Just Foreign Policy News
January 14, 2010
Tell Obama: Let Haitians Stay in the US
With the stroke of a pen, President Obama could ease Haiti’s catastrophe: he could grant Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S. The U.S. has "temporarily suspended deportations," the New York Times reports (see below) – all regular flights to Haiti are cancelled in any event – but so far the Obama Administration has refused to grant TPS to Haiti. Urge President Obama and your representatives in Congress to support TPS for Haiti, so Haitians can stay and work – and send back money to their relatives – rather than be forced to return to disaster and add to Haiti’s burden.
"Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortenson on Bill Moyers Journal Friday
Friday, Janaury 15, 2010 at 9PM on PBS
(check local listings: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/about/airdates.html)
"America has committed billions to escalate military action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but humanitarian and bestselling author Greg Mortenson argues that there’s a better path to peace: building schools and nurturing local communities. Mortenson, who has worked for 17 years in the region, is the author of the world-wide bestseller, Three Cups of Tea and a new book, Stones into Schools. Both books tell the remarkable story of Mortensen’s efforts to build dozens of schools in some of the most lawless and remote regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan."
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2) Yemen’s Council of Clerics called for jihad if foreign troops join the war against Al Qaeda in Yemen, the Gulf Daily News reports. One of the clerics warned that any US military intervention in Yemen to fight Al Qaeda would be considered an occupation; another said US strikes would "drive the populace into the arms of Al Qaeda."
3) Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano temporarily halted deportations of some Haitians illegally in the U.S. in response to the Caribbean nation’s devastating earthquake, AP reports.
4) Haitian-American activists, immigrant advocates and South Florida lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are intensely lobbying the Obama administration to grant an estimated 30,000 Haitian nationals Temporary Protected Status, the Miami Herald reports. TPS is granted to selected immigrants in the United States who cannot safely return to their homelands because of natural disasters, armed conflicts or other emergencies. Those eligible are allowed to remain here, obtain work permits and temporary stays for specific periods. DHS has currently designated citizens from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan eligible for TPS. "How much does Haiti have to suffer before Haitians in the United States are granted TPS pursuant to law?" said Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart. "The reason TPS exists in the statute as an option for the president is precisely for moments such as this in Haiti."
5) The chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services says DHS may grant TPS to Haiti, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Temporary protected status would give undocumented immigrants permission to stay in the U.S. and receive a work permit. "It allows people from that country already in the U.S. to help rebuild that country because they can work and send money back. It’s really a foreign assistance plan as well," said an Atlanta immigration attorney.
6) The IMF said it will increase Haiti’s existing loan program by $100 million and disburse the funds quickly to help the government rebuild from the massive earthquake, Reuters reports. The funding has to be approved by the IMF board. [Some debt cancellation groups oppose the loan on the grounds that disaster assistance should come in the form of grants, not loans, and the IMF should not be adding to Haiti’s debt burden – JFP.]
7) Senators Levin and Franken said that Gen. Caldwell, who’s in charge of training Afghan forces, said Obama’s decision to set July 2011 as the start of the withdrawal of U.S. troops was spurring Afghans to join the security forces, McClatchy reports. But when the recruiting spike was first noted last month, published reports quoted Caldwell as attributing the rush to pay raises for soldiers in high combat parts of Afghanistan. Other reports cited a dearth of construction and farming jobs during the harsh Afghan winter.
8) Pakistan’s foreign minister said intensified U.S. drone aircraft attacks or ground operations against Islamist militants in Pakistan could endanger relations between the two allies, Reuters reports. What Pakistan worries most about is a possible expansion of drone attacks to the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where the Pakistani government already faces a low-level insurgency from rebels seeking autonomy. Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi said "very clear ‘red lines’ were discussed" with US envoy Holbrooke.
9) Jordan came under pressure on Wednesday from Islamists to stop cooperating with US forces in Afghanistan, the New York Times reports. The Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups demanded that Jordan end "security coordination" with the US intelligence agencies and withdraw Jordanian forces from Afghanistan. AJordanian analyst of Islamist groups said that in addition to longstanding anger over the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many Jordanians questioned their government’s role in a conflict so far from home. "Most Jordanian people do not even know that there are Jordanian forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and this itself created a shock."
10) A high-level delegation of Roman Catholic bishops criticized Israeli polices in Arab sectors of Jerusalem, AP reports. The group of eight bishops from North America and Europe said violence, insecurity, the route of Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, home demolitions and other policies threaten peace prospects and endanger the dwindling Christian presence in the Holy Land. The bishops called for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Bishop Gerald Kicanas, vice president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the human rights situation for Palestinians in the Holy Land has gotten worse during the 20 years that he has been visiting the region.
11) An Iraqi official said the number of candidates banned from upcoming elections in Iraq may be increased, McClatchy reports. A Shiite Muslim on the parliament’s Justice and Accountability committee said he did not object to banning candidates for "Baathist connections," but objects that the committee "has a filthy sectarian agenda and is manipulating the rules and regulations to attain its goals."
12) China has decided to send a lower-level official to six-power talks about possibly imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programs, Reuters reports. "It’s unlikely that the Chinese delegation will have decision-making ability at the meeting, which will make it difficult to accomplish much," a diplomat from one of the six powers told Reuters.
1) US should consider drones, air attacks in Yemen – US Senator
AFP, January 13, 2010
Washington – The United States should consider targeting Al-Qaeda extremists in Yemen with armed drones, air strikes, or covert operations, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin said Wednesday. "Most options ought to be on the table," short of invasion by US forces, the Democratic lawmaker from Michigan said on a conference call with reporters after a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
[…] Asked whether the United States would act with or without Yemen’s approval, Levin replied "it would be expected that they would either agree privately, or accept without objection privately."
But the senator, speaking by telephone from Dubai airport, underlined that "if we really had high-value targets" then Washington would regard it as its right under international law to "unilaterally go after that target."
2) Yemen clerics warn of jihad
Gulf Daily News (Bahrain), Friday, January 15, 2010
Sanaa: Yemen’s Council of Clerics yesterday called for jihad if foreign troops join the war against Al Qaeda in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, as the government vowed to eradicate the extremists. "If any party insists on aggression, or invades the country, then according to Islam, jihad becomes obligatory," said a statement signed by 150 clerics read at a news conference.
The clerics strongly rejected "any foreign intervention in Yemeni affairs, whether political or military." The clerics include the radical Sheikh Abdulmajeed Al Zendani, who is labelled by the US administration as a "global terrorist." They also rejected "any security or military agreement or cooperation between Yemen and any foreign party if it violates Sharia law.
The chairman of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin, urged Washington to consider targeting Al Qaeda militants in Yemen with armed drones, air strikes or covert operations, but not invade the country.
[…] Al Zendani warned that any US military intervention in Yemen to fight Al Qaeda would be considered an occupation.
[…] One of the members of the Council of Clerics, Sheikh Saleh Salabani, was blunt in predicting failure for the Americans if they get involved. US strikes, he says, would "drive the populace into the arms of Al Qaeda."
That was echoed by Dominique Thomas, a specialist in Islamic networks at the prestigious School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences in Paris. "American missiles hitting Yemeni houses is just what Al Qaeda is waiting for.
"It takes very little to attract unemployed youth to jihadism or to persuade traditionally rebellious tribes to rise up; if the Americans step in, it will be like dropping a present right in Bin Laden’s lap."
3) US Halts Deportations to Haiti
Associated Press, January 13, 2010, 7:52 p.m. ET
Washington – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano temporarily halted deportations Wednesday of some Haitians illegally in the U.S. in response to the Caribbean nation’s devastating earthquake. Those with deportation orders will be allowed to remain in the U.S. Those held in detention centers will remain jailed, Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler said.
[…] The impact of Napolitano’s decision should be limited, because the Obama administration quietly stopped deporting Haitians without criminal records last March, said Florida Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek.
In 2009, 221 noncriminal Haitians were deported to Haiti, down from 1,226 the previous year, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement statistics. Deportations of Haitians with criminal records totaled 466 last year, compared to 428 in 2008.
About 30,000 Haitians have orders to leave the U.S. and about 160 are in detention, according to the Homeland Security Department.
The federal government has suspended deportations following previous disasters. Deportation flights to Haiti were suspended in September 2008 because of hurricane damage in the country. The flights later resumed.
4) White House pressed to OK immigration change for Haitians
Alfonso Chardy and Sergio Bustos, Miami Herald, Thu, Jan. 14, 2010
Haitian-American activists, immigrant advocates and South Florida lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are intensely lobbying the Obama administration to keep undocumented Haitian immigrants from being deported to an island nation whose economy is in ruins following Tuesday’s horrific earthquake.
On Thursday, all three groups will be holding news conferences in Miami to press their case to the public. The goal: to persuade the Obama administration to grant an estimated 30,000 Haitian nationals Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, an immigration benefit long sought by those involved in the debate.
TPS is granted to selected immigrants in the United States who cannot safely return to their homelands because of natural disasters, armed conflicts or other emergencies. Those eligible are allowed to remain here, obtain work permits and temporary stays for specific periods – a status often renewed indefinitely.
The Department of Homeland Security has currently designated citizens from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Somalia and Sudan eligible for TPS.
On Wednesday, the Obama administration announced it was temporarily suspending deportations of undocumented Haitians in the United States, but gave no immediate sign that it would move forward on the TPS issue.
[…] On Wednesday, South Florida’s three Cuban-American Republican members of Congress – Reps. Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen – sent a joint letter to Obama requesting TPS for Haitian nationals, along with immediate humanitarian aid for Haiti. They have organized a news conference on Thursday to talk about the issue.
"How much does Haiti have to suffer before Haitians in the United States are granted TPS pursuant to law?" said Lincoln Diaz-Balart Wednesday. "The reason TPS exists in the statute as an option for the president is precisely for moments such as this in Haiti."
5) U.S. may grant undocumented Haitians legal status
Mary Lou Pickel, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11:18 a.m. Thursday, January 14, 2010
The Department of Homeland Security could grant legal status to undocumented Haitians in the United States in the wake of that country’s devastating earthquake, a top U.S. official said.
"We are aware of the devastation and loss that the people of Haiti are suffering," Alejandro Mayorkas, the chief of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, said Thursday in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We are considering all alternatives available to us in extending a helping hand to Haiti," Mayorkas said. He confirmed those considerations include temporary protected status for Haitians.
Mayorkas has been in frequent meetings the past two days with other leaders in the Department of Homeland Security to "monitor the situation carefully," he said.
Temporary protected status, or TPS, is designed for people who are in the United States at or before the time of a disaster and are not documented. It is not designed to admit new immigrants from a country.
Charles Kuck, an Atlanta immigration lawyer, said TPS is designed to not send people back to a country where their presence would make things worse.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a statement that it has halted all "removals" of Haitians, meaning deportations and voluntary departures, in light of the disaster.
Temporary protected status would go further and give undocumented immigrants permission to stay in the U.S. and receive a work permit.
"It allows people from that country already in the U.S. to help rebuild that country because they can work and send money back. It’s really a foreign assistance plan as well," Kuck said.
Central Americans have been given temporary protected status after hurricanes and earthquakes.
"Haiti has had four hurricanes and an earthquake in the last 13 months," Kuck said. "If there is a time and place for TPS, this is the time and place."
To qualify for temporary protected status, an individual must be physically present in the United States at a certain date, typically before the disaster, Kuck said. "You cannot have committed any crimes," he said. "You are allowed to come forward, you are fingerprinted and you are given a work permit. You are allowed to stay here for the duration of time the government determines, typically 18 months."
6) IMF to increase Haiti loan by $100 million
Lesley Wroughton, Reuters, Jan 14, 1:26pm EST
Washington- The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it will increase Haiti’s existing loan program by $100 million and disburse the funds quickly to help the government rebuild from the massive earthquake. "The emergency financing would be provided as an augmentation to the existing IMF-supported arrangement with Haiti," IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said, adding the funding had to first be approved by the IMF board.
[…] Haiti received $1.2 billion debt relief from the IMF and World Bank in June 2009. The new funding is additional debt incurred by the country.
7) Senate Democrats Leave Kabul Still Wary Of U.S. Troop Surge
Roy Gutman, McClatchy Newspapers, Wed, Jan. 13, 2010
Kabul – On the first visit to Afghanistan by Senate Democrats since President Barack Obama’s decision to send more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, Carl Levin of Michigan and Al Franken of Minnesota Wednesday reported signs of progress and expressed optimism that a Taliban takeover of the U.S.-backed government can be averted.
Unlike two much larger Republican delegations that visited last week, however, neither Levin nor Franken endorsed Obama’s troop surge, and Levin, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he’d have done things differently.
[…] Both senators said they were told that Afghans are now volunteering for the Army and police in record numbers – with 11,000 now in training, compared with 3,000 to 4,000 in November. Others are being turned away due to a severe shortage of trainers, for which U.S. allies were to blame.
They quoted Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, who’s in charge of training operations, as crediting Obama’s West Point speech, and specifically his decision to set July 2011 as the start of the withdrawal of U.S. troops, as spurring Afghans to join the security forces. When the recruiting spike was first noted last month, however, published reports quoted Caldwell as attributing the rush to pay raises for soldiers in high combat parts of Afghanistan. Other reports cited a dearth of construction and farming jobs during the harsh Afghan winter.
8) Pakistan says U.S. drone attacks could hurt ties
Kamran Haider, Reuters, Wednesday, January 13, 2010; 9:31 AM
Islamabad – Intensified U.S. drone aircraft attacks or ground operations against Islamist militants in Pakistan could endanger relations between the two allies, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
Tension over pilot less drone aircraft attacks will likely deepen as the CIA hunts down enemies along the border after a suicide bomber crossed over Pakistan’s border and killed seven of its employees in Afghanistan.
Pakistan officially objects to the strikes against suspected al Qaeda and Taliban militants along its northwest, saying they violate its sovereignty.
The attacks have also created fierce anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, a key ally Washington sees as a front-line state in its war on militancy.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said after meeting U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke that some very clear "red lines" were discussed. "I said despite the partnership that we enjoy, Pakistan cannot, and Pakistan feels that it will undermine our relationship, if there’s expansion of drones and if there are operations on ground," he told a news conference.
The United States has stepped up its drone attacks since the double agent blew himself up at a U.S. base in Afghanistan on December 30, killing seven CIA agents.
[…] What Pakistan worries most about is a possible expansion of drone attacks to the southwestern province of Baluchistan, where the Pakistani government already faces a low-level insurgency from rebels seeking autonomy. Washington believes Afghan Taliban leaders are hiding there.
Pakistan is fighting its own homegrown Taliban insurgency and has resisted intense U.S. pressure to go after Afghan Taliban, who do not attack in Pakistan and who Pakistan sees as assets which give it leverage against the influence of old rival India in Afghanistan.
Relations became seriously strained between the allies when U.S. commandos raided a border village in South Waziristan and killed 20 people, including women and children, on September 3, 2008.
Pakistan later closed down the main supply route through Pakistan for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, saying the move was based on security reasons.
9) Islamists Press Jordan To Stop Aiding U.S. Forces In Afghanistan
Stephen Farrell, New York Times, January 14, 2010
Amman, Jordan – Jordan, one of the United States’ closest allies in the Arab world, came under pressure on Wednesday from Islamists to stop cooperating with American forces in Afghanistan.
Two weeks after a Jordanian suicide bomber blew himself up at a Central Intelligence Agency base in Khost Province, Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood and other opposition groups demanded that the Jordanian government drop its pro-America stance. In a statement titled "It Is Not Our War," they wrote, "We demand an end to the policy of what is called cooperation or security coordination with the Zionist enemy or the American intelligence agencies, and the withdrawal of Jordanian forces from Afghanistan."
Jordan’s involvement in Afghanistan became a point of debate here after the suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor of Palestinian origin, blew himself up at the C.I.A. base on Dec. 30, killing seven Americans and a Jordanian intelligence officer who was his supervisor. Western government officials said that Mr. Balawi was a double agent who was taken onto the base because the Americans hoped he might lead them to senior leaders of Al Qaeda.
Some Jordanians have expressed support for his action, and he has been lionized on Islamist Web sites, where for years he was a popular jihadi blogger.
[…] Hasan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian analyst of Islamist groups, said that in addition to longstanding anger over the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, many Jordanians questioned their government’s role in a conflict so far from home.
He said that although many Jordanians opposed the American war in neighboring Iraq, after Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia claimed responsibility for blowing up three hotels in Amman in 2005, they at least appreciated the need for Jordan to help track down the group’s Jordanian-born leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
"However, going as far away as Afghanistan and Pakistan is, I think, very difficult to understand," Mr. Abu Hanieh said. "Most Jordanian people do not even know that there are Jordanian forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and this itself created a shock."
The Jordanian government defends its involvement in Afghanistan. In Washington on Friday, Jordan’s foreign minister, Nasser Judeh, said, "We’re talking about finding the root causes, finding the root of where terrorists plan and plot, and trying to stop them right there and then."
But Zaki Saad, a former director of the Islamic Action Front, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing in Jordan, said there was so much anger against the government’s policies – and the marginalization of mainstream Islamist groups like his own – that it was driving radical young people into the arms of Al Qaeda. "Balawi is not the first case, and he won’t be the last," he said.
10) Catholic bishops criticize Israel on Palestinians
Ben Hubbard, Associated Press, Thursday, January 14, 2010; 9:42 AM
Jerusalem – A high-level delegation of Roman Catholic bishops criticized Israeli polices in Arab sectors of Jerusalem on Thursday and called for more contacts between ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.
The group of eight bishops from North America and Europe said violence, insecurity, the route of Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, home demolitions and other policies threaten peace prospects and endanger the dwindling Christian presence in the Holy Land.
The issue of Jerusalem – home to holy sites for Jews, Christians and Muslims – remains the most flammable in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians claim the city’s eastern sector as the capital of their future state. Israel, which captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war, insists the city will never be divided.
In a statement issued at the end of their annual visit, the bishops called for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. "For us, this is not merely about politics; it is an issue of basic human rights," the statement said.
[…] Speaking to reporters on Thursday, the bishops spoke of watching Palestinian children cross Israeli checkpoints to return from school and the humiliation Palestinians say they feel at such places. Israel says the crossings are necessary to prevent attacks.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas, vice president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the human rights situation for Palestinians in the Holy Land has gotten worse during the 20 years that he has been visiting the region.
11) More candidates may be banned from Iraqi elections
Hannah Allam and Sahar Issa, McClatchy Newspapers, Wed, Jan. 13, 2010
Baghdad – Iraqi officials met late into the night Wednesday to determine how many candidates should be barred from running in the March elections after a panel determined that they had ties to Saddam Hussein’s former Baath Party.
The decision last week by the Justice and Accountability Commission, which handles Iraq’s de-Baathification efforts, outraged Sunni Muslim voters and cast doubts on whether more than 400 contenders would be included in the parliamentary polls.
Sunni politicians called the ban an effort to disenfranchise Iraq’s Sunni minority, and warned that sidelining Sunnis could lead to unrest and a return to support for insurgents in the absence of fair representation. A smooth vote in March would help pave the way out of Iraq for U.S. forces.
Sunni leaders had held out hope that the Independent High Electoral Commission, which is reviewing the decision, would scale back the purge and reinstate some candidates.
Instead, a senior Iraqi official who’s directly involved in the negotiations told McClatchy on Wednesday that the ban might be expanded to more than 500 potential candidates because a review of documents by a mixed-sect legislative committee had found that even more people should be barred from running. He added that sectarianism didn’t play a role in the investigation, saying, "Half of them are Shiite."
[…] Faraj al Haidari, the head of the electoral commission, declined to comment on "leaked figures" and said the commission was still in talks with the Interior Ministry and de-Baathification officials over how to handle the large number of candidates recommended for the ban. It’s not only Sunnis who fall under the ban, and other Sunni candidates with clear records are sprinkled among other electoral lists that aren’t included in the purge.
[…] Officials involved in the negotiations said privately that the Independent High Electoral Commission was seeking a way to mitigate the uproar by extending the ban only to the leaders of lists or those with the strongest cases against them under laws relating to members of the former regime. Including everyone on the banned candidates’ tickets could hurt the chances that the election will be considered fair and transparent. "Many people are calling and saying, ‘We hate the Baath Party, so why are we banned?’ " the Iraqi negotiator said.
Izzat al Shabendar, a Shiite Muslim legislator on the Justice and Accountability committee, confirmed that officials are considering extending the ban and said, "Numbers may indeed rise." Shabendar said he supported banning some candidates, but he argued that the process and timing were unhealthy for Iraq’s attempts at national reconciliation.
"The political climate cannot tolerate what this shady commission is doing," Shabendar said, referring to the Justice and Accountability Commission. "It’s not because it’s going after candidates with Baathist connections that I criticize it, but because it has a filthy sectarian agenda and is manipulating the rules and regulations to attain its goals."
12) China to send lower-level envoy to talks on Iran
Arshad Mohammed, Reuters, Thursday, January 14, 2010; 2:08 PM
Washington – China has decided to send a lower-level official to talks among major powers in New York on Saturday about possibly imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programs, the U.S. State Department said on Thursday. The development caused consternation among others in the group, which includes Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany.
Several diplomats said they did not know China’s motive, speculating it might be to illustrate Beijing’s resistance to punishing Iran further or its dismay at U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province.
The other nations are expected to send their foreign ministry political directors to the meeting, which the United States and its Western allies hope will focus on discussing fresh sanctions to impose on Iran over its nuclear activities.
[…] "It’s unlikely that the Chinese delegation will have decision-making ability at the meeting, which will make it difficult to accomplish much," a diplomat from one of the six powers told Reuters.
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