JFP 8/16: Why the "Jobs" Argument Against Military Cuts is Bogus

Just Foreign Policy News
August 16, 2011

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Why the Jobs Argument Against Military Cuts is Bogus

An argument against cuts to projected military spending that is sure to rear its ugly head is that this would cost American jobs. In the current political context, this "jobs" argument is 100% nonsense. Here's why.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/why-the-jobs-argument-aga_b_928475.html

To Live Within Our Means, Let's Leave Iraq Like We Promised

While Washington wallows in debt hysteria, the Pentagon tries to keep 10,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq indefinitely. Some Members of Congress have a different idea: let's leave Iraq in December, when we promised to do so.
http://www.truth-out.org/live-within-our-means-lets-leave-iraq-we-promised/1313417013

*Take Action: Urge Your Rep. to Support the Lee Bill
Representative Barbara Lee has introduced legislation that would prevent the Pentagon from keeping thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq by cutting off funds for the war after December 31, 2011. Urge your Representative to co-sponsor the Lee bill.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/obamaextendsbushwar

Chris Hellman: What Almost $8 Trillion in National Security Spending Bought You
Since 2000 - $5.9 trillion: Pentagon's base budget; $1.36 trillion: total cost of the Iraq and Afghan wars by September 30th; $636 billion: "homeland security."
http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175431/tomgram%3A_chris_hellman%2C_the_pentagon%27s_spending_spree/

Video: Jon Stewart on the Media and Ron Paul
Establishment media hate Ron Paul, because Ron Paul hates the wars.
http://www.hulu.com/watch/268553/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart-indecision-2012-ron-paul-and-the-top-tier

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II) Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Senator Leahy is promoting a bill to suspend U.S. assistance to three elite Israel Defense Forces units, alleging they are involved in human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza, Haaretz reports. Leahy wants assistance withheld from the Israel Navy's Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israel Air Force's Shaldag unit. Leahy says these units are responsible for harming innocent Palestinian civilians and that no system of investigation is in place to ensure that their members are not committing human rights violations. According to Leahy's proposal, U.S. military assistance to Israel would be subject to the same restrictions that apply to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan.

Leahy was the principle sponsor of a 1997 bill prohibiting the U.S. from providing military assistance or funding to foreign military units suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes.

2) When congressional cost-cutters meet later this year to decide on trimming the federal budget, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could represent juicy targets, writes Nancy Youssef for McClatchy. But no-one really knows how much these wars actually cost. Congress has allotted $1.3 trillion for war spending through fiscal year 2011. But the Pentagon spent an additional unknown amount from its $5.2 trillion base budget over that same period. The wars now cost about $9.7 billion a month - the entire annual budget of the EPA. Just getting air-conditioning to troops in Afghanistan costs $20 billion per year. That's half the amount that the federal government has spent on Amtrak over 40 years. Fiscal year 2011 costs in Afghanistan are expected to reach $694,000 per service member, according to CRS. In Iraq, the cost per service member was $802,000 this year.

3) The new information unearthed in Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad suggests that the U.S. has been wildly overstating the threat to Americans from Al Qaeda, writes John Mueller in Foreign Affairs. A multi-agency task force has completed its assessment, and has found that al Qaeda members have primarily been engaged in dodging drone strikes and complaining about how cash-strapped they are. It seems breathtakingly unlikely that the miserable little group has had the time or inclination, let alone the money, to set up and staff a uranium-seizing operation, as well as a fancy, super-high-tech facility to fabricate a nuclear bomb, Mueller writes.

4) Rep. Jim McGovern says a war tax should be on the agenda of the debt-reduction "supercommittee," writes Walter Pincus in the Washington Post. More than $1 trillion already has been added to the deficit by expenditures generated by Iraq and Afghanistan, the first wars undertaken by U.S. presidents since the War of 1812 that have not been financed in part by a special tax.

Afghanistan
5) A senior congressional staff member says the public just has to accept that we have to pay the Taliban for the right to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reports. The only alternative to that would be to have fewer U.S. troops there.

Israel/Palestine
6) The U.S. and other Mideast mediators criticized Israel on Tuesday for a rush of new settlement building approvals, warning Israel it won't be able to shape a future peace agreement through unilateral construction in east Jerusalem or other lands claimed by Palestinians, AP reports. Israel on Monday approved the building of 277 apartments in Ariel, the Jewish settlement deepest inside the West Bank. In recent days, it has moved ahead on plans to build 2,500 new apartments in east Jerusalem and Israeli officials say 2,700 more will be approved soon.

Iraq
7) Recent insurgent attacks show that after hundreds of billions of dollars spent since the US invasion, and "tens of thousands of lives lost" [the Times still won't admit that it's "hundreds of thousands of lives lost" - JFP] insurgents remain a potent threat to Iraqis and US troops, the New York Times reports. A member of the Iraqi parliament's security committee said the US had achieve little in trying to improve Iraqi intelligence.

But one political analyst said he saw the attacks as a calculated bid to frighten the Iraqis into asking the U.S. forces to stay behind, because if they completely withdraw, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia will have lost its rationale for existing. "If the Americans leave, Al Qaeda will no longer have an excuse to operate throughout the country," said Hamid Fhadil, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. "Al Qaeda wants Americans to stay here so they will have Iraq as a battlefield to fight the Americans."

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) U.S. Senator seeks to cut aid to elite IDF units operating in West Bank and Gaza
Senator Patrick Leahy claims Shayetet 13 unit, undercover Duvdevan unit, and the Israel Air Force Shaldag unit are involved in human rights violations in occupied territories.
Barak Ravid, Haaretz, 16.08.11
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/u-s-senator-seeks-to-cut-aid-to-elite-idf-units-operating-in-west-bank-and-gaza-1.378800

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy is promoting a bill to suspend U.S. assistance to three elite Israel Defense Forces units, alleging they are involved in human rights violations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Leahy, a Democrat and senior member of the U.S. Senate, wants assistance withheld from the Israel Navy's Shayetet 13 unit, the undercover Duvdevan unit and the Israel Air Force's Shaldag unit.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a long-time friend of Leahy's, met with him in Washington two weeks ago to try to persuade him to withdraw the initiative.

According to a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem, Leahy began promoting the legislation in recent months after he was approached by voters in his home state of Vermont.

A few months ago, a group of pro-Palestinian protesters staged a rally across from Leahy's office, demanding that he denounce the killing by Shayetet 13 commandos of nine Turkish activists who were part of the flotilla to Gaza last May.

Leahy, who heads the Senate Appropriations Committee's sub-committee on foreign operations, was the principle sponsor of a 1997 bill prohibiting the United States from providing military assistance or funding to foreign military units suspected of human rights abuses or war crimes. The law also stipulates that the U.S. Defense Department screen foreign officers and soldiers who come to the United States for training for this purpose.

Leahy wants the new clause to become a part of the U.S. foreign assistance legislation for 2012, placing restrictions on military assistance to Israel, particularly to those three units.

Leahy says these units are responsible for harming innocent Palestinian civilians and that no system of investigation is in place to ensure that their members are not committing human rights violations. According to Leahy's proposal, U.S. military assistance to Israel would be subject to the same restrictions that apply to countries such as Egypt, Pakistan and Jordan.
[...]

2) True cost of Afghan, Iraq wars is anyone's guess
Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers, August 16, 2011 01:02:35 PM
http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/08/15/120758/true-cost-of-afghan-iraq-wars.html

Washington - When congressional cost-cutters meet later this year to decide on trimming the federal budget, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq could represent juicy targets. But how much do the wars actually cost the U.S. taxpayer?

Nobody really knows.

Yes, Congress has allotted $1.3 trillion for war spending through fiscal year 2011 just to the Defense Department. There are long Pentagon spreadsheets that outline how much of that was spent on personnel, transportation, fuel and other costs. In a recent speech, President Barack Obama assigned the wars a $1 trillion price tag.

But all those numbers are incomplete. Besides what Congress appropriated, the Pentagon spent an additional unknown amount from its $5.2 trillion base budget over that same period. According to a recent Brown University study, the wars and their ripple effects have cost the United States $3.7 trillion, or more than $12,000 per American.

Lawmakers remain sharply divided over the wisdom of slashing the military budget, even with the United States winding down two long conflicts, but there's also a more fundamental problem: It's almost impossible to pin down just what the U.S. military spends on war.

To be sure, the costs are staggering.

According to Defense Department figures, by the end of April the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - including everything from personnel and equipment to training Iraqi and Afghan security forces and deploying intelligence-gathering drones - had cost an average of $9.7 billion a month, with roughly two-thirds going to Afghanistan. That total is roughly the entire annual budget for the Environmental Protection Agency.

To compare, it would take the State Department - with its annual budget of $27.4 billion - more than four months to spend that amount. NASA could have launched its final shuttle mission in July, which cost $1.5 billion, six times for what the Pentagon is allotted to spend each month in those two wars.

What about Medicare Part D, President George W. Bush's 2003 expansion of prescription drug benefits for seniors, which cost a Congressional Budget Office-estimated $385 billion over 10 years? The Pentagon spends that in Iraq and Afghanistan in about 40 months.

Because of the complex and often ambiguous Pentagon budgeting process, it's nearly impossible to get an accurate breakdown of every operating cost. Some funding comes out of the base budget; other money comes from supplemental appropriations.

But the estimates can be eye-popping, especially considering the logistical challenges to getting even the most basic equipment and comforts to troops in extremely forbidding terrain.

In Afghanistan, for example, the U.S. military spent $1.5 billion to purchase 329.8 million gallons of fuel for vehicles, aircraft and generators from October 2010 to May 2011. That's a not-unheard-of $4.55 per gallon, but it doesn't include the cost of getting the fuel to combat zones and the human cost of transporting it through hostile areas, which can hike the cost to hundreds of dollars a gallon.

Just getting air-conditioning to troops in Afghanistan, including transport and maintenance, costs $20 billion per year, retired Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson told National Public Radio recently. That's half the amount that the federal government has spent on Amtrak over 40 years.

War spending falls behind tax cuts and prescription drug benefits for seniors as contributors to the $14.3 trillion federal debt. The Pentagon's base budget has grown every year for the past 14 years, marking the longest sustained growth period in U.S. history, but it seems clear that that era is ending.

Since the U.S. government issued war bonds to help finance World War II, Washington has asked taxpayers to shoulder less and less of a burden in times of conflict. In the early 1950s Congress raised taxes by 4 percent of the gross domestic product to pay for the Korean War; in 1968, during the Vietnam War, a tax was imposed to raise revenue by about 1 percent of GDP.

No such mechanism was imposed for Iraq or Afghanistan, and in the early years of the wars Congress didn't even demand a true accounting of war spending, giving the military whatever it needed. Now, at a time of fiscal woes and with the American public weary of the wars, the question has become how much the nation's largest bureaucracy should cut.

"The debt crisis has been a game changer in terms of defense spending," said Laura Peterson, a national security analyst at Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog. "It used to be that asking how much the wars cost was unpatriotic. The attitude going into the war is you spend whatever you cost. Now maybe asking is more patriotic."
[...]
In Afghanistan, the cost per service member climbed from $507,000 in fiscal year 2009 to $667,000 the following year, according to the Congressional Research Service. Fiscal year 2011 costs are expected to reach $694,000 per service member, even as the U.S. military begins drawing down 33,000 of the 99,000 troops there.

In Iraq, even with the overall costs of the war declining and the U.S. military scheduled to withdraw its remaining 46,000 troops by the end of this year, the cost per service member spiked from $510,000 in 2007 to $802,000 this year.

In fiscal year 2011, Congress authorized $113 billion for the war in Afghanistan and $46 billion for Iraq. The Pentagon's 2012 budget request is lower: $107 billion for Afghanistan and $11 billion for Iraq.
[...]

3) The Truth About al Qaeda
John Mueller, Foreign Affairs, August 2, 2011
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/68012/john-mueller/the-truth-about-al-qaeda

[Mueller is Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University.]

The chief lesson of 9/11 should have been that small bands of terrorists, using simple methods, can exploit loopholes in existing security systems. But instead, many preferred to engage in massive extrapolation: If 19 men could hijack four airplanes simultaneously, the thinking went, then surely al Qaeda would soon make an atomic bomb.

As a misguided Turkish proverb holds, "If your enemy be an ant, imagine him to be an elephant." The new information unearthed in Osama bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, Pakistan, suggests that the United States has been doing so for a full decade. Whatever al Qaeda's threatening rhetoric and occasional nuclear fantasies, its potential as a menace, particularly as an atomic one, has been much inflated.

The public has now endured a decade of dire warnings about the imminence of a terrorist atomic attack. In 2004, the former CIA spook Michael Scheuer proclaimed on television's 60 Minutes that it was "probably a near thing," and in 2007, the physicist Richard Garwin assessed the likelihood of a nuclear explosion in an American or a European city by terrorism or other means in the next ten years to be 87 percent. By 2008, Defense Secretary Robert Gates mused that what keeps every senior government leader awake at night is "the thought of a terrorist ending up with a weapon of mass destruction, especially nuclear." Few, it seems, found much solace in the fact that an al Qaeda computer seized in Afghanistan in 2001 indicated that the group's budget for research on weapons of mass destruction (almost all of it focused on primitive chemical weapons work) was some $2,000 to $4,000.

In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden, officials now have more al Qaeda computers, which reportedly contain a wealth of information about the workings of the organization in the intervening decade. A multi-agency task force has completed its assessment, and according to first reports, it has found that al Qaeda members have primarily been engaged in dodging drone strikes and complaining about how cash-strapped they are. Some reports suggest they've also been looking at quite a bit of pornography.

The full story is not out yet, but it seems breathtakingly unlikely that the miserable little group has had the time or inclination, let alone the money, to set up and staff a uranium-seizing operation, as well as a fancy, super-high-tech facility to fabricate a bomb. It is a process that requires trusting corrupted foreign collaborators and other criminals, obtaining and transporting highly guarded material, setting up a machine shop staffed with top scientists and technicians, and rolling the heavy, cumbersome, and untested finished product into position to be detonated by a skilled crew, all the while attracting no attention from outsiders.

The documents also reveal that after fleeing Afghanistan, bin Laden maintained what one member of the task force calls an "obsession" with attacking the United States again, even though 9/11 was in many ways a disaster for the group. It led to a worldwide loss of support, a major attack on it and on its Taliban hosts, and a decade of furious and dedicated harassment. And indeed, bin Laden did repeatedly and publicly threaten an attack on the United States. He assured Americans in 2002 that "the youth of Islam are preparing things that will fill your hearts with fear"; and in 2006, he declared that his group had been able "to breach your security measures" and that "operations are under preparation, and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished." Al Qaeda's animated spokesman, Adam Gadahn, proclaimed in 2004 that "the streets of America shall run red with blood" and that "the next wave of attacks may come at any moment."

The obsessive desire notwithstanding, such fulminations have clearly lacked substance. Although hundreds of millions of people enter the United States legally every year, and countless others illegally, no true al Qaeda cell has been found in the country since 9/11 and exceedingly few people have been uncovered who even have any sort of "link" to the organization.

The closest effort at an al Qaeda operation within the country was a decidedly nonnuclear one by an Afghan-American, Najibullah Zazi, in 2009. Outraged at the U.S.-led war on his home country, Zazi attempted to join the Taliban but was persuaded by al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan to set off some bombs in the United States instead. Under surveillance from the start, he was soon arrested, and, however "radicalized," he has been talking to investigators ever since, turning traitor to his former colleagues. Whatever training Zazi received was inadequate; he repeatedly and desperately sought further instruction from his overseas instructors by phone. At one point, he purchased bomb material with a stolen credit card, guaranteeing that the purchase would attract attention and that security video recordings would be scrutinized. Apparently, his handlers were so strapped that they could not even advance him a bit of cash to purchase some hydrogen peroxide for making a bomb. For al Qaeda, then, the operation was a failure in every way -- except for the ego boost it got by inspiring the usual dire litany about the group's supposedly existential challenge to the United States, to the civilized world, to the modern state system.

Indeed, no Muslim extremist has succeeded in detonating even a simple bomb in the United States in the last ten years, and except for the attacks on the London Underground in 2005, neither has any in the United Kingdom. It seems wildly unlikely that al Qaeda is remotely ready to go nuclear.
[...]

4) 'War Tax' Might Be Just The Right Weapon If We're Going To Fight The Deficit
Walter Pincus, Washington Post, August 15
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/a-war-tax-its-still-not-a-bad-idea/2011/08/11/gIQAfJLwHJ_story.html

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney last Wednesday caught my eye when he talked about members of Congress, currently vocal about the deficit, who were on Capitol Hill over the past decade and voted for unpaid large tax cuts but "put two wars on the credit card without paying for them."

That last phrase reflected words used in 2007 by several House Democrats who wanted to institute a war surtax to pay for the then-increasing costs of U.S. activities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These days, one of them, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), believes such a levy should be on the agenda of the debt-reduction "supercommittee."

"These wars ought to be paid for and not put on a credit card so that our kids will have to pay for this in the future," McGovern said in a recent telephone interview. It's morally wrong for members [of Congress] to call for support of our soldiers and then not ask the rest of us to pay for it ... or have it left to the poor and middle-income and seniors to bear the sacrifice along with our soldiers and their families. That's wrong."

More than $1 trillion already has been added to the deficit by expenditures generated by Iraq and Afghanistan, the first wars undertaken by U.S. presidents since the War of 1812 that have not been financed in part by a special tax. There were three taxes instituted to pay for the Civil War.

In the Spanish-American War, political leaders felt compelled to pay for most war costs because it was a war of choice, not compulsion.
[...]
No one complained about the heavy new taxes during the years of fighting in World War II and even in the postwar period, when funds, such as those that financed the Marshall Plan, helped pay for reconstruction of Europe. And even though many of those taxes were still in place when the Korean War broke out, Congress still passed new taxes in 1950 and 1951 to help pay for that conflict.

For the Vietnam War, even though President Lyndon B. Johnson had said the country could have "guns and butter" for a time, in 1968 Congress passed a 10 percent surcharge, which meant 10 percent of owed income tax was added to the bill to pay for the war.

The Congressional Budget Office this year estimated the total costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, projected out to 2017, could reach $2.4 trillion, if you include $705 billion in interest for the borrowed money used to finance them.

A 10 percent tax surcharge, similar to the one during the Vietnam War, would bring in roughly $112 billion if applied in 2012, according to Alan D. Viard, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and former senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. That would just about cover the expected $116 billion for war costs in 2012.

Although Viard said he was not endorsing such a step, he said the surtax would not affect the 40 percent of American households that pay no taxes at all and would add just 1.1 percent to rates of those who do pay taxes.

When McGovern and Reps. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) and John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) suggested a 2 percent surcharge for middle-income taxpayers and up to 15 percent for the wealthiest four years ago, even the House Democratic leadership did not support them. Some Republicans accused them of using the taxes to generate opposition to the wars.

In 2009, when President Obama proposed his surge of 30,000 troops for Afghanistan and Obey again proposed a surtax, "it got no traction," McGovern said. McGovern said he recently brought it up in a Democratic Caucus session with the president but "did not get a direct answer."

Given the current concern about the deficit and finding a balanced way into the future, McGovern argued, "I think the White House should take a look at this and it should be back on the table for the supercommittee."
[...]
Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, one of three Republican senators appointed to the deficit reduction panel, was President George W. Bush's director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2006 and 2007. In 2006, he told Congress increased tax revenues resulting from economic activity spurred by the Bush tax cuts helped offset the war's high costs, but the deficit that year was still $248 billion.

In February 2007, at a House Budget Committee hearing, Portman said, "We have good news for the American people. ... The president's 2008 budget reduces the deficit every year and balances the budget by 2012, while meeting our nation's priorities."

Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.), who was then chairman of the committee, pointed out that the Bush projected 2012 budget surplus of some $61 billion assumed costs of the two wars - which were $170 billion in 2007 - would be $50 billion by 2009 and zero after that.

What lessons should Portman and his colleagues take from that as the supercommittee begins its deliberations? McGovern's war tax surcharge won't solve the problem, but it is a step in a historically and morally right direction.

Afghanistan
5) U.S. military awards contracts in Afghanistan to get money away from insurgents
Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, August 15
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-military-awards-contracts-in-afghanistan-to-get-money-away-from-insurgents/2011/08/15/gIQArLL4HJ_story.html

The U.S. military has moved to stem the flow of contract money to Afghan insurgents, awarding at least 20 companies new contracts worth about $1 billion for military supply transport and suspending seven current contractors it found lacking in "integrity and business ethics."

The new contracts, which were finalized Monday and will take effect next month, aim to eliminate layers of brokers and middlemen who allegedly skimmed money, and to allow more transparency in a complex web of Afghan subcontractors paid to provide security for the supply truck convoys.

"I think we've finally got our arms around this thing," said a senior military officer who was authorized to discuss the matter only on the condition of anonymity. The new contracts, the official said, were the result of a year's worth of "intelligence work and asking the right questions. We're now starting to take action."

Congressional investigators determined last year that much of the transport and security money went to the Taliban and Afghan warlords as part of a protection racket to ensure the safe arrival of the convoys, conclusions that were confirmed this spring by military and intelligence inquiries.

House and Senate committees have said that the military has long been aware of the problem but has been reluctant to disrupt the system and risk interrupting a supply chain that provides virtually all fuel, food and weapons for U.S. troops across Afghanistan. Some lawmakers have criticized the length of time it has taken the military to act and wonder whether the new system will change much.

"I appreciate that the Department of Defense has taken steps to reform its Afghan trucking contracts, but I am concerned that they still lack sufficient visibility and accountability to ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are not getting into the hands of the enemy," said Rep. John F. Tierney (D-Mass.), whose House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee investigated the contract last year.

The panel has scheduled a hearing for Sept. 15.
[...]
U.S. commanders have argued that outsourcing the transport and security frees up the U.S. warfighters to handle more important missions. The only alternative, said a senior congressional staff member speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss information not yet released, is "to reduce the [U.S.] footprint in Afghanistan."

Policymakers and the public need to understand, he said, that "the cost of doing business is that we have to pay, effectively, our enemy for the right to be there."
[...]

Israel/Palestine
6) US, Mideast peace mediators chide Israel over new settlement construction plans
Associated Press, Tuesday, August 16, 1:18 PM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/us-mideast-peace-mediators-chide-israel-over-new-settlement-construction-plans/2011/08/16/gIQA7t5PJJ_story.html

Washington - The United States and other Mideast mediators criticized Israel on Tuesday for a rush of new settlement building approvals, warning the Jewish state it won't be able to shape a future peace agreement through unilateral construction in east Jerusalem or other lands claimed by Palestinians.

The quartet of mediators said the housing units planned in the West Bank settlement of Ariel and east Jerusalem prompted a restatement of its position that "unilateral action by either party cannot prejudge the outcome of negotiations and will not be recognized by the international community."

The U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations constitute the quartet. In a statement, they noted that the fate of Jerusalem was among the core issues that needed to be resolved through Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and that the building construction "underscores the urgent need for the parties to resume serious and substantive talks."

Israel on Monday approved the building of 277 apartments in Ariel, the Jewish settlement deepest inside the West Bank. In recent days, it has moved ahead on plans to build 2,500 new apartments in east Jerusalem and Israeli officials say 2,700 more will be approved soon.
[...]

Iraq
7) Threat Resurges in Deadliest Day of Year for Iraq
Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, August 15, 2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/16/world/middleeast/16iraq.html

Baghdad - A chilling series of fatal attacks across Iraq on Monday sent a disheartening message to the Iraqi and American governments: After hundreds of billions of dollars spent since the United States invasion in 2003, and tens of thousands of lives lost, [sic - the New York Times still won't admit that it's "hundreds of thousands of lives lost" - JFP] insurgents remain a potent and perhaps resurging threat to Iraqis and the American troops still in the country.

The 42 apparently coordinated attacks underscored the reality that few places in Iraq are safe. The number of American troops killed this year has jumped, ahead of their planned withdrawal. Monday's strikes against civilians and security forces across the country made it the deadliest day of the year for Iraqis, and it came in many forms: suicide attacks, car bombs, homemade bombs and gunmen.

By sundown, when Iraqis broke their fast in observance of the holy month of Ramadan, the death toll had reached 89, including 3 suicide bombers, and an additional 315 people were wounded. The widespread and lethal nature of the attacks - compared with an average of 14 a day this year - frightened many Iraqis, because it suggested that radical Sunni insurgents, led by Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, may have regained the capacity for the kind of violence that plagued Iraq at the height of the sectarian war in 2006 and 2007.

But it also demonstrated the multiple and simultaneous threats gripping the nation at this pivotal time, with Shiite militants being linked with the killing of American troops, and threatening more violence if they remain, and Iraqi forces clearly unable to preserve the peace.

"Our forces are supposed to have the intelligence capabilities to prevent these types of breaches," said Shawn Mohammed Taha, a Kurdish member of Parliament who serves on its security committee. "The fact is, the insurgents have acted like our security forces don't even exist."

No group claimed responsibility for the attacks on Monday. But in a voice recording posted on a Web site for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia last week, a spokesman for the terrorist group said that it was preparing a wide-scale strike.
[...]
The attacks came just two weeks after the Iraqi government agreed to formally negotiate with the United States about possibly leaving some troops in Iraq after the end of the year.

"The insurgents are able to attack anywhere and everywhere and no one can really stop them," Mr. Taha said, adding that the United States has achieved little in trying to improve Iraq's own intelligence operation.

Still, one political analyst said he saw the attacks as a calculated bid to frighten the Iraqis into asking the American forces to stay behind, because if they completely withdraw, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia will have lost its rationale for existing.

"If the Americans leave, Al Qaeda will no longer have an excuse to operate throughout the country," said Hamid Fhadil, a professor of political science at Baghdad University. "Al Qaeda wants Americans to stay here so they will have Iraq as a battlefield to fight the Americans."
[...]


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