Foreign Policy Briefing 3/27/10


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

U.S./Top News
1) The Pentagon wants $33 billion in additional funding to pay for the war in Afghanistan this year and train the Afghan military, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton appeared before Senate appropriators to defend the war supplemental, which is on top of the $708 billion baseline budget submitted to Congress in February. Most of the war supplemental will pay for Afghanistan operations. $2.6 billion is to train the Afghan national security force. “The question is, how long is that going to have to continue to the point where we can kind of say we’ve done our thing,” asked Sen. George Voinovich (R) of Ohio. “Five years, ten years, 15 years?” “We are in this intense phase that will be several years,” Clinton said. “Obviously, I don’t know that either of us could put a timeline on it.”

2) Israel’s prime minister Netanyahu, returned home with the task of responding to an unyielding US demand that he limit Israeli building in East Jerusalem, the New York Times reports. Netanyahu has brought up several possible gestures, including restrictions on Israeli troop activities in the West Bank, the freeing of Palestinian prisoners, some latitude for reconstruction in Gaza and further efforts to bolster the Palestinian economy. The Americans have welcomed those gestures. But building in Jerusalem remains the sticking point.

3) Netanyahu was welcomed home with signs reading “Obama, No You Can’t” and “Netanyahu Stand Strong” after a trip to Washington that appeared only to widen a rift over Israeli housing construction, the Washington Post reports. But support expressed by a few dozen people at the entrance to Jerusalem belied widespread doubts in Israel about Netanyahu’s handling of relations with Obama. The Obama administration says failure to resolve the Middle East conflict is harming U.S. national security interests in the region. The demands Obama presented to Netanyahu included continuing a partial settlement freeze once a 10-month moratorium expires later this year and expanding it to East Jerusalem, according to Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s largest daily.

4) The U.S. Army’s pullout from the Kamdesh district of Afghanistan has weakened the Taliban in the area and helped to prompt this month’s peace bid by Afghanistan’s Hezb-i-Islami insurgent group, the Wall Street Journal reports. As long as the US patrolled Kamdesh,”We were just providing a recruitment tool for the insurgency,” said a US Army commander. In much of Afghanistan outside the deep south, the Taliban aren’t a homegrown phenomenon, and their expansion in recent years was often provoked by the very presence of coalition troops, the Journal says.

5) Japan has decided to propose to the US to relocate half of the controversial US military airbase away from Okinawa, AFP reports. The government had agreed on a plan to move 50 percent of the functions of the US Marines’ Futenma airbase to several regions outside Okinawa, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirofumi Hirano told senior ruling coalition officials, Jiji Press reported.

6) The UAE navy is thought to have opened fire on a small patrol vessel from Saudi Arabia after a dispute over water boundaries, the Telegraph reports. The incident has shocked diplomats who hope the countries will help implement the West’s strategy to constrain Iran’s nuclear and military ambitions, the Telegraph says.

7) Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border,” which chronicles the rise to power of Venezuelan President Chavez and other South American leaders, will open June 25 in New York, followed by a July 2 opening in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. Stone’s documentary “shows how these leaders of Latin America are being intentionally villainized by the U.S. mass media,” said the founder of Cinema Libre, which will be distributing the film. “This unique dialogue needed the eye and the courage of a director like Stone to convince us that these leaders are fighting for a more humane society, which means defending themselves against American corporate interests.”

8) Palestinian children who attend school at at-Tuwani near Hebron face constant threats and harassment from Israeli settlers, despite a 2004 order by the Israeli parliament that they be protected by the Israeli military, Amanda Mueller reports for Truthout. International volunteers attempt to accompany the children, but even they have been subject to violent attacks by settlers.

9) Professor Jose Manuel Flores, a leader of the anti-coup resistance movement, was murdered at the school were he worked, Inside Costa Rica reports.

10) A Honduran television commentator is demanding safe passage out of Honduras after a second assassination attempt, AP reports. Karol Cabrera blamed the attacks on opponents of the coup. As a commentator for state-run Channel 8, Cabrera backed the government that took over after the coup.

11) A new report by UNESCO noting that four reporters were killed in Colombia in the last four years, writes Colombia Reports, citing AFP. Mexico had the highest number of journalist killings, with eleven over the period.


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