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Nine high-profile experts, including former weapons inspector David Kay and former Under Secretary of State Tom Pickering, said world powers should seriously consider the Iran nuclear fuel swap, Reuters reports. "We urge the so-called Vienna Group (Russia, France, the United States, and the IAEA) to seriously pursue this proposal as an opening for further diplomatic engagement with Iran on outstanding issues of concern," the experts said.
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.
A new GAO report found the Taliban remain a resilient fighting force and suggested many factors remain in place that will allow the Taliban to survive U.S. efforts to eradicate them, McClatchy reports. The GAO, citing an official from U.S Central Command, said the Taliban are proving resilient as a result of several factors, including "the porous nature of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, the ineffective nature of governance and services in various parts of Afghanistan, assistance from militant groups out of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and continued financial support in the form of narcotics trafficking revenue and funds from outside of the region."
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.
Regardless of whether U.S. Special Forces removed bullets from the bodies of the Afghan women they just killed, as charged by the victims' relatives - and if they did, what their motivation was for doing so - spreading the story that the women's bodies had been found "tied up" and "gagged," as NATO did in a Feb. 12 press release still posted on its web site, if that was not true, would meet any disinterested observer's definition of the word "coverup."
US and NATO troops firing from passing convoys and military checkpoints have killed 30 Afghans and wounded 80 others since last summer, but in no instance did the victims prove to be a danger to troops, the New York Times reports. "We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat," said Gen. McChrystal. Such shootings have not dropped off, despite new rules from McChrystal intended to reduce them. The persistence of the shootings has led to growing resentment among Afghans angry at the impunity with which the troops operate - a friction that has turned villages firmly against the occupation, the Times says.
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.
Secretary of State Clinton warned Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Friday that Israel had sent a "deeply negative signal" about the U.S.-Israeli relationship and urged him to take immediate steps to demonstrate it was interested in renewing efforts at a Middle East peace agreement, the Washington Post reports. Her call, made in the wake of the embarrassment suffered by Vice President Biden when Israel announced it would build 1,600 housing units in a disputed area of Jerusalem, was an unusually tough message for the longtime U.S. ally, the Post says.
At least nineteen civilians have been killed so far in the US/NATO offensive in Marjah, Democracy Now reports. DN interviewed Wall Street Journal reporter Anand Gopal, who says the assault in Marjah is perceived as a "show of force" by coalition forces that will change little. Gopal says it's very difficult for reporters to get to Marjah; almost all the reporters who are there are embedded reporters, so they're only seeing one side of the story; and we won't know for some time if there are many more cases of civilian deaths.
Across southern Afghanistan, including the Marjah district where coalition forces are massing for a large offensive, the line between peaceful villager and enemy fighter is often blurred, the Wall Street Journal reports. The commander of the US unit responsible for Pashmul estimates that about 95% of the locals are Taliban or aid the militants.
A group of ex-Taliban officials have prepared a "road map" to promote a political settlement between the Taliban and the Karzai government, Gareth Porter reports for Inter Press Service. The first step would be an agreement between Karzai and the Taliban about no killing of doctors and no damage to roads by the Taliban, in return for no night raids and detention by the United States.
A proposal to swap the bulk of Iran's enriched uranium for fuel for a medical reactor appeared to be revived as President Ahmadinejad said Iran had "no problem" with a deal brokered by the IAEA, the Washington Post reports. U.S. officials reacted cautiously to Ahmadinejad's remarks. "If Mr. Ahmadinejad's comments reflect an updated Iranian position, we look forward to Iran informing the IAEA," said a White House spokesman.
The Obama administration’s pact to use seven Colombian military bases accelerates “a dangerous trend in U.S. hemispheric policy,” an article in The Nation magazine warns. Although much of Latin America is in the vanguard of the “anti-corporate and anti-militarist global democracy movement,” Grandin writes, the Obama administration is “disappointing potential regional allies by continuing to promote a volatile mix of militarism and free-trade orthodoxy in a corridor running from Mexico to Colombia.” Grandin’s article in The Nation’s February 8th issue is titled, “Muscling Latin America.”