JFP 7/27 - CBO: Less War Counts As Deficit Reduction

Just Foreign Policy News
July 27, 2011

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Leave Iraq on Time: Don't Cut Social Security and Medicare to Pay for Occupation

While some leaders in Washington want to cut Social Security benefits and raise the retirement age for Medicare, the White House and the Pentagon are planning to increase spending on the U.S. occupation of Iraq by extending the U.S. military presence without Congressional approval. Eighty Members of the House have a different idea: withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by December on schedule. Urge your Representative to join them.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/exitiraq

Background:
Leave Iraq on Time: Don't Cut Social Security and Medicare to Pay for Iraq Occupation
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/lee-jones-letter_b_910064.html

RT video: Israelis and Palestinians gear up for final diplomatic battle

Just Foreign Policy talks to RT about the UN confrontation over Palestinian independence.
http://rt.com/news/un-palestinian-statehood-israel/

Free Speech Radio News: US-Pakistan relations and the arrest of the Kashmir American Council director

Just Foreign Policy talks to FSRN about the arrest and the implications for US-Pakistan relations and resolution of the Kashmir issue.
http://fsrn.org/audio/us-pakistan-relations-and-arrest-kashmir-american-council-director/8880

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II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The Congressional Budget Office said Senate Majority Leader Reid's plan would reduce the deficit by $2.2 trillion over the next decade, the Huffington Post reports. Democrats get credit for more than a trillion in savings by winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget assumed the same savings, but Boehner's budget does not. [Thus, CBO - the official scorekeeper - ruled fair the claim that less war in the future counts as deficit reduction - JFP.]

2) A preview of the expected showdown over whether to admit a Palestinian state as a full member of the UN when world leaders gather in September played out in the Security Council on Tuesday, the New York Times reports. Supporters evoked the Arab Spring as a fitting backdrop for an endorsement of the Palestinian people's release from 44 years of Israeli occupation. The Palestinians, arguing that ongoing settlement activity by Israel is erasing the prospects for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, say UN membership would solidify the effort toward a resolution. Nine European countries already recognize Palestine as a nation. In the Security Council, Germany seems opposed to membership with France and Britain sounding supportive if noncommittal. The US is in an awkward position because President Obama, in his speech to the General Assembly last September, said that he hoped peace negotiations would result in Palestine joining the UN this September.

3) Former president Lula is Brazil's special envoy to negotiate the official recognition of Palestine at the UN within the developing and emerging countries of the Group of 77, the Palestine News Network reports. "The aim of Brazil is to help to create a political event to push Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate directly. The way it is, the conflict tends to drag on," said President Advisor Marco Aurélio García.

4) France and Britain have realized that they need to think seriously about a negotiated rather than a military end to the war in Libya, writes Jonathan Steele in the Guardian. They will have to tempt Gaddafi out, not blast him out. In the US there is little appetite for another war, Steele notes. This month the House passed an amendment blocking the Pentagon from arming the rebels. Italy, initially a Nato hawk, is reducing its military engagement on cost grounds. These pressures are likely to increase across Nato as the war eats into national budgets while people are asked to tighten their belts at home.

5) Diplomats and military experts said French, British and US statements that Gaddafi could stay in Libya appeared to reflect lowered confidence in the rebels' ability to defeat Gaddafi's forces in the near future, even with the backing of NATO warplanes and helicopters, the Washington Post reports. A senior NATO official conceded that initial demands by NATO states "may have overmatched the military perspective" from the beginning.

6) A Mexican activist, mathematician and writer claims she has fallen foul of a US blacklist after a plane on which she was a passenger was denied access to American air space, the Guardian reports. The US maintains a blacklist of thousands of people not permitted either entry to the country or to be aboard a plane using its air space. The list has been criticized by the ACLU and other civil rights groups who say it is too broad and those on it have no chance to challenge their inclusion.

Israel/Palestine

7) A witness said Israeli commandos stormed the Freedom Theater in Jenin, arresting two men and damaging the building, the New York Times reports. The witness, Jacob Gough, who has been managing the theater, said he was called there around 3 a.m. Wednesday and saw Israeli soldiers throwing rocks at the windows and then arresting Adnan Naghnaghiye, a technician and site director for the theater. Other troops went nearby to the house of Bilal Saadi, the chairman of the theater's board, and arrested him after destroying the windows of his house, Gough added. "I have been at the theater for three years and I have never seen anything like this," he said. "We've never had this kind of treatment." The soldiers, he said, ordered the two men to remove their trousers and lift their shirts. When he asked what was happening, Gough said, he was ordered to be quiet at gunpoint.

Iran

8) Because neoconservatives who advocate for a military strike against Iran also operate under the pretense of supporting democracy and human rights, they often claim that an attack would not harm efforts of Iranians to affect these changes within their own societies, writes Ali Gharib for Think Progress. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has now released a report offering strong rebuttal to arguments that regular Iranians won't be harmed by a U.S. or Israeli military strike. For the report, ICHRI interviewed prominent members of Iranian civil society. "Repeatedly," the report states, "the interviewees expressed concerns that an attack would (1) lead to further militarization of the state, exacerbating the human rights crisis in Iran and undermining Iranian civil society and the pro-democracy movement; and (2) strengthen the current regime by stoking nationalism and dividing the opposition, while undercutting the Iranian public's goodwill toward the United States."

India/Pakistan
9) The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan agreed to a set of small but significant concessions to ease tensions in Kashmir and pledged to work toward closer ties, the New York Times reports. The number of days cross-border trade will be allowed will be doubled, to four from two. The governments agreed to make it easier for Kashmiris to cross the border. Travel permits are currently issued only to people with relatives on the other side, but the ministers agreed to allow people to visit for tourism and religious pilgrimages. They also pledged to reduce the amount of time it takes for applicants to secure travel permits to 45 days or less, rather than the three to four months it currently takes.

Afghanistan
10) A suicide bomber assassinated the mayor of Kandahar on Wednesday, the New York Times reports. The Taliban said the attack was retaliation for the mayor's campaign to force squatters to leave government land. On Tuesday, a bulldozer dispatched by the mayor killed at least two children when it destroyed an occupied building deemed illegal.

Mexico
11) Former Mexican president Vicente Fox reiterated his call that part of the solution to end drug violence in Mexico should include legalizing drugs like marijuana for personal use, CNN reports. The same conclusion was reached by former presidents on the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy and the U.N.'s Global Commission on Drug Policy, CNN notes. Fox also said the Mexican government should "retire the army from the task of combating criminal gangs."

Contents:
U.S./Top News

1) Harry Reid Debt Ceiling Plan Would Save $2.2 Trillion: CBO
Ryan Grim, Huffington Post, 7/27/11 01:51 PM ET
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/27/harry-reid-debt-ceiling-plan_n_910683.html

Washington - The Senate Democratic plan to raise the debt ceiling would slash spending cuts far deeper than House Speaker John Boehner's proposal, according to a letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) by the official congressional scorekeeper on Wednesday morning.

Reid's plan would reduce the deficit by $2.2 trillion over the next decade, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said. Boehner's would trim just $850 billion, the CBO said Tuesday night. The speaker was forced to pull his bill from the floor ahead of a planned Wednesday vote in the wake of the unimpressive score. The score CBO gave Reid's bill makes passing Boehner's bill -- which every major Tea Party group has deemed it insufficient -- more challenging for the Republican leader. Reid's plan includes no tax hikes or additional revenue, a demand Republicans have stuck to.
[...]
Two major differences account for the diverging scores given to Reid and Boehner's plans. First, Democrats get credit for more than a trillion in savings by winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan's GOP budget assumed the same savings, but Boehner's does not.
[...]

2) Security Council Debate Offers Preview of Palestinian Bid
Neil MacFarquhar, New York Times, July 26, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/27/world/middleeast/27nations.html

United Nations - A preview of the expected showdown over whether to admit a Palestinian state as a full member of the United Nations when world leaders gather here in September played out in the Security Council on Tuesday.

Supporters evoked the Arab Spring, in which millions of people across the Middle East sought freedom from oppression, as a fitting backdrop for an endorsement of the Palestinian people's release from 44 years of Israeli occupation.

Opponents, essentially Israel and the United States, condemned the idea as an ineffective "shortcut" that would not budge the deadlocked peace negotiations.

The Palestinians have yet to determine whether to seek full membership - such an act faces a threatened American veto in the Security Council - or to petition the General Assembly for enhanced observer status. That would give them the aura of international recognition as a state - a status held only by the Holy See - but would fall short of full membership. (They currently hold observer status akin to that of an organization.)

"The road to admission could be the expressway or could be the local road," the Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, told reporters on Tuesday. "Either way we are moving in that direction because the ultimate objective will be admission."
[...]
The basic Israeli position, backed by Washington, is that the two sides have to negotiate the main six outstanding issues including borders, the status of Jerusalem and the return of refugees. "Now is the time for the international community to tell the Palestinian leadership what it refuses to tell its own people: there are no shortcuts to statehood," said Ron Prosor, Israel's permanent representative to the United Nations.

The Palestinians, arguing that ongoing settlement activity by Israel is gradually erasing the prospects for a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders, say that membership would solidify the effort toward such a resolution.

Mr. Mansour, speaking to reporters, suggested that the Palestinians might try to overcome an American veto by getting hundreds of thousands of ordinary Palestinians to demonstrate in cities and villages in the coming weeks to demand an end to occupation-mirroring demonstrations for basic rights across the Arab world.

Many supporters of Palestinian membership likened the two movements. "If we are to win the hearts and minds of the Arab people and support them in meeting their aspirations," said Fazli Corman, Turkey's deputy permanent representative, "we must be able to show them our collective determination toward reaching a just and viable peace in the region."

European nations appear divided on the issue, with a collective position deemed impossible given that 9 of its 27 members already recognize Palestine as a nation. In the Security Council, Germany seems opposed to membership with France and Britain sounding supportive if noncommittal.

Arab states, while supporting the Palestinian effort, are leaning toward the General Assembly option as a way of avoiding a confrontation with Washington.

The United States is in something of an awkward position because President Obama, in his speech to the General Assembly last September, said that he hoped peace negotiations would result in Palestine joining the United Nations this September. But his attempts to even get the negotiations started have failed.
[...]

3) Brazil Negotiates Palestine UN Recognition Endorsement within the Group of 77
Palestine News Network, 26.07.11 - 13:03
http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=10510&Itemid=61

Ramallah - PNN - Former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is Brazil's special envoy to negotiate the official recognition of Palestine at UN within the developing and emerging countries of the Group of 77.

Brazil already recognized Palestine as a sovereign an independent state on the border agreement of 1967 by December 2010 leading a South American campaign on the official recognition of the State of Palestine followed by Argentine, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Chile among others.

Now, Lula offers to negotiate with the leaders of the developing countries who have not recognised Palestine statehood yet, in order to get their support for Palestine to become United Nations 194 state-member next September. "The aim of Brazil is to help to create a political event to push Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate directly. The way it is, the conflict tends to drag on," said President Advisor Marco Aurélio García to O Estado newspaper.

Brazil's decision has been widely celebrated in Ramallah, while Israeli Government is already planning an official visit to the South American country to hold Brazil's activism.
[...]

4) Libya's Stalemate Shows It Is Time To Tempt Gaddafi Out, Not Blast Him Out
As the appetite for war in Nato countries wanes, a ceasefire becomes the logical first step to peace
Jonathan Steele, Guardian, July 26, 2001
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/26/libya-gaddafi-war-nato-ceasefire

At last some good news on Libya. France and Britain have changed their position on Colonel Gaddafi's future and now say he can stay in the country if and when he decides to leave power. For the two Nato countries which did most to get the alliance to start bombing in order to produce regime change in Tripoli, the shift is enormous.

In spring, when Nato launched its no-fly zone ostensibly for humanitarian purposes, Paris and London hoped Gaddafi would be toppled within little more time than it took to remove Mubarak, in Egypt. Now the two governments have realised they need to think seriously about a negotiated rather than a military end to the war. They will have to tempt Gaddafi out, not blast him out.

This puts them in line with the UN, whose tenacious mediator, Abdul Elah al-Khatib, was in the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Monday and moved to Tripoli on Tuesday in his latest round of shuttling. France and Britain are also gradually getting in step with the African Union, whose efforts at taking a lead on ending the crisis through a ceasefire and talks have repeatedly been marginalised by Nato.

The Franco-British shift is a big blow to Luis Moreno Ocampo, the impetuous prosecutor at the international criminal court who rushed to seek the Libyan leader's arrest only weeks after fighting erupted. This damaged the chances for negotiations. Ocampo further sullied his reputation with claims of regime-ordered rape that were strongly criticised by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who also interviewed victims. At the time William Hague, the foreign secretary, had no doubts. "The request for these warrants is a reminder to all in Gaddafi's regime that crimes will not go unpunished, and the reach of international justice will be long," he thundered.

Once issued, ICC arrest warrants cannot be withdrawn without undermining the court's authority. But since Libya is not a signatory to the statute which created the court, an agreement on ending the fighting in Libya need not insist on Gaddafi's seizure. He will merely not be able to travel much abroad.

Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, last week led the hawks' change of mind. The Obama administration quickly followed. "He needs to remove himself from power – and then it's up to the Libyan people to decide," said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman. Hague's statement echoed that line, which was endorsed at the weekend by Mustafa Abdel Jalil, a leader of the rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC).
[...]
On the battlefield the news for the rebels has been less good. Almost six months into their uprising the war remains deadlocked, and with the fasting month of Ramadan due shortly, when fighting is bound to subside, no change can be expected. The front lines – in the east, around Misrata and in the Berber-populated mountains south of Tripoli – ripple like the edges of a carpet under which dogs are fighting. But Admiral Mike Mullen, the US chief of staff, was right on Monday when he said Nato had got itself into a stalemate.

In the US there is little appetite for another war. This month the House of Representatives passed an amendment blocking the Pentagon from arming the rebels. Italy, initially a Nato hawk, is reducing its military engagement on cost grounds. These pressures are likely to increase across Nato as the war eats into national budgets while people are asked to tighten their belts at home.

No wonder western governments are having to review their strategy. The parameters of a settlement have been clear for some time. There must be a mutually agreed ceasefire, on the ground and for Nato's bombs and missiles. This would allow internationally supervised access for humanitarian supplies to Tripoli and other government-held areas as well as rebel areas. Talks need to accelerate, either through the UN mediator or between government and TNC negotiators, towards forming a power-sharing administration that can find a path to a new constitution and elections. Gaddafi has indicated he does not want to be part of the talks. He will probably have to make clear he will not be part of the next government either.
[...]
All now depends on the sequencing of the elements of a settlement. For the rebels to insist Gaddafi stands down before talks start dooms everything. Ideally, the first step is a ceasefire. This would be by far the best way to protect civilians. The UN secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, called for an immediate ceasefire earlier this month. If Ban were a stronger figure, his call would have carried more weight instead of being ignored by western leaders as well as most of the media. Nato hawks fear it would look defeatist so they prefer to parrot the line that that Gaddafi cannot be trusted, and therefore a ceasefire would be worthless.

Privately the rebels are divided. Some say a ceasefire deprives them of imminent military victory. Others say a true ceasefire would spark an uprising by the people of Tripoli once they knew Gaddafi's forces would not shoot them in the street.

Whether that speculation is right depends on complex factors. The mistake in most international crises is to over-personalise the issue by making a pariah of the wicked man and his corrupt family at the top and thinking that, once they go, all problems will easily be solved. Gaddafi's flamboyant and odious behaviour certainly encourages this view. But the Libyan crisis is not a battle between a big man and "the people". It is a complex struggle over modernity, constitutionalism, and the equitable distribution of resources in which Libya's regions, tribes and social classes all have different demands and stakes. Unless amnesty is part of any negotiated settlement, there are many people in Tripoli who will resist the rebels by force even if Gaddafi himself shows a readiness to step aside. Others fear instability or that they and their capital city will be punished if the rebels win outright. The excessive de-Ba'athification process in post-Saddam Iraq set a bad precedent.

It is better to resolve these issues through negotiations than try to break Libya's military stalemate with yet more war. Having shifted on Gaddafi's future the next step for France and Britain should be to persuade their rebel allies to accept the principle of an immediate ceasefire. Then give the word to the UN negotiator and let him work on getting a response from the government side. Ramadan provides the incentive for an all-round military pause. With persistence it might even take permanent root.

5) NATO Easing Its View On Gaddafi Staying In Libya
Joby Warrick and William Booth, Washington Post, Wednesday, July 27, 7:29 AM http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nato-flexible-on-gaddafis-future/2011/07/26/gIQAvY7XbI_story.html

Western powers are signaling an increased willingness to allow Moammar Gaddafi to remain in Libya if he agrees to step down after nearly 42 years as the country's autocratic ruler, diplomats said Tuesday.

Britain this week became the third NATO member to say that Gaddafi might be permitted to stay if Libyan rebels were willing to accept his presence in the country under a deal. Some officials of the rebels' Transitional National Council have suggested that they could accept having Gaddafi remain in Libya if he relinquished all political power.
[...]
Juppe said last week that France is open to a deal under which Gaddafi would quit as leader but remain in the country - a potentially crucial concession, given Gaddafi's repeated refusal to accept exile in another country. Hours later, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Gaddafi must quit as leader "and then it's up to the Libyan people to decide."

The statements appeared to reflect lowered confidence in the rebels' ability to defeat Gaddafi's better-organized forces in the near future, even with the backing of NATO warplanes and helicopters, said diplomats and military experts.
[...]
As NATO operations in Libya entered their fifth month, alliance officials acknowledged that there was little evidence that Gaddafi was preparing to leave soon. "He's sitting pretty tight in Tripoli," a senior NATO official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. "They're still confident, and they've got plenty of capability."

The official said initial demands by NATO states "may have overmatched the military perspective" from the beginning.
[...]

6) Mexican activist's flight turned back over US airspace
Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar was on a flight to Spain and claims she must be on an American blacklist
Ewen MacAskill, Guardian, Tuesday 26 July 2011 15.57 BST http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/26/mexican-activist-flight-turned-back

Washington - A Mexican activist, mathematician and writer claims she has fallen foul of a US blacklist after a plane on which she was a passenger was denied access to American air space.

Raquel Gutiérrez Aguilar, a Mexican citizen, had been on her way from Mexico City to Italy via Spain for a conference last week when her flight was turned back. She believes it was because of charges against her in Bolivia two decades ago involving a revolutionary group, the Tupac Katari Guerrilla Army. She was arrested at the time but the charges were later dropped.

Her former husband, Álvaro García Linera, now vice-president of Bolivia, was also arrested and the charges dropped.

The US maintains a blacklist of thousands of people not permitted either entry to the country or to be aboard a plane using its air space. The list, created after the 9/11 attacks, has been criticised by US civil rights groups who say it is too broad and those on it have no chance to challenge their inclusion.

The plane had to turn back to Mexico after 90 minutes. Gutiérrez, 48, was forced to leave the flight, which then resumed its journey to Spain. Almost all flights from Mexico to Europe cross US air space.
[...]
The US has a no-fly list containing about 8,500 names, as of last year. There is a further list, the terrorist watch list, which has about 400,000 names.
[...]
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups have mounted challenges against the lists because travellers have no way to find out if they are on them or any opportunity to clear their names.
[...]

Israel/Palestine

7) Israeli Commandos Storm Theater in West Bank and Make Arrests
Ethan Bronner, New York Times, July 27, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/world/middleeast/28mideast.html

Jerusalem - Israeli commandos stormed a famous Palestinian theater in the West Bank early Wednesday, arresting two men associated with it and damaging the building, a witness said.

The Freedom Theater in Jenin, in the northern West Bank, had been an oasis of so-called cultural resistance for decades, although it was in the news for a darker reason in April when its director, Juliano Mer Khamis, was shot dead by masked gunmen just outside it.
[...]
The witness, Jacob Gough, who has been managing the theater on an interim basis, said he was called there around 3 a.m. Wednesday and saw several dozen Israeli soldiers throwing rocks at the windows and then arresting Adnan Naghnaghiye, a technician and site director for the theater. Other troops went nearby to the house of Bilal Saadi, the chairman of the theater's board, and arrested him after destroying the windows of his house, Mr. Gough added.

"I have been at the theater for three years and I have never seen anything like this," he said by telephone from Jenin. "We've never had this kind of treatment."

The soldiers, he said, ordered the two men to remove their trousers and lift their shirts. When he asked what was happening, Mr. Gough said, he was told to be quiet in harsh terms and at gunpoint.
[...]

Iran

8) Iranian Civil Society 'Raising Their Voices' Against A Military Strike On Iran
Ali Gharib, Think Progress, Jul 26, 2011 at 2:51 pm http://thinkprogress.org/security/2011/07/26/279089/iran-civil-society-military-strikes/

Because neoconservatives who advocate for a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities also operate under the pretense of supporting democracy and human rights in Iran, they're often forced to do logical jujitsu to defend the notion that an attack would not harm efforts of Iranians to affect these changes within their own societies.

Take, for example, Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, who's stated her preference for a U.S. attack, positing that a strike would actually help Iran's opposition. She wrote that "an attack would serve as a tipping point rather than a rallying point."


Or Reuel Marc Gerecht, a pundit with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and supposed Green Movement admirer, who advocated for an Israeli strike on Iran in the Weekly Standard and wrote: "Too much has been made in the West of the Iranian reflex to rally round the flag after an Israeli (or American) preventive strike… Neither the Israelis nor anyone else need fear for the Green Movement."

Now, a report from the leading international organization monitoring human rights in Iran offers a strong rebuttal to sophistic arguments that regular Iranians won't be harmed or - more absurdly - stand to gain from a U.S. or Israeli military strike.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) released a report today where leading civil society activists in Iran stated that they strongly disagree with contentions like those made by Gerecht and Rubin.

For the report, ICHRI interviewed "35 of the most prominent members of Iranian civil society, a diverse array of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, writers, cultural leaders, student activists, academics and members of the political opposition" - voices that, because of Iran's isolation and fears of repression, are rarely heard outside Iran. ICHRI sums up their views: "Repeatedly, the interviewees expressed concerns that an attack would (1) lead to further militarization of the state, exacerbating the human rights crisis in Iran and undermining Iranian civil society and the pro-democracy movement; and (2) strengthen the current regime by stoking nationalism and dividing the opposition, while undercutting the Iranian public's goodwill toward the United States."
[...]

India/Pakistan
9) India and Pakistan Agree to Concessions on Kashmir
Lydia Polgreen, New York Times, July 27, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/world/asia/28india.html

New Delhi - The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan met here on Wednesday, agreeing to a set of small but significant concessions to ease tensions in the disputed border region of Kashmir and pledging to work toward closer ties between their mutually wary, nuclear-armed countries.

The meeting came just two weeks after three synchronized explosions ripped through the city of Mumbai at rush hour, killing 24 people, wounding more than 100 and raising fresh Indian suspicions about possible Pakistani subterfuge. The decision by both sides to proceed with the meeting anyway signaled that broad-based talks aimed at resolving issues between the countries were back on track. They had been stalled for more than two years after Pakistani gunmen killed more than 160 people in a rampage through Mumbai, formerly Bombay.
[...]
The measures the ministers announced were relatively small but represent a significant change in tone and outlook for the relationship between the countries, analysts said.

The number of days cross-border trade will be allowed between the two sides of Kashmir will be doubled, to four from two. The two governments agreed to make it easier for Kashmiris from either side to cross the border. Travel permits are currently issued only to people with relatives on the other side, but on Wednesday the ministers agreed to allow people to visit for tourism and religious pilgrimages. They also pledged to reduce the amount of time it takes for applicants to secure travel permits to 45 days or less, rather than the three to four months it currently takes.
[...]

Afghanistan
10) Suicide Bomber Kills Kandahar Mayor, a U.S. Citizen
Taimoor Shah and Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, July 27, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/world/asia/28afghanistan.html

Kandahar, Afghanistan - An insurgent suicide bomber hiding explosives in his turban assassinated the mayor of Kandahar on Wednesday, the third killing of a high-profile official in the country this month. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the mayor, a dual American-Afghan citizen.

The killing came two weeks after a suicide bomber used the same disguise to target senior mullahs at a memorial for the former provincial chairman of Kandahar, Ahmad Wali Karzai, who was also assassinated, heightening concerns that the tenuous security gains in the violent south are faltering despite months of intensified fighting by NATO and Afghan forces in the nearly decade-old Afghanistan war.

The mayor, Ghulam Haider Hamidi, who carried both an Afghan and an American passport, was killed in a hallway outside his office in central Kandahar when the bomber blew himself up, and one other person was injured, according to Zalmay Ayoubi, the spokesman for the provincial governor, Toorylai Wesa.

The Taliban said the attack was retaliation for the mayor's campaign to force squatters to leave government land.
[...]
Mayor Hamidi, had been mentioned as a possible successor to Ahmed Wali Karzai as factions jostled to replace him. The two were close, but , but many Kandahar residents were suspicious of the mayor, in part because of his closeness to the Americans from his years living in the United States, but also because he lacked the tribal ties needed in Kandahar to gather power.

Perhaps the most immediate factor in his assassination was that Mayor Hamidi had begun a contentious campaign to destroy what he considered illegal buildings in the northern part of Kandahar city. That area is penetrated by Taliban and their extended families and they saw it as a frontal attack, said security officials.

The campaign faced strong resistance as well because land is a major business in Kandahar so if a person can claim to own land and then sell it, he can profit enormously.

On Tuesday, the mayor dispatched several bulldozers to the northern Kandahar neighborhood where he was trying to reclaim what he regarded as government land. The bulldozers had begun to raze buildings deemed illegal -including one that was occupied.

"Accidently yesterday one of the bulldozer's brake's failed and it smashed one of the homes where two children were killed," Governor Wesa told a news conference. "We don't believe the place was a home, we think someone just brought children there in order to save the house from destruction," he said.
[...]
Soon after the death of the children-according to some reports there were three children and a woman killed - people had gathered and protested and had complained to Shah Wali Karzai, who is the new leader of President Karzai's Popalzai tribe, which is powerful in Kandahar. The mayor agreed to meet with the protesters on Wednesday and was preparing to meet with them when he was killed.
[...]

Mexico
11) Former Mexican president urges legalizing drugs
Rafael Romo, CNN, July 27, 2011
http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/americas/07/26/mexico.drugs/

Part of the solution to end drug violence in Mexico should include legalizing drugs like marijuana for personal use, former President Vicente Fox told CNN en Espanol.

"In order to get out of this trap (of drug violence caused by organized crime), I'm specifically proposing the legalization of the drug," Fox said during a visit to Puerto Rico, where he was speaking at a conference for small business owners in the city of Fajardo.

Fox advocated decriminalizing marijuana in a 2009 interview with CNN en Espanol. Since then, he has repeatedly called on officials to rethink drug laws.

In an interview that aired on CNN en Espanol Tuesday, he also said the Mexican government should "retire the army from the task of combating criminal gangs."
[...]
Fox is not alone in advocating for legalization of some drugs for personal use. Two years ago, three former Latin American presidents proposed radical changes in drug policy for the region.

Brazil's Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Colombia's Cesar Gaviria, and Mexico's Ernesto Zedillo wrote in the 2009 final report of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy that "Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the expected results. We are farther than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs."

The same conclusion was reached by the U.N.'s Global Commission on Drug Policy last month. The commission, comprised of former presidents (including Fox), policymakers and leaders from all over the world, recommended that governments experiment with drug legalization, especially marijuana.

-

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