Foreign Policy Briefing 2/16/10

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

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) At least nineteen civilians have been killed so far in the US/NATO offensive in Marjah, Democracy Now reports. DN interviewed Wall Street Journal reporter Anand Gopal, who says the assault in Marjah is perceived as a “show of force” by coalition forces that will change little. Gopal says it’s very difficult for reporters to get to Marjah; almost all the reporters who are there are embedded reporters, so they’re only seeing one side of the story; and we won’t know for some time if there are many more cases of civilian deaths.

2) The Italian medical NGO “Emergency” charged that dozens of seriously injured civilian victims of the Marjah offensive were unable to be transferred to hospitals due to military blockades impeding vehicles transporting injured victims. At least six victims died because their evacuation was hindered, Emergency said. Emergency called for a humanitarian route to be opened in order to guarantee assistance to the wounded.

3) Twelve Afghan civilians died Sunday after two U.S. rockets mistakenly hit a house, “a loss of life that is likely to seriously undermine the operation and the American-led mission in the country,” McClatchy reported. [Even today’s press carried conflicting accounts of whether the building was hit accidentally or on purpose, with the WSJ citing McChrystal that the building was hit on purpose but that it wasn’t known that civilians were there, and the LAT citing NATO that a US rocket hit the building by mistake – JFP.] The large number of deaths in a single incident calls into question the approach to the operation to take Marjah town, and provides easy propaganda points to the Taliban enemy, McClatchy says.

4) A NATO airstrike killed five civilians in Kandahar, the Guardian reported.

5) US officials’ claims that the US missile strike in Marja [NYT spelling – JFP] that killed at least 11 civilians on Sunday hit the intended target did not match accounts from Marines and other witnesses on the ground, Dexter Filkins [embedded with US forces – JFP] reports for the New York Times. The Marine company commander said that he and his men were startled by the missile strike, of which they had no prior warning.

6) Congressman Brian Baird said the US should break Israel’s blockade of Gaza and deliver badly needed supplies to UN aid agencies by sea, AP reports. Baird urged Mideast envoy to visit Gaza to get a firsthand look at the destruction caused by Israeli’s military offensive last year.

7) The Afghan Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was captured by Pakistani intelligence in Karachi, the New York Times reports. The participation of Pakistan’s spy service could suggest a new level of cooperation from Pakistan’s leaders, the Times says. Western and Afghan officials have described Mullah Baradar as one of the Taliban’s most approachable leaders, and the one most ready to negotiate with the Afghan government. Mediators who have worked to resolve kidnappings and other serious issues have often approached the Taliban leadership through him.

8) Iraq’s election commission announced that most of the 515 candidates disqualified from next month’s parliamentary elections would remain off the ballot, the New York Times reports. The decision left US and other foreign diplomats fearing that the elections would not be viewed as entirely legitimate.

Israel/Palestine
9) Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem face eviction as a long legal battle nears its end in the Israeli courts, the Washington Post reports. The evictions have drawn protests from the Obama administration, the UN and others, all arguing that any change in the status quo of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods undermines prospects for a peace deal.

10) Israel began rerouting part of its West Bank barrier near Bilin, Reuters reports. An Israeli official said the rerouting was in response to a High Court petition filed against the project in 2007 by Palestinian landowners whose land was seized for the project.

Iran
11) Israel’s former top general said Israel may lack the military means for successful strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities, Reuters reports.

Israel/Lebanon
12) The Lebanese army said its troops used anti-aircraft fire Sunday to force Israeli warplanes out of Lebanese airspace, AP reports. Israeli warplanes frequently fly over Lebanese territory.

Colombia
13) A report by the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley School of Law calls on the U.S. government to give Colombian authorities access to extradited drug lords for their own criminal investigations of atrocities against trade unionists and other civilians. Defendants in U.S. custody include the top commanders of Colombia’s most powerful paramilitary group, which morphed into a powerful drug-trafficking network that massacred, forcibly disappeared, and tortured thousands of civilians.


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