Foreign Policy Briefing 4/20/10

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Urge Congress to End the War in Afghanistan
Urge your representatives to support the Feingold-McGovern-Jones bill for a timetable for military withdrawal.
If we can get 100 co-sponsors in the House in the next few weeks, we may able to get a vote on a withdrawal timetable when the House considers the war supplemental.
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/act/feingold-mcgovern

Current co-sponsors in the House: Capuano; Conyers; DeFazio; Delahunt; Duncan; Farr; Harman; Hirono; Johnson, Timothy; Jones, Walter; Kucinich; Lee, Barbara; Lujan, Ben Ray; Moran, James; Nadler, Jerrold; Pingree, Chellie; Schrader, Kurt; Serrano, Jose; Slaughter, Louise; Welch; Woolsey.
Current co-sponsors in the Senate: none. [!]

Peace Action: Talk with Rep. McGovern about ending the war in Afghanistan
You’re invited to talk with Rep. Jim McGovern, Wednesday, April 21, 8:00 – 9:00 PM Eastern.
http://www.Peace-Action.org/mcgovern

Highlights of the House Afghanistan Debate
http://www.justforeignpolicy.org/video/housedebate

Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) 94 percent of Kandaharis interviewed last December prefer negotiating with the Taliban to military confrontation, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. Ninety-one percent supported the convening of a “Loya Jirga”, or “grand assembly” of leaders as a way of ending the conflict. Interviewers conducted the survey only in areas which were not under Taliban control. An unclassified report on the survey was published in March by Glevum Associates, a “strategic communications” company under contract for the Human Terrain Systems program in Afghanistan. All this undermines the U.S. claim that the Kandahar offensive will be supported by locals, Porter notes.

2) Defense Secretary Gates warned in a memo to White House officials that the US does not have an effective long-range policy for dealing with Iran’s steady progress toward nuclear capability, the New York Times reports. The NYT says that many government and outside analysts consider it likely Iran would choose to assemble components needed for a nuclear weapon without actually building one, while remaining a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.





3) Gates and other Administration officials pushed back against the NYT report, the Washington Post reports. Gates said the NYT article “mischaracterized [the memo’s] purpose and content” when it suggested Gates has despaired that the administration lacked a strategy for dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

4) Admiral Mullen said military options existed to try to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon but that diplomatic efforts were the best way forward now, Reuters reports. Mullen suggested that accepting that Iran would achieve a “nuclear weapons capability,” as some advocate, would have unintended consequences. [Some interpreted Mullen’s remarks as establishing an equivalence between the “unintended consequences” of accepting an Iranian “nuclear weapons capability” and the “unintended consequences” of a U.S. military attack on Iran – which equivalence might actually be a step forward for U.S. policy – JFP.]

5) Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security said three Italian aid workers who were freed on Sunday after being arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill a provincial governor are not guilty, Reuters reports. [Earlier, some Afghan officials claimed that the Italians had “confessed” to a role in the alleged plot – JFP.]

6) In a letter to the Washington Post, ACLU director Anthony Romero faults the Post for endorsing “a program of targeted killing under which the executive branch has unilateral authority to hunt and kill individuals … anywhere in the world.” The program is unlawful, Romero writes. The U.S. program is clearly not limited to imminent threats. We have seen the government detain men as “terrorists,” only to discover the evidence was weak, wrong or nonexistent; this should lead us to reject a program that would invest executive officials with the authority to effectively impose death sentences on U.S. citizens and others far from any battlefield without charge or trial, Romero writes.

Israel/Palestine
7) Nonviolent activists in Gaza protesting the Israeli-imposed “buffer zone” are attempting to replicate the West Bank village of Bil’in’s success in drawing international attention to their plight, reports Ashley Bates from Gaza. People of all political stripes are welcome at the demonstrations, which now occur five days per week at border areas across Gaza. Every demonstrator must not bring weapons and must commit to non-violence.

Afghanistan
8) Senators say $6 billion has been spent training Afghan police since 2002 while achieving essentially nothing, ProPublica reports. “It’s obvious that Afghanistan is not going to be able to afford what we’re building for them,” Senator McCaskill said.

Iraq
9) An Iraqi court ordered a partial recount of votes in last month’s national election, the New York Times reports. The recount could affect the determination of which party received a plurality, and therefore, according to some interpretations of Iraqi law, which party gets the first chance to try to form a government.

10) Iraqi officials say hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Maliki, where many were routinely tortured until the country’s Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility, the Los Angeles Times reports. Maliki vowed to shut down the prison and ordered the arrest of the officers working there after Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim presented him with a report this month.

Colombia
11) Colombia has been unable to significantly alleviate the misery that helps fuel a 46-year-old conflict and the drug trafficking behind it, the Washington Post reports. Colombia has received $7.3 billion in U.S. aid since 2000; economic output more than doubled since 2002; foreign investment is the fourth-highest in Latin America. But Colombia is the only major country in Latin America in which the gap between rich and poor has increased in recent years; more than 60 percent of rural Colombians remain poor.

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