Foreign Policy Briefing 2/24/10


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

U.S./Top News
1) Rep. Kucinich wrote to Defense Secretary Gates, demanding that the U.S. comply with its obligation to protect Afghan civilians under international law, following a US attack on a civilian convoy reported to have killed 27 civilians. Kucinich demanded information on the decisions that led to the strike within two weeks, threatening to force a House vote demanding release of documents on the strike.

2) NYT Op-Ed Page Editor David Shipley has revealed that the author of the “mystery op-ed” demanding more civilian deaths in Afghanistan works for Pentagon contractor Booz Allen, writes Glenn Greenwald in Salon, noting that Booz Allen “has more overlapping ties with the Pentagon than virtually any other corporation on the planet.” Shipley’s answer strongly suggests that the NYT purposely sought out an Op-Ed to urge more civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

3) Nadir Nadery, commissioner of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said if the reports on US Special Forces airstrike that reportedly killed 27 civilians are true, “this is the worst case since McChrystal has announced his new strategy of reducing the use of air power,” the New York Times reports. A strike requested by German forces in Kunduz on Sept. 4 on two fuel tanker trucks that had been seized by the Taliban killed more than 90 people. But, Nadery noted, “In Kunduz, the target was legitimate militarily but the bombing was disproportionate, 70-plus civilians died, but at least it was a justified military target.” In that case, the chief of staff of the German armed forces resigned over accusations that the German military withheld information about the civilian deaths, and the case provoked an inquiry in Germany’s Parliament.

4) The Taliban still enjoys deep support in Marja, and the Afghan government is almost universally loathed, the Washington Post reports. “The Taliban provided us with a very peaceful environment,” said a tractor driver. “They did not bother us. We were very happy with them here.” Mohammed said police corruption and malfeasance led residents to support the insurgents. “They were not corrupt like the police,” he said.

5) An analysis of multiple polls of the Iranian public from different sources finds little evidence to support claims that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not actually win the presidential election, that the majority of Iranians perceive their government as illegitimate, or that the majority favor regime change, the Program on International Policy Attitudes reports. Even Mousavi supporters say they believe that Ahmadinejad is the legitimate president and affirm the Islamist nature of the regime. Mousavi supporters, like the general public, were quite negative in their views of the US government and were strongly committed to Iran’s nuclear program. A majority of Mousavi supporters did favor diplomatic relations with the US, and were ready to make a deal whereby Iran would preclude developing nuclear weapons through intrusive international inspections in exchange for the removal of sanctions. However, this was equally true of the majority of all Iranians. Steven Kull, director of PIPA, said, “Our analysis suggests that it would not be prudent to base US policy on the assumption that the Iranian public is in a pre-revolutionary state of mind.”

6) Turkish police detained three of the country’s highest-ranking former generals as part of a vast investigation into a shadowy ultranationalist movement accused of planning to overthrow the Islamist-inspired government, the New York Times reports. The case revolves around a suspected conspiracy by secular ultranationalists who are accused of developing several plots to attack civilian targets, like a mosque in central Istanbul, and to provoke a crisis with neighboring Greece, with a goal of paving the way for a coup. The Constitution, adopted after one of the military’s coups, assigns the army to intervene in politics to defend of the republic, a vaguely defined responsibility that has until now been read as granting the military unconditional immunity. But the Turkish military has been criticized by the EU for its influence in civilian politics.

8) NATO training teams are putting together Afghan military units based on ethnic percentages set by the Afghan government based on the population, the Washington Post reports. Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak, set the percentage targets for each brigade: the Pashtun target is 44 percent of the unit; the Tajik, 25 percent; the Hazara, 10 percent; Uzbek, 8 percent; and all others, 13 percent.

9) Martin Kramer, affiliated with Harvard’s National Security Studies Program, the Washington Institute of Near East Policy, and President of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, has posted a speech in which he urged solving the Palestinian refugee problem by population control: “stopping pro-natal subsidies to Palestinians with refugee status,” writes M.J. Rosenberg on Huffington Post. “Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim, undermine the Hamas regime, but they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth and there is some evidence that they have. That may begin to crack the culture of martyrdom, which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men,” Kramer said.

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10) Iranian authorities have arrested the leader of the terrorist group Jundallah, the Washington Post reports. A British spokesman said the UK welcomed the arrest. Abdul Malik Rigi “is a terrorist responsible for despicable attacks which have killed many innocent Iranians,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “The U.K. has always condemned such actions.” He said Rigi’s arrest “would be a blow to terrorism and would be unreservedly welcomed by Britain.” The U.S. apparently did not “welcome” the arrest, although the U.S. has denounced acts claimed by Jundallah as terrorism in the past.

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