Just Foreign Policy News
June 2, 2010
Tell Obama: Speak Up for the Free Passage of the Rachel Corrie to Gaza
In his speech in Cairo, President Obama urged the Palestinian people to press their claims for justice through nonviolence. Now that the Israeli military has attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, President Obama should follow through on his Cairo speech, and demand free passage to Gaza for the Irish-flagged Rachel Corrie.
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Video: Irish Labour Party Spokesman Says Gaza Blockade Illegal
Calls on the Irish government to press for the Rachel Corrie to pass unimpeded to Gaza.
1) Nine high-profile experts, including former weapons inspector David Kay and former Under Secretary of State Tom Pickering, said world powers should seriously consider the Iran nuclear fuel swap, Reuters reports. "We urge the so-called Vienna Group (Russia, France, the United States, and the IAEA) to seriously pursue this proposal as an opening for further diplomatic engagement with Iran on outstanding issues of concern," the experts said.
2) Eyewitness accounts from ships raided by Israeli commandos have cast doubt on Israel’s version of events that led to the deaths of at least nine people, the BBC reports. German activist Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship. Israel says its soldiers were attacked with "knives, clubs and other weapons" and opened fire in self-defense.
3) Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and national security adviser Uzi Arad spent four hours in meetings Tuesday at the White House, the Washington Post reports. The discussions also explored ways for future humanitarian deliveries to reach Gaza without jeopardizing Israel’s security, a White House official said. Behind the White House’s message was a sense within the administration that Israel’s approach toward upholding its blockade is unworkable over the long term, and the focus now is on preventing another deadly raid at sea, the Post says. The Post notes that the latter question may be called later this week, when the MV Rachel Corrie will attempt to reach Gaza.
4) A Maryland woman lost her eye during a demonstration in Jerusalem against Israel’s naval raid on a Gaza aid flotilla when she was shot in the face with a tear gas canister by an Israeli border policeman, AP reports. An eyewitness said Palestinian youths were hurling rocks, but the woman didn’t participate in any violence and was standing at a distance.
5) Latin American countries, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil, strongly condemned the attack carried out by the Israeli forces against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, Xinhua reports. Argentina, Mexico and Brazil called for lifting the embargo on Gaza.
6) UN Secretary General Ban Israel’s blockade of Gaza was responsible for the deadly raid on the aid flotilla and should be lifted, Middle East Online reports. "Had Israelis heeded to my call and to the call of the international community by lifting the blockade of Gaza, this tragic incident would not have happened," Ban said. "It would have been avoided without such tragedy, therefore I again urge Israeli authorities to lift this blockade," Ban said.
7) Filmmaker Oliver Stone on Tuesday praised Brazil’s efforts to mediate with Iran on its nuclear program, AP reports. Stone was in Brazil to promote his documentary "South of the Border" about progressive leaders in South America.
8) Afghan police brought in by the U.S. are having trouble establishing connections with residents in Marja, the New York Times reports. Part of their problem was that many sergeants are Tajik, and do not speak Pashto, southern Afghanistan’s dominant language. [The NYT buries this extremely damning information 90% of the way into the article – JFP.]
9) Prime Minister Hatoyama, who swept into power last year with bold promises to revamp the country, then faltered over broken campaign pledges to remove a US base from Okinawa, announced he would step down, the New York Times reports.
10) Former defense minister Santos, who has pledged to continue Uribe’s military policies, defeated former Bogota mayor Mockus in the first round of presidential elections, the Washington Post reports. Santos took 46.6 percent of the vote – or 6.7 million voters, more than double the 3.1 million who voted for Mockus.
1) Powers should consider Iran fuel offer: experts
Reuters, 3:23am EDT
Vienna – World powers should seriously consider a newly-drafted fuel swap plan for Iran to part with some of its nuclear material, even if it is not perfect, a group of high-profile experts said. The nine experts, including former weapons inspector David Kay, former U.S. Under Secretary of State Tom Pickering and arms control experts Jeffrey Lewis and Daryl Kimball, said the offer should be seen as a possible diplomatic opportunity.
Turkey and Brazil last month resurrected parts of a U.N.-backed offer for Tehran to part with 1,200 kg of its low-enriched uranium in return for special fuel rods for a medical research reactor. The original U.N. plan, backed by the United States, Russia and France, had been seen as a way to help defuse international tension by removing an amount of material from Iran that could be enough for an atom bomb if enriched to higher levels.
[…] The group of foreign policy and nuclear non-proliferation experts said in a statement on Tuesday however that the new offer should not be dismissed. "We urge the so-called Vienna Group (Russia, France, the United States, and the IAEA) to seriously pursue this proposal as an opening for further diplomatic engagement with Iran on outstanding issues of concern," they said.
The statement was distributed by the Washington-based National Iranian American Council, a think tank supported by Iranian Americans and U.S. foundations. The non-proliferation experts are independent figures who work for other think tanks and include respected analysts in the field.
They acknowledged Western concerns that the new proposal did not address Iran’s escalated enrichment work, the size of its growing uranium stockpile or its need to cooperate with the IAEA by allowing enhanced inspections.
An acceptance of the plan however, could be the first step in a broader diplomatic engagement, they said. "Iran’s agreement to export a large portion of its low-enriched uranium outside of its border for up to a year is worthy of consideration," they wrote, adding that Iran had made concessions on its previous position in accepting these terms.
Iran had backtracked on the original fuel offer, asking for a simultaneous swap on its home soil.
The experts said the new deal however appeared to have wide backing in the Iranian leadership and so was less likely to become a victim of internal politics.
2) Witnesses cast doubt on Israel’s convoy raid account
BBC, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 22:13 UK
Eyewitness accounts from ships raided by Israeli commandos have cast doubt on Israel’s version of events that led to the deaths of at least nine people. German pro-Palestinian activist Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship.
Israel says its soldiers were attacked with "knives, clubs and other weapons" and opened fire in self-defence.
The raid led to widespread condemnation and the UN has called for an inquiry.
[…] Speaking as he arrived back in Berlin wrapped in a blue blanket, Mr Paech, a member of a German opposition party, said Israel’s operation "was not an act of self-defence".
"Personally I saw two-and-a-half wooden batons that were used… There was really nothing else. We never saw any knives.
"This was an attack in international waters on a peaceful mission… This was a clear act of piracy," he added.
Mr Paech had been a passenger on the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara where most, if not all, of the deaths occurred.
[…] Activist Bayram Kalyon, arriving back in Istanbul, had also been a passenger on the Mavi Marmara. "The captain… told us ‘They are firing randomly, they are breaking the windows and entering inside. So you should get out of here as soon as possible’. That was our last conversation with him."
Meanwhile, in Nazareth, Israeli Arab MP Haneen Zuabi – who was on the flotilla – told a press conference that Israeli forces began firing while still in the helicopters hovering over the ships. "We are calling for an international committee to investigate this tragedy," she said.
Diplomatic sources in Ankara have said at least four of those killed were Turkish. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the assault was a "bloody massacre" and must be punished.
3) Nations Decry Blockade Of Gaza
Janine Zacharia, Washington Post, Wednesday, June 2, 2010; A01
Jerusalem – Israel’s botched and deadly commando raid on an aid flotilla has set off widespread international criticism of the Gaza blockade, with popular opinion in many countries swinging heavily against Israel and even the United States urging its ally to find new ways to allow aid shipments to reach the Palestinians.
The United States continued to tread carefully in public on Tuesday – expressing regret about the deaths but not condemning Israel’s actions. Behind the scenes, administration officials pressed Israel to make sure the incident is not repeated, especially with a new aid ship heading for the besieged coastal strip within days.
Israeli Ambassador Michael B. Oren and national security adviser Uzi Arad spent four hours in meetings Tuesday at the White House, including a session with James L. Jones, President Obama’s national security adviser. The meetings focused on how to contain the immediate diplomatic fallout from the raid, which has endangered the push for sanctions against Iran and peace efforts in the Middle East.
The discussions also explored ways for future humanitarian deliveries to reach Gaza without jeopardizing Israel’s security, a White House official said. Behind the White House’s message was a sense within the administration that Israel’s approach toward upholding its blockade is unworkable over the long term, and the focus now is on preventing another deadly raid at sea.
[…] The Obama administration faces a difficult balancing act as it tries to patch up relations with Israel while not letting Arab anger [odd choice of words, given the anger in Turkey -JFP] over the raid, which left nine activists dead, undercut its outreach to the Muslim world.
[…] The future may come as soon as later this week when the MV Rachel Corrie, the seventh ship in the flotilla, will attempt to reach Gaza. The ship is named for an American activist killed in Gaza in 2003 while protesting Israeli home demolitions.
4) American hit in anti-Israeli protest loses eye
Associated Press, Tuesday, June 1, 2010; 6:56 PM
Jerusalem – An American woman has lost her eye during a demonstration in Jerusalem against Israel’s naval raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, a hospital official said Tuesday. Emily Henochowicz, 21, of Maryland, underwent surgery after suffering the injury, said hospital spokeswoman Yael Bossem-Levy.
Henochowicz was hit in the face by a tear gas canister shot by an Israeli border policeman, said witness Jonathan Pollak. He said Palestinian youths were hurling rocks, but Henochowicz didn’t participate in any violence and was standing at a distance.
5) Latin American countries condemn Israeli attack against humanitarian aid ship
Xinhua, June 01 2010
Latin American countries strongly condemned on Monday the attack carried out by the Israeli forces against a ship with Turkish flag, loaded with humanitarian aid for Gaza, Palestine, killing 19 people and injuring 30 others.
The Argentine government condemned the attack in international waters. "The Republic of Argentina deeply regrets the loss of lives in this event and makes a call for carrying out a complete and exhaustive investigation on the event," the Argentine Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The ministry made a "strong call for immediately stopping the violent events, which worsen the situation in the Middle East and lifting the embargo against the people in Gaza, allowing the free circulation of people and the entrance of humanitarian aid to the region."
Argentina also urged Israel to observe the international humanitarian law and follow the resolution of the United Nations in order to achieve a just and long-lasting peace in the region.
The Chilean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "Chile condemns the use of the forces in any form." Senator Alejandro Navarro told Xinhua that Chile "condemns Israel and this event will have multilateral consequences because it set a serious precedent."
The Mexican government also strongly condemned the attack. " Mexico deeply regretted the death of at least 19 people and an undetermined number of injured people during the attack," the Mexican Foreign Ministry said.
The ministry expressed "its condolence and sympathy to the relatives of the victims and injured of these regrettable events."
Mexico also urged Israel to lift the embargo against Gaza in order to allow the entrance of humanitarian aid for the people, " whose situation is of great worry for the international community. "
Mexico demanded a wide investigation on the event and requested to take necessary measures to ease as soon as possible the situation in the region and restart the peace process in the Middle East.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry in a statement said that "Brazil strongly condemns the Israeli attack, because there was no justification for the military intervention against a pacific convoy with strictly humanitarian character. The event is worsened, according to the available information, because it occurred in international waters."
"The event must be investigated independently to make completely clear the event based on Humanitarian and International Laws," the ministry said.
Brazil added that this event "once more shows the need of immediate lifting the embargo in Gaza, in order to guarantee people’s freedom of transit and their free access to food, medicines and consumption goods in that region."
6) UN chief calls on Israel to lift Gaza blockade
Ban: tragic death of aid activists would have been avoided if Israel had lifted blockade of Gaza.
Middle East Online, 2010-06-02
Kampala – Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip was responsible for the deadly raid on a foreign aid flotilla and should be lifted, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday. "Had Israelis heeded to my call and to the call of the international community by lifting the blockade of Gaza, this tragic incident would not have happened," the UN chief said.
[…] "It would have been avoided without such tragedy, therefore I again urge Israeli authorities to lift this blockade," Ban said on the sidelines of a conference in Uganda on the International Criminal Court. Ban said he had reiterated his request Tuesday in a phone call with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
[…] Ban, who said Monday in Kampala he had been "shocked" by the deadly offshore operation against the aid flotilla, reiterated his call for a thorough investigation into the killings.
7) Director Stone praises Brazil for Iran mediation
AP, June 2, 2010
Brasilia, Brazil – Filmmaker Oliver Stone on Tuesday praised Brazil’s efforts to mediate with Iran on its nuclear program, as he visited the South American nation.
Stone was in Brazil to promote his documentary "South of the Border" about leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his allies.
He met Tuesday in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia with presidential candidate Dilma Rousseff, who polls favor to succeed President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. "This Iran situation could be another Iraq," Stone said, according to a transcript of comments provided by Rousseff’s staff. "Seems to me the United States is interested in another march to war. I love what Lula and Brazil are doing."
Brazil and Turkey have brokered a fuel-swap with Iran to address concerns it may be enriching uranium for nuclear weapons. U.S. officials have criticized the agreement, in part because it does not stop Iran from continuing to enrich uranium.
8) Afghan Police Earn Poor Grade For Marja Mission
C. J. Chivers, New York Times, June 1, 2010
Marja, Afghanistan – Three months after arriving in the most dangerous area of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, a contingent of specialized Afghan police officers has logged a mediocre performance while being almost wholly dependent on American supervision and support, Westerners who work with the officers said.
The conduct of Marja’s interim police, from a unit American officials describe as the Interior Ministry’s most promising force, has been undercut by drug use, petty corruption and, at times, a lack of commitment in the face of the ordinary hardships and duties of uniformed life.
When the force first arrived in late winter, entire units refused to stand guard or clean their living areas, several Marines said, and in northern Marja, police shifts often still abandon checkpoints during the sweltering midday heat, disappearing for lunch breaks lasting hours. Some officers have deserted the force.
The police also seem unschooled in rules of engagement, which risks putting their behavior at cross-purposes with Western units trying to earn civilian support. Police officials themselves say they have inadequate equipment and face a complex, dangerous mission.
This early assessment, of a high-profile unit on a much publicized mission, underlined anew the difficulties in creating Afghan forces that can operate independently and be entrusted with the nation’s security – an essential step toward drawing down Western forces after nine years of war.
It also raises questions about any timetable for Afghan self-sufficiency. American officials and contractors say it will take much longer for the units to be nurtured to self-reliance and a higher level of skill. For now, the police in Marja perform limited duties. American units create the space in which they operate, and provide their logistical, medical and military support.
[…] The police also said that establishing connections with residents had been difficult. Part of their problem, they said, was that many sergeants are Tajik, and do not speak Pashto, southern Afghanistan’s dominant language.
9) Japan’s Premier Will Quit as Approval Plummets
Martin Fackler, New York Times, June 1, 2010
Seoul, South Korea – Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan, who swept into power last year with bold promises to revamp the country, then faltered over broken campaign pledges to remove an American base from Okinawa, announced Wednesday that he would step down.
Mr. Hatoyama faced growing pressure to quit, eight months after taking office, amid criticism that he had squandered an electoral mandate to change Japan’s sclerotic postwar political order.
Since taking office in September, he had come to be seen as an indecisive leader. This image was reinforced by his wavering and eventual backtracking on the base issue, which set off huge demonstrations on Okinawa and drove his approval ratings below 25 percent.
10) Santos handily wins first round of Colombian presidential election.
Juan Forero, Washington Post, Monday, May 31, 2010; A06
Bogota, Colombia – A former defense minister who would continue President Álvaro Uribe’s tough anti-guerrilla policies handily defeated a former Bogota mayor Sunday in the first round of presidential elections. Juan Manuel Santos, 58, who oversaw the most decisive strikes against rebel forces, did not garner the simple majority needed to win outright. But his lead over the second-place finisher, Antanas Mockus, was so commanding that he is likely to win the presidency in a second round of voting on June 20.
[…] Santos took 46.6 percent of the vote – or 6.7 million voters, more than double the 3.1 million who voted for Mockus. In the second round, he can count on many of the pro-Uribe voters who backed Germán Vargas Lleras, the third-place finisher, and Noemi Sanin, a former Uribe administration diplomat who finished a distant fifth.
Mockus, also 58, had risen in the polls in recent weeks, appealing to voters captivated by his message of delivering clean government. "Mockus is talking about building confidence, of a positive attitude in addressing the nation’s problems," said Ernesto Correa, 56, a doctor.
But once in the voting booth, more Colombians supported the candidate they perceived as the safe bet – the man who would continue Uribe’s popular policies, analysts said. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants and a two-time mayor of Bogota, lost all but one state and Bogota, which was considered his stronghold.
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