Foreign Policy Briefing 2/18/10


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

U.S./Top News
1) The New York Times today published a monstrous Op-Ed complaining that the U.S. is being too careful to avoid civilian deaths in Afghanistan, notes Glenn Greenwald for Salon. The US military has “begun basing doctrine on the premise that dead civilians are harmful to the conduct of war,” the op-ed complains. “The trouble is, no past war has ever supplied compelling proof of that claim.” Greenwald notes that in addition to publishing the monstrous op-ed, the New York Times essentially hides the identity of the author from the reader, by not explaining who she is, who she works for, what economic interests she might represent, and what is the basis of her alleged expertise. [Ask the New York Times Public Editor to investigate: [email protected] – JFP.]

2) A NATO air strike killed seven Afghan police Thursday, AFP reports.

3) The detention of Mullah Baradar represents a shift by Pakistan to more open support for the Taliban in preparation for a peace settlement and U.S. withdrawal, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. Statements by Pakistani officials suggest that Pakistani military leaders view Baradar as an asset in negotiations rather than an adversary to be removed from the conflict. Porter infers two Pakistani motivations for the move: to force US compliance with Pakistan’s demand that US negotiations with the Afghan Taliban be brokered by Pakistan, and to push the process forward now.

4) Heavy rain in Haiti turned makeshift survivors’ camps into muddy quagmires, Reuters reports. The prospect of more rains has added urgency to the government’s appeal for tents and temporary living structures in which to house the homeless, estimated at more than 1 million. Survivors’ camps are often close to raw open sewers and many lacking even basic sanitation.

5) Returning veterans have reported leukemia, lymphoma, congestive heart problems, neurological conditions, bronchitis, skin rashes and sleep disorders which they attribute to burn pits on dozens of U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Los Angeles Times reports. Items burned in the pits have included medical waste, plastics, computer parts, oil, lubricants, paint, tires and foam cups. The Pentagon operates at least 84 burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Military Personnel Toxic Exposure Registry Act would require the Pentagon to create a database of the tens of thousands of troops exposed to burn pits, ban burning plastics, and ensure veterans affected by the smoke received health benefits. [Unfortunately, this otherwise excellent article doesn’t explore whether there might be health effects on Iraqis or Afghans – JFP.]

6) In a confidential e-mail the UN’s top humanitarian relief coordinator scolded his lieutenants for failing to adequately manage the relief effort in Haiti, saying that an uneven response has undercut confidence in the UN’s ability to deliver vital assistance, the Washington Post reports. The e-mail portrays an organization straining to set up enough shelters, latrines and other vital services for Haiti’s displaced population.

7) Brazil has told the U.S. and France it doesn’t support tougher UN sanctions on Iran and will continue, over the objections of the Obama administration, to seek more trade with Iran, Bloomberg reports. Brazil, which began a two-year term on the 15-nation Security Council in January, might join China, Lebanon and Turkey in abstaining from a sanctions vote. Ambassador Maria Viotti said a negotiated settlement of the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program is still possible because Iran hasn’t rejected a proposal to send uranium outside the country to be enriched for medical research. Brazil doesn’t accept the U.S. view that evidence of Iran’s intent to develop a nuclear weapon is indisputable.

8) Five U.S. Congressmen on a visit to Israel initiated by J Street demanded an official Israeli explanation for a refusal by the Israeli government to meet with the delegation, Haaretz reports. “It was with real surprise and disappointment that we read a headline in this morning’s newspaper saying ‘Foreign Ministry boycotts members of Congress,'” said Rep. William Delahunt, who led the delegation. Delahunt implied the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s behavior was a continuation of the recent incident in which the Foreign Minister insulted the Turkish ambassador. [Turkey demanded and received an apology; it will be interesting to see if Rep. Delahunt gets one – perhaps that was also part of Delahunt’s implication – JFP.]

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