Just Foreign Policy News
January 20, 2011
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*Action: Urge Obama to Freeze Assets Linked to Ben Ali Clan
France, Switzerland, and Germany have announced that they have frozen assets linked to the deposed President of Tunisia. A Tunisian prosecutor is investigating these assets. But the US is silent. Urge President Obama to support the freeze and the Tunisian investigation.
Europeans Freeze Assets Linked to Deposed Tunisian President; What About US?
1) US opposition to the return of former President Aristide to Haiti is very revealing of US policy towards democracy in the region, writes Mark Weisbrot in a column distributed by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service. Asked about the return of Duvalier, who had thousands tortured and murdered under his dictatorship, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "this is a matter for the Government of Haiti and the people of Haiti." But when asked about Aristide returning, he said "Haiti does not need, at this point, any more burdens." WikiLeaks cables show the US put pressure on Brazil, which heads the UN forces occupying Haiti, not only to keep Aristide out of the country but to keep him from having any political influence from exile. A U.S. congressman concedes that Washington overthrew Aristide the second time, in 2004, because he had abolished the Haitian army. Aristide remains the most popular political leader in Haiti, Weisbrot writes. Sooner or later, he will be back.
2) Tunisian officials launched an investigation into the financial dealings of former President Ben Ali, the Los Angeles Times reports. The public prosecutor announced a probe of real estate, stock market and foreign holdings of Ben Ali, his wife, Leila, and other relatives. France, Germany and Switzerland announced moves to freeze the assets of Ben Ali’s family.
3) Former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering and former Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins are among the signers of a letter to President Obama urging that the US support a resolution at the UN Security Council condemning illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Territory, Steve Clemons reports in the Washington Note. If the proposed resolution is consistent with existing and established US policies, then deploying a veto would severely undermine US credibility and interests, placing us firmly outside of the international consensus, and further diminishing our ability to mediate this conflict, they write.
4) Haiti’s former president Aristide, a onetime priest of the slums who became Haiti’s first democratically elected president, said he was prepared to return home "today, tomorrow and at any time," the New York Times reports. Aristide was ousted in 2004 "under intense pressure" from the US, the Times notes. Political analysts said Aristide’s return would not be supported by the US or France. "Aristide could have 15 passports and he’s still not going to come back to Haiti," said one analyst close to the Haitian government. "France and the United States are standing in the way."
5) In a speech on the House floor, Republican Rep. Walter Jones urged conservatives to speak out publicly against the war in Afghanistan, the Huffington Post reports
6) Former Mexican President Vicente Fox now favors the full legalization of the production, transit and sale of prohibited drugs, Time Magazine reports. "We have to take all the production chain out of the hands of criminals," Fox said. Fox said California’s Proposition 19 to legalize cannabis would have been a gigantic step forward. "It would have been a great thing, a benefit to California, the United States and for Mexico," Fox said.
7) Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, opened an economic summit meeting of Arab leaders by telling them that "The Tunisian revolution is not far from us," the New York Times reports. "The Arab citizen entered an unprecedented state of anger and frustration," Moussa said.
8) Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri’s foes and supporters agreed on the outline of an agreement, the New York Times reports. Hariri’s government would have ended Lebanon’s cooperation with the international tribunal. In return, Syria and Hezbollah would have disarmed some Palestinian camps, removed Hezbollah’s weapons from parts of Beirut and ended its effective veto of government decisions. But the US insisted Hariri could not do so before indictments were issued to a pretrial judge in The Hague on Monday. A senior US official appeared to claim victory. But others in Lebanon warned that the US had no end game, beyond the indictments.
9) The WikiLeaks cables show that the US missed an opportunity last year to get a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, former US official Gary Sick writes for Foreign Policy. We are now entering the third round of this drama with the talks this week in Istanbul; fortunately the Turks have persevered.
10) Many Iranians blame US sanctions for the crash of an Iran Air Boeing727 on Jan. 9, Arash Aramesh writes for Inside Iran. US sanctions have obstructed Iran from acquiring spare parts for US-built civilian aircraft. After the crash, many callers to BBC Persian blamed the West for imposing sanctions that hurt the Iranian people – not the government. According to these viewers, the sanctions are hurting the image of the US and the West in Iran. To these Iranians, the West does not really care about their lives and their wellbeing. Instead, they believe Western countries are crushing the Iranian people in order to win a political battle against the Islamic Republic.
11) Former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Tuesday the West is "hyping" the perceived nuclear threat from Iran, AFP reports. He said the 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment that Iran had abandoned a nuclear weapons program in 2003 is still accurate today.
1) Aristide Should Be Allowed to Return to Haiti
Blocking Aristide’s return to Haiti shows woeful lack of respect
Mark Weisbrot, Bellingham Herald, WA (McClatchy-Tribune News Service), Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
Washington – Haiti’s infamous dictator "Baby Doc" Duvalier, returned to his country this week, while the country’s first elected President, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is kept out. These two facts really say everything about Washington’s policy toward Haiti, and our government’s respect for democracy in that country and in the region.
Asked about the return of Duvalier, who had thousands tortured and murdered under his dictatorship, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, "this is a matter for the Government of Haiti and the people of Haiti." But when asked about Aristide returning, he said "Haiti does not need, at this point, any more burdens."
WikiLeaks cables released in the last week show that Washington put pressure on Brazil, which is heading up the United Nations forces that are occupying Haiti, not only to keep Aristide out of the country but to keep him from having any political influence from exile.
Who is this dangerous man that Washington fears so much? Here is how the Washington Post editorial board described Aristide’s first term, back in 1996: "Elected overwhelmingly, ousted by a coup and reseated by American troops, the populist ex-priest abolished the repressive army, virtually ended human rights violations, mostly kept his promise to promote reconciliation, ran ragged but fair elections and, though he had the popular support to ignore it, honored his pledge to step down at the end of his term. A formidable record."
That was before Washington launched its campaign to oust Aristide a second time. Together with its international allies, especially Canada and France, they cut off almost all foreign aid to the country after 2000. At the same time they poured in tens of millions of dollars – to build up an opposition movement. With control over most of the media, and the help of armed thugs, convicted murderers, and former death squad leaders, the broken and impoverished government was toppled in February of 2004.
The main difference between the 2004 coup and the 1991 coup that overthrew Aristide was that in 1991, President George H.W. Bush did not recognize the coup government, even though the people that installed it were paid by the CIA. They had to at least pretend they were not involved. But in 2004, under the second President Bush, they didn’t even bother to hide it. This represents a degeneration of U.S. foreign policy.
I recently had a conversation with a longtime U.S. congressman in which I pointed out Washington overthrew Aristide the second time, in 2004, because he had abolished the Haitian army. "That’s right," he said.
Washington is a cynical place. The most important human rights organizations in this town did not do very much when thousands of Haitians were killed after the 2004 coup and officials of the constitutional government were thrown in jail.
And it does not seem to be an issue to them, or to the main "pro-democracy" organizations here, that Haiti’s prominent former president is kept out of the country – in violation of Haiti’s constitution and international law. Nor that his party, still the most popular in the country, is banned from participating in elections. The major media generally follows their lead.
Now we have elections in Haiti where the Organization of American States, at the behest of Washington, is trying to choose for Haiti who will compete in the second round of its presidential election. That is Washington’s idea of democracy.
But Aristide is still alive, in forced exile in South Africa. He remains the most popular political leader in Haiti, and seven years is not enough to erase his memory from Haitian consciousness. Sooner or later, he will be back.
2) Tunisia’s new government to investigate ex-president’s financial dealings
Calm returns to the country and newly sworn-in officials pledge to release political prisoners of former President Zine el Abidine ben Ali’s regime and to hold free elections in six months.
Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, January 20, 2011
Tunis – Tunisia’s transitional government on Wednesday began to redress alleged financial and political abuses of the deposed ruler and his family as a measure of calm returned to a country roiled less than a week ago by a popular uprising.
Newly sworn-in officials launched an investigation into the financial dealings of former President Zine el Abidine ben Ali, who fled the country Friday. They also have taken steps to address some of the human rights abuses during Ben Ali’s 23-year-reign, announcing the release of 1,800 political prisoners.
"I want to make a judicial inquiry to arrest everyone who used the state to enrich themselves," interim President Fouad Mebazaa said in a televised news conference. "We believe in Tunisia and we will write a new page in history to make a future where the nation will prevail," he said. "We will realize all the wishes of the people, by letting them choose their own government in elections that will be a complete break with the past and by releasing all political opponents."
A provisional government that says it is dedicated to building a modern democracy promises free elections in six months.
The public prosecutor on Wednesday announced a probe of real estate, stock market and foreign holdings of Ben Ali, his wife, Leila, and other relatives, according to the official TAP news agency. France, Germany and Switzerland also announced moves to freeze the assets of Ben Ali’s family, officials in Europe announced.
3) Pickering, Hills, Sullivan, Beinart, Dobbins, More Ask Obama Administration to Support UN Resolution Condemning Illegal Israeli Settlements
Steve Clemons, The Washington Note, Wednesday, Jan 19 2011
A letter from an array of concerned policy commentators and practitioners, academics, and former government officials about the resolution pending at the United Nations Security Council on illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Territory has just been released and is posted below.
Among those signing the letter are former US Trade Representative and Council on Foreign Relations Chair Carla Hills, journalist and former New Republic editor Peter Beinart, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering, former Assistant Secretary of State James Dobbins, former Assistant Secretary of State Robert Pastor, former New Republic editor and Atlantic Senior Editor and Daily Dish publisher Andrew Sullivan, former US Secretary of Defense Frank Carlucci and former US Ambassador to Israel Edward "Ned" Walker, among others.
Washington, DC – 18 January 2011
Dear Mr. President,
In light of the impasse reached in efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) moves to consider a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territory, we are writing to urge you to instruct our Ambassador to the United Nations to vote yes on this initiative.
The time has come for a clear signal from the United States to the parties and to the broader international community that the United States can and will approach the conflict with the objectivity, consistency and respect for international law required if it is to play a constructive role in the conflict’s resolution.
While a UNSC resolution will not resolve the issue of settlements or prevent further Israeli construction activity in the Occupied Territory, it is an appropriate venue for addressing these issues and for putting all sides on notice that the continued flouting of international legality will not be treated with impunity. Nor would such a resolution be incompatible with or challenge the need for future negotiations to resolve all outstanding issues, and it would in no way deviate from our strong commitment to Israel’s security.
If the proposed resolution is consistent with existing and established US policies, then deploying a veto would severely undermine US credibility and interests, placing us firmly outside of the international consensus, and further diminishing our ability to mediate this conflict.
[…] The settlements are clearly illegal according to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva convention – a status recognized in an opinion issued by the State Department’s legal advisor on April 28, 1978, a position which has never since been revised.
That official US legal opinion describes the settlements as being "inconsistent with international law". US policy across nine administrations has been to oppose the settlements, with the focus for the last two decades being on the incompatibility of settlement construction with efforts to advance peace. The Quartet Roadmap, for instance, issued during the Bush presidency in 2003, called on Israel to "freeze all settlement activity, including natural growth."
Indeed, the US has upheld these principles, including their application to East Jerusalem, by allowing the passage of previous relevant UNSC resolutions, including: UNSCRs 446 and 465, determining that the settlements have "no legal validity"; UNSCRs 465 and 476, affirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva convention to the Occupied Territory; UNSCRs 1397 and1850 stressing the urgency of achieving a comprehensive peace and calling for a two state solution; and UNSCR 1515, endorsing the Quartet Roadmap.
At this critical juncture, how the US chooses to cast its vote on a settlements resolution will have a defining effect on our standing as a broker in Middle East peace. But the impact of this vote will be felt well beyond the arena of Israeli-Palestinian deal-making – our seriousness as a guarantor of international law and international legitimacy is at stake.
America’s credibility in a crucial region of the world is on the line – a region in which hundreds of thousands of our troops are deployed and where we face the greatest threats and challenges to our security. This vote is an American national security interest vote par excellence. We urge you to do the right thing.
4) Aristide Says He Is Ready to Return to Haiti, Too
Ginger Thompson, New York Times, January 19, 2011
Port-au-Prince, Haiti – Days after Haitians watched an exiled dictator come home, a former president issued a statement on Wednesday that fueled rumors that he, too, was angling to return.
The former president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a onetime priest of the slums who became Haiti’s first democratically elected president, said he was prepared to return home "today, tomorrow and at any time." Mr. Aristide was ousted in 2004 in the midst of growing unrest and under intense pressure from the United States.
[…] Mr. Aristide’s travels, however, have been limited because he does not have a valid Haitian passport. The nation’s president, René Préval, once a political protégé of Mr. Aristide’s, has refused to issue him a new one. More importantly, political analysts here said, his return would not be supported by either the United States or France, Haiti’s most important allies.
"Aristide could have 15 passports and he’s still not going to come back to Haiti," said one analyst, who asked not to be identified because he was close to the Haitian government and was not authorized to speak to the media. "France and the United States are standing in the way."
5) GOP Rep Calls On Colleagues To Speak Out Against Afghan War
Amanda Terkel, Huffington Post, January 20, 2011
Washington – A Republican lawmaker who has been an outspoken critic of the war in Afghanistan took to the House floor Wednesday evening, calling on his GOP colleagues to join him and speak out.
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) was initially a strong supporter of President Bush’s national security policies. He backed the invasion of Iraq and became widely known as a leader of the infamous push to rename french fries as "freedom fries" in the House cafeteria in 2003.
But two years later, he was already regretting both positions. Though he had a staunch conservative record and hails from one of the most heavily-militarized districts in the country, Jones was soon joining Democrats calling on Bush to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq.
Jones is now a consistent supporter of pulling out of Afghanistan as well, citing the lives lost of U.S. service members and billions of dollars spent on the effort.
On Wednesday, he praised Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist for calling for a vigorous debate on the war and said that he would like to see more conservatives speak up. Citing a Jan. 12 Huffington Post article which read, "Norquist also suggested that many prominent conservatives privately hold the view that the war in Afghanistan should end quickly," Jones continued: "It is time for them to speak out publicly, Mr. Speaker. We need to become more engaged in the issue and make our feelings known…It is time that Congress and the American people really look at what is going on and what war really means. I would like to thank prominent conservative Grover Norquist for speaking out on Afghanistan. I hope this inspires others to do the same. History has shown that we cannot fix Afghanistan. It is in our best interest to learn what history is trying to teach us, that no country has ever conquered Afghanistan. … It is time for Mr. Obama to keep his word to the American people, and that is to bring them out in July 2011."
6) Mexico’s Ex-President Vicente Fox: Legalize Drugs
Ioan Grillo, Time Magazine, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011
San Francisco del Rincon – As Mexico drowns in drug-related bloodshed – suffering almost 12,000 murders in 2010 – it is perhaps unsurprising that government critics have turned up their screaming that the war on drugs isn’t working. But it was a bit of a bombshell when former President Vicente Fox added his voice to the chorus. The cowboy-boot-wearing leader, who ruled Mexico from 2000 to 2006, once declared the "mother of all battles" against crime and rounded up drug kingpins. But before he left office, he witnessed the first big spike in violence as the narcos retaliated. Last August, evidence surfaced that his vision had changed when he wrote on his blog that prohibition wasn’t working. Now, in an interview with TIME in his hometown in central Mexico, he says his views have indeed moved toward the other end of the spectrum: favoring full-on legalization of the production, transit and sale of prohibited drugs. Fox is most explicit about marijuana but says the principle applies to all illegal drugs.
"Prohibition didn’t work in the Garden of Eden. Adam ate the apple," says Fox, 68, looking relaxed in a polo shirt – in contrast to his stressful last days in office. "We have to take all the production chain out of the hands of criminals and into the hands of producers – so there are farmers that produce marijuana and manufacturers that process it and distributors that distribute it and shops that sell it … I don’t want to say that legalizing means that drugs are good. They are not good but bad for your health, and you shouldn’t take them. But ultimately, this responsibility is with citizens."
Taking such a step would go beyond policies pursued anywhere in the world. While nations including Portugal, Holland and Mexico itself have decriminalized the personal possession of many narcotics, traffic and the billions of drug dollars remain firmly in the hands of criminal gangs. Governments have been held back from going the distance to legalize and regulate the trade by rigid U.N. treaties, which oblige all signatories to combat trafficking. Fox, however, argues that nations should not wait for the whole world but plow ahead with reform.
"It is not necessary that there is a global change," he says. "Always, in every human action, there are leaders. There are people that go ahead, that see problems before the rest, that take decisions before the rest." As an example, he goes on, California’s Proposition 19 to legalize cannabis would have been a gigantic step forward. (Prop 19 missed being passed in November, with 46.5% in favor and 53.5% against.) "It is a shame that the proposal to legalize did not prosper," Fox says. "It would have been a great thing, a benefit to California, the United States and for Mexico. It would have been a first step." Mexican cartels make billions exporting marijuana to the U.S., as well as trafficking cocaine, heroin and crystal meth.
Fox is the latest in a series of former Latin American Presidents to question the war on drugs. In 2009, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria (who oversaw the killing of cocaine cowboy Pablo Escobar) and former Brazilian head Fernando Cardoso all released a statement saying the war on drugs had failed.
7) Tunisia Casts Shadow Over Arab Summit Meeting
Michael Slackman and Mona El Naggar, New York Times, January 19, 2011
Cairo – Arab leaders, meeting for the first time since the public revolt in Tunisia toppled its autocratic president, heard one of their own, a consummate insider, warn that "the Arab soul is broken by poverty, unemployment and general recession."
Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab League and a former foreign minister in Egypt, opened an economic summit meeting in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el Sheik with a sobering assessment not just of circumstances in the tumultuous North African nation of Tunisia, but across a region that stretches from Morocco through the Persian Gulf.
"The Tunisian revolution is not far from us," Mr. Moussa said Wednesday in his opening remarks, despite the efforts of Egyptian organizers to avoid discussion of Tunisia. "The Arab citizen entered an unprecedented state of anger and frustration."
8) Lebanese Crisis Deepens as Talks Break Down
Anthony Shadid, New York Times, January 20, 2011
Beirut – Lebanon’s worst crisis in years escalated dangerously on Thursday, as a last-ditch effort to reach a negotiated solution ended in failure and the American-backed caretaker prime minister struck a defiant note toward Hezbollah and its allies, who brought down his 14-month-old national unity government earlier this month.
The events cast the crisis into an unpredictable moment, as each side became ever more entrenched in positions with little common ground, over indictments expected to name members of Hezbollah in the assassination of the prime minister’s father, Rafik Hariri.
The 17-minute speech by Prime Minister Saad Hariri was delivered just hours after Turkey and Qatar announced that they had abandoned work on their diplomatic initiative. It brought the long-running confrontation in this flammable country between Mr. Hariri’s supporters, backed by the United States and France, and Hezbollah and its allies, backed by Iran and Syria, squarely around the personality of Mr. Hariri himself.
[…] Hezbollah says the tribunal has become hopelessly politicized and, indeed, the United States and France long viewed it as a way to impose pressure on neighboring Syria, the traditional power broker here. It says that witnesses provided testimony that later proved false, and contends that Israel, which it blames for Mr. Hariri’s death, sponsored espionage rings here that could have falsified some of the records investigators used as evidence.
In past days, though, principle has mattered less than a war of nerves, waged in highly personalized attacks with martial rhetoric. In embarrassing testimony leaked from the tribunal and broadcast on opposition television, Mr. Hariri was shown talking openly about Lebanese and Syrian leaders, whom he variously called prostitutes, tools and stooges. Hezbollah staged a show of force, organizing gatherings of men clad in black as a message that it is well within its ability to seize the capital, parts of which it occupied in May 2008.
"Hopefully, common sense will prevail this time," said the Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, who left Beirut after saying the parties remained far from a deal.
Mr. Hariri’s foes and supporters agree on the outline of the agreement. Mr. Hariri’s government would have ended Lebanon’s cooperation with the tribunal. In return, Syria and Hezbollah would have disarmed some Palestinian camps here, removed Hezbollah’s weapons from parts of Beirut and ended its effective veto of government decisions.
Both sides say Mr. Hariri agreed in principle, but the timing of his disavowal of the tribunal became central: His foes insisted he had to do it before the indictments were issued to a pretrial judge in The Hague on Monday. Backed by the United States and some of his allies, who thought the indictments strengthened his hand, he did not, despite frenzied talks over the weekend.
Though diplomatic efforts failed, a senior Obama administration official said the White House viewed as a success the very fact that Mr. Hariri did not go ahead with the disavowal. "One thing that we always hoped to achieve was the start of the judicial process, as evidenced by the handover of indictments to the pre-trial judge, without a Lebanese denunciation of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon," he said. "That was achieved."
Others in Lebanon, though, warned that the Americans had no end game, beyond the indictments, and that Mr. Hariri was effectively forcing Hezbollah’s hand.
9) While You Were Reading About Ukrainian Nurses …
Real news was buried in WikiLeaks – like this revealing cable on Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Gary Sick, Foreign Policy, January 19, 2011
For nearly eight years of my life, I read State Department cable traffic – mostly dealing with Iran and the Middle East – on a daily basis. Regular readers of cables from the field have at least one advantage when encountering WikiLeaks: They are less distracted by the voyeuristic aspects. There is a certain titillation involved in reading other people’s mail or listening secretly to their private conversations, but after enough exposure the thrill diminishes. In time, one must ask oneself what any of this actually means in terms of policy. Often the answer is: "Not very much."
It’s now conventional wisdom that the WikiLeaked cables, too, didn’t have much new to say. But not everything should be so easily dismissed – and among the thousands of cables that have come out, even beyond the few to make the front page, there are still some fascinating nuggets. What do State Department officials really say to each other about policy when they think no outsiders are listening?
We have learned that officials at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis were scathing and contemptuous about the Tunisian government, even as it was touted as one of America’s authoritarian allies in the Arab world. They didn’t predict the Tunisian revolution, but they at least understood where it was coming from.
But they are not always so prescient. Take, for example, the notes of a conversation between U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara on Nov. 12, 2009.
Six weeks earlier, Iran had tentatively agreed to export 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to Russia, where it would be enriched to nearly 20 percent and then shipped to France to be fabricated into plates. Eventually, it was to be returned to Iran to fuel its research reactor in Tehran, which produces isotopes for medical purposes. Although the details were a bit complex, the deal was a classic bargain: Iran would get fuel for its reactor (and tacit acceptance of its enrichment program), and the West would ensure Iran’s stash of low-enriched uranium was reduced below the amount necessary to produce a nuclear weapon.
But the Iranian negotiators ran into a backlash at home from conservatives, fueled in part by ill-advised European boasts that the deal represented a victory over Iran. So Iran backtracked, insisting its low-enriched uranium could only be relinquished at the moment the fuel assemblies were provided. This led to a range of alternative proposals, in which Turkey came to play a critical role as an intermediary between Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the major parties to the negotiation.
In the November cable, Davutoglu, coming fresh from two long "harsh" sessions with the Iranians in Istanbul, gave Gordon quite an unusual picture of what was really going on in Iran. Based on their very candid discussions, the Turks saw Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as "more flexible" on this issue than others inside the Iranian government but still under "huge pressure" from conservatives. Despite all the bad blood, the Iranians told the Turks that they would prefer to get the reactor fuel directly from the United States rather than from Russia and that they trusted the Americans more than the British. The Turks asked Ahmadinejad point blank if the core of the issue was psychological rather than substance. Ahmadinejad said that it was, yes, basically a matter of public perception.
But Gordon did not appear to pick up the clear signs that negotiations were in sight. Instead, he responded by chiding Davutoglu for Turkey’s positive public words about Iran and called for a public declaration about the dangers of Iranian nuclear proliferation. And as far as I can judge from the public record, the United States never made any further effort to capitalize on the opportunity presented by the Turks. Instead, Washington reverted to the default position of calling for more pressure against Iran.
[…] We are now approaching the third round of this drama. Iranian negotiators will sit down with Western representatives on Friday and Saturday of this week to reopen discussion of the same set of issues that were discussed in the 2009 cable. Perhaps significantly, the meeting this time will be held in Turkey.
The United States has very few friends or allies that are able to engage the Islamic Republic of Iran directly on nuclear or other sensitive issues. The willingness of President Barack Obama’s administration to spurn such assistance is as disappointing as it is lamentable. Fortunately the Turks have persevered, refusing to take no for an answer.
10) Iranians Blame Sanctions for Plane Crash
Arash Aramesh, Inside Iran, January 18th, 2011
An Iran Air Boeing727 crashed on Jan. 9 in the Western-Azerbaijan province in northwestern Iran. Officials blamed poor weather and human error for the crash of this old plane, but many observers and many Iranians believe the American-made plane is the main cause of this tragedy. Even the Iranian government acknowledged that there was something wrong with the plane when Fars news, a semi-official news agency with ties to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, claimed that the old engines may have been the main cause of the crash.
The B-727 in question was purchased from the United States almost thirty seven years ago. After the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the Iran hostage crisis that followed, U.S. and international sanctions prevented Iran from purchasing spare parts for its military and civilian aircraft. Therefore, Iran began purchasing spare parts on the black market and resorted to purchasing inferior Russian planes.
Iran had some success finding spare parts in the international black market for some of its planes. But in 1984, Boeing stopped manufacturing 727s and by 2010, it had become very difficult for the Iranians to acquire spare parts in the black market for their B-727s.
It is not surprising then that some Iranians blame not only the Iranian government for the crash of this aircraft, but they also turn their anger towards Western powers, particularly the United States, for refusing to sell parts to Iran for civilian planes.
Following the B-727 crash, BBC Persian dedicated one of its shows to the views of Iranians about this matter who were calling from inside and outside Iran. While many callers blamed the Iranian government for this tragedy, a large number of listeners blamed the West for imposing sanctions that hurt the Iranian people – not the regime. According to these viewers, the sanctions are hurting the image of the US and the West in Iran. To these Iranians, the West does not really care about their lives and their wellbeing. Instead, they believe Western countries are crushing the Iranian people in order to win a political battle against the Islamic Republic.
11) ElBaradei: West hyping perceived atomic threat from Iran
AFP, Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tehran/Vienna: The former head of the U.N. atomic watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei said Tuesday the West is "hyping" the perceived nuclear threat from Iran while the Iranian president said Tehran is making steady progress in its nuclear program.
[…] "There’s a lot of a hype in this debate," ElBaradei told the Austrian news agency A.P.A.
The Egyptian-born diplomat, who headed the International Atomic Energy Agency for 12 years until November 2009, pointed to a U.S. intelligence report released in 2007 which suggested Iran had indeed been working on a nuclear weapons program but abandoned it 2003. "This assessment is still accurate today," ElBaradei said in comments reproduced in German.
ElBaradei, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for this work at the I.A.E.A. in 2005, did not rule out that Iran had indeed thought about building a bomb in the 1980’s.
At the time, Iran was engaged in a "terrible war" with Iraq, which had used chemical weapons, he argued. "Every other country in this situation would have had to think about how to defend itself," he said. In the meantime, however, Iran’s atomic program was merely the means "to become a key player in the Middle East."
"The Iranians are of the opinion that uranium enrichment is a means to an end," ElBaradei said. If a country has enrichment technology, "it can develop nuclear weapons in a relatively short period of time. And [Tehran believes] that this sends a strong signal to its neighbors and the rest of the world," he said.
Furthermore, it could force the United States back to the negotiating table after Tehran and Washington broke off diplomatic ties 30 years ago. There was a lot of suspicion between the two capitals which must be dispelled, ElBaradei said.
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