Foreign Policy Briefing

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

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Some American doctors are pleading U.S. officials to keep the Navy hospital ship Comfort in Haiti, the Baltimore Sun reports. University of Southern California surgeon Randy Sherman, medical director for the aid organization Operation Smile, said “there is no doubt” there are enough earthquake victims to keep the Comfort busy. He thinks it could operate at high volume for at least three more months. US doctors say Haiti is replete with patients whose orthopedic injuries have healed improperly and require complex surgeries that only the Comfort can provide.

2) Human Rights Watch said Honduran authorities should ensure that recent killings and other attacks on opponents of the 2009 coup are promptly and thoroughly investigated. HRW has received credible reports of multiple acts of violence over the past month targeting members of the National Popular Resistance Front, including killings, rape, torture, kidnapping, and assault.

3) Brazil rebuffed a U.S. appeal for new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program, vowing during a visit from Secretary of State Clinton not to “bow down” to international pressure, AP reports. “It is not prudent to push Iran against a wall,” President Lula said. “The prudent thing is to establish negotiations.”

4) A federal prosecutor testified that a US Embassy official told him State Department officials sought to obstruct investigation of the 2007 shooting episode in which Blackwater security guards were accused of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians, the New York Times reports. David Farrington, a State Department security agent, told prosecutors some of his colleagues were handling evidence in a way they hoped would help the Blackwater guards avoid punishment. Prosecutors contended they had evidence that there had been a concerted effort to make the case go away by at least some embassy officials.

5) Afghan President Karzai’s public invitation to the Taliban to attend a peace conference this spring has sparked disagreement between the U.S. and Britain, the Washington Post reports. The Obama administration has argued that substantive talks should wait until the military balance has shifted more sharply in favor of the coalition. But the British, facing strong domestic disapproval over the war, appear eager to see negotiations begin sooner rather than later. That position is shared by a number of senior U.S. military officials, who predicted that negotiations with insurgents could gain traction as early as this year.

6) Afghan civilian deaths in “escalation of force incidents” in which U.S. troops fired on civilians who came close to their convoys or roadblocks increased 43 percent in 2009 to 113, McClatchy reports. A McChrystal order involving “aggressive driving” hasn’t cut the number of civilians killed when U.S. troops warn approaching civilians to back away, then end up opening fire on them. Military commanders told McClatchy that a review of incidents since McChrystal issued his driving directive found that in every instance in which U.S. troops opened fire on a car since McChrystal arrived, subsequent investigation found that there was no threat to the soldiers.

7) The Obama administration is seeking to reverse a 12-year-old ban on training a unit of the Indonesian military whose members have been convicted of beatings, kidnappings and other abuses, the Washington Post reports. Sen. Leahy and Human Rights Watch criticized the move.





Israel/Palestine
8) Prime Minister Netanyahu, citing concern over Israel’s image, persuaded Jerusalem’s mayor to delay demolition of Palestinian homes in a municipal tourism project, Reuters reports. The US praised Netanyahu’s move.

Afghanistan
9) Aid workers say that families displaced by the U.S. assault on Marja cannot find temporary housing or medical assistance, writes Joshua Foust in the New York Times. Marja needs to hold a constitutionally mandated election to choose a mayor, not face a governor forced upon it by Kabul, Foust suggests.

10) Afghanistan promised to clarify restrictions on news coverage of Taliban strikes, and hinted it may row back from a total ban on filming during attacks, Reuters reports. US officials said they would make clear to Afghanistan their support for a free media.

Venezuela
11) Prosecutors urged a Venezuelan court to approve a request for the US to extradite former President Carlos Andres Perez for government violence committed during street protests in which hundreds of people died, AP reports. Perez has lived in the Miami area for more than a decade.

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