Foreign Policy Briefing 2/9/10


This summary briefing comes to us through the courtesy of Just Foreign Policy.

U.S./Top News
1) Relief efforts in Haiti are still falling short, the Washington Post reports. A fledgling food distribution network so far has largely managed to deliver only rice. Every day, tens of thousands of Haitians face a grueling quest to find any food. Overwhelmed doctors and nurses are facing converging streams of need, including untended wounds and illnesses born of poor sanitation. There are not enough crutches for amputees or people to teach them how to adjust. A U.S. physician described shortages of power, blood-pressure sleeves, and medicine.

2) Afghanistan and its neighbors face a pivotal moment, writes Ahmed Rashid in the New York Review of Books. At stake is whether the US and its allies are willing to talk to the Afghan Taliban, because there is no military victory in sight and no other way to end a war that has been going on for thirty years. According to current US strategy, the US military has to weaken the Taliban before negotiating with them. But Rashid argues that the best opportunity to open talks could be right now, before the Taliban conclude that they are better off waiting the US out. Rashid argues for a regional reconcilation strategy, removing Taliban leaders from the UN blacklist, guaranteeing security of Taliban who return to Afghanistan, providing the Taliban leadership a neutral venue where they can negotiate with the Afghan government and NATO, release of Afghan prisoners, and acceptance of the Taliban setting up a legal political party in Afghanistan.

3) NATO has told an estimated 100,000 civilians not to flee ahead of NATO’s “massive assault” on the “densely-populated district” of Marjah, which could produce “an unprecedented level of fighting,” Reuters reports. Having advised civilians to stay, NATO forces bear extra responsibility to control their fire and avoid tactics that endanger civilians, said Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch. “I suspect that they believe they have the ability to generally distinguish between combatants and civilians. I would call that into question, given their long history of mistakes, particularly when using air power,” Adams said. “Whatever they do, they have an obligation to protect civilians and make adequate provision to alleviate any crisis that arises,” he said. “It is very much their responsibility…. They are going to be carrying the can if this goes badly.”

4) Most Afghan National Army generals and colonels are veterans of the Soviet-built Afghan military, the Wall Street Journal reports. “Some of what the Russians did here was pretty good,” said a NATO official.

5) The new Japanese government wants to expose “secret” treaties with the U.S. that obligated Japan to shoulder the costs of U.S. bases and allow nuclear-armed U.S. ships to sail into Japanese ports, as part of its efforts to make government more transparent, the New York Times reports. Those involved in the effort stressed that the treaties had already been disclosed in the U.S., and were too old to affect current relations.

6) Iran’s IAEA Ambassador Soltanieh said President Ahmadinejad’s announced readiness to send enriched uranium abroad signals a wish to cooperate for a deal with big powers to ease nuclear tension, Reuters reports. Ahmadinejad said Tuesday Iran was now prepared to send low-enriched uranium abroad before getting reactor fuel back. Before, Iran insisted on small swaps on its own soil.

7) USAID is currently funnelling millions of US taxpayer dollars of “aid to Haiti” into questionable organisations such as Chemonics, Development Alternatives, Inc (DAI), and its own Office of Transition Initiatives, which has been involved in shady political activities in various countries where the US was opposing democratically elected governments, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. This is particularly troubling given that the U.S., in collaboration with Canada and France, destroyed the Haitian government and wrecked the economy by cutting off international aid from 2000-2004, in order to overthrow the elected government.

8) Another trade unionist has been murdered in Honduras, In These Times reports. Vanessa Yamileth Zepeda was a leader of the SITRAIHSS labor union (Workers Union for the Honduran Social Security Institute.). She had been abducted while leaving a union meeting.

9) The Israeli government has stepped in to save a house built illegally by Jewish settlers in Palestinian east Jerusalem, AP reports. In Ramallah, Israeli troops confiscated computers, cameras and documents in a raid Monday at the office of a group coordinating Palestinian protests against Israel’s West Bank separation barrier. Palestinians and Israeli human rights activists charged the army is trying to silence legitimate dissent.

10) Egypt arrested 3 top leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood opposition, part of an ongoing crackdown ahead of parliamentary elections in October, AP reports. Amnesty International said the men arrested are considered “prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their peaceful political activities,” and called for their immediate and unconditional release.


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