JFP 1/28: ElBaradei Calls Out US on Support of Mubarak
Just Foreign Policy News
January 28, 2011
Mohamed ElBaradei: 'If Not Now, When?'
Egyptian democracy leader calls out US officials for their weak statements on the crackdown.
Hillary Could Do More to Stay Pharaoh's Hand
The US is not doing all it can to protect Egyptians from a regime that the US has helped create and given billions in military aid.
Urge Obama to Support UN resolution on Israeli settlement expansion
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.
Channel 4 video: Israeli soldiers express remorse for Gaza
13 minute documentary by Israeli filmmaker Nurit Kedar has drawn death threats against the filmmaker, the New York Times reported.
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1) Egyptian democracy campaigner and former IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei called out Western leaders this morning for their failure to speak out strongly against repression of protesters by the Mubarak government, the Guardian reports. "The international community must understand we are being denied every human right day by day," he said. "Egypt today is one big prison…If the west is not going to speak out now, then when?"
2) Secretary of State Clinton called on Friday for the Egyptian government to "restrain the security forces" confronting street protesters, and said "reform is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt," the New York Times reports. Her remarks were the Obama administration's firmest statement so far, the Times says. She called on President Mubarak to open "a dialogue between the government and people of Egypt," and said "the deep grievances within Egyptian society" will not be erased by a crackdown.
Clinton also urged the government "to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications," referring to its decision - apparently unprecedented - to cut off all Internet services in the country. On Thursday, Vice President Biden said he did not consider Mubarak a dictator. He said the Egyptian government should respond to demands that are "legitimate," bringing criticism from those who said he was calling into question the legitimacy of the broader protests.
3) Protesters in Egypt have demanded that Mubarak step down, that he dissolve parliament and hold free and fair elections, and that there be an end to corruption, the New York Times reports. Over the years, Egyptians have demonstrated or complained publicly over multiple issues, including: an "Emergency Law" that allows police to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, and limit freedom of expression and assembly; torture; low wages; rigged elections; poverty; and the failure of the Egyptian government to promote the interests of the Palestinians.
4) Washington sees the various local and national conflicts in the Middle East as part of a battle for regional hegemony between the U.S. and Iran, writes Stephen Kinzer in Newsweek. According to this framework, the U.S. is losing, because it has stubbornly held onto Middle East policies shaped for the Cold War. The U.S. keeps Mubarak in power mainly because he supports US policies towards Israel-Palestine, especially by helping Israel maintain its stranglehold on Gaza. Even if democratic regimes in the Middle East are not fundamentalist, they will firmly oppose U.S. policy toward Israel, Kinzer notes. Accepting that Arabs have the right to elect their own leaders means accepting the rise of governments that will not support US policy towards Israel.
5) The prospect of change in Egypt inevitably raises questions about the oldest and strongest opposition movement in the country, the Muslim Brotherhood, writes former CIA agent Bruce Riedel in The Daily Beast. Can the US work with an Egyptian government that includes the Brotherhood? The short answer is that this is the call of the Egyptian people, not the US. US officials should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won't be easy but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy. We need not demonize it nor endorse it.
6) Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair of House Foreign Affairs, Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Howard Berman; and Gary Ackerman, among others, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to pledge to veto a pending UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel, the committee's website reports. [Spectacularly, the letter never mentions that Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is the underlying issue in dispute - JFP.]
7) The German Parliament voted Friday to begin withdrawing the 4,900 soldiers serving in Afghanistan by the end of this year and to complete the withdrawal by 2014, the first time Germany has set a time frame for bringing troops home, the New York Times reports. Germany has the third-largest contingent. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, leader of the Social Democrats, hinted that if Chancellor Merkel did not stick to the deadline, his party might vote against an extension of the next mandate.
8) Afghan justice and security officials want to adopt the U.S. practice of detaining suspected insurgents indefinitely without trial, the Washington Post reports. The Afghans' embrace of prolonged detention could provoke an angry reaction from human rights advocates who say that low-level insurgents and sympathizers have been swept into an opaque system that allows only limited opportunities for adjudication and redress, the Post notes.
9) Haiti's President Préval and his party, bowing to pressure from the US, which has threatened to cut US aid to Haiti, have begun to encourage their candidate for the coming presidential runoff to drop out, the New York Times reports. But the candidate, Jude Célestin, gave no indication that he would follow the request, and on Wednesday, his lawyers filed another petition to election officials elaborating on the reasons he believed he had won a spot in the runoff. Célestin is the only person who can end his candidacy before a ruling by Haiti's electoral council. It is expected to announce by Feb. 7 which of the candidates will compete in the runoff.
10) A U.S. diplomat is facing murder charges in Pakistan, the Washington Post reports. The case has generated enormous media coverage in Pakistan. The deaths are being widely depicted as an illustration of Americans' disregard for ordinary Pakistanis and as a test case of the unpopular central government's capacity to stand up to its U.S. sponsors. Many Pakistani reports have questioned why the U.S. consular employee was armed.
11) Tunisia's interim government on Thursday purged almost all the cabinet ministers left over from the government of ousted dictator Ben Ali, bowing to street protests, the New York Times reports. Many protesters welcomed the change.
12) Bolivia's U.N. ambassador said Bolivia will ask the UN to organize a conference on coca leaf-chewing if the U.S., Britain and Sweden don't withdraw their objections to the country's efforts to drop the ban on the practice in an international treaty, AP reports. Ambassador Pablo Solon said six countries had filed formal objections to Bolivia's move to lift the ban on leaf-chewing but three - Colombia, Macedonia and Egypt - withdrew them. The Washington Office on Latin America and the Andean Information Network wrote Secretary of State Clinton this week asking the Obama administration to drop its objection to lifting the ban, which they say is a legacy of colonialism.
1) Egyptian government on last legs, says ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei says he is sending a message 'to the Guardian and to the world'
Jack Shenker in Cairo and Haroon Siddique, Guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 January 2011 09.47 GMT
The Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei warned President Hosni Mubarak today that his regime is on its last legs, as tens of thousands of people prepared to take to the streets for a fourth day of anti-government protests.
In an apparent bid to scupper the protests, the Egyptian authorities have cut off almost all access to the internet from inside and outside the country. ElBaradei said the move was proof the government was in "a state of panic".
"Egypt today is in a pre-information age," he said. "The Egyptians are in solitary confinement - that's how unstable and uncomfortable the regime is. Being able to communicate is the first of our human rights and it's being taken away from us. I haven't seen this in any other country before."
ElBaradei has already criticised the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, for describing the Egyptian government as stable and he stepped up his calls for the rest of the world to explicitly condemn Mubarak, who is a close ally of the US.
"The international community must understand we are being denied every human right day by day," he said. "Egypt today is one big prison. If the international community does not speak out it will have a lot of implications. We are fighting for universal values here. If the west is not going to speak out now, then when?"
2) Clinton Calls for 'Restraint' and 'Reform'
Mark Landler, New York Times, January 28, 2011
Washington - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called on Friday for the Egyptian government to "restrain the security forces" that are confronting street protesters, and said that "reform is absolutely critical to the well-being of Egypt." Her remarks were the Obama administration's firmest statement so far on the mushrooming street protests in Egypt.
Reading from a written statement outside her office, moments before the sound of gunfire broke out in the streets of Cairo, Mrs. Clinton said that the Egyptian authorities should not "rush to impose very strict measures that would be violent." She called on President Hosni Mubarak to open "a dialogue between the government and people of Egypt," and said that "the deep grievances within Egyptian society" will not be erased by a crackdown.
With events in Egypt unfolding at a furious pace, Mrs. Clinton's statement toughened the administration's line, after two days in which senior officials have struggled to balance their longstanding alliance with Mr. Mubarak with a desire to support the democratic aspirations of his restive people.
Mrs. Clinton said that the future of Egypt was up to the Egyptian people, which seemed to open the door to political change. "There is a constant concern for the need of greater openness, greater participation, particularly on the part of young people," she said, noting that she had raised this issue two weeks ago in Qatar, where she bluntly warned Arab leaders to reform their societies.
In her statement, Mrs. Clinton reiterated that Egypt was a partner of the United States in strategic and regional issues. But she said, "as a partner, we strongly believe that the Egyptian government needs to engage immediately with the Egyptian people in implementing needed economic, political and social reforms."
Mrs. Clinton also urged the government "to reverse the unprecedented steps it has taken to cut off communications," referring to its decision - apparently unprecedented - to cut off all Internet services in the country, as well as mobile phone networks in some areas.
On Thursday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said he did not consider Mr. Mubarak a dictator, and stopped short of calling on him to step down. He said the Egyptian government should respond to demands that are "legitimate," bringing criticism from those who said he was calling into question the legitimacy of the broader protests.
Earlier on Thursday, President Obama offered a carefully balanced response in a town-hall interview, saying that Mr. Mubarak was a valued partner, but that he had told Mr. Mubarak of the need for reform.
3) Egyptians' Fury Has Smoldered Beneath the Surface for Decades
Michael Slackman, New York Times, January 28, 2011
Events in Tunisia may have inspired the largest street protests ever to challenge President Hosni Mubarak's nearly three decades in power. But the anger fueling those protests is not new. It has been seething beneath the surface for many years, exploding at times, but never before in such widespread, sustained fury.
The protesters have demanded that Mr. Mubarak step down, that he dissolve parliament and hold free and fair elections, and that there be an end to corruption, demands flowing from years of pent-up frustration, Egyptians said.
Over the years, Egyptians have demonstrated or complained publicly over multiple issues. These include:
The government has maintained what it calls an Emergency Law, passed first in 1981 to combat terrorism after former President Anwar el-Sadat was assassinated. The law allows police to arrest people without charge, detain prisoners indefinitely, limit freedom of expression and assembly, and maintain a special security court. Last year the government promised that it would only use the law to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, but terrorism was defined so broadly as to render that promise largely meaningless, according to human rights activists and political prisoners.
The Egyptian police have a long and notorious track record of torture and cruelty to average citizens. One case that drew widespread international condemnation involved a cellphone video of the police sodomizing a driver with a broomstick. In June 2010, Alexandria erupted in protests over the fatal beating by police of beating Khaled Said, 28. The authorities said he died choking on a clump of marijuana, until a photograph emerged of his bloodied face. Just last month, a suspect being questioned in connection with a bombing was beaten to death while in police custody.
Nearly every day last year, workers of nearly every sector staged protests, chanting demands outside Parliament during daylight and laying out bedrolls along the pavement at night. The government and its allies have been unable to silence the workers, who are angry about a range of issues, including low salaries. From 2004 to 2008 alone, about 1.7 million workers have engaged in 1,900 strikes and other forms of protest, demanding everything from wage increases to job security in state-owned industries that were privatized.
President Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party has held a monopoly on power for decades, but allowed token opposition to exist in the form of small opposition parties and blocs in parliament. But the parliamentary elections staged last November were widely seen as fixed when Mr. Mubarak's party claimed to win about 500 of the 518 seats. The president's party allies insisted the election was free and fair, but the loss of nearly all opposition seats - including independents aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood - closed off the one institutional outlet for challenging the government.
In local council elections in 2008 there were 52,000 open seats. Government decisions to disqualify candidates meant that 43,600 seats were uncontested and awarded to the ruling party. Out of a total of 51,546 seats, the ruling party won 99.13 percent. In midterm elections for one-third of the Shura Council, the upper house of Parliament, held in 2007, the first elections to be held after the constitutional amendments removed judges from supervising the electoral process. A total of 88 seats were open. The results: 84 seats for the ruling N.D.P., 1 seat for Tagammu, a small opposition party, and 3 seats for N.D.P. members who ran as independent candidates.
Egypt's economic policies have won it plaudits in the last few years for expanding the economy and attracting foreign investment. Indeed, there is more money flowing into Cairo - which has exacerbated growing tensions between the majority, which is poor, and the minority, which has grown increasingly wealthy. Nearly half of all Egyptians live on $2 a day, or less. Last spring, the United Nations' Children's Fund reported that the number of children living in poor households was increasing. The report said that despite the economic growth, which took place before the global economic crisis, by 2009, "the number of poor households with children exceeded 1996 levels." The report added that 23 percent of children under the age of 15 years in Egypt were living in poverty. In Upper Egypt, the report said that 45.3 percent of the children were living in poverty.
Egyptians accepted peace with Israel - while never losing the view that Israel remained the enemy - because they were promised a so-called peace dividend of economic growth. They were also told that Egypt's peace treaty would give it a seat at the negotiating table to help promote the interest of Palestinians. In both cases, they largely feel betrayed.
4) Egypt Protests Show American Foreign-Policy Folly
Stephen Kinzer, Newsweek, January 28, 2011
While popular uprisings erupt across the Middle East, America stands on the sidelines. Stephen Kinzer on why the U.S. should abandon its self-defeating strategy in the region.
The Middle East is erupting-and the U.S. is watching from the sidelines. Unable to guide the course of events, it can do little more than cheer for its sclerotic allies and hope that popular anger does not sweep them aside.
Washington sees the various local and national conflicts in the Middle East as part of a battle for regional hegemony between the U.S. and Iran. If this is true, the U.S. is losing. That is because it has stubbornly held onto Middle East policies that were shaped for the Cold War. The security environment in the region has changed dramatically since then. Iran has shown itself agile enough to align itself with rising new forces that enjoy the support of millions. The U.S., meanwhile, remains allied with countries and forces that looked strong 30 or 40 years ago but no longer are.
Iran is betting on Hizbullah, Hamas, and Shiite parties in Iraq. These are popular forces that win elections. Hizbullah emerged as the heroic champion of resistance to Israel's 2006 invasion of Lebanon, winning the admiration of Arabs, not only for itself but also for its Iranian backers. Many Arabs also admire Hamas for its refusal to bow to Israeli power in Gaza.
Pro-Iran forces have also scored major gains in Iraq. They effectively control the Iraqi government, and their most incendiary leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, recently returned to a hero's welcome after an extended stay in Iran. By invading Iraq in 2003, and removing Saddam Hussein from power, the U.S. handed Iraq to Iran on a platter. Now Iran is completing the consolidation of its position in Baghdad.
Whom does America bet on to counter these rising forces? The same friends it has been betting on for decades: Mubarak's pharaonic regime in Egypt, Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority, the Saudi monarchy, and increasingly radical politicians in Israel. It is no wonder that Iran's power is rising as the American-imposed order begins to crumble.
The U.S. keeps Mubarak in power-it gave his regime $1.5 billion in aid last year-mainly because he supports America's pro-Israel policies, especially by helping Israel maintain its stranglehold on Gaza. It supports Abbas for the same reason: he is seen as willing to compromise with Israel, and therefore a desirable negotiating partner. This was confirmed, to Abbas's great embarrassment, by WikiLeaks cables that show how eager he has been to meet Israeli demands, even collaborating with Israeli security forces to arrest Palestinians he dislikes. American support for Mubarak and Abbas continues, although neither man is in power with any figment of legality; Mubarak brazenly stage-manages elections, and Abbas has ruled by decree since his term of office expired in 2009.
Even if democratic regimes in the Middle East are not fundamentalist, however, they will firmly oppose U.S. policy toward Israel. The intimate U.S.-Israel relationship guarantees that many Muslims around the world will continue to see the U.S. as an enabler of evil. Despite America's sins in the Middle East, however, many Muslims still admire the U.S. They see its leaders as profoundly mistaken in their unconditional support of Israel, but envy what the U.S. has accomplished and want some version of American freedom and prosperity for themselves. This suggests that it is not too late for the U.S. to reset its policy toward the region in ways that would take new realities into account.
Accepting that Arabs have the right to elect their own leaders means accepting the rise of governments that do not share America's pro-Israel militancy. This is the dilemma Washington now faces. Never has it been clearer that the U.S. needs to reassess its long-term Middle East strategy. It needs new approaches and new partners. Listening more closely to Turkey, the closest U.S. ally in the Muslim Middle East, would be a good start.
A wise second step would be a reversal of policy toward Iran, from confrontation to a genuine search for compromise. Yet pathologies in American politics, fed by emotions that prevent cool assessment of national interest, continue to paralyze the U.S. diplomatic imagination. Even this month's eruptions may not be enough to rouse Washington from its self-defeating slumber.
5) Don't Fear Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood
The secretive Islamic opposition group has long renounced violence and may be the most reasonable option. Bruce Riedel on why Obama shouldn't panic-and should let Egyptians decide their fate.
Bruce Riedel, January 27, 2011
[Riedel, a former CIA officer, is a senior fellow in the Saban Center at Brookings.]
New York - The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia has sent a shock wave through the Arab world. Never before has the street toppled a dictator. Now Egypt is shaking, Hosni Mubarak's 30-year-old regime faces its most serious threat ever. The prospect of change in Egypt inevitably raises questions about the oldest and strongest opposition movement in the country, the Muslim Brotherhood, also known as Ikhwan. Can America work with an Egypt where the Ikhwan is part of a transition or even a new government?
The short answer is it is not our decision to make. Egyptians will decide the outcome, not Washington. We should not try to pick Egyptians' rulers. Every time we have done so, from Vietnam's generals to Afghanistan's Hamid Karzai, we have had buyer's remorse. But our interests are very much involved so we have a great stake in the outcome. Understanding the Brotherhood is vital to understanding our options.
The Muslim Brethren was founded in 1928 by Shaykh Hassan al Banna as an Islamic alternative to weak secular nationalist parties that failed to secure Egypt's freedom from British colonialism after World War I. Banna preached a fundamentalist Islamism and advocated the creation of an Islamic Egypt, but he was also open to importing techniques of political organization and propaganda from Europe that rapidly made the Brotherhood a fixture in Egyptian politics. Branches of the Brotherhood grew across the Arab world. By World War 2, it became more violent in its opposition to the British and the British-dominated monarchy, sponsoring assassinations and mass violence. After the army seized power in 1952, it briefly flirted with supporting Gamal Abdel Nasser's government but then moved into opposition. Nasser ruthlessly suppressed it.
Nasser and his successors, Anwar Sadat and Mubarak, have alternatively repressed and demonized the Brotherhood or tolerated it as an anti-communist and right-wing opposition. Technically illegal, it has an enormous social-welfare infrastructure that provides cheap education and health care. In Egypt's unfair elections, it is always the only opposition that does well even against the heavily rigged odds.
The Egyptian Brotherhood renounced violence years ago, but its relative moderation has made it the target of extreme vilification by more radical Islamists. Al Qaeda's leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman Zawahiri, started their political lives affiliated with the Brotherhood but both have denounced it for decades as too soft and a cat's paw of Mubarak and America.
Egypt's new opposition leader, former International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohamed ElBaradei, has formed a loose alliance with the Brotherhood because he knows it is the only opposition group that can mobilize masses of Egyptians, especially the poor. He says he can work with it to change Egypt. Many scholars of political Islam also judge the Brotherhood is the most reasonable face of Islamic politics in the Arab world today.
The most problematic issue between the Ikhwan and America will be Israel. The Brotherhood raised an army to fight Israel in its war of independence in 1948. Its Palestinian branch was the nucleus for Hamas, and the Brotherhood retains links to the rulers of Gaza. The Ikhwan's leaders understand the peace treaty with Israel is the cornerstone of modern Egyptian foreign policy and underwrites America's $2 billion annual aid as well as the lucrative tourist trade, but they are very critical of Israel, its leader, and policies. Their base is fundamentally opposed to any Egyptian cooperation with Israel.
The crisis in North Africa has come up unexpectedly for President Obama and Secretary Clinton. They have moved quickly to grasp the challenge. They know the stakes and the delicacy of our options. Neither complacency nor panic is the right American response.
They should not be afraid of the Muslim Brotherhood. Living with it won't be easy but it should not be seen as inevitably our enemy. We need not demonize it nor endorse it. In any case, Egyptians now will decide their fate and the role they want the Ikhwan to play in their future.
6) Ros-Lehtinen, Cantor, Other Senior Members of Congress Send Bipartisan Letter Asking President to Pledge Veto of Anti-Israel UN Resolution
House Foreign Affairs Committee, Thursday, January 27, 2011
Washington - U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and five fellow senior Members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter today to the President, requesting that the Administration take a number of steps to advance security and peace between Israel and the Palestinians, including to pledge to veto a pending United Nations Security Council resolution that condemns Israel. The letter also calls on the President to hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for their actions that undermine opportunities for peace and security. In addition to Ros-Lehtinen, the letter was signed by: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor; House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer; Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard L. Berman; and U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot and Gary L. Ackerman, the Chairman-designate and Ranking Member-designate, respectively, of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.
[Text of the letter at link - JFP.]
7) Berlin Sets a Time Frame for Afghan Withdrawal
Judy Dempsey, New York Times, January 28, 2011
Berlin - With the public increasingly opposed to the war in Afghanistan, the German Parliament voted Friday to begin withdrawing the 4,900 soldiers serving there by the end of this year and to complete the withdrawal by 2014, the first time Germany has set a time frame for bringing troops home.
The United States has already concluded that American forces could begin withdrawing in July of this year. And Britain, which has 9,000 troops in Afghanistan, the second-largest number of troops after the United States, said last month it was "possible" that its troops could start leaving this year.
Germany has the third-largest contingent. The move Friday came during a vote, required annually, to extend the German mission for another 12 months. The mandate won overwhelmingly, with 420 lawmakers voting in its favor, 116 against and 43 abstentions.
The decision means that Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right coalition government is now committed to beginning the pullout this year - a demand made by the opposition Social Democrats.
The pullout is to be completed by 2014, when NATO hopes to complete the handover of security to Afghan forces. NATO has more than 150,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, leader of the Social Democrats, hinted in interviews Friday morning before the vote that if Mrs. Merkel did not stick to the deadline, his party might vote against an extension of the next mandate. Opposition lawmakers said the wording was not firm enough.
That is why the opposition Green Party, which had agreed in the first place to send troops to Afghanistan back in 2001 when it was in coalition with the Social Democrats, abstained from the vote. Claudia Roth, co-leader of the Greens, said the government's strategy was "dangerously false" because it was not clear when the withdrawal would take place in practice.
8) Afghan officials want to prolong detentions
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, Wednesday, January 26, 2011; 6:55 PM
Afghan justice and security officials want to adopt the U.S. practice of detaining suspected insurgents indefinitely without trial, according to senior U.S. and Afghan officials involved in efforts to have the government in Kabul take control of detention operations in the country.
The Afghans' embrace of prolonged detention could provoke an angry reaction from human rights advocates who say that low-level insurgents and sympathizers have been swept into an opaque system that allows only limited opportunities for adjudication and redress.
An Afghan-run system of detention without trial has yet to be approved by President Hamid Karzai, who has complained repeatedly about the U.S. policy of holding his citizens for years without civilian legal review. But senior officials of his government have voiced support for the move to achieve what they regard as an even more important goal: taking charge of detentions from the U.S.-led NATO coalition.
"Everyone should be put through a legal process, but on a case-by-case basis, there can be room" to allow for detention without trial, said a senior Afghan official close to Karzai.
Afghan officials have told U.S. military officers and diplomats in Kabul that they want to make modest changes to the system that include holding more frequent reviews of each prisoner's case and possibly placing a five-year limit on detentions without trial. U.S. military officials currently review the cases of detainees every six months.
The willingness to continue security detentions could upset some Afghans, who view the practice as an extension of extrajudicial measures employed during the Soviet occupation and under Taliban rule, but Karzai government officials are hoping that the ability to take control of the process, which will allow Afghans to vet fellow Afghans, will assuage those concerns.
There are about 1,400 detainees at a large, U.S.-run detention facility in Parwan province whose arrests have not involved Afghans, the senior American official said.
9) Haiti's President Urges His Candidate to Drop Out, Officials Say
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, January 27, 2011
Port-au-Prince, Haiti - President René Préval and his party, bowing to pressure from regional leaders, including the United States, have begun to encourage their candidate for the coming presidential runoff to drop out, according to party officials.
But the candidate, Jude Célestin, gave no indication that he would follow the request, and on Wednesday, his lawyers filed another petition to election officials elaborating on the reasons he believed he had won a spot in the runoff.
Haiti has been riveted in recent days by the mounting pressure on Mr. Célestin to withdraw as a way to end the stalemate that threatens to ignite more political unrest and block billions of dollars in international assistance.
Mr. Célestin's position became especially precarious after the Organization of American States issued findings that he had come in third in the first round of voting, which would disqualify him from the runoff.
Mr. Préval had picked Mr. Célestin, an engineer with little political experience, to succeed him and has resisted the O.A.S. findings for weeks.
But after senior Obama administration officials made it clear that Washington would withhold more than $1 billion in aid from Haiti unless there was an election the United States deems credible, Mr. Préval reversed course, according to party officials and an analyst close to him. [This is a misleading summary of the US position to the uninitiated; the US threat was tied to an outcome more specific than "an election the US deems credible" - the threat was tied to the outcome of a second round based on implementing the OAS team recommendations in the first round, rather than, for example, a completely new and clean election, which most people might think would reasonably meet the standard of "deems credible" - JFP.]
The stalemate arose after the first round of voting in November. Haitian and international monitors acknowledged that the election was rife with fraud. The Haitian government's results - which found that a former first lady, Mirlande Manigat, and Mr. Célestin had won the right to compete in a second round - were widely considered suspect.
The O.A.S., which was called in to conduct a review of the results, found that a popular musician, Michel Martelly, narrowly beat Mr. Célestin.
Some here question those results, saying that the conclusion was part of an effort by the United States, France and Canada to guarantee that Mr. Préval would no longer be able to wield any influence over Haiti's highest office.
The governing party's support for Mr. Célestin began to crumble not only over American threats to withhold aid, but also after the United States revoked the visas of several electoral officials close to the candidate.
Mr. Célestin is the only person who can end his candidacy before a ruling by Haiti's electoral council. It is expected to announce by Feb. 7 which of the candidates will compete in the runoff.
"I think he's trying to teach the country a lesson," said one senior international election monitor, referring to Mr. Célestin. "There is a process in place to determine which candidates have won enough votes to go to the runoff."
"If anyone is going to appear to cave to the will of the United States," the official said, "Célestin doesn't want it to be him."
10) American diplomat faces murder charges in Pakistan
Karin Brulliard and Aoun Sahi, Washington Post, Friday, January 28, 2011; 12:51 PM
Islamabad, Pakistan - A U.S. official appeared in court Friday in the eastern city of Lahore, facing potential murder charges in the fatal shooting of two Pakistani men whom he said he had killed in self-defense.
The official, an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, told the court that he shot the two men Thursday afternoon as they tried to rob him while he waited at a busy intersection in his car. A second consular vehicle that he summoned for help struck and killed a motorcyclist as it sped to the scene, police said.
A judge ordered the official held in custody for six days for further questioning.
The incident has generated enormous media coverage in Pakistan and threatened to strain U.S. relations with the fervently anti-American country, a key ally and recipient of U.S. assistance. The deaths are being widely depicted as an illustration of Americans' disregard for ordinary Pakistanis and as a test case of the unpopular central government's capacity to stand up to its U.S. sponsors.
Pakistani officials insisted Friday that the American, whom Pakistani authorities identified as Raymond Davis, would receive no special treatment. Rana Sanaullah, the law minister for Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, told reporters that Davis also faces a charge of illegal weapons possession and that "VIP protocol" would not be followed in the case.
"No one will be allowed to breach the law in Pakistan," Interior Minister Rehman Malik told legislators. "The law will take its due course."
A police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case, told The Washington Post on Friday that an autopsy showed both victims had been shot multiple times, including in the back.
Many Pakistani reports have questioned why the U.S. consular employee, who, according to some local press accounts, told Pakistani authorities he was a "technical adviser" at the consulate, was armed.
Many Western diplomats travel with security details in Pakistan, where robberies are fairly common and Islamist militants stage regular bombings and kidnappings. But the use of convoys by embassies and the question of whether diplomats should be permitted to carry weapons have been sources of controversy in recent years.
Sanaullah also said that said the U.S. Consulate in Lahore had agreed to a police request to turn the driver of the second vehicle over to police.
Demonstrators burned American flags at small anti-U.S. protests in several Pakistani cities Friday. Relatives of Fahim Hussain, one of the men Davis allegedly shot, stopped traffic in their Lahore neighborhood and placed Hussain's body on the street, where they gathered to demand justice. "We will not allow the government to sell the blood of our son," said the victim's father, Shamsad Hussain, 55. "The killer should be hanged."
11) Most Members of Old Cabinet in Tunisia Step Down
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, January 27, 2011
Tunis - Tunisia's interim government on Thursday purged almost all the cabinet ministers left over from the government of the ousted dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, bowing to two weeks of mounting street protests against the cabinet's continued dominance by the old governing party and resolving an impasse that had threatened to bog down the new government.
Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi, Mr. Ben Ali's former right-hand man, announced the changes in a televised address, but he himself did not resign. He reiterated a pledge to guide the country to free and fair elections within six months and then retire from government.
"This is a temporary government with a clear mission - to allow a transition to democracy," Mr. Ghannouchi said.
From the initial reaction in the streets of Tunis, the capital, protesters welcomed the change, even though Mr. Ghannouchi held on to his position. Many protesters had said they felt their revolution was incomplete while so many familiar faces still ran important ministries like defense, interior and foreign affairs. The prime minister's announcement appeared to end a prolonged standoff between the interim government and demonstrators who have besieged his office.
12) Bolivia fights objections to coca-leaf chewing
Anita Snow, Associated Press, Friday, January 28, 2011; 3:54 PM
United Nations - Bolivia will ask the United Nations to organize a conference on coca leaf-chewing if the U.S., Britain and Sweden don't withdraw their objections to the country's efforts to drop the ban on the age-old practice in an international treaty, Bolivia's U.N. ambassador said Friday.
Underscoring his point by wearing a silver lapel pin shaped like a coca leaf, Ambassador Pablo Solon told reporters that six countries had filed formal objections to Bolivia's move to lift the ban on leaf-chewing but three - Colombia, Macedonia and Egypt - withdrew them.
Monday is the deadline for countries to raise objections to Bolivia's proposed amendment to the United Nations' 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The proposal would remove language that obligates those countries that have signed it to ban the chewing of coca leaves. "This does not end Monday," Solon said.
Without objections, Bolivia's amendment would automatically take effect. Only one objection is needed to block it.
Solon said if the objections are not withdrawn, his country will appeal to the U.N. Economic and Social Council when it meets in mid-February and ask for an international conference on coca leaf-chewing. The council is the central U.N. forum for global economic and social issues, and has the power to organize international conferences in those areas.
Some regional interest groups, including the Washington Office on Latin America and the Andean Information Network, wrote U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton this week asking the Obama administration to drop its objection to lifting the ban before it's too late.
Thousands of Bolivians took to the streets on Wednesday in favor of ending the prohibition, chewing coca leaves outside the U.S. Embassy. Coca is a mild stimulant with high religious and social value in the Andean region. While it fights hunger and alleviates altitude sickness, it is also the raw material of cocaine.
Activist groups said Washington had lobbied hard for a European Union objection without success, and EU countries tried but failed to reach a common stance on the proposal.
Solon said that Bolivia does not seek to remove coca from a list of controlled substances. "This does not mean there would be free cultivation of coca leaves," said Solon, adding that Bolivia would continue to crack down on cultivation of the plant for use in manufacturing cocaine.
The convention's stipulation that coca-chewing be phased out within 25 years after it took effect in 1964 is based on a "colonial mindset" that the practice was a bad habit, Solon said.
Solon said that no matter what happens, Bolivia will continue to protect coca leaf-chewing in its constitution. "It will never be banned in Bolivia," he said.
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