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JFP 7/12: Could a "Great Negotiation" End the War in Afghanistan?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 12 July 2010 - 7:15pm
Just Foreign Policy News
July 12, 2010
Could a "Great Negotiation" End the War in Afghanistan?
A key obstacle to moving the debate on negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan is that most Americans don't know much diplomatic history. This ignorance makes us vulnerable to facile slogans: for the neocons, it's a noun, a verb, and Neville Chamberlain. But Fredrik Stanton has published a corrective: "Great Negotiations: Agreements that Changed the Modern World" shows how U.S. leaders entered successful negotiations with realistic goals for their adversaries. If Obama engages Taliban leaders as Kennedy engaged Khrushchev, we could end the war.
Beverly Bell: There is No Plan For Permanently Housing the 1.9 Million Haitians Who Lost Their Homes in the Quake
Dean Baker: The IMF Is Coming for Your Social Security
Last week, the IMF told the United States that it needs to start getting its budget deficit down. It put cutting Social Security at the top of the steps that the country should take to achieve deficit reduction.
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1) Congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank are taking aim at a longtime budgetary sacred cow: U.S. military spending, NPR reports. They want to trim the Pentagon's budget by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, significantly reducing U.S. military presence around the world, including Europe. If America doesn't scale back its military footprint, Frank says, the price will be cutting domestic programs and increased taxes. One target in Frank's sights: the U.S. military base in Okinawa. "We don't need 15,000 marines in Okinawa - they're a hangover from a war that ended 65 years ago." Frank says U.S. sea and air power can deal with any threats from China, so having troops stationed nearby is unnecessary. "No one thinks you're going to land 15,000 Marines on the Chinese mainland to confront millions of Chinese military." Same goes for Europe. "NATO was a great accomplishment 61 years ago," Frank points out. "I don't see why we need troops in Okinawa or why we need troops in Germany, why we need troops in Italy." Some have argued that it's normal to position troops in ally countries. "Well, if that's the case, where are the Belgian troops in Arizona? Where are the French troops in South Dakota?"
2) General Casey, Chief of Staff of the Army, said the US could face another "decade or so" of persistent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, CBS News reports. In a follow-up statement to CBS, a spokesperson for Gen. Casey said "General Casey was speaking of the types of conflict we will be fighting for a decade or so. He did not, nor did he intend to, imply that we would be fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan for 10 more years."
3) Afghan President Karzai plans to seek the removal of up to 50 former Taliban officials from a U.N. terrorism blacklist - more than a quarter of those on the list - in a gesture intended to advance political reconciliation talks with insurgents, the Washington Post reports. The diplomatic outreach at the UN has been met with resistance from U.N. officials; on Tuesday, U.S. envoy Holbrooke traveled to New York to meet with U.N. officials to press them to move forward on the delisting process. The US opposes the delisting of some Taliban fighters, including leader Mohammad Omar. But Holbrooke is eager to reach agreement on removing a slate of reformed Taliban members ahead of an international conference this month aimed at bolstering stability in Afghanistan.
4) A letter to the Japan Times bitterly criticizes a June 24 U.S. House resolution thanking Okinawa for hosting U.S. forces, on the grounds that it is an insult to thank someone for a service that they have been forced to provide against their will. Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 99 years, but there is no timeline for the U.S. either to return its bases on Okinawa or to significantly reduce its military presence, the letter notes.
5) If President Obama had broken Wall Street's hold on economic policy and fulfilled his promise to "end the mindset that leads to war," President Obama would be constantly vilified in the major media outlets, forcing him into a constant battle for political survival, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Providence Journal. But he might still prevail with direct, populist appeals to the majority. This is what has happened to a number of the left-of-center governments in Latin America. But these governments have also had to face opposition from the U.S. These leaders had hoped President Obama would pursue a more enlightened policy toward Latin America, but it hasn't happened; Washington still has problems with democracy in its former "backyard."
6) Tensions are on the rise as a Libyan-sponsored vessel sets out to challenge Israel's naval blockade of Gaza within coming days, the Christian Science Monitor reports.
7) Palestinian Authority President Abbas ruled out a quick return to direct talks with Israel, saying they would be "futile," the Telegraph reports. Abbas was speaking after President Obama echoed calls from Israel's prime minister Netanyahu for current indirect talks to give way to face-to-face negotiations. "We have ... said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it will be futile," Abbas said. "If they say 'come and let's start negotiations from zero,' that is futile and pointless." The Palestinians say they fear being dragged into long-drawn out discussions over the nature of any land-for-peace swap over the settlements. Netanyahu and key cabinet colleagues are already ruling out a return of East Jerusalem, a key Palestinian demand. An aide to Abbas said there had to be a framework and timetable for any direct talks. "We will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years," he said.
8) Writing from Bilin in the West Bank - longstanding site of protests against the Israeli separation wall - New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof says he sees hope in the fact that some Palestinians are turning to a strategy of non-violent resistance to the occupation, which he says "might be a game-changer." "This is what Israel is most afraid of," said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi's famous 1930 salt march. Kristiof ends his column with a plug for the documentary "Budrus," [http://www.justvision.org/budrus] about a village that resisted the Israeli security fence.
9) World powers have not formally agreed that Brazil and Turkey can sit in on talks over a nuclear fuel supply deal with Iran, but neither have they explicitly ruled out such an arrangement, AFP reports. An Iranian news report quoted Tehran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki the so-called Vienna group "has accepted" the presence of Brazil and Turkey in talks over a fuel swap. But diplomats said no such formal decision had been made. [It is likely that the inclusion of Brazil and Turkey would make it easier to reach a deal - JFP.]
10) The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office says armed attacks on NGOs and humanitarian agencies working in Afghanistan have lessened over the past six months, in part because the Taliban have stopped targeting them, IDN news reports. A Taliban spokesman had told the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in March 2010 that the insurgents would ensure security for aid agencies in areas under their control provided aid workers liaised with them first. The Red Cross said while security had deteriorated, it had expanded operations in conflict-affected and insecure areas, which it attributed in part to dialogue with the Taliban on humanitarian needs.
11) Afghanistan has freed a second group of suspected Taliban prisoners in a peace offering to the insurgency after a review of their cases, Reuters reports.
1) Odd Couple: Frank And Paul Target Military Spending
NPR, July 10, 2010
Governments around the country are feeling the strain of budget pressures, and in Washington, at least, that strain is producing some strange alliances. Take Congressmen Ron Paul and Barney Frank: The libertarian Republican and the liberal Democrat co-wrote a piece for Huffington Post this past week that takes aim at a longtime budgetary sacred cow: U.S. military spending.
The unlikely pair want to trim the Pentagon's budget by $1 trillion over the next 10 years, significantly reducing U.S. military presence around the world, including Europe. Frank tells NPR's Lynn Neary that it's time the nation updated its military approach.
"This hangover from the Cold War, when America was seen as the superpower that had to protect everybody everywhere from everything, is outdated. In fact, it's often counterproductive." If America doesn't scale back its military footprint, Frank says, the price will be cutting domestic programs and increased taxes.
"That's what we're talking about," he says. "We're talking about, in particular, the overreach, the overview that America as a world power has this responsibility to protect military power everywhere - and it's enormously expensive."
One target in Frank's sights: the U.S. military base in Okinawa. "We don't need 15,000 marines in Okinawa - they're a hangover from a war that ended 65 years ago. And Japan now ought to be able to defend itself."
Frank says U.S. sea and air power can deal with any threats from China, so having troops stationed nearby is unnecessary. "No one thinks you're going to land 15,000 Marines on the Chinese mainland to confront millions of Chinese military."
Same goes for Europe. "NATO was a great accomplishment 61 years ago," Frank points out. "I don't see why we need troops in Okinawa or why we need troops in Germany, why we need troops in Italy."
Some have argued that it's normal to position troops in ally countries. "Well, if that's the case, where are the Belgian troops in Arizona? Where are the French troops in South Dakota?"
Besides closing bases, Frank sees another place for major cost savings. "During the Cold War, we had three ways of destroying the Soviet Union with thermonuclear weapons," he says. "We had nuclear submarines; we had the intercontinental ballistic missile and the strategic air command."
These days, Russia's not the threat it used to be. Frank's proposal to the Pentagon is simple: "You know these three ways you have of destroying what's now Russia? Why don't you keep two and give up one? And save us tens of billions a year."
To look for more ways to trim the military budget, Frank set up a bipartisan commission. The Sustainable Defense Task Force includes people from the libertarian think tank the Cato Institute as well as "people with environmental and peace credentials," Frank says.
The task force has already proposed plans that it says would save $100 billion a year through military cuts. It's a proactive attempt to direct the attention of President Obama's deficit reduction commission.
"What Ron Paul and I are doing," Frank says, "is writing to them and saying, 'Don't just come to us and say we're going to raise taxes and we're going to limit Social Security and cut EPA, etc., etc. There needs to be proportional reductions in the military budget."
"And we are going to tell them that if they don't add that, we don't vote for their program."
2) Casey: U.S. Could be at War Another Decade
Christine Delargy, CBS News, July 9; updated July 10
General George Casey, the Chief of Staff of the Army, said today the United States could face another "decade or so" of persistent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In a follow-up statement to CBS News, a spokesperson for Gen. Casey, Lt. Col. Rich Spjegel, said that "General Casey was speaking of the types of conflict we will be fighting for a decade or so. He did not, nor did he intend to, imply that we would be fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan for 10 more years."
3) Karzai To Ask U.N. To Trim Blacklist Of Taliban Figures
Colum Lynch and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, Monday, July 12, 2010; A01
United Nations - Afghan President Hamid Karzai plans to seek the removal of up to 50 former Taliban officials from a U.N. terrorism blacklist - more than a quarter of those on the list - in a gesture intended to advance political reconciliation talks with insurgents, according to a senior Afghan official.
The Afghan government has sought for years to delist former Taliban figures who it says have cut ties with the Islamist movement. But the campaign to cull names from the list, which imposes a travel ban and other restrictions on 137 individuals tied to the Taliban, has taken on renewed urgency in recent weeks as Karzai has begun to press for a political settlement to Afghanistan's nearly nine-year-old conflict.
The diplomatic outreach at the United Nations has been met with resistance from U.N. officials, who are demanding more evidence that the individuals in question have renounced violence, embraced the new Afghan constitution and severed any links with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
On Tuesday, Richard C. Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, traveled to New York to meet with U.N. officials to press them to move forward on the delisting process, according to sources familiar with the talks.
The United States opposes the delisting of some of the most violent Taliban fighters, including leader Mohammad Omar. But Holbrooke is eager to reach agreement on removing a slate of purportedly reformed Taliban members ahead of a major international conference in Kabul this month that is aimed at bolstering stability in Afghanistan.
Thomas Mayr-Harting, an Austrian diplomat responsible for overseeing the terrorism list, has made it clear that a specially charged U.N. committee he leads will not approve the delisting solely to boost the peace process. He has also voiced frustration that Afghanistan has not made a detailed case for delisting. "Let me make this absolutely clear: If this information is to be taken into consideration in the course of the ongoing review, receiving it must be a matter not of weeks but of days," he told the U.N. Security Council on June 30.
In October 1999, the Security Council imposed sanctions on members of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time, for refusing to surrender Osama bin Laden to U.S. authorities in connection with al-Qaeda's role in the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. In January 2001, more than 100 Taliban leaders were added to the list.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States ushered through resolutions that added al-Qaeda members and their supporters to the blacklist. The measures include a travel ban, an arms embargo and a prohibition on the direct or indirect provision of funds or economic resources.
The stringent requirements of the U.N. review process have undercut Karzai's efforts. The Afghan president is now planning to make a more modest request that 30 to 50 names be delisted to "remove all those Taliban who are not part of al-Qaeda and are not terrorists," according to a senior Afghan official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, as did others quoted for this article.
As it awaits Afghanistan's request to delist more former Taliban officials, the Security Council has proceeded with its review of about a dozen individuals whose names were submitted for removal several years ago.
Among them is a former Taliban education minister, Mullah Arsala Rahmani, who is a member of the Afghan senate. Rahmani said in an interview that after he spoke with a U.N. delegation in Kabul last month, he was led to believe that he "was going to be removed from the blacklist," although he said he was not told that explicitly.
"I'm very happy I'm going to be removed," Rahmani said. Under the terms of the sanctions, his bank account has been frozen. Once his name is cut from the blacklist, he said, "I'll be able to open an account and . . . get some money."
Despite being blacklisted, though, Rahmani said his travel has not been restricted. He said he has traveled to Britain, France and Kenya since his name was put on the list. "Karzai wants the U.N. to remove all the people's names from the blacklist," Rahmani said. "And that's something that all Afghans want, because it will help in the process of peace negotiations."
4) 'Thanks' doesn't allay Okinawans
Yoshio Shimoji, Letter to the Editor, Japan Times, Sunday, July 11, 2010
Naha, Okinawa - In Okinawa to attend a memorial service for the war dead on June 23, Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized to Okinawans for having to shoulder the burden of hosting the bulk of U.S. military forces in Japan. He then offered thanks, saying Okinawa's sacrifice was "contributing to Asia-Pacific security."
The overwhelming majority of us Okinawans oppose the current relocation plan for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, which was agreed to between Tokyo and Washington over our heads. We want the base unconditionally removed from Okinawa. It is so weird for a Japanese politician to thank people who vehemently oppose the 2006 bilateral agreement on Futenma. Can we assume that Kan's apology means that the U.S. bases were mistakenly planted on Okinawa in the first place?
Kan was deputy prime minister under the Hatoyama administration. On the campaign trail of last summer's Lower House election, the slogan blaring from his sound truck was "Get the Futenma base out of the country or at least Okinawa." Kan's reneging on this campaign promise makes him no different from the Liberal Democratic Party's pork-barrel politicians. Naturally, Washington saluted Kan as a down-to-earth, realistic politician.
The last straw came June 24 when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill thanking Japan, especially Okinawa, for "continuing to host U.S. forces," and noting that both nations had reconfirmed a commitment to relocate Futenma to Henoko in northern Okinawa, as agreed in 2006. What's this?! Thanking us out loud as if we were doing the United States a favor by willingly hosting the bases, after the bases had been forced on us so violently?
It is reported that a similar bill is being prepared in the U.S. Senate. Do senators also think that such self-righteous gratitude will allay Okinawa's long-held resentment against the U.S. bases? Don't they realize their repeated "thank you" resolutions are like rubbing salt into a wound, time and again?
If U.S. lawmakers want to wax philanthropic, they should stop this nonsense and begin discussing, instead, how the excessive U.S. military footprint on Okinawa can be reduced. Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 99 years as promised, but there is no timeline for the U.S. either to return its bases on Okinawa or to significantly reduce its military presence.
5) Washington Still Has Problems With Democracy in Latin America
Mark Weisbrot, Providence Journal, Monday, July 12, 2010
Imagine that Barack Obama, upon taking office in January 2009, had decided to deliver on his campaign promise "to end business-as-usual in Washington so we can bring about real change."
Imagine that he rejected the architects of the pro-Wall Street policies that had led to economic collapse, such as Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and the stable of former Goldman Sachs employees that runs the U.S Treasury Department, and instead appointed Nobel laureate economists Paul Krugman and Joe Stiglitz to key positions, including the chairmanship of the Federal Reserve.
Instead of Hillary Clinton, who lost the Democratic presidential primary because of her unrelenting support for the Iraq war, imagine that he chose Sen. Russ Feingold (D.-Wis.) for secretary of state, or someone else interested in delivering on the popular desire to get out of Afghanistan. Imagine a real health-care-reform bill, instead of health-insurance reform, that didn't give the powerful pharmaceutical and insurance lobbies a veto.
It goes without saying that President Obama would be vilified in the major media outlets. The seething hostility from right-wing blowhards such as Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh would be matched by more mainstream media outlets, who would accuse the president of polarizing the nation and "dangerous demagoguery." With almost all of the establishment media and institutions against him, Obama would likely face a constant battle for political survival - although he might well triumph with direct, populist appeals to the majority.
This is what has happened to a number of the left-of-center governments in Latin America.
- In Ecuador, President Rafael Correa was re-elected by a large margin in 2009, despite strong opposition from the country's media.
- In Bolivia, Evo Morales has brought stability and record growth to a country that had a tradition of governments that didn't last more than a year - despite the most hostile media in the hemisphere and unrelenting, sometimes violent opposition from Bolivia's traditional elite.
- Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez survived a U.S.-backed military coup attempt and other efforts to topple his government, winning three presidential elections, each time by a larger margin.
All of these presidents took on entrenched oligarchies and fought hard to deliver on their promises. Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president in a country with an indigenous majority, re-nationalized the hydrocarbons - mostly natural gas - industry and created jobs through public investment, as well as getting a new, more democratic constitution approved. Correa doubled spending on health care and cancelled $3.2 billion of foreign debt found to be illegitimate. Chávez cut poverty in half and extreme poverty by more than 70 percent after getting control over the country's oil industry.
These presidents faced another obstacle that Obama wouldn't have - they had to fight with the most powerful country in the world in order to deliver on their promises. This was also true of President Nestor Kirchner in Argentina (2003-07), who had to battle the Washington-dominated International Monetary Fund in order to implement the economic policies that made Argentina the fastest growing economy in the hemisphere for six years.
Of course, Hugo Chávez has been the most demonized in the U.S. media - but that is not because of what he has said or done but because he is sitting on 500 billion barrels of oil. Washington has a particular problem with oil-producing states that don't follow orders - whether they are a dictatorship like Iraq, a theocracy like Iran, or a democracy like Venezuela.
All of these leaders - including President Lula da Silva of Brazil - had hoped that President Obama would pursue a more enlightened policy toward Latin America, but it hasn't happened. It seems that Washington, which was comfortable with dictators and oligarchs who ran the show for decades, still has problems with democracy in its former "backyard."
6) Libya's Qaddafi latest to challenge Israel's Gaza blockade
Backed by a charity headed by the son of Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi, the ship Amalthea will challenge Israel's Gaza blockade by attempting to deliver 2,000 tons of food, medicine, and relief to the Palestinian territory.
Joshua Mitnick, Christian Science Monitor, July 11, 2010 at 2:21 pm EDT
Tel Aviv - Six weeks after Israeli commandos killed nine pro-Palestinian activists to prevent a Turkish aid ship from reaching the Gaza Strip, tensions are on the rise as a Libyan-sponsored vessel sets out to challenge Israel's naval blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory. Backed by a charity headed by the son of Libyan ruler Muammar Qaddafi, the ship Amalthea is carrying a cargo of 2,000 tons of food. Organizers say the plan is to reach Gaza within the coming days.
Organizers said the ship, which left Greece Saturday, would sail for Gaza despite Israel's efforts to divert the vessel to Egypt.
Israel is trying to block an effort by the United Nations to investigate the clashes on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, an incident which deepened the diplomatic isolation of the Jewish state and forced it to partially lift a blockade on the flow of goods into the territory of 1.5 million Palestinians for the first time in three years.
Despite the move, there are still severe restrictions on Gaza exports and Palestinians cannot move freely between the West Bank and Gaza.
7) Mahmoud Abbas: direct talks with Israel would be 'futile'
Richard Spencer, Telegraph (UK), 11 Jul 2010
Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has ruled out a quick return to direct talks with Israel, saying they would be "futile".
Mr Abbas was speaking after President Barack Obama echoed calls from Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, for current indirect talks to give way to face-to-face negotiations. "We have presented our vision and thoughts and said that if progress is made, we will move to direct talks, but that if no progress is made, it will be futile," Mr Abbas said in a speech at the weekend. "If they say 'come and let's start negotiations from zero,' that is futile and pointless."
Mr Abbas agreed to resume indirect talks with the Israelis in May only under extreme pressure. He had previously said negotiations could only resume if there was a halt to all building in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, whereas Mr Netanyahu only offered a partial freeze.
Those indirect talks are being conducted by Mr Obama's envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell. But Mr Obama, following a meeting with Mr Netanyahu at the White House last week, said he hoped direct talks would begin "well before" the commitment to a partial freeze expired at the end of September. Mr Netanyahu is also demanding immediate face-to-face negotiations.
However, the Palestinian side say they fear being dragged into long-drawn out discussions over the nature of any land-for-peace swap over the settlements, which are illegal under international law, while unrealistic expectations are raised about the concessions that can be made in other areas.
Mr Netanyahu and key cabinet colleagues are already ruling out a return of East Jerusalem, a key Palestinian demand.
Yasser Abed Rabbo, one of Mr Abbas's aides, told Palestinian radio there had to be a framework and timetable for any direct talks. "We will not enter new negotiations that could take more than 10 years," he said.
8) Waiting for Gandhi
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, July 9, 2010
Bilin, West Bank - Despite being stoned and tear-gassed on this trip, I find a reed of hope here. It's that some Palestinians are dabbling in a strategy of nonviolent resistance that just might be a game-changer.
The organizers hail the methods of Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., recognizing that nonviolent resistance could be a more powerful tool to achieve a Palestinian state than rockets and missiles. Bilin is one of several West Bank villages experimenting with these methods, so I followed protesters here as they marched to the Israeli security fence.
Most of the marchers were Palestinians, but some were also Israeli Jews and foreigners who support the Palestinian cause. They chanted slogans and waved placards as photographers snapped photos. At first the mood was festive and peaceful, and you could glimpse the potential of this approach.
But then a group of Palestinian youths began to throw rocks at Israeli troops. That's the biggest challenge: many Palestinians define "nonviolence" to include stone-throwing.
Soon after, the Israeli forces fired volleys of tear gas at us, and then charged. The protesters fled, some throwing rocks backward as they ran. It's a far cry from the heroism of Gandhi's followers, who refused even to raise their arms to ward off blows as they were clubbed.
Another problem with these protests, aside from the fact that they aren't truly nonviolent, is they typically don't much confound the occupation authorities.
But imagine if Palestinians stopped the rock-throwing and put female pacifists in the lead. What if 1,000 women sat down peacefully on a road to block access to an illegal Jewish settlement built on Palestinian farmland? What if the women allowed themselves to be tear-gassed, beaten and arrested without a single rock being thrown? Those images would be on televisions around the world - particularly if hundreds more women marched in to replace those hauled away.
"This is what Israel is most afraid of," said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, a prominent Palestinian who is calling for a nonviolent mass movement. He says Palestinians need to create their own version of Gandhi's famous 1930 salt march.
One genuinely peaceful initiative is a local boycott of goods produced by Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Another is the weekly demonstrations in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah against evictions of Palestinians there. And in Gaza, some farmers have protested Israel's no-go security zones by publicly marching into those zones, even at the risk of being shot.
So far there is no Palestinian version of Martin Luther King Jr. But one candidate might be Ayed Morrar. A balding, mild-mannered activist, he was the mastermind behind the most successful initiative so far: nonviolent demonstrations a half-dozen years ago in the West Bank village of Budrus against Israel's construction of a security fence there. More than many other Palestinians, he has a shrewd sense of public relations.
"With nonviolent struggle, we can win the media battle," Mr. Morrar told me, speaking in English. "They always used to say that Palestinians are killers. With nonviolence, we can show that we are victims, that we are not against Jews but are against occupation."
Mr. Morrar spent six years in Israeli prisons but seems devoid of bitterness. He says that Israel has a right to protect itself by building a fence - but on its own land, not on the West Bank.
Most Palestinian demonstrations are overwhelmingly male, but in Budrus women played a central role. They were led by Mr. Morrar's quite amazing daughter, Iltezam Morrar. Then 15, she once blocked an Israeli bulldozer by diving in front of it (the bulldozer retreated, and she was unhurt).
Israeli security forces knew how to deal with bombers but were flummoxed by peaceful Palestinian women. Even when beaten and fired on with rubber bullets, the women persevered. Finally, Israel gave up. It rerouted the security fence to bypass nearly all of Budrus.
The saga is chronicled in this year's must-see documentary "Budrus," a riveting window into what might be possible if Palestinians adopted civil disobedience on a huge scale. In a sign of interest in nonviolent strategies, the documentary is scheduled to play in dozens of West Bank villages in the coming months, as well as at international film festivals.
I don't know whether Palestinians can create a peaceful mass movement that might change history, and their first challenge will be to suppress the stone-throwers and bring women into the forefront. But this grass-roots movement offers a ray of hope for less violence and more change.
9) World powers mull Brazil, Turkey's presence in Iran talks
AFP, July 12, 2010
Vienna - World powers have not formally agreed that Brazil and Turkey can sit in on talks over a nuclear fuel supply deal with Iran, but neither have they explicitly ruled out such an arrangement, diplomats said Monday.
An Iranian news report on Sunday quoted Tehran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki as saying that the so-called Vienna group "has accepted" the presence of Brazil and Turkey in talks over a fuel swap.
But diplomats familiar with the dossier said no such formal decision had been made.
Under a deal brokered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last October, France, Russia and the United States proposed to Iran that it ship out most of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium for processing into fuel rods for a medical research reactor in Tehran.
But the Islamic republic cold-shouldered the proposal, insisting on a single, simultaneous fuel swap on its own territory instead, which was, in turn, unacceptable to the West.
After eight months of deadlock, Brazil and Turkey stepped in to draw up an alternative arrangement whereby the nuclear material would be transferred for safeholding in Turkey. In return, Iran would receive the fuel for its research reactor 12 months later.
But Moscow, Paris and Washington expressed reservations and, in a detailed response last month, asked Iran to clear up a number of questions they had about the deal.
The three powers were still waiting for Iran's response to their reservations, a Western diplomat told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We presented Iran with feedback. We're now waiting for their reply before considering the next step," the diplomat said.
10) Some Aid Agencies Feel More Secure in Afghanistan
Prakash Joshi, InDepth News, July 9
New Delhi - Armed attacks on non-governmental organisations and humanitarian agencies working in Afghanistan have lessened over the past six months, not only because of their own security measures, but also because the Taliban have stopped targeting them, according to the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO).
While some 1,200 security incidents were recorded in June 2010 - more than in any month since the fall of the Taliban - assaults on NGOs by armed opposition groups in the first half of 2010 were 35 percent lower than in 2008-2009, says ANSO, which provides free safety analysis and advice to member NGOs.
"At a strategic level the armed opposition are in many cases acting more like a government in waiting and so see a convergence of interests in maintaining NGO services. However, it is still possible for mistakes to be made at the tactical level and for an NGO to become targeted," Nic Lee, director of ANSO.
Unlike previous years when the armed opposition abducted aid workers and held them for 6-8 weeks, only releasing them in exchange for money or prisoners, this year the detention period has dropped to 6-8 days; abductees have been released quickly and often unconditionally, ANSO said.
What ANSO describes as a shift in the Taliban approach to aid workers has been interpreted by NGOs as a positive sign in terms of the regaining of humanitarian operating space in the country, particularly in insecure areas.
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, had told IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in March 2010 that the insurgents would ensure security for aid agencies in areas under their control provided aid workers liaised with them first. "However," reported IRIN, "he warned that aid used for political and military gains would not be tolerated, and insurgent fighters were instructed to attack aid distributions by government and foreign forces."
In a report from Kabul on July 8, 2010, IRIN quotes Ahmadullah Ahmadi, provincial director of the Afghan Red Crescent Society in the volatile southern province of Helmand, saying that the insurgents were not targeting "well-established and recognized" aid agencies.
"They know NGOs and agencies which have operated in Afghanistan for a long time, before the Karzai government was established," he said, adding that the insurgents were also thinking of their own interests in terms of "to what extent an aid agency was beneficial to them".
About two-thirds of the country has been deemed either inaccessible or high-risk by most international aid organizations, as well as UN agencies, and dozens of aid workers have been attacked in the past four years.
"The situation for truly humanitarian NGOs has improved recently," Dirk R. Frans, executive director of International Assistance Mission (IAM), which has been operating in Afghanistan since 1966, told IRIN. He said there is an increased understanding by the warring parties, including the Taliban, of the role of NGOs in helping vulnerable people.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) indicated that humanitarian space was slowly expanding: "While security has deteriorated, we have expanded our presence in the conflict-affected and insecure areas," said Bijan Fredric Farnoudi, an ICRC spokesman in Kabul.
The ICRC attributed this to behind-the-scenes dialogue with the Taliban on humanitarian needs, and a sense of enlightened self-interest by the insurgents who may be realizing that civilian casualties alienate the population.
The ICRC has been criticized for fostering contacts with Taliban insurgents, but the fact is that it has been able to deliver humanitarian services in areas which are no-go zones for others.
11) Afghanistan frees more suspected Taliban
Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters, July 13, 2010, 3:07 am
Kabul - Afghanistan has freed a second group of suspected Taliban prisoners in a peace offering to the insurgency after a review of their cases, President Hamid Karzai's office said on Monday.
The release of 28 prisoners from various detention centers came a month after an initial 14 others were let go from U.S. and Afghan jails in the wake of a "Peace Jirga," or summit, in June that recommended talks between the government and the Taliban.
The jirga of tribal leaders and other senior figures approved a Karzai plan to reach a peace deal with Taliban moderates, who have helped stage an increasingly violent insurgency since being overthrown in 2001.
Karzai's office, quoting the Afghan justice minister, pledged to soon free 45 more inmates after case reviews.
While Karzai's order to review cases, based on the Jirga's proposals, referred only to the roughly 15,000 detainees in Afghan jails, the U.S. military has said the review would also apply to Afghans in U.S. military prisons.
Since January, 114 prisoners have been released from Bagram under new detention review boards set up by Washington last year allowing detainees to contest their incarceration.
However, in a marked shift in policy after years of international criticism, the U.S. allowed the first Afghan detainees at Bagram to stand trial before an Afghan judge and with Afghan defense lawyers.
There are around 1,000 prisoners being held at foreign military detention centers in Afghanistan, more than 800 of those at Bagram, north of the capital.
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