Foreign Policy Briefing 2/12/10

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

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Across southern Afghanistan, including the Marjah district where coalition forces are massing for a large offensive, the line between peaceful villager and enemy fighter is often blurred, the Wall Street Journal reports. The commander of the US unit responsible for Pashmul estimates that about 95% of the locals are Taliban or aid the militants. Among front-line troops, many of them used to more liberal rules of engagement in Iraq, frustration is “boiling over” over more restrictive rules of engagement in Afghanistan, the Journal says. [Given that the US is poised to launch a major offensive in the densely populated Marjah district, where tens of thousands of Afghan civlians – many of them no doubt sympathetic to the insurgency – remain in their homes, such frustration over the rules of engagement suggests a strong possibility of imminent war crimes – JFP.]

2) An IAEA document says Iran’s initial efforts to produce more highly enriched uranium are modest, AP reports.

3) Obama’s March “touch down” in the U.S. territory of Guam may be designed to smooth a U.S. military build-up there, write Christine Ahn and Gwyn Kirk for Foreign Policy in Focus. Guam is one of 16 remaining non-self-governing territories listed by the UN. The U.S. military already takes up a third of the island; current plans would bring this up to 40 percent.

4) The Yemeni government is engaging Islamist extremists who share an ideology similar to Osama bin Laden’s in its own civil war, the Washington Post reports. Yemen’s army is allying with radical Sunnis and former jihadists in the fight against Shiite rebels in the country’s north. The harsh tactics of those forces, such as destroying Shiite mosques and building Sunni ones, are breeding resentment among many residents, analysts said.

5) India’s Border Security Force admitted that one of its soldiers might have shot an unarmed youth whose death set off ferocious protests across Kashmir, the New York Times reports. The youth, Zahid Farooq was shot when security forces stormed a playground in Kashmir’s capital, Srinagar. Another boy died after being struck by a tear gas canister. Kashmiris chafe at the heavy military presence in Kashmir, the Times says.

6) Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s use of the Iraqi military in political disputes has infuriated political opponents and alarmed U.S. officials, the New York Times reports. The Times says that the process for disqualifying candidates accused of Baathist backgrounds from upcoming elections was so murky that Iraqi officials knew little about what was happening and are still in the dark. The list of those disqualified and the evidence for supporting their disqualification still have not been made public.

Iran
7) China’s top energy group CNPC is pushing ahead with a $4.7 billion project to develop Iran’s South Pars gas field, Reuters reports.





Israel/Palestine
8) Representatives of long-established Palestinian families in Jerusalem petitioned the UN for help in trying to stop Israel and the Simon Wiesenthal Center from constructing a museum on part of a centuries-old Muslim cemetery, the New York Times reports. Sixty Palestinians who say they are descendants of those buried in the cemetery have signed the petition, including Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Arab studies at Columbia University.

Brazil
9) Brazil may break patents on U.S. goods in accordance with a WTO ruling allowing it to impose trade sanctions in retaliation for U.S. cotton subsidies, Bloomberg reports. U.S. cotton subsidies help commodity buyers – such as Archer Daniels Midland Co., Bunge Ltd. and ConAgra Foods Inc. – while harming economic development in poorer nations, according to Oxfam America and the Environmental Working Group, which favor subsidy reductions.

Colombia
10) Colombia’s defense minister said the State Department had assured him a planned $55 million cut in U.S. aid was part of across-the-board belt-tightening, and doesn’t mean a change of policy, Reuters reports. [Democratic Senators had asked for a cut in U.S. military aid, citing human rights abuses – JFP.]

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