Foreign Policy Briefing 5/24/10

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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) Brazil says the US and other Western powers prodded Brazil to try to revive the U.N. fuel swap deal proposed last October. “We were encouraged directly or indirectly … to implement the October proposal…and that’s what we did,” said Foreign Minister Amorim. In a letter to Brazilian President Lula two weeks ago, President Obama said an Iranian uranium shipment abroad would generate confidence. “From our point of view, a decision by Iran to send 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium abroad, would generate confidence and reduce regional tensions by cutting Iran’s stockpile,” Obama said.

2) President Obama said last year that the US and Turkey must “work together,” notes the Washington Post. But now Turkish mediation of an agreement for Iran to ship abroad part of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium has “thoroughly irritated U.S. officials.”… on a matter so important to us, it will inevitably have an impact on the way Americans and Congress and the president will interact with Turkey,” a US official said in an apparent threat. U.S. officials said the deal fell short because Iran did not agree to freeze uranium enrichment, the Post says, [without explaining why this should be an obstacle to a deal now, when this condition was not part of the US-proposed deal in October – JFP.]

3) Iran’s Parliament speaker and former chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Iran would abandon a deal to ship some of its nuclear fuel to Turkey and rethink its cooperation with the IAEA if the US pushed new sanctions through the Security Council, the New York Times reports. Larijani said Obama had asked Turkey to help mediate the nuclear dispute, then rejected a deal it helped arrange.

4) “I believed Obama was ready to think anew on Iran,” writes Roger Cohen in the New York Times, but “it seems not.” Presidents “must lead on major foreign policy initiatives, not be bullied by domestic political considerations, in this case incandescent Iran ire on the Hill in an election year,” Cohen writes. Obama is now insisting on a prior suspension of enrichment that was not in the October deal. No wonder the Turkish foreign minister, is angry. “I believe him when he says Obama and U.S. officials encouraged Turkey earlier this year to revive the deal,” Cohen says. Last year, Obama called for a new era of shared responsibilities. “Together we must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” he declared. Turkey and Brazil responded – and got snubbed. Obama has just made his own enlightened words look empty.





5) U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he hoped Iran’s deal to send some of its enriched uranium abroad may open the door to a negotiated settlement, Reuters reports. In a speech in Istanbul, Ban said the agreement Iran had reached with Turkey and Brazil, was “an important initiative in resolving international tensions over Iran’s nuclear program by peaceful means.”

6) The Obama Administration has expanded pilot programs begun under the Bush Administration to relax restrictions requiring that US food aid be purchased in and shipped from the United States, the Los Angeles Times reports in an editorial, praising the development. The amount of food aid funds authorized for local and regional purchases through the pilot programs is about $325 million of the $1.9 billion in U.S. food aid this year.

Iran

7) US officials claim a reference to Iran’s central bank in the sanctions resolution now being debated in the Security Council could give them a legal basis in the future for choking off financial transactions between Iran and banking centers in Europe and elsewhere, the New York Times reports. But China and Russia insisted that this language not be legally binding.

Afghanistan
8) The Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban denied any connection to reported peace talks on a Maldives island, the New York Times reports. The office of President Nasheed of the Maldives announced his government had helped organize the talks. An Afghan parliamentarian said Iran had organized the talks, but there was no independent confirmation.

9) The Obama administration’s campaign to drive the Taliban out of Kandahar is a gamble even its authors are unsure will succeed, writes Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post reports. There is no Plan B, she writes. Kandahar is arguably more hostile to foreign intervention and the government in Kabul than to the Taliban, DeYoung says.

Israel/Palestine
10) Four small cargo boats and four passenger vessels – ranging from cruisers carrying 20 to a Turkish passenger ferry for 600 – are a multimillion-dollar bid to shame the international community to use ships to circumvent Israel’s tight control on humanitarian supplies reaching war-ravaged Gaza, writes Paul McGeough for the Sydney Morning Herald. An organizer said the number of vessels and passengers in this week’s flotilla was intended to overstretch the capacity of Israel’s navy and, in the event of mass arrests, the capacity of its prisons.

Nigeria
11) The international media has largely ignored the latest incidents of pipeline damage in Nigeria, writes Joe Brock for Reuters. An industry source said 100,000 bpd of oil had leaked for a week from a pipeline that has since been mended. “If this (the BP spill) were in the Niger Delta, no one would be batting an eyelid,” said an African oil analyst. “They have these kinds of oil spills in Nigeria all the time.”

Colombia
12) A former police major has alleged that President Uribe’s younger brother Santiago led a paramilitary group that killed petty thieves, guerrilla sympathizers and suspected subversives, the Washington Post reports. The revelations threaten to renew a criminal investigation against Santiago Uribe and raise new questions about the president’s past. The disclosures could prove uncomfortable to the US, which has long seen Uribe as a trusted caretaker of US money, the Post says. “[Meneses] incriminates himself and also the brother of the president who managed the paramilitary group, but also President Uribe,” said Nobel Peace laureate Adolfo Perez Esquivel.


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