JFP 1/26: Egypt's Day of Revolt; US Dictates Leaders to Haiti and Palestine
Just Foreign Policy News
January 26, 2011
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A resolution is before the UN Security Council that opposes Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, echoing longstanding U.S. positions. But President Obama is under pressure to veto the resolution from political forces that seek to maintain the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. Urge President Obama to support the UN resolution. Jewish Voice for Peace and Americans for Peace Now are speaking out. Add your voice.
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It's not an immutable law of the universe that the U.S. has to veto U.N. resolutions critical of Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. This is a winnable fight if we move the debate beyond the usual suspects.
BBC Video: Three reported dead after Egypt's 'day of revolt'
"Egypt hasn't seen protests like this in years. But after the example of Tunisia, suddenly they've lost their fear…"
YouTube Video: Mubarak poster is torn down 25th january 2011 egypt
New York Times: "an act whose boldness here is hard to overstate"
More video here:
YouTube Video of Protests in Egypt
Juan Cole: What the Tunisian Revolution and WikiLeaks Tell Us about American Support for Corrupt Dictatorships in the Muslim World
"Counterterrorism" has taken the place of "communist threat" as the catch-all excuse for supporting corrupt police states.
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1) Tens of thousands of people demanding an end to the nearly 30-year rule of President Mubarak filled the streets of several Egyptian cities on Tuesday, the New York Times reports. The government placed blame for the protests on the Muslim Brotherhood. But interviews with protesters reflected one of the government's deepest fears: that opposition to Mubarak's rule spreads across ideological lines and includes average people angered by corruption and economic hardship as well as secular and Islamist opponents, the Times says.
2) U.S. pressure on the Haitian government for it to overturn the results of the November 28 presidential election marks another "sad day for Haitian democracy" and such a move "will do nothing to fix an inherently flawed election," Mark Weisbrot says. In the past several days, the U.S. revoked the visas of several Haitian officials, threatened to deem Haiti's government illegitimate if the second round of elections was not announced by February 7, and implied that aid to Haiti could be cut if the government did not accept the results the US wanted. "As in the coups of 1991 and 2004, the United States and its allies are trying to reverse the results of an election and decide who can be president of Haiti," Weisbrot said. "It will do nothing to fix an inherently flawed election that excluded several parties, and had the lowest voter participation for a presidential election in the Western Hemisphere in over 60 years."
3) The Obama administration has made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, the Guardian reports. "The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority," assistant secretary of state David Welch told Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in November 2008. The Obama administration's determination to keep control of who runs the PA underlines the continuity of policy from the Bush years, the Guardian notes.
4) Some Israelis see a benefit for Israel in having a government in Lebanon led by Najib Miqati, a Sunni businessman who is Hezbollah's candidate, the New York Times reports. "If Hezbollah is behind the government," said former national security adviser Giora Eiland, "it will be much easier to explain to the international community why we must fight against the State of Lebanon."
5) U.S. military officials say investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, NBC reports. There is apparently no evidence Manning passed files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with Assange.
6) Peru said on Monday it had recognized a Palestinian state, joining seven other Latin American countries which have recently done so, Reuters reports. Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guyana have recently made similar announcements. Palestinian authorities are hoping for a diplomatic domino effect to back their claim for a state in all of the West Bank and Gaza, Reuters says.
7) Turkey released details on Monday of its report about the seizure last year of a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza by Israeli commandos, the New York Times reports. Turkey contends two of the activists killed on the ship were shot by Israeli forces from a helicopter before the commandos landed on the vessel. An Israeli commission concluded in a report released Sunday that the Israeli military had not fired any rounds from a helicopter. The Israeli report outraged the Turkish government, which responded by publishing details of the report it submitted in September to UN investigators.
8) .Secretary of State Clinton urged Mexico to stay the course in an admittedly "messy" war against drug cartels, saying Monday the Obama administration will help with new controls on the flow of US guns across the border, AP reports. More than 34,600 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico in the four years since President Calderon launched the offensive. Guns from the US are involved in much of the violence. Protesters greeted Clinton's arrival with chants and signs saying "No more U.S. guns." Clinton said the administration "was committed to doing what could be done" to require dealers near the Mexican border to report multiple purchases of high-powered rifles. The move is likely to face stiff opposition from US opponents of gun regulations, AP says.
9) US government investigators say more than $11 billion in U.S. funding to construct and maintain bases for Afghan security forces is at "risk of being wasted" because the military has no comprehensive plan for the program, the Washington Post reports.
10) A security force affiliated with Prime Minister Maliki's office is holding detainees in miserable conditions for months at a time without access to lawyers or families despite Maliki's pledge last year to rein in the unit, the Los Angeles Times reports. "It is inaccessible, and no one can go there," a senior diplomatic source said of the "Camp Honor" detention center. "Lawyers cannot get there. Families cannot go there." At least one informed Iraqi official and a senior diplomatic source say they have received new reports about the jail, including allegations of beatings and sexual violence.
1) Broad Protests Across Egypt Focus Fury on Mubarak
Kareem Fahim and Mona El-Naggar, New York Times, January 25, 2011
Cairo - Tens of thousands of people demanding an end to the nearly 30-year rule of President Hosni Mubarak filled the streets of several Egyptian cities on Tuesday, in an unusually large and sometimes violent burst of civil unrest that appeared to threaten the stability of one of the United States' closest Arab allies.
The protests, at least partly inspired by the toppling of the authoritarian government in Tunisia, began small but grew all day, with protesters occupying one of Cairo's central squares. Security forces, which normally prevent major public displays of dissent, initially struggled to suppress the demonstrations, allowing them to swell.
But early Wednesday morning, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades, the police finally drove groups of demonstrators from the square, as the sit-in was transformed into a spreading battle involving thousands of people and little restraint. Plainclothes officers beat several demonstrators, and protesters flipped over a police car and set it on fire.
Protests also flared in Alexandria, Suez, Mansura and Beni Suef. There were reports of three deaths and many injuries around the country.
Photographers in Alexandria caught people tearing up a large portrait of Mr. Mubarak. An Internet video of demonstrations in Mahalla el-Kubra showed the same, while a crowd snapped cellphone photos and cheered. The acts - rare, and bold here - underscored the anger coursing through the protests and the challenge they might pose to the aging and ailing Egyptian leader.
Several observers said the protests represented the largest display of popular dissatisfaction in recent memory, perhaps since 1977, when people across Egypt violently protested the elimination of subsidies for food and other basic goods.
The government quickly placed blame for the protests on Egypt's largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is tolerated but officially banned. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said the protests were the work of "instigators" led by the Muslim Brotherhood, while the movement declared that it had little to do with them.
The reality that emerged from interviews with protesters - many of whom said they were independents - was more complicated and reflected one of the government's deepest fears: that opposition to Mr. Mubarak's rule spreads across ideological lines and includes average people angered by corruption and economic hardship as well as secular and Islamist opponents. That broad support could make it harder for the government to co-opt or crush those demanding change.
"The big, grand ideological narratives were not seen today," said Amr Hamzawy, research director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. "This was not about 'Islam is the solution' or anything else."
Instead, the protests seemed to reflect a spreading unease with Mr. Mubarak on issues from extension of an emergency law that allows arrests without charge, to his presiding over a stagnant bureaucracy that citizens say is incapable of handling even basic responsibilities. Their size seemed to represent a breakthrough for opposition groups harassed by the government as they struggle to break Mr. Mubarak's monopoly on political life.
2) "Sad Day for Haitian Democracy" as U.S. Threatens to Cut Off Aid to Haiti in Order to Reverse its Election Results, CEPR Co-Director Says
Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 25, 2011
Washington, D.C.- Increasing U.S. pressure on the Haitian government for it to overturn the results of the November 28 presidential election marks another "sad day for Haitian democracy" and such a move "will do nothing to fix an inherently flawed election," the Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) said today. The international community, led by the U.S., France, and Canada, has been intensifying the pressure on the Haitian government to to allow presidential candidate Michel Martelly to proceed to the second round of elections instead of Jude Celestin. In the past several days the U.S. government revoked the visas of several Haitian officials close to President Préval, threatened to deem Haiti's government illegitimate if the second round of elections was not announced by February 7, and implied that aid to the desperately poor country could be cut if the government did not accept the results that it wanted.
"This is a sad day for Haitian democracy. As in the coups of 1991 and 2004, the United States and its allies are trying to reverse the results of an election and decide who can be president of Haiti," CEPR Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said. "It will do nothing to fix an inherently flawed election that excluded several parties, and had the lowest voter participation for a presidential election in the Western Hemisphere in over 60 years."
CEPR released two reports on Haiti's election this month, including what appears to be the only independent recount of the 11,181 vote tally sheets from the first round of elections. CEPR also released a statistical analysis of the report [PDF] from the Organization of American States (OAS) "Experts" Mission. The OAS Mission Report provided the pretext for international pressure on the Haitian government to overturn the initial count from the November 28 elections, which had placed Celestin slightly ahead of Martelly.
CEPR's analysis of the OAS report found it to be "methodologically and statistically flawed," and reaching what "appears to be a political, and not a professional, decision" that favored Martelly. CEPR's own count of the tally sheets concluded that "Based on the numbers of irregularities, it is impossible to determine who should advance to a second round. If there is a second round, it will be based on arbitrary assumptions and/or exclusions."
"This also reflects badly on the major media, which has mostly gone along with this travesty," Weisbrot added. "The OAS report on the Haitian election was a politically orchestrated farce, but most of the press have simply accepted it without even asking the most obvious questions."
CEPR's reports conclude that only new elections - including all legitimate political parties - can ensure the will of the Haitian electorate is validated. The U.S. has publicly opposed holding new elections. "We simply want the will of the Haitian people to be respected and we are certainly in favor of the continuation of the elections," U.S. Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Merten was reported as saying today.
The U.S. government is providing $14 million for Haiti's elections despite the Haitian electoral authorities' exclusion of over a dozen political parties, including the most popular, Fanmi Lavalas, and warnings from U.S. lawmakers that such unfair elections would "leave many Haitians to conclude that they have no choice but to protest the elections and the consequent government through social disruption."
3) US threat to Palestinians: change leadership and we cut funds
Obama administration told Palestinian Authority its leaders must remain in office if it wants to retain US financial backing
Seumas Milne and Ian Black, Guardian, Monday 24 January 2011 20.00 GMT
The Obama administration has privately made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, the leaked papers reveal, let alone any repetition of the Hamas election victory that briefly gave the Islamists control of the Palestinian Authority five years ago.
That is despite the fact that the democratic legitimacy of both the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, is strongly contested among Palestinians, and there are no plans for new elections in either the West Bank or Gaza.
"The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority," the then assistant secretary of state David Welch is recorded as telling Fayyad in November 2008. Most of the PA's funding comes from the US and European Union.
[The document is here:
Almost a year later, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reacted angrily to news that Abbas had threatened to resign and call for new presidential elections. She told Palestinian negotiators: "Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option - there is no alternative to him." The threat was withdrawn and no election was held.
The US consulate in Jerusalem reported to Washington in December 2009 that "despite all its warts and imperfections, Fatah remains the only viable alternative to Hamas if Palestinian elections occur in the near future," according to a cable released by Wikileaks.
The US government's private determination to use its financial and military leverage to keep the existing regime in place - while publicly continuing to maintain that Palestinians are free to choose their own leaders - echoes the Bush administration's veto on attempts to create a Palestinian national unity administration after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007.
The leaked documents quote General Keith Dayton, the US security co-ordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority who was in charge of building up PA security forces until last October.
"As much as President Bush thinks Abu Mazen is important," Dayton told them, "without Fayyad, the US will lift its hand from the PA and give up on Abu Mazen." Unlike Abbas, Fayyad - a US-trained economist who formerly worked for the World Bank and and the IMF - is not a member of the secular Fatah party.
Abbas was elected president in 2005, but his mandate expired in 2009 and is no longer recognised by Hamas, among others, as the legitimate Palestinian leader. Fayyad was appointed prime minister by Abbas after the Hamas takeover of Gaza but his legitimacy is also strongly contested as his appointment was never confirmed as required by the PA's parliament.
The Obama administration's determination to keep control of who runs the PA underlines the continuity of policy from the Bush years. In the runup to the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, the then US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was revealed in leaked US official documents to have as good as instructed Abbas to "collapse" the then joint Fatah-Hamas national unity government.
4) A Hezbollah-Run Lebanon, but No Panic in Israel
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, January 24, 2011
Jerusalem - For Israel, the prospect of a government in Lebanon backed by Hezbollah, one of Israel's worst enemies, seemed to be the realization of a nightmare. Yet some analysts here said it was not necessarily an immediate cause for alarm.
The previous Beirut government, led by Saad Hariri, "never did anything against Hezbollah," said Prof. Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria and Lebanon at Tel Aviv University. "So from Israel's perspective, it is a semantic change."
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said the situation proved that "the Hezbollization of Lebanon" was continuing, and worrying. "But it is not like they will start shooting at us tomorrow," he added. "They are busy now with internal affairs."
Israeli officials said they were closely following the developments across the northern border, which they said attested to Hezbollah's growing strength.
"We are concerned about Iranian domination of Lebanon through its proxy, Hezbollah," said an Israeli official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation in Beirut was not yet clear. The idea of a Hezbollah-backed government raised all sorts of questions, he added, including that of Lebanon's commitment to United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended Israel's 2006 war against Hezbollah and underpins the four-year-old cease-fire.
The Israeli official said Israel was interested in maintaining quiet. "We are not going to give the other side any excuse whatsoever to initiate an escalation along the border," he said.
Some Israelis even see a potential benefit in having a government in Lebanon led by Najib Miqati, a Sunni businessman who is Hezbollah's candidate.
Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli Army general and a former national security adviser, has long argued that to win the next war, Israel has to fight not only against Hezbollah, but also against the infrastructure of its host, the State of Lebanon.
"If Hezbollah is behind the government," said Mr. Eiland, now a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, "it will be much easier to explain to the international community why we must fight against the State of Lebanon."
5) U.S. can't link accused Army private to Assange
Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, 1/24/2011 7:55:01 PM ET
U.S. military officials tell NBC News that investigators have been unable to make any direct connection between a jailed army private suspected with leaking secret documents and Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.
The officials say that while investigators have determined that Manning had allegedly unlawfully downloaded tens of thousands of documents onto his own computer and passed them to an unauthorized person, there is apparently no evidence he passed the files directly to Assange, or had any direct contact with the controversial WikiLeaks figure.
6) Peru formally recognizes Palestinian state
Eight South American countries have now extended full diplomatic recognition to the Palestinians, irking Israel and the U.S.
Peru said on Monday it had recognized a Palestinian state, joining a growing number of Latin American countries in making an endorsement the United States has called premature.
Israel has warned that declarations by Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, Ecuador and Guyana could undermine the Middle East peace process.
Peruvian Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde did not specify if Peru recognized the Palestine state along borders that existed before 1967. "Palestine is recognized as a free and sovereign state," he said on RPP radio.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas thanked Brazil several weeks ago for allowing his nation to open its first embassy in the Americas and said other countries were following suit.
Palestinian authorities are hoping for a diplomatic domino effect to back their claim for a state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
7) Turkey Says Israelis Used Excess Force in Flotilla Raid
Sebnem Arsu, New York Times, January 24, 2011
Istanbul - Turkey released details on Monday of its own report about the seizure last year of a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza by Israeli commandos. The government contended that two of the activists who were killed on the ship had been shot by Israeli forces from a helicopter before the commandos landed on the vessel.
"During the attack, Israeli soldiers have applied excessive, random and disproportionate power against civilian passengers," said the report, parts of which were published on Monday by the semi-official Anatolian News Agency.
An Israeli commission concluded in a report released Sunday that the Israeli military had acted in accordance with international law. The report, which will form the core of Israel's submission to United Nations investigators, cleared the Israeli government and military of wrongdoing and said the operation had been legal and justified.
It concluded that the Israeli military had not fired any rounds from a helicopter and that the commandos had resorted to guns only after other, less lethal weapons failed to drive back passengers who attacked them as they boarded the ship.
The Israeli report outraged the Turkish government, which responded by publishing details of the report it submitted in September to the United Nations investigators.
"While it had the possibility of intercepting the convoy carrying unarmed civilians without causing bloodshed, Israel opted for a course which made loss of life inevitable," Turkey's Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Sunday night.
President Abdullah Gul of Turkey told reporters in Ankara on Monday: "The report issued by Israel is nothing more than a document of its own that has no credibility in the face of international law, no legality or no persuasiveness. It actually clearly indicates that the Israeli government has such a spoiled attitude in disregarding the world and international law."
8) Clinton supports Mexico in 'messy' drug war
Bradley Klapper, Associated Press, Monday, January 24, 2011; 9:09 PM
Guanajuato, Mexico - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Mexico to stay the course in an admittedly "messy" war against drug cartels, saying Monday that the Obama administration will help with new controls on the flow of American guns across the border.
Clinton gave strong support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon's battle against the country's entrenched drug trafficking organizations. And she offered continued U.S. assistance from policing to improving Mexico's judicial system.
More than 34,600 people have died in drug-related killings in Mexico in the four years since Calderon launched the offensive against the cartels. The death toll spiked 60 percent last year.
Clinton has been frank about the shared American responsibility for the drug problem. Stubbornly high U.S. demand drives the trade, and firearms smuggled from the United States are involved in much of the violence, an issue reinforced by a small group of protesters who greeted Clinton's arrival with chants and signs saying "No more U.S. guns."
Toeing a sensitive line meant to address Mexico's concerns while avoiding a fight with firearms supporters in the United States, Clinton said the administration "was committed to doing what could be done" to require dealers near the Mexican border to report multiple purchases of high-powered rifles, which have become the weapon of choice for cartels.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives asked the White House for the requirement last month, and the move is likely to face stiff opposition from gun rights advocates. Clinton said the bureau should have "additional tools" shortly, but said officials were working to ensure that any regulation "isn't challenged and it is sustainable."
9) Millions in Afghan base construction funding at risk
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, Monday, January 24, 2011; 7:50 PM
More than $11 billion in U.S. funding to construct and maintain bases for rapidly expanding Afghan security forces is at "risk of being wasted" because the military has no comprehensive plan for the program, according to government investigators.
Only about one-quarter of the nearly 900 construction projects scheduled for completion by the end of fiscal 2012 has even been started, Arnold Field, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, or SIGAR, said in testimony Monday.
In testimony to the Wartime Contracting Commission, Field also noted that U.S. plans envision international responsibility for sustaining the Afghan forces, who are now paid with donor funds, through 2025.
10) Alleged abuse at Iraqi detention center prompts oversight concerns
Detainees are reportedly held without trial and are subject to abuse at a Green Zone jail run by an elite unit that falls under Prime Minister Maliki's office. Promises of reform have not been met, even as he appears to consolidate more power.
Ned Parker, Los Angeles Times, 8:09 PM PST, January 23, 2011
Baghdad - An elite security force affiliated with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's office is holding detainees in miserable conditions for months at a time without access to lawyers or families despite Maliki's pledge last year to rein in the unit, Iraqi officials and diplomatic sources say.
Some detainees at the center, in a sprawling Defense Ministry compound in Baghdad's Green Zone, have been held for up to two years, according to the sources, who said that restricted access has prevented them from investigating allegations of beatings and other violence. Iraqi officials said efforts to aggressively monitor the facility appeared to have ended.
"It is inaccessible, and no one can go there," said one senior diplomatic source. "Lawyers cannot get there. Families cannot go there."
The facility, formally known as Camp Honor, is run by the Baghdad Brigade and the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism bureau.
Maliki acknowledged [in April] that there could have been some abuse at Camp Honor, but said that his office and the Human Rights Ministry were cracking down.
However, at least one informed Iraqi official and a senior diplomatic source say they have received new reports about the jail, including allegations of beatings and sexual violence.
"Conditions are quite poor. There have been allegations of abuse," said the senior diplomatic source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
A former U.S. official and onetime Iraqi lawmakers who toured the jail in the past describe it as a prefabricated hangar of 36 cells that reeked of human waste. The windowless cells designed to hold one person were regularly jammed with at least six, they said. According to two men who were held there last spring, detainees were allowed outdoors every other day for 30 minutes, and most suffered from skin rashes.
The ex-U.S. official said he had seen many prisoners with bruises and black eyes. If there was no space, or the guards wanted to hide them, some detainees were kept in a second building, the former official said. The senior diplomatic source and two Iraqi officials said they believe such practices were continuing.
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