan in 2002, has forced the administration to partially lift its suspension.
Odaini was a student at a religious institution in Faisalabad, Pakistan, when he visited a nearby guesthouse for the first time. The house was raided that night, and Odaini has been in custody since.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy Jr. "emphatically" ordered Odaini's release after concluding there was no evidence he had any connection to al-Qaeda. Odaini was recommended or approved for transfer out of Guantanamo Bay by various military or government officials in 2002, 2004, 2007 and 2009, according to Kennedy's judgment.
Administration officials said that Obama's ban on transfers to Yemen remains in place. "The general suspension is still intact, but this is a court-ordered release," said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the case. "People were comfortable with this . . . because of the guy's background, his family and where he comes from in Yemen."
Odaini's father is a retired security officer, and one of his sisters appealed to Obama in a letter. "I wish you could see the tears that easily come running from our eyes even in happy occasions when we are all gathered except our beloved brother Mohammed who is far away," wrote Samira Odaini.
As many as 20 more Yemenis could be ordered released by the courts for lack of evidence to justify their continued detention, an administration official estimated. About 90 Yemenis remain at Guantanamo, the largest single group by nationality.
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