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JFP 10/28: Is the Pentagon Deliberately "Degrading" Afghanistan's Capacity for Peace?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 28 October 2010 - 5:19pm
Just Foreign Policy News
October 28, 2010
Is the Pentagon Deliberately "Degrading" Afghanistan's Capacity for Peace?
The Washington Post reports that according to the US government's own assessments, US military escalation has failed. Yet the same report says no fundamental change is expected from the December policy review. Meanwhile, the Pentagon is killing low-level fighters and commanders who are being replaced by younger militants less inclined to compromise or follow the Taliban leadership, thereby making a peace agreement more difficult to attain. Is the Pentagon deliberately making peace more difficult to achieve in Afghanistan, so it won't have to accept a timetable for US military withdrawal?
Video: Author Scott Atran tells MSNBC US should work with the Taliban
Scott Atran, promoting his new book, "Talking to the Enemy: Faith, Brotherhood, and the (Un)Making of Terrorists," said on "Morning Joe" that the US should work with the Taliban.
Talking to the Enemy: How to Turn the Taliban Against Al Qaeda
South of the Border released on DVD
Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border was released on DVD this week. If you want to see former Argentine President Kirchner as many South Americans saw him, and as you are unlikely to see him in the U.S. media, you can get the DVD here.
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1) Néstor Kirchner's role in rescuing Argentina's economy is comparable to that of FDR in the Great Depression in the US, writes Just Foreign Policy president Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. Like FDR, Kirchner had to stand up both to powerful moneyed interests and to most of the economics profession, which was insisting that his policies would lead to disaster. They were proved wrong, and Kirchner right. In defying IMF demands for better terms for Argentina's foreign creditors, Kirchner not only protected Argentines' interests, but set a precedent making it easier for other countries to defy the IMF.
2) Eight months after U.S.-led forces launched the biggest operation of the war to clear insurgents from Marjah, the world's most powerful military is still struggling to rout guerrillas staging complex hit-and-run attacks every day, Todd Pitman reports for AP. The daily fighting in Marjah offers a grim image of what the security landscape in Kandahar could look like next summer, when President Obama has said he hopes to start a drawdown of U.S. forces. Extra troops do not automatically equate to success.
3) If Republicans take the House and Eric Cantor becomes House Majority Leader, Republicans could reject the President's foreign aid budget completely - after US aid to Israel is separated out, notes Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin, writing at the Washington Post. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is poised to take over the House Foreign Affairs Committee, where she is likely to scuttle the drive to ease sanctions and travel restrictions on Cuba, which Chairman Berman supports. She has also introduced legislation to cut U.S. funding for the UN and to the Palestinian Authority.
4) Writing in the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof expresses his hope that Californians will vote to legalize marijuana. He notes that current policy squanders billions that could be spent for education; has exacerbated poverty; disproportionately targets African-Americans and Latinos; and creates crime and empowers gangs. "The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market," a group of current and former police officers, judges and prosecutors wrote last month in an open letter to voters in California.
5) Ecuadorean President Correa said Ecuador would support Peru's demand that Yale University return thousands of artifacts stolen from the Inca site of Machu Picchu, Reuters reports. Correa said he would help Peru win regional backing for its demand.
6) President Obama has granted a waiver allowing Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen to continue receiving U.S. military aid even though they use child soldiers, the Washington Post reports. Human rights groups criticized the move. Officials said Yemen was exempted because ending military aid would jeopardize the country's ability to fight al-Qaeda.
7) Under intense foreign pressure, the Afghan government announced Wednesday it would extend a deadline for banning most private security companies in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. The delay will only affect private contractors, the Times notes, because the US military is already planning to comply with the ban and nonprofit aid groups do not use private security companies.
8) E.U. regulations - unlike legislation passed by the U.S. Congress - allow for the import and export of oil and gas to Iran, the Washington Post reports. "If you want to send a tanker filled with refined petrol to Iran, and you have proved that you are not carrying any other goods that we deem illegal, Europe has no problem," said a European official. U.S. officials have said that if increased pressure is hurting ordinary Iranians, they should blame their leaders for Iran's isolation. But E.U. officials said they specifically allowed fuel sales to ease the burden on average Iranians. At several European airports, planes belonging to Iran Air, are being refused refueling services by representatives of major oil companies. According to the EU, there is no legal basis for denying the airline services.
9) It's a very bad sign that lack of progress in talks with Iran has reportedly "prompted a discussion inside the White House about whether it would be helpful, or counterproductive, to have [President Obama] talk more openly about military options," writes Marc Lynch for Foreign Policy. Putting war talk on the table won't likely increase pressure on Iran to come to the table. The greatest danger of introducing open war talk by the administration is that it would represent the next step in the "ratcheting" and pave the way either to a 1990's Iraq scenario or to an actual war. The only way to signal "toughness" in future encounters will be to somehow escalate beyond military threats - i.e. to commit action, such as airstrikes or cruise missiles. And those would, by the consensus of virtually every serious analyst, be a catastrophe. If the US isn't prepared to follow through on the threat - and it really, really shouldn't be - then it shouldn't make the threat.
10) President Chavez praised reports indicating that Colombia may abandon a new military basing agreement with the US, Venezuelanalysis reports. The vice president of the Colombian Senate, Alexandra Moreno, told EFE last week that Colombian President Santos does not plan to present the US-Colombia military accord to the Colombian Congress for approval. "The accord fell apart the moment the Supreme Court said it was imperative for it to be approved by the Congress," Moreno said. Following Moreno's announcement, government officials declared that no final decision has been made about whether or not to present the military accord to Congress.
1) Néstor Kirchner: Argentina's independence hero
The death of Argentina's former president is a sad loss. His bold defiance of the IMF paved the way for South America's progress
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Wednesday 27 October 2010 http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/oct/27/nestor-kirchner-argentina-imf
The sudden death of Néstor Kirchner is a great loss, not only to Argentina but to the region and the world. Kirchner took office as president in May 2003, when Argentina was in the initial stages of its recovery from a terrible recession. His role in rescuing Argentina's economy is comparable to that of Franklin D Roosevelt in the Great Depression of the United States. Like Roosevelt, Kirchner had to stand up both to powerful moneyed interests and to most of the economics profession, which was insisting that his policies would lead to disaster. They were proved wrong, and Kirchner right.
Argentina's recession from 1998-2002 was, indeed, comparable to the Depression in terms of unemployment, which peaked at more than 21%, and lost output (about 20% of GDP). The majority of Argentines, who had, until then, enjoyed living standards among the highest in Latin America, were pushed below the poverty line. In December of 2001 and January 2002, the country underwent a massive devaluation, a world-historical record sovereign default on $95bn of debt, and a collapse of the financial system.
Although some of the heterodox policies that ultimately ensured Argentina's rapid recovery were begun in the year before Kirchner took office, he had to follow them through some tough challenges to make Argentina the fastest-growing economy in the region.
One major challenge came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF had been instrumental in bringing about the collapse - by supporting, among other bad policies, an overvalued exchange rate with ever-increasing indebtedness at rising interest rates. But when Argentina's economy inevitably collapsed, the IMF offered no help, just a series of conditions that would impede the economy's recovery.
The IMF was trying to get a better deal for the foreign creditors. Kirchner rightly refused its conditions, and the IMF refused to roll over Argentina's debt.
In September of 2003, the battle came to a head when Kirchner temporarily defaulted to the IMF rather than accept its conditions. This was an extraordinarily gutsy move - no middle-income country had ever defaulted to the IMF; only a handful of failed or pariah states like Iraq or Congo. That's because the IMF was seen as having the power to cut off even trade credits to a country that defaulted to them.
No one knew for sure what would happen. But the IMF backed down and rolled over the loans.
Argentina went on to grow at an average of more than 8% annually through 2008, pulling more than 11 million people, in a country of 40 million, out of poverty. The policies of the Kirchner government, including the central bank targeting of a stable and competitive real exchange rate, and taking a hard line against the defaulted creditors - were not popular in Washington or among the business press. But they worked.
Kirchner's successful face-off with the IMF came at a time when the fund was rapidly losing influence in the world, after its failures in the Asian economic crisis that preceded Argentina's collapse. It showed the world that a country could defy the IMF and live to tell about it, and contributed to the ensuing loss of IMF influence in Latin America and middle-income countries generally. Since the IMF was, at the time ,the most important avenue of Washington's influence in low-and-middle-income countries, this also contributed to the demise of US influence, especially over the recently independent countries of South America.
Kirchner also played a major role in consolidating this independence, working with the other left governments including Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia. Through institutions such as UNASUR (the Union of South American Nations), Mercosur (the South American trading bloc), and numerous commercial agreements, South America was able to alter its trajectory dramatically.
This united bloc successfully backed Bolivia's government against an extra-parliamentary challenge from the right in 2008, and most recently stood behind Ecuador in that attempted coup there, a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, they did not succeed in overturning last year's military takeover in Honduras, where US backing for the coup government proved decisive. Argentina, together with UNASUR, still refuses to allow Honduras back into the OAS, despite heavy lobbying from Washington.
Kirchner also earned respect from human rights organisations for his willingness to prosecute and extradite some of the military officers accused of crimes against humanity during the 1976-1983 dictatorship - reversing the policies of previous governments. Together with his wife, current president Cristina Fernández, Néstor Kirchner made an enormous contribution in helping to move Argentina and the region in a progressive direction. These efforts have not generally won him much favour in Washington and in international business circles, but history will record him not only as a great president but also as an independence hero of Latin America.
2) Classic guerrilla warfare stalls U.S. offensive
Gunbattles in Afghanistan have become rare, replaced with relentless hit-and-run attacks.
Todd Pitman, Associated Press, October 28
Marjah, Afghanistan - With bandoliers of bullets wrapped over both shoulders, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Seth Little knelt in a trench, his machine gun pointing toward a clutch of farmers in a field who stared silently back. The 23-year-old from Bremen, Ga. was scanning the horizon for Taliban gunmen who were maneuvering unseen somewhere across this rural battlefield, ordering civilians out of their homes in apparent preparation for a fight.
Eight months after U.S.-led forces launched the biggest operation of the war to clear insurgents from the southern poppy-growing district of Marjah, it wasn't supposed to be this way. Today, the world's most powerful military is still struggling to rout guerrillas staging complex hit-and-run attacks relentlessly, every day.
The ongoing conflict here comes as another massive American-led clearing operation is under way 100 miles to the east in neighboring Kandahar province. NATO commanders are touting recent successes there in seizing ground from Taliban militants who, as in Marjah, once roamed freely.
The daily fighting in Marjah, however, offers a grimmer image of what the security landscape in Kandahar could look like next summer, when President Obama has said he hopes to start a drawdown of U.S. forces. Extra troops do not automatically equate to success.
The February assault on the poppy-growing hub in Helmand province was supposed to be the first stage here of the counterinsurgency strategy, "clear, hold, build." But Capt. Chuck Anklam, who commands 2/9's Echo Company in a northern swathe of Marjah, said all three stages are now going on simultaneously - and none of them is complete.
"Due to the nature of the insurgent activity and the way that the enemy fights - disguising themselves as farmers during the day and having weapons caches hidden throughout ... we don't truly clear the area, we hold the area," the 34-year-old native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. said.
And holding it all is not an option, either. Only two Marine battalions are stationed in Marjah, and Echo Company's area of operations alone is an 18-mile-square grid of rectangular farms intersected by irrigation canals, hedgerows and islands of trees - all of which insurgents use to stage attacks. "It's impossible for us to physically hold all that terrain," Anklam added. "I cannot put a Marine element everywhere."
3) Four House GOP figures who could be crucial to foreign policy
These four races could affect foreign policy debate
Josh Rogin, Washington Post, Wednesday, October 27, 2010; 10:36 PM
Congress may not be in charge of making foreign policy, but it sure can influence its implementation. Since taking office in January 2009, members of Congress - drawn primarily but not exclusively from the ranks of the GOP - have slowed the Obama administration's efforts to advance its strategy for dealing with Russia, Syria, Israel, Cuba and a host of other countries. And the midterm elections won't be making things any easier for President Obama.
Republican lawmakers stand to play a huge role in debates next year about the promised July 2011 drawdown of troops in Afghanistan, whether to maintain or increase U.S. foreign assistance packages, and how strongly to press countries such as Russia and China to implement new sanctions against Iran.
If current poll results hold, Republicans will make significant gains in the Senate and probably will take the House, elevating a set of lawmakers to new heights of power and complicating Obama's efforts to execute his foreign policy agenda.
Here's a list of four GOP figures in the House who could be crucial actors on the foreign policy stage when the dust settles after Tuesday's elections.
The Virginia congressman, who is the House minority whip, could become majority leader in a GOP-controlled House if Minority Leader John A. Boehner (Ohio) is elected speaker. Cantor, who is particularly active in foreign-policy issues involving Iran and Israel, could see his role expand significantly if he is given the power to set the House floor agenda.
That could spell trouble for the administration's foreign operations budget, which funds the State Department and sets levels for U.S. non-military assistance around the world. Republicans are threatening to withhold aid to countries they think aren't wholly supportive of the United States, and Cantor told the Jewish Telegraph Agency recently that the president's proposed budget might have to be rejected outright if Republicans take power - after separating out U.S. aid for Israel.
If Republicans take the House, Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.) is poised to take over the House Foreign Affairs Committee and could drastically alter the administration's agenda. For example, she is likely to scuttle the drive to ease sanctions and travel restrictions on Cuba, which Chairman Howard L. Berman (D-Calif.) supports. Ros-Lehtinen, who was born in Havana, is an active member of the Cuban American lobby.
Her ascendancy could also spell doom for Berman's bill on foreign-aid reform. She argues often for more vetting of foreign aid in the hope of finding cuts, and she has also introduced legislation to cut U.S. funding for the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority.
A vocal critic of what she considers the Obama team's cool approach to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Ros-Lehtinen could also use the committee as a sounding board for those who want changes in the administration's approach to Middle East peace. "She's no Dick Lugar," said one House aide, referring to her temperate Senate counterpart. "You'll probably see a lot of contentious hearings."
Although not certain, it's likely that Granger (Tex.) would take over the chairmanship of the House Appropriations subcommittee for State Department and foreign operations if the GOP wins the House. That would give her a large role in writing significant sections of the State Department's funding bill. Although she supported the legislation put forth this year by Chairman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), she criticized the increases for the foreign-ops budget. She's a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment, which doesn't bode well for foreign-aid funding.
Granger also serves on the defense subcommittee, placing her at the intersection of the debate over how to balance the national security budget and shift resources from defense to diplomacy and development. Here she seems to favor the Pentagon, saying in June, "I want to be sure that we aren't increasing foreign aid at the expense of our troops."
Royce (Calif.) is symbolic of GOP House members who are active in foreign policy. He could become chairman again of the House Foreign Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade subcommittee, where his staff could hold hearings on the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan and any other region sensitive to the administration's national security goals.
4) End the War on Pot
Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times, October 27, 2010
Los Angeles - I dropped in on a marijuana shop here that proudly boasted that it sells "31 flavors." It also offered a loyalty program. For every 10 purchases of pot - supposedly for medical uses - you get one free packet. "There are five of these shops within a three-block radius," explained the proprietor, Edward J. Kim. He brimmed with pride at his inventory and sounded like any small businessman as he complained about onerous government regulation. Like, well, state and federal laws.
But those burdensome regulations are already evaporating in California, where anyone who can fake a headache already can buy pot. Now there's a significant chance that on Tuesday, California voters will choose to go further and broadly legalize marijuana.
I hope so. Our nearly century-long experiment in banning marijuana has failed as abysmally as Prohibition did, and California may now be pioneering a saner approach. Sure, there are risks if California legalizes pot. But our present drug policy has three catastrophic consequences.
First, it squanders billions of dollars that might be better used for education. California now spends more money on prisons than on higher education. It spends about $216,000 per year on each juvenile detainee, and just $8,000 on each child in the troubled Oakland public school system. Each year, some 750,000 Americans are arrested for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Is that really the optimal use of our police force?
In contrast, legalizing and taxing marijuana would bring in substantial sums that could be used to pay for schools, libraries or early childhood education. A Harvard economist, Jeffrey A. Miron, calculates that marijuana could generate $8.7 billion in tax revenue each year if legalized nationally, while legalization would also save the same sum annually in enforcement costs.
That's a $17 billion swing in the nation's finances - enough to send every 3- and 4-year-old in a poor family to a high-quality preschool. And that's an investment that would improve education outcomes and reduce crime and drug use in the future - with enough left over to pay for an extensive nationwide campaign to discourage drug use.
The second big problem with the drug war is that it has exacerbated poverty and devastated the family structure of African-Americans. Partly that's because drug laws are enforced inequitably. Black and Latino men are much more likely than whites to be stopped and searched and, when drugs are found, prosecuted.
Here in Los Angeles, blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at seven times the rate whites are, according to a study by the Drug Policy Alliance, which favors legalization. Yet surveys consistently find that young whites use marijuana at higher rates than young blacks.
Partly because of drug laws, a black man now has a one-in-three chance of serving time in prison at some point in his life, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that seeks reform in the criminal justice system. This makes it more difficult for black men to find jobs, more difficult for black women to find suitable husbands, and less common for black children to grow up in stable families with black male role models. So, sure, drugs have devastated black communities - but the remedy of criminal sentencing has made the situation worse.
The third problem with our drug policy is that it creates crime and empowers gangs. "The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market," a group of current and former police officers, judges and prosecutors wrote last month in an open letter to voters in California.
One advantage of our federal system is that when we have a failed policy, we can grope for improvements by experimenting at the state level. I hope California will lead the way on Tuesday by legalizing marijuana.
5) Ecuador wants Yale to return artifacts to Peru.
Alexandra Valencia, Reuters, October 26, 2010
Loja, Ecuador - Ecuador's president on Tuesday threw his support behind demands by neighboring Peru for Yale University to return thousands of artifacts removed from the Inca site of Machu Picchu a century ago for study at the U.S. university.
The Peruvian government filed a lawsuit in 2008 against Yale, which is located in New Haven, Connecticut, seeking to recover more than 40,000 objects that Peru says were taken by U.S. explorer Hiram Bingham in the early 1900s.
During a meeting with his Peruvian counterpart Alan Garcia in the border town of Loja, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Quito would support Peru's case and help it win regional backing at the Union of South American Nations, Unasur. "It has all our support, and not only that, but I will take this to Unasur, because it is at the level of Unasur that these national assets should be recovered, these items that were taken illegitimately from their rightful owners," Correa said.
Garcia said in September that Yale must reach an agreement with his government regarding the artifacts or be branded as looters and robbers. The artifacts, including pottery, jewelry and bones, were sent out of the country after Bingham, a Yale alumnus, rediscovered the site in the Andes in 1911. Peru says the objects were loaned to Yale for 18 months but never returned.
6) Obama Grants Waiver That Allows U.S. Aid To Continue To Four Countries Using Child Soldiers
Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, October 28, 2010
President Obama has granted a waiver allowing four countries to continue receiving U.S. military aid even though they use child soldiers, officials said Wednesday.
Human rights groups reacted with surprise and concern, saying the decision would send the wrong message. "What the president has done is basically given everybody a pass for using child soldiers," said Jo Becker, children's rights director at Human Rights Watch.
Administration officials said cutting off aid would cause more damage than good in countries where the U.S. military is trying to fight terrorism and reform abusive armies.
Obama sent a memo to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, dated Monday, saying that it was "in the national interest" to waive a cutoff of military assistance for Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and Yemen.
Those countries would have been penalized under the Child Soldiers Prevention Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush shortly before he left office. The law took effect this year, after the State Department identified six countries that used government soldiers - including Somalia and Burma.
Senior U.S. officials said Wednesday that Yemen was exempted because ending military aid would jeopardize the country's ability to fight al-Qaeda. In Sudan, U.S. military assistance will be critical in helping the unstable southern part of the country build military institutions if it votes to secede in a January referendum, as expected, officials said.
Congo was exempted because U.S.-funded programs there are aimed at helping the military become more professional and less abusive, officials said. Chad got a pass because of its role in fighting terrorism and assistance with the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. In addition, U.S. aid goes toward helping that country's military end its practice of using child soldiers, officials said.
Jesse Eaves, policy adviser on children's issues for the humanitarian group World Vision, noted that the law did not mandate a cutoff of all forms of military assistance for offenders. For example, they could have still gotten help in eliminating their use of child soldiers. "That kind of assistance is still allowed under the law without invoking the waiver. That's why this is a disturbing step," he said.
7) Karzai Delays Order To Ban Private Security Companies
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, October 27, 2010
Kabul, Afghanistan - Under intense pressure, the government of President Hamid Karzai announced Wednesday that it would extend, if briefly, a contentious deadline for banning most private security companies in Afghanistan.
The announcement came after heavy lobbying from the countries spending billions of dollars to develop Afghanistan's infrastructure and sending thousands of troops to fight the Taliban insurgency. Diplomats here, including those from the United States, argued that Mr. Karzai's original schedule to phase out private contractors did not leave enough time for an orderly transition and that it was endangering important aid projects.
A presidential decree issued in August had required that private security companies cease operations by Dec. 17 and transfer protection responsibilities to the Afghan police.
On Wednesday, the government changed direction slightly, saying it would create a committee that has two weeks to come up with a timeline for shifting security to the Afghan Army and police. Then there would be 90-day grace period before the security ban went into effect, according to an official statement from the government.
"Ninety days max will be given to each organization before designated dissolution date," said a statement issued by Mr. Karzai's office. "Following the completion of plan's implementation, the government of Afghanistan will assume responsibility for providing necessary security for development and reconstruction projects."
Private development companies said they remained concerned that this was little more than a delay, but said they were glad to have the extra time to address ramifications of the ban.
Mr. Karzai agreed to exempt foreign governments at embassies, other diplomatic outposts and military facilities. Charity groups do not use private security. So the ban mainly affects the contractors carrying out billions of dollars in development projects.
The military, which also uses private security firms to guarantee safe passage for its convoys, is unaffected by the delay. It has already committed to transferring security to the Afghan police by mid-December. The statement from Mr. Karzai indicates that the government expects the military to stick to the schedule.
For different reasons, traditional nonprofit, humanitarian-aid organizations are also unaffected. These groups hew to a posture of neutrality in the conflict and do not work with the insurgents, the Western military or the Afghan government.
8) E.U. rules let Iran import, export oil, gas,
Thomas Erdbrink and Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, October 28, 2010
Tehran - The United States and Europe have worked cooperatively on Iran policy since President Obama took office, but a small crack might have begun to open over sanctions that are beginning to pinch ordinary Iranians.
The European Union issued regulations this week that went well beyond a U.N. Security Council resolution passed in June, outlining tough restrictions on the sale of equipment and technology to the Iranian oil and gas industry, as well as on investment in those sectors. But the regulations - unlike legislation passed by the U.S. Congress - allow for the import and export of oil and gas to the Islamic republic.
"If you want to send a tanker filled with refined petrol to Iran, and you have proved that you are not carrying any other goods that we deem illegal, Europe has no problem," said a European official who specializes in sanction policies and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "We don't want any negative effect on the Iranian population or to deprive them of energy, so we do not follow U.S. measures that go beyond United Nations sanctions."
The E.U. will also permit financial transactions needed to import of oil and gas to Iran. The United States, by contrast, penalizes companies if they sell gasoline to Iran, and has increased pressure on international oil companies and refineries to cancel their contracts with the country.
The practical effect of the European action might be minimal because European oil giants might still refuse to supply Iran with fuel for fear of appearing to thwart U.S. sanctions.
U.S. officials have in the past said that if the increased pressure is hurting ordinary Iranians, they should blame their leaders for the Islamic republic's increasing isolation.
But E.U. officials said Wednesday that they specifically allowed fuel sales to ease the burden on average Iranians.
At several European airports, planes belonging to Iran's national carrier, Iran Air, are being refused refueling services by representatives of major oil companies. According to the European Union, there is no legal basis for denying the airline services.
Iran Air has been able to refuel at only three European airports since a Sept. 30 agreement among the State Department and European oil firms Total of France, Statoil of Norway, Eni of Italy and Royal Dutch Shell of Britain and the Netherlands.
They pledged to end their investments in Iran and avoid new activity in the country's energy sector. In turn, U.S. officials said, the companies would be protected from possible U.S. penalties for doing business with Iran.
"We have complained to the U.S. about the extraterritorial effects of their measures on European companies," the European official said. "If those companies submit to U.S. wishes, it is their decision, but we are against these policies. This is a major issue for us."
There have been complaints in the European parliament over U.S. pressure on E.U. companies regarding Iran. "If Europe accepts U.S. interference through pressure on its businesses, it is giving up independence," said Marietje Schaake, an influential parliament member who represents a liberal party. "The influence of U.S. interference beyond our own sanctions harms the E.U.'s credibility as a global player.
9) Marc Lynch: Keep the Iran war talk quiet,
Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy, October 28, 2010
There's some hope that Iran will return to nuclear talks with the P5+1 in Geneva on Nov. 15, even if they probably will have more questions about the agenda as the deadline approaches before they formally RSVP. Those talks will hopefully become the basis for an ongoing diplomatic process, where a range of issues can be explored, alternative arrangements proposed, and confidence built. But it's a very bad sign that, according to the New York Times, the lack of progress in talks thus far has "prompted a discussion inside the White House about whether it would be helpful, or counterproductive, to have him [President Barack Obama] talk more openly about military options." That fits with Dennis Ross's remarks to AIPAC a few days ago: "But should Iran continue its defiance, despite its growing isolation and the damage to its economy, its leaders should listen carefully to President Obama who has said many times, "we are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons." Here's an easy answer: they would be highly counterproductive, and downright dangerous. So let's move on from that discussion, shall we?
The idea of putting war talk on the table is presumably to increase the pressure on Iran to come to the table and make a deal. It won't likely accomplish that. Iran will quite reasonably refuse to bargain under the threat of military force, and will view U.S. offers under such conditions as manifestly insincere. It probably will not view the military threat as credible, given the realities of U.S. challenges and limitations. The war talk would swamp all other issues, make confidence building virtually impossible, and even further harden the divisions. What's more, war talk might very well undermine the international consensus on sanctions, the one accomplishment of which the administration boasts, since few of the countries which came on board for sanctions in defense of nonproliferation would have any stomach for another U.S. preventive war in the Middle East.
That's not the worst of it, though. The greatest danger of introducing open war talk by the administration is that it would represent the next step in the "ratcheting" - which I've been warning of for months - and pave the way either to a 1990's Iraq scenario or to an actual war. Once the military option is on the table, it never goes away. The only way to signal "toughness" in future encounters will be to somehow escalate beyond military threats - i.e. to commit action, such as airstrikes or cruise missiles. And those would, by the consensus of virtually every serious analyst, be a catastrophe. If the United States isn't prepared to follow through on the threat - and it really, really shouldn't be - then it shouldn't make the threat. That would just either undermine credibility, or else give a hook for hawks to demand that actions live up to rhetoric. Dangerous either way.
If the administration is really having an internal debate about whether to put the military option openly on the table, I hope that they quickly and firmly resolve it in the negative. It would not increase U.S. bargaining leverage over Iran. It would undermine the international consensus on sanctions for which they have worked so hard. It would almost certainly kill any prospect for the meaningful diplomatic process which is so badly needed. And it would represent the next step in the seemingly inexorable ratcheting process towards an unnecessary and counterproductive war. This would be yet another of those painfully predictable victories of narrowly-conceived tactics over realistic strategy. It may offer momentary satisfaction to U.S. domestic hawks and earn a few fleeting moments of praise, but at the expense of real U.S. strategic interests. Let's not go there.
10) Venezuela Welcomes Possible Cancellation of US-Colombia Military Accord.
James Suggett, Venezuelanalysis.com, Oct 26th 2010
Mérida - In response to reports that Colombia may not open seven of its military bases to United States military personnel as previously planned, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the decision reflects "rationality, common sense, and responsibility."
The vice president of the Colombian Senate, Alexandra Moreno, told the news agency EFE last week that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos does not plan to present the US-Colombia military accord to the Colombian Congress for approval.
"The president has expressed to us that he will not process [the accord] in the Congress, that he will leave it aside, and we hope this policy continues," said Moreno, who heads the Foreign Relations Committee in the Colombian Senate. "The accord fell apart the moment the Supreme Court said it was imperative for it to be approved by the Congress and that has not been done, so there is no military cooperation accord in those terms at this moment."
Following Moreno's announcement, government officials declared that no final decision has been made about whether or not to present the military accord to Congress.
When Santos took office in August, the two countries renewed diplomatic relations and held talks on economic policies and policies toward armed rebel groups. Chavez said on Sunday that during these talks, various officials from both governments discussed the possibility of Colombia not activating the accord with the US, but that "it was not a condition."
Senator Moreno, in her interview with EFE, said if the military deal were to be presented to Congress, "the debate would be of a different character in the Congress, very distinct from the one that was carried out initially."
Military accords with the US "have not had results," and there is less support for them than in the past, said Moreno. She also suggested that Santos, despite having served as Uribe's minister for defense, may bring a shift in policy away from Uribe's military policy. "There has been a 180 degree turn by President Santos and the priority will no longer be war, conflict, and military issues," said the congressperson.
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